The first hurdle in my impending Spanish adventure was the visa application process. And I’m not referring to the credit card applications that I get in the mail every other day. The first piece of advice I’m going to give is to “not get your panties in a knot”. Yes, this little sticker in your passport is your key to getting to Spain, but it can be easily broken up into parts and then you’ll be on your way to Spain!
Part 1: Gathering documents
Visit the Chicago Consulate website and download this pdf. I don’t think I’ve ever loved a pdf file so much. This became my checklist of documents to get in order before the visa appointment. So let’s go through each one:
- Visa application form (you need to fill out #21, 28)
- Passport and ID
- Passport photo (attach it to the Visa application form)
- Original hardcopy acceptance letter
- Evidence of funds: depends on the program, but since my stipend was listed in the acceptance letter, I didn’t have to show anything else.
- Proof of health insurance: my school provides insurance for me and I only had to show the email of my specific coverage plan
- Criminal history information/Police background check. This was the most annoying thing EVER. I requested a background check from the state of Illinois, verified by fingerprints. Then you have to wait for the form to be mailed to you to submit your fingerprints. After taking your fingerprints, send the form back to the state and wait to hear back that you aren’t a criminal. This document that you receive needs to be notarized. Then it needs to get an apostille. This is a fancy term for a stamp that verifies a document in all parts of the world. Think of a notary on steroids. You can either send in the document with the apostille request form to the secretary of state’s office or go to the downtown office for the SoS walk in hours.
- Medical certificate: this can be a super simple note from your doctor that says you “have been examined and found free of any contagious diseases according to the International Health Regulation 2005” and signed by a M.D.
- Second proof of health insurance: again I am covered by my school and didn’t have to show anything else.
- A self addressed, prepaid express USPS envelope. This is for them to send you back your passport with the visa attached.
- Money order with payment
Bring copies of EVERYTHING just to be sure. 🙂
Part 2: Make appointment
At the bottom of this page click on the link to schedule the appointment. Remember that it takes about 4 weeks plus 10 days to ship your passport back to you. Schedule in advance!! This website reserves specific appointment times and they book quickly! I would say to book an appointment as soon as you can and this might be before you have all your documents ready. For me the thing that took the most time was the background check/notary/apostille document.
part 3: The appointment
I was walking proud down Michigan Ave in downtown Chicago with all my documents and copies and entered a building. I was guided to take the elevator up to the 15th floor and it was on the left. There was no red carpet on the ground floor so I was sure once I got up to the 15th floor it would be there to greet me with a giant portrait of the King and Queen and possibly a Spanish coat of arms. *ding, doors open* NOTHING. NADA. ZILCH. I walk through a glass door labeled with sticker letters saying “Spanish Consulate”. To say it looked like a doctor’s waiting room with three walk up windows would be completely accurate. So unimpressed, albeit there was a small portrait of the King and Queen. I wait there for a man behind the window to call me up. I hand him all my documents and copies. He says it takes about a month to get the passport back. and YA, tan FÁCIL?! It took me longer to write this paragraph then the actual appointment.
part 4: the waiting game
Besides greeting the mailman everyday to see if I got any mail, I’ve been keeping myself occupied with planning trips, finding accommodation in Spain, and watching Spanish TV shows online.