Studying in Spain? West Coast Students Beware!

By Jazz Scott on July 10, 2019

Ah, Spain. Whether you want to brush up on your Spanish skills with locals, eat all the Tapas in the world while soaking up the Mediterranean sun, or explore the deep and rich history of the old world, Spain is the place! But why does the Spanish student visa cause so much agony!?

For those living or attending college in California (excluding SoCal), Oregon, Washington, Alaska, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Guam, or Wyoming, the Spanish student visa application process is a tricky game. Whether you’re thinking about or planning to study in Spain, this will serve as your “unofficial” guide to the Spanish student visa. Here are the “ins” and “outs” of what the instructions don’t tell you.

First Things First

You might be asking “Do I need a Spanish student visa?” As an American citizen, you are required to have a Spanish student visa if you are in an academic program lasting longer than 90 days.

This ONLY serves as an “unofficial” guide to the Spanish student visa. For official guidelines refer to the General Consulate of Spain of San Francisco’s visa instructions and website as well as your program’s visa instructions. Contact your program and study abroad advisors with questions.

How Do I Apply for the Spanish Student Visa? 

“How” highly depends on what type of program you are enrolled in. If you live or attend college in the aforementioned places, the two ways of applying for a student visa are group submissions or applying at the General Consulate of Spain in San Francisco, CA.

Group Submissions

Some programs have group submissions in which you prepare required materials and your program submits your application along with others’ as a group for a fee. If this method is available, take it. It’s cheaper and less complicated than applying at the Consulate. There are deadlines so make sure to pay attention!

The General Consulate of Spain in San Francisco, CA

If your program doesn’t have group submissions or you miss the deadline, you’ll have to apply at the General Consulate of Spain in San Francisco. The Consulate requires that you or a legal guardian apply in person. To apply in person sign up for an appointment via their online calendar. Sign up for an appointment as soon as possible. Appointments are booked full for months and the Consulate doesn’t mercifully offer additional appointments. The process takes 4 to 6 weeks. If your program requires a visa and you’re unable to obtain it in time, you won’t be able to study abroad!

What Do I Need When I Apply? 

The Consulate requires various documents and materials. A single document can determine whether you are eligible to apply. It’s important to have everything so you’re not turned away by the Consulate.

Preparation/Organization

With any application, preparation and being organized can reduce stress and ensure a smooth process. The way you organize your materials isn’t so important as having and knowing where each specific document is located. You can use anything from envelopes to binders or folders. Just make sure you have and know where everything is! Have multiple copies of required documents and other materials in case of emergencies.

Application & Passport Photos

The National Visa Application Form has multiple pages so make sure to staple them together. Printing either two-sided or one-sided is probably fine although in my experience, I printed one-sided and had no problems. An important detail is to input all dates in international format (DD/MM/YYYY). Lastly, two copies are required.

On the top right of the National Visa Application Form, there is an empty box. This is where your passport photo should go. The passport photos must be recent and without any article that might give officials a hard time confirming it’s you. You’ll want to use a glue stick to adhere your passport photo in the box. Your passport photo should be 2×2 in. It’s OKAY if it doesn’t totally fit in the box. Just make sure it looks neat!

Copies of and Original I.D. & Passport

Unfortunately, the Consulate requires your passport as part of the application so make sure that you aren’t planned for international travel during the duration of the application process (4-6 weeks). You must also provide an ID verifying your residency within the jurisdiction of the San Francisco Consulate. The Consulate does not take your ID for the application process. This can be a U.S. driver’s license, U.S. state ID, voter registration card or current student ID. Once you have both your passport and proper ID, print two copies of each. The consulate will take your passport and one copy of both your passport and ID. A second copy of both for emergencies.

Sample Flight Itinerary

The sample flight itinerary is not your official flight itinerary. Book your flights after receiving your student visa because it is possible to be rejected. For your sample flight itinerary, simply find potential flights you would book and print them out. Only one copy for both your outgoing and returning flights are required.

