How to Apply for a Student Visa for Spain

Living in Spain is one of the most fun experiences possible. The process of obtaining the proper visa to do it, on the other hand, is not. I personally have jumped through all the bureaucratic hoops multiple times now, and I can’t say it becomes much more enjoyable each round; although, it is survivable. For all the first-timers out there or even veterans that forgot all the required nonsense, this is your survival guide. Here I explain how to get a Long-Term Student Visa (for more than 180 days) for Spain with personal tips from my own experiences. Student visas are good for students, the North American Language and Culture Program (auxiliares de conversación), and au pairs (it’s the same visa but a few different documents may be required for each situation, so double check your consulate’s page.) Here we go!

Locations:

  • Chicago Consulate Visas Page  –  Jurisdiction: Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota and Wisconsin
  • Boston Consulate Visas Page  –  Jurisdiction: Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Vermont and Main
  • Houston Consulate Visas Page  –  Jurisdiction: Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Texas
  • Los Angeles Visas Page  –  Jurisdiction: Southern California (County of Imperial, Inyo, Kern, Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara and  Ventura), Arizona, Colorado or Utah
  • Miami Consulate Visas Page  –  Jurisdiction: Florida, Georgia and South Carolina
  • New York Consulate Visas Page  –  Jurisdiction: New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania and Delaware
  • San Francisco Consulate Visas Page  –  Jurisdiction: Northern California (excluding the counties of San Luis Obispo, Kern, San Bernardino, Santa Bárbara, Ventura, Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Diego, and Imperial which are under the jurisdiction of the Consulate of Spain in Los Angeles), Alaska, Hawaii, Idaho, Guam, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Washington and Wyoming
  • Washington D.C. Consulate Visas Page  –  Jurisdiction: Washington DC, Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, North Carolina
  • New Orleans Consulate  –  NO LONGER EXISTS. Now use Houston’s. 

How to Apply

*NOTE: I have written this from my experience with the Chicago Consulate. SOME consulates ask for translations of documents, Chicago does not. Double check YOUR visa checklist!!

Step 1: Passport

You should already have a passport that is valid through the whole length of the program, but if not, apply to get one (expedited if you’re running out of time). This should’ve been done, like yesterday!

Step 2: Consulate Appointment

AS SOON AS POSSIBLE set up an appointment at your consulate (Washington DC excluded). Appointments can only be made online and only one appointment is allowed per person, so you may not apply for multiple spots. The appointments last 10 minutes and all you do is turn in your documents. Set up a date that gives you enough time to complete the background check and apostille process. (My Indiana state background check took about 10-15 days and then the apostille another week. Another time I did the FBI background check and apostille and it took months!) You cannot apply more than 90 days before the program start date and your documents (background check, medical certificate) cannot be more than 3 months old on your appointment date.

Step 3: Background Check

Begin the process of getting a background check. This can be done through your state government or through the FBI. I have done both and I would HIGHLY recommend completing a state background check (if you have lived in the same state for the past 5 years) since it is not only faster but costs less. If you have lived in different states in the past 5 years, you will need a state background check from EACH state, and in that case a FBI background check would be easier.

Complete one of the following:

FBI Background Check

  1. Complete these steps.
  2. Make sure to write a cover letter saying it is for a visa and that you need it to have a signature of the official’s name, title and seal of the agency. (I didn’t do this the first time and had to send it back. It cost me weeks of time!)

State Background Check

  1. Find a local police station or certified business that is authorized to fingerprint you.
  2. Send your prints, application, and money order to your state police (unless everything is completed electronically like for me).
  3. I would recommend writing a cover letter for this type of background check also, explaining it is for a visa and that it will need an official notarized seal to be able to get the apostille.

**Foreign Country Background Check

  • If you also lived in another country for more than 6 months within the past 5 years, you need to get a background check from that country as well.

Step 4: Apostille

UPDATE: If you live close enough to drive to your secretary of state’s office, look into taking your background check there in person. You could get the apostille stamp done that day and save a lot of time!

When your background check returns, you need to get it legalized with the Apostille of the Hague Convention. This is basically a form of authentication so that the document will be legally recognized in Europe. Note: State background checks can only be authenticated by the state government that issued it and FBI background checks can only be authenticated by the U.S. Department of State.

Apostille for FBI Background Checks

  1. The Department of State webpage about requesting an authentication
  2. Complete this form stating that Spain is the “country of use”.
  3. Make an appointment, walk-in, or priority mail the form, FBI background check, fee, and a self-addressed prepaid priority envelope to:

Office of Authentications
U.S. Department of State
CA/PPT/S/TO/AUT
44132 Mercure Cir, P.O. Box 1206
Sterling, VA  20166-1206

Apostille for State Background Checks

As an example, here is what I did for Indiana:

  1. I found the Indiana Secretary of State Apostilles webpage.
  2. Like the webpage required, I wrote a cover letter including what country it was for (Spain), my phone number, and where to mail it when it was finished.
  3. I sent a priority tracked envelope containing the background check, self-addressed prepaid priority envelope, and cover letter (no fee in Indiana) to the Secretary of State.

