Welcome to my blog about my year abroad in Oviedo, Spain! I will be recording all my thoughts and adventures here for the next 8 months. I am leaving New York in 4 days and I’m terrified, excited, nervous, and curious all at the same time! I’ve spent the last four months preparing for my trip, and there have been many (and I mean MANY) ups and downs thus far. Things started looking better when I got my Spanish visa in the mail a few weeks ago. Now I am officially ready to go!
The whole process started around this time last year. I remember sitting in my academic adviser’s office mulling over different study abroad programs and trying to narrow down my choices. One of the best things about going to a SUNY school is that you are able to study abroad through ANY SUNY program! After carefully inspecting each and every SUNY study abroad program in Spain, I ended up choosing New Paltz’s program at la Universidad de Oviedo in Asturias.
To all you prospective SUNY study abroad students, here is the website I used. It’s a fantastic search engine that will help you narrow down your choices based on location, length of program, and even which SUNY school the program is based out of. Also, if your school has a study abroad fair, GO TO IT!!! Often there will be students who actually did one of the programs and the best information about a program comes from someone who went through the process the semester or year before you! Study abroad advisers may be helpful, but talking to someone who actually did the program may be able to answer a lot more of your questions.
After I had picked a program and applied (New Paltz, by the way, has a very simple application process which I very much enjoyed) I learned that I needed to get a Spanish visa. Most of the other things on the application were simple: a transcript, health records, personal information, a study abroad statement, and a couple of recommendations. The visa was a whole new adventure.
I’ll admit, when I started the process, I had no idea how involved it was going to be. If you are studying in Spain for less than 90 days, congratulations—you don’t even need a visa! If you are studying for over 90 days, get ready to experience bureaucracy at its finest. Over 180 days is even MORE fun. To obtain a Spanish visa, one must schedule an appointment online with the Spanish consulate in their jurisdiction. Obviously, I had to go to the consulate in New York City. I made my appointment for late June, thinking I would have enough time to get together all the paperwork. Nope. Not even close. Here is what you need to get a visa (as of right now—this changes at random and sometimes you are expected to have additional paperwork even if they changed the requirements the morning of your appointment and you didn’t even realize):
—2 National Visa Application forms dully filled out and signed.
—Passport. The passport must be valid for the intended period of your stay in Spain with at least one blank page to affix the visa. Also provide either of the following: US drivers license, US State ID card, current student ID.
—2 recent photos passport size with a white background. Staple one photo on each of the application forms.
—Letter of acceptance as a full time student from Spain’s University/School or US program indicating: name, address and registration number of the school with Spain’s Department of Education; (Ministerio de Educación de España) full payment of tuition, duration of the program, subjects of the study and hours of study per week which must be no less than 20.
—Health Insurance, International insurance coverage for health/accident with a minimum coverage equal to €30,000 and “Repatriation Coverage” during the planning period of stay in Spain (or its equivalency in dollars).
—Proofs of financial means during your stay: Please provide ONE of the following:
1. Letter from the University or School in Spain or in the USA assuming full financial responsibility during your stay (this is often included into the acceptance letter)
2. Proof of financial aid or scholarship for at least $1,000 per month for room and board.
3. Notarized letter from your parents or legal guardians assuming full financial responsibility for at least $1,000 per month for room and board. Suggested wording: “I hereby certify that I’m the (father/mother/other) of (…), will support him/her with a monthly allowance of at least $1,000 while he/she is in Spain and that I’m financially responsible for any emergency that may arise”.
4. Personal bank account statements showing at least $1,000 per month of stay.
—“Money-Order” to pay the non-refundable visa fees (no personal checks or cash accepted).
—Evidence of your migratory status in the USA (Only for non US citizens): Provide your “Alien Registration Card” or “US Visa with I-20/IAP-66” (except B1-B2).
—Police Records Certificate for persons 18 years old & up (for periods longer than 180 days) *** from the country of origin or place of you residence for the last five years bearing the “Apostille of the Hague Convention” (*** See special notes at the bottom of this page). If the Certificate is issued outside the USA it must be duly legalized by the corresponding Consulate of Spain plus 1 copy.
—Medical Certificate (for periods longer than 180 days): Doctor’s statement on a doctor or medical center letterhead, indicating that the student has been examined and found in good physical and mental health to travel to study abroad and is free of contagious diseases or any other illnesses which could lead to Public Health repercussions according to the International Sanitary Regulations plus 1 copy.
—Notarized authorization letter to apply for a visa from the parents or custodians (only if the applicant is under 18 years of age).
—If you want your passport returned to you by mail you MUST bring a self-addressed and pre-paid UPS.COM label to receive your passport back from us. Create a shipment on-line atwww.ups.com and print the label.
Here is the link to the SPANISH CONSULATE OF NUEVA YORK WEBSITE. There you will find all the information you need if you just click the “Visas” link on the right side of the page.