Health Insurance

You must have proof of health insurance while studying abroad. Typically, your program will include this and can supply you with the correct document to submit with your application. One copy is required but have another copy in case of an emergency.

Acceptance Letter

One of the most important documents when applying for the Spanish student visa is your acceptance letter from your program or host university. It MUST be from Spain or the Consulate cannot accept it or your application. During my appointment, another student before me was sent back to the waiting room because they didn’t have an acceptance letter from Spain. If you don’t have an acceptance letter from your program or host university in Spain, then contact your program advisor. Like the Health Insurance document, one copy is required but have another copy in case of an emergency.

Evidence of Funds

Proving you’re able to sustain yourself throughout your stay in Spain is tricky. Some programs might or might not provide formal documentation providing evidence of funds. If your program doesn’t provide any documentation for evidence of funds, refer to the Consulate’s instructions for specific details. If your program does provide formal documentation, that’s great! The document provided will usually contain information related to residency which is also required when applying. If your document doesn’t mention where you will be staying, contact your program advisor. One copy is required, but have two in case of an emergency.

Express Mail Envelope

For those who don’t live in California, applying in person can get expensive. If you can’t fly back to San Francisco to pick up your visa, the express mail envelope is the way to go! Have your visa and passport sent out to an address within the Consulate’s jurisdiction. For students that don’t live but attend school within the jurisdiction, then you’ll have to arrange travel to San Francisco or an honorary consulate office which resides in the jurisdiction to pick up your visa and passport.

Personally, I recommend going to the USPS. Changes in stamp prices are common so contact your program advisor or the Consulate for that information. The USPS will give you an envelope with the prepaid amount of stamps and a tracking and address slip. Make sure to get a couple copies of the slip in case you need to change the address and/or make a mistake.

What Should I Expect at My Appointment? 

The people at the General Consulate of Spain in San Francisco are serious about their work but are very nice. They understand that we’re all just humans! Be prepared and respectful and everything will be fine.

Wait/Line

When arriving at the Consulate, check-in with the person at the front desk. You’ll then be escorted to the waiting room where appointments take place. It’s very open so you’ll be the showcase for everyone waiting behind you during your appointment. As I said, they’re very nice so don’t get too nervous! You’ll make everyone else nervous!

“Interview” 

Not each Consulate is the same when it comes to the appointment or interview, however, the San Francisco Consulate is more of an appointment than an interview. You may be asked a few questions but generally, they are just concerned with you having the correct documents to submit your visa application.

Possible Questions

You might be asked general questions about your program. It is important to be knowledgeable and able to explain some of the “ins” and “outs” of your program. The people at the Consulate don’t know everything about each program out there so it’s important in case you know something they don’t. One question that popped up during my appointment was “Do you have any other acceptance letters for other schools?” My program takes place at a study center but students can take courses at local universities. My program and I know that I’m not required to have acceptance letters from any of the local universities to take courses or apply for my visa. I replied, “No, I’m only studying at the program study center.” If I had said “No, but I am studying at other schools other than my program study center,” then they would have sent me back to the waiting room to retrieve an acceptance letter that wouldn’t exist.

What if I Can’t Get an Appointment!?

Funnily enough, I was in this position and managed to come out on top. If you’re unable to find an appointment with adequate timing for your program start date, then have no fear, long nights and aggressive searching is here! Luckily for me and now maybe you, lots of people cancel their appointments. This is where long nights and aggressive searching comes into play. If you put the effort in, you’ll be rewarded! Personally, I checked the online appointment portal about 3 to 4 times each hour and stayed up as late as 3:00 or 4:00 am. I was finally able to find and book an appointment at around 2:30 am! It might be easier or harder for you, but if you put in the blood, sweat, and tears, something has to give.

In conclusion, studying abroad in Spain can be a life-changing experience but the Spanish student visa application process can be as well! Obtaining a Spanish student visa will force you to learn a lot about bureaucracy. And remember, if you ever get tired with the Spanish student visa process, just think of all the siestas you’ll be able to take when you’re finally in Spain!

By Jazz Scott

Uloop Writer

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