Applying for an international visa, not so much..
But just like anything else in life, if you really want something you have to WORK for it. After a drive to Austin and two drives to Houston, I have finally submitted all of my paperwork in order to apply for a Spanish visa. Now, I just have to wait two weeks to receive my passport and other documents in the mail. My flight is also in two weeks so I’m cutting it pretty close. Hopefully, it will come in time and if not then I will just drive back to Houston to pick it up.
Well, now that I have been through the wringer and have come out somewhat successful, I can give some advice to other young whipper-snappers who are considering living/working abroad.
Embassies vs. Consulates
Out of the two, the Embassy is the head honcho. The Embassy is in charge of taking care of individuals living abroad while holding a “permanent diplomatic mission” in that country. The Embassy is usually located in the country’s capital. For example, Spain’s Embassy in the United States is located in Washington D.C.
The consulates are kind of mini embassies but have multiple locations in their host country. Consulates deal with minor diplomatic issues like visas, trade relations and tourism. For example, Spain has multiple consulates covering different regions in the United States. These Spanish Consulates are located in Boston, Chicago, Houston, LA, San Francisco, Miami, New York, Puerto Rico, and also Washington D.C.
Since I am from Dallas, Texas my regional consulate was in Houston.
For more information, here is an external link:
Tips When Applying For a Visa:
1, Know your intentions/goals for working/living abroad. It sounds simple but truly ask yourself what you are trying to experience here. Why do you want to move abroad? What major outcome are you looking for? Know your intentions/goals before going abroad and you will create more structure for yourself during your trip. It will also give your travel experience more meaning.
2. Understand the school, organization, program, etc which you are going through. What are their policies? What exactly are you signing up for? Be warned ! There are some scammers out there who don’t have your best interest.Go over the information given by the program and make sure you understand what you are agreeing to. Also, ask around! Is there anyone else at your university or in your friend group who has been on this program? I found my teaching opportunity from my cousin who had taught abroad the previous year. Here is a link to that program if you are interested.
3, Find out which regional consulate is assigned to your state. Okay, you agreed to it. Now it is time to apply for your visa! Here’s where it gets tricky. How to apply for a visa’s or the embassy jurisdiction system was never really taught in school. So you’re going to have to do some RESEARCH. First, find the consulate of the country you will be working in. Every Consulate, whether it be the Consulate of Spain or the Consulate of Japan, has multiple offices in different regions of the United States. (Note: I am an American and only know the Visa process for American citizens moving abroad. The process may be different for other countries.) I was lucky enough to have my regional consulate in my own state. Other applicants may have to travel to another state to visit their regional consulate. If you are applying for a visa to teach in Spain, here is the list of Spanish Consulate locations in the USA.
Boston, Chicago, Houston, LA, San Francisco, Miami, New York, Puerto Rico, Washington D.C
4. Now that you have your regional consulate, book an appointment ASAP. The first thing you do once you learn your regional consulate is to book an appointment. In most cases you must apply for you visa in person and spots fill up fast. The whole visa processing takes about two weeks at a minimum. Buy yourself some time and book an appointment early. You can usually do your regional consulate’s website. You may not get an appointment for a few days but keep updated on the website. People drop and pick up appointments all the time. Also, a word from the wise, wait to book your flight until after your submit your application. I booked my flight way early to save money but it almost cost me $700 to change it when I thought I wasn’t getting my visa on time. So if you are still at the beginning of this process, wait to submit all of your information before booking your flight.
5. Remember all of your documentation to bring into the consulate’s office. In order for me to apply for my Spanish Visa, I needed 8 items. Passport,Driver’s license, 2 passport photos, acceptance letter from program, money order, medical certificate, background check*, and 2 filled application forms. (*Note: For me to receive my background check in the state of Texas, I had to get my fingers printed and then take those files to the Secretary of State in Austin. There they gave me an Apostille Documentation and that was the form I took into the Consulate’s office.) Make copies of EVERYTHING, including your passport and license. Triple check that you have every single form that is needed. Triple check that each document is exactly what the Consulate is looking for. Most consulates will have detailed information on their website. You can always try calling but they are usually quite busy.
6. Be calm and collected when applying for your visa. Listen closely to the information that is being given to you by the consulate. If you forgot a document or paperwork is not in the correct format, listen to the next directions and adjust from there. You don’t want to have to make two trips to your regional consulate, especially if you leave in a different state. This is why it is so important to double check your paperwork. Once everything is submitted thank the receptionist who helped (they have the power to speed up or slow down your visa process). Always show gratitude.
7. Wait for the Consulate to mail your Visa and passport. This usually takes about two weeks. Most offices will not update you on your visa if you call but in some cases you can keep updated through email. My consulate was gracious enough to offer to call before my visa was mailed so I could know if it would make it in time for my flight.
8. Once documentation is returned, make sure to pack it for travel. Once you receive your paperwork and visa back you are now ready to fly out! Once you arrive to your host country, you will need to bring your paperwork to an immigration office. There they will give you a temporary resident alien ID card. The program you are working with will give you more detailed information on the process or you can visit your Consulate’s website. Once you receive your card, you are all legalized and ready to begin your adventure abroad. 🙂
Whew, hope this information has been helpful to someone out there!
Happy Traveling, Ya’ll