Most of these things were relatively easy to obtain. I scheduled a doctor’s appointment as soon as I got home from school in May, and New Paltz gave me everything I needed for the letter of acceptance, proof of financial means, and health insurance info.
THE BIGGEST MISTAKE I MADE had to do with my fingerprints for the FBI background check. I waited until I got home from school in May to get fingerprinted and send the prints down to D.C. The process was supposed to take six weeks, which I had, and an extra 15 days to get the Apostille of the Hague Convention, which I’ll discuss later. I went to the local police department to be fingerprinted, sent my prints down, and waited. And waited. Well, the six week time frame came and went, and when we called the FBI they told us the prints were still in the process of being reviewed.
Another week passed, and I knew that I needed to cancel my visa appointment at the consulate because I wouldn’t have this paperwork back in time. I scheduled another appointment for August 9, which was about 7 weeks pre-departure (and turned out to be just fine in the end).
We called the FBI again to learn that my fingerprints WERE NOT LEGIBLE. WHAT. Wait, hold on…excuse me? Thanks for telling me 7.5 weeks after I send them to you. I got my prints done AT A POLICE STATION. BY A POLICE OFFICER. WHAT. When we asked them how long it would be if we re-sent the prints, they told us 6 to 8 weeks, which I didn’t have.
Angry and stressed out, my mom suggested that we go to the FBI office in Syracuse to see if there was anything they could do about it. My mom called them first and spoke with a very nice and helpful woman who told us that the FBI was very specific about their fingerprints and that the perfect amount of pressure had to be applied in order for the FBI to be able to read them. She told us that she could do the fingerprints digitally in her office, so I ended up skipping an hour of work to go downtown and get them. We sent them down to D.C. that day, and the FBI woman told us she would call a friend to see if they could expedite the process at all (which they normally don’t do). We had to write “SECOND SUBMISSION, PLEASE EXPEDITE!” all over the front of the envelope. It seems obnoxious, but it makes your envelope discernible from the hundred of others who need a background check. If you’re lucky, perhaps someone in the mailroom will be in an especially good mood that day and pull your envelope early for processing. We got the envelope back in about 2 weeks thanks to the woman at the FBI office’s friend in Washington (and maybe thanks to our obnoxious envelope).
At this point I was mega-stressed out because I was working two jobs and trying to get all of this paperwork together, but I had my mom to help me a lot during the day when I couldn’t make phone calls or go to the federal building. THANKS MOM!
The next step was to send the cleared background check back down to the Department of State so they could attach the Apostille of the Hague to it. Honestly, this is just a fancy piece of cardstock with a seal and a signature. I don’t know why it’s required, but it is. My mom called the senator’s office to see if they could help us expedite this, and they did! We got it back in a few days…WITH NO SIGNATURE!! Just my luck. So we sent the whole thing back to D.C. and the woman who was supposed to sign it apologized and in another few days it was back in my hands, just in time for me to go to the city for my appointment at the consulate.
I went into the city on the 9th expecting a huge wait at the consulate, but it was less than 10 minutes. After dealing with all the ridiculousness of obtaining the background check, this was such a relief. A woman called me up to a window and I handed everything in one at a time and she told me I’d have it back in about a month (it was actually sooner). A feeling of relief swept over me when I left the building—it was done! Or so I thought…Spain grants student visas for 90 days at a time, so when I get to Oviedo I have to go to the police department and apply for basically the second half of my visa, which is essentially an ID card that will allow me to complete my studies there. More info on that when it happens. Don’t freak out if you need a visa for a year and you only get one for 90 days. This is normal!!! I got my visa back a couple weeks after my appointment with a piece of paper telling me I had to go to the policia and present my case.
I know this is probably the longest post on all of Tumblr, but I really wanted to get that information out there for anybody applying for a Spanish visa. I don’t know how searchable this is on Google, but I hope those who need this kind of information find it!
Just remember: Start everything early! You never know what kind of sticky situation you might end up in (like my fingerprints being illegible…awesome) or what roadblocks you may encounter (the woman forgetting to sign the Apostille, for one). It may seem ridiculous, but your fingerprints are good for up to a year, so if you are definitely planning on studying abroad in Spain for over 180 days, get your fingerprints done ASAP by a SHERIFF’S OFFICE if you can (the one in the city of Syracuse would have been preferred to my local police station) and send them to the address here. When they send the prints back up, I’m pretty sure they give you an address for where to send the criminal record check so you can get the Apostille.
If you have any questions, e-mail me at email@example.com. I’d be happy to help anyone who needs info on this process.
For your convenience, here are the links I shared throughout my post:
SUNY Study Abroad Search Engine
Spanish Consulate of New York
FBI Criminal Background Check Information
Wishing you luck in your study abroad process! The rest of my blog will be mostly fun stuff relating to my time in Oviedo, I promise! But this info was important and also part of my journey and experience, and I think it’s important that I include it in my blog.
Next post: The first few days in Oviedo/my plane ride. Hasta luego!