Untitled

(This is the cover letter that I used.)

Step 5: Medical Certificate

You will need a recent doctor’s statement (not older than 3 months) indicating that you (your first and last name stated like in your passport) have been examined and found free of any contagious diseases according to the International Health Regulation 2005’. This must be signed by a M.D. on a doctor’s or medical center’s letterhead. Although this step seems simple enough, many people struggle to get this. I personally have never had any trouble with this. Here is what I did both times:

  1. I made a general appointment with my doctor. When I didn’t have one, I became a new patient with a new doctor.
  2. I told them my situation, saying that I just needed a paper signed stating that I was healthy so that I could live in Spain.
  3. They didn’t really look at me at all, but gave me up-to-date immunizations (tetanus shot).
  4. I gave them an example letter of what I needed. My letter said “To Whom It May Concern: This hereby certifies that MY FULL NAME has been examined and found free of any contagious diseases according to the International Health Regulation 2005.
  5. They then scanned my letter, added their letterhead, and signed it.

That was literally it. Some people in the past have gone to clinics to have this done; I assume having your medical records will play a big factor in whether a random doctor will sign your letter. For me, the more simplistic I made it, the more willing they are to sign it. I hope it goes as smoothly for you as it did for me.

Step 6: Express Mail Envelope and Money Order

Go to your local post office and buy an express mail envelope and address it to yourself. (Keep the ticket number so you can track your passport when your consulate sends it back.) While you are there, get a money order of exactly $160 payable to ‘Consulate of Spain‘ (check before, but this should be the same for all consulates).

Step 7: Final Step!

*If your consulate asks for an itinerary of arrival and departure from Spain, I have always made up a possible plan including the date I might arrive, the start date of the program, the end date of the program, and the possible date I will hypothetically leave. Put your full name on it and title it ‘Itinerary for Spain’.

Take ORIGINALS AND 2 COPIES (just in case) of everything listed above, your carta de nombramiento (acceptance letter, which will come in the mail or by email from your region in Spain), visa application, passport, ID (license), and 2 passport sized photos. Double check your consulate’s checklist! (*If you are an immigrant, take your residence card, too.) You are now ready for your appointment! Almost all consulates require you to apply in person, but return your passport via mail. Hold on to all of the originals after your appointment, you will need them when you get to Spain.

UPDATE: Although it says not to buy your plane ticket before receiving your visa, this is okay to do. I always have and recommend shopping early to save money.  Iberia now offers discount flights for auxiliares, check that out! Just make sure that you will have no problems getting every document before your appointment and follow the steps very carefully. Don’t choose a departure date that is too early!!

 

You’re finished! Cheers!

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I hope this helped you with any problems you were having. It’s time to pack your bags! Ask me any additional questions you think of! In no time you’ll be here in Spain, sippin’ cañas and saying ‘Visa process, who?’ 🙂

Written by

I'm an American expat living in Galicia. I want to inspire travel, learn a dozen languages, and try every food in the world.

21 Comments

  • Bruce Jones

    Great article! One other way to live in Spain is to Teach English as a Foreign Language by getting a TEFL certification. Here’s an article about teaching legally in Spain on a tourist visa after being TEFL certified:
    http://www.internationalteflacademy.com/blog/bid/191533/Teach-English-Legally-in-Spain-on-a-Student-Visa-While-Studying-Spanish

    • Heather

      Hi Bruce!
      Thanks for comment! Yes, there are other programs that people can do to teach English in Spain in case they missed the deadline for this one.

      Happy travels!
      Heather

  • Kelly Martin

    Hi Heather!

    I have had this post pulled up on my computer for weeks while I try to get everything in order for my Visa appointment in Houston! This has been so helpful.

    Just to verify, did you make copies of your background check and then get them each stamped with the apostille? Or did you make copies of the already stamped original?

    Thanks for writing such a thorough post!
    -Kelly

    • Heather

      Hey there Kelly!
      Thank you for such a nice comment! I’m glad that this has been helpful to you. I personally make copies when I first receive the background check and after it comes back stamped with the apostille. This is because one year the Secretary of State’s office in D.C. almost lost my background check when I sent it in to get apostilled. It took months! I figure it can’t hurt to have a copy, especially if you need to request a new one for any reason. I do not believe you can get copies of the original apostilled. I took all copies to the final appointment.

      I’m currently writing a post and making a video about packing for Spain. If you’re interested, check it out this week.

      Let me know whatever else you need,
      Heather

  • Marni Kaiser

    Hello Heather, Thank you so much for your post! I am a 17 year old girl and I hope to travel to Spain to become an au pair. I live in Wisconsin, so I will also be working with the Chicago Consulate. What are the requirements for Spanish school enrollment? I have looked all over the consulate’s website, but haven’t found much information. Do you have any experience with au pair visas? Also, do the documents need to be translated into Spanish for the Chicago Consulate?

