Good news: I just picked up my long-term student visa because I’m going to start my masters in Murcia, Spain next month!! You remember that, right? Right.
Bad news: I almost died getting this visa, y’all.
Here’s the thing:
When I moved to Poland, there was no visa process. There was a residency card to be obtained (that’s actually a good story, maybe I’ll tell you about my brief stint being undocumented in Poland another time) but no visa was required, and my employer did the residency application with us. She is also married to a local anti-Soviet political hero, so she can name drop and get stuff done like nobody’s business.
But Spain, you may have surmised, is not Poland. A lot more people want to get into Spain. And since I don’t have an EU passport (ughhhh I should’ve gotten mine when I was living in Poland, my cousin was right, I am stupid), I had to wade through the tedious long-term student visa process. I’m not gonna lie, I thought my university would be a bit more helpful with this. I thought they might, you know, tell us when we should start researching and applying or whatever. They did not. Ok. So around May, I start looking into what needs to be done. I sign up for an appointment at the Spanish Consulate in Los Angeles. Then I realized that this was a bit more complicated than I thought.
I’m not gonna lie, I was freaking out. I definitely lost sleep over this. I read the Spanish consulate website, I read a bunch of blogs, I emailed and called the consulate and probably annoyed the shit out of everyone working there. There were more documents and stipulations than I had realized. By the time I finished my 5-hour Googling spree, everything I read led me to believe that the consulate was going to be super strict, that if even one piece of paper was out of line, my application would be outright rejected.
Due to this fear of strict, imposing requirements, I was extremely careful to dot my i’s and cross my t’s. Well, I was trying to be extremely careful to dot my i’s and cross my t’s. For example, the website said (and many bloggers mentioned) that you had to have a background check from every state (in the US) and country you’ve lived in for the past five years. For me, that includes: California, Missouri, and Poland. I was freaking out about the Polish background check, because obviously I am not in Poland and everything in Poland is slow unless you can go in physically to someone’s office and yell at them (see above, the thing about my boss), also I don’t speak or write emails very well in Polish. I even called the consulate, asking what I should do. They said, see what you can get from the US Embassy in Poland, or Polish consulate in Los Angeles. Bring whatever you have for your appointment.
So I hired a lawyer to get it done for me, paid an ungodly amount of money (I’m not going to say how much because I will cry just thinking about it), only to go to the visa appointment and have the consular official just dismiss it outright, saying she doesn’t need that particular background check, she only needs the one from California.
Like I said, I don’t want to think about all the money I spent on something that they didn’t even want to look at.
I was also told that the consulate was very strict about you having all your documents on the day of your visa appointment. I was panicking because my Spanish health insurance had been purchased but I didn’t have confirmation yet. I ordered a lemon & camomile tea at Coffee Bean, I was so nervous. I tried to eat a bagel and could only eat half of it. (Do y’all understand the gravity of this situation? I THREW AWAY A PERFECTLY GOOD BAGEL. I AM JEWISH. WE DON’T THROW AWAY BAGELS.)
Then when I explain this during the appointment, she says, “Oh, no problem. Bring it whenever you can. Bring it next week. That’s fine.”
I swear, these people were trying to give me a heart attack. Anyway, a week after my initial visa appointment, I dropped off my proof of insurance and two business days later, I got an email saying my visa has been processed and I can pick it up at my earliest convenience. It was the complete opposite of everything I had been led to believe in my blog-reading-induced panic.
You can find pretty much all the information you need about getting a Spanish long-term visa on the consulate website, plus there are a lot of guides to be got by googling “long term student visa spain blogs” or some variation thereof, so I won’t enumerate every single step in the process/document needed/links to buy medical insurance/whatever. BUT! Here is my sage advice for
not freaking the fuck out surviving the visa process:
- Get started early. If I had submitted my Polish background check while I was still in Poland, sure, it still might have been useless, but I probably would’ve paid 30-50 złoty instead of what I paid which was… a lot more. Excuse me, that’s just an eyelash in my eye. I’m not crying. My point is, start your research earlier than I did. Like, start the minute you know you’re going to need a visa.
- Ask questions. Ask them once, twice, thrice. Bother people until they yell at you (they probably won’t yell at you). Once you leave their line of sight (figuratively) they won’t remember how annoying you were, so don’t be afraid to get annoying. If you ask someone something, then read something else online, go and ask them again. If you get a wishy-washy answer, don’t be afraid to clarify.
- Be pushy/ ask for help. I got a lot of stuff done quicker by just sending a lot of nice emails asking people to hurry the fuck up. (I didn’t use the words ‘hurry the fuck up’.) I explained that I was on a deadline, and people were pretty good about helping me out and doing things faster than I expected.
- Keep it in perspective. As I bemoaned all the money I was spending getting the paperwork for this visa, my friend Emily (who just started grad school at Tulane) asked me if I was weary about paying it because it was really too expensive, or if it was because I subconsciously didn’t want to go. (The third option, of course, is the fear that I was spending shitloads of money on something I wasn’t even sure that I needed, but it’s better to be safe than sorry.) She said education is expensive, and either the extra money was worth it because it was something I really wanted, or it wasn’t, because I didn’t. She was right. I do want to move to Spain, get my masters, and increase my future employment opportunities. So I needed to suck it up. Then I told her how much my tuition was for the whole year and she laughed and told me to stop being such a baby because a year of tuition + all these visa expenses is still less than one semester at Tulane. And that’s why you should go to Europe for grad school!