    • Heather

      Hello Marni!
      I apologize for the delayed response, I was on a trip out of town. For your first question, if you are doing the program as an au pair you shouldn’t have any school enrollment requirements. You will get an Au Pair specific visa. (here is the page of requirements) I haven’t done the visa myself, but it should follow those guidelines specifically and be very similar to the student study visa. Nothing needs to be translated for Chicago or for when you arrive here. I hope this helps. Let me know if you need any more info!

      Happy travels!
      -Heather

  • Merri

    Very descriptive blog, I loved that a lot.
    Will there be a part 2?

    • Heather

      Hi Merri!
      I try to post new useful articles every week so stay tuned for new material! You can subscribe via email and if you have a specific question or article request, let me know! Thanks for reading.

      Happy travels!
      Heather

  • Heather

    Hello Maritza!
    Thanks for checking out my page. I’m trying to write something new every week so I’ll keep on posting new articles! You can subscribe to my page via my social media buttons and by email using the subscription box at the top of the right sidebar on my page. Thanks for reading.

    Happy travels!
    Heather

  • Delila

    I’ve read a few just right stuff here. Certainly worth bookmarking
    for revisiting. I surprise how much effort
    you set to create the sort of wonderful informative website.

    • Heather

      Hi Delila!
      Thanks for checking out my page! Glad you liked it.

      Happy travels!
      Heather

  • Hellen Hilson

    Excellent analysis . I loved the info – Does someone know if I could get access to a template CBP 823F copy to edit ?

  • Sarah

    Hey Heather! Thank you for this post! This was so helpful! I bookmarked this page and kept checking it for weeks. I finally received my student visa! I really appreciate your post so much, there is really nothing else like it online. Best wishes to you 🙂

    • Heather

      Hey there Sarah!
      Thank you for checking out my page and I’m glad that you found it useful! Congrats on your visa, it’s for real now – you’re moving to Spain! Good luck and you can message me with any other questions you have.

      Happy travels!
      -Heather

  • Andrea Storey

    Hey!

    How long did it take for you to receive your visa after completing the application process? I have other travels leaving up to when I have to apply for the visa, and I’m starting to get nervous.

    Thanks!
    -Andrea

    • Heather

      Hey Andrea!
      I believe it took about 2-3 weeks to get back. It definitely took a lot less than the scary 4-8 weeks it says on their website, thank goodness! (Of course it all depends on the time of year, # of applications, embassy, etc.) The Chicago embassy mailed mine to me as well so that made it easier than returning to pick it up in person. You can always try to check their web pages for last minute openings for sooner dates, but be careful not to lose your spot! Good luck and I hope it comes soon!

      Happy travels!
      -Heather

  • Betsy Hall

    Hi there! I’m also from Indiana and looking to move to Spain. This was so helpful! Thank you! I’m still a bit confused on this step:

    State Background Check

    Find a local police station or certified business that is authorized to fingerprint you.
    Send your prints, application, and money order to your state police (unless everything is completed electronically like for me).
    I would recommend writing a cover letter for this type of background check also, explaining it is for a visa and that it will need an official notarized seal to be able to get the apostille.

    What is the application you mention in “send your prints, application, and money order…”? And how do you do this electronically?

    I live in Indianapolis and would appreciate any tips about the logistics of that part! Thanks!

    • Heather

      Hello Betsy!
      Sorry that I didn’t add this information before for Indiana specifically, but here is what I did to complete the application for a STATE background check. (P.S. Another Hoosier guy had to tell me how to do this because I could not find it online to save my life!)

      1. I called the number 1-317-233-5424 which is the Indiana State Police office number in Indianapolis, but if you live there, you could always go in and talk to them in person. [Online it says the address is Indiana Government Center – North, Building-; 100 North Senate Avenue Indianapolis, IN 46204 (at the corner of Senate and Ohio Streets). It’s on the third floor and is Room 301.]

      2. I told the police my situation (that I needed a state background check for a student visa for Spain) and they took a bunch of information from me, like my name and address, etc. and they told me a bunch of locations where I could get my fingerprints done in town. I was able to make that appointment over the phone as well. Be prepared for the majority of people to not really knowing what you are talking about, because apparently no one in Indiana gets visas for foreign countries LOL)

      3. I went to my fingerprinting appointment a day or two after and I believe they sent them to Indianapolis for me. I think it cost around $20 or so. Make sure to get a number to call in case of emergencies/questions.

      4. Later my background check came in the mail to my house! After that you will need to follow my instructions above to get the apostille stamp, which you can do in person in Indianapolis instead of mailing it in. That way will be a lot quicker!

      I hope this helped! Good luck and let me know how it goes. If you have any more questions, drop me a comment!

      Happy travels!
      -Heather

  • Dave

    Do you know if you can expedite it for a higher cost? I only have a 4 weeks to drop off the visa and then catch my flight to Spain.

    • Heather

      Dear Dave,

      No, I don’t believe there is any way to expedite the process. I just searched on the Chicago consulate page again and I didn’t see any way. You may still get lucky though and receive your visa/passport back before your flight. I think the second time I did the process I got mine back within 2-3 weeks even though it says a month +10 days. Good luck and I hope it works out for you!

      Happy travels!
      -Heather

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