I hope you all are enjoying your summer! In the fall, I will be studying abroad in Barcelona, Spain, and I am having one heck of a time obtaining my student visa.
Since I am not a citizen of Spain, and my program is over 90 days, I need a student visa in order to legally stay in the country throughout the duration of my program. This is a very stressful and annoying process to have to go through, so I am here to provide some information and tips on how to get a visa if you will also be studying abroad. **Not all study abroad programs through Iowa require you to obtain a visa, but universities Iowa partners with in Spain do**
Here’s how the process of obtaining a Visa works:
- Gather all application materials and email them to the consulate
- Once emailed, you will get credentials for reserving an appointment
- Reserve an appointment
- At the appointment, you will give the worker your application materials and your passport
- U.S. consulate mails passport to consulate abroad
- The consulate abroad stamps your Visa in your passport
- Passport gets returned to you
Now…here are a few tips based off of my experience:
Tip #1: Look up the information yourself on how to apply
My program gave me the information on how to apply for an independent visa later than anticipated which has made this process much worse than it had to be. When applying for a visa, you will be dealing with a couple consulates, one in the U.S and one in the country you will be traveling to. Each consulate has its own region where they accept student applications. Since I am from Illinois and attend school in Iowa, I was able to apply to the Chicago Spanish Consulate. Consulate websites have information on how to apply for a variety of visas, and will most likely give you better information than your school will.
Tip #2: Group or Independent Visa Appointments?
Consulates give students and schools the option to either apply for a visa with a group or independently. I wish I would have done the group visa appointment, but was unsure of any summer travel plans, and would not have been able to go on them without my passport. If I were you, I would do the group appointment because it relieves a lot of unnecessary stress. If you don’t have travel plans during the time you are applying, and you are offered a group appointment option…TAKE IT.
Tip #3: Apply as early as possible
If I had known that I could begin applying for my visa in May, I would not be worrying about this right now. You can begin applying for student visas three to four months before you are scheduled to have your time abroad. APPLY 3-4 MONTHS AHEAD.
Tip #4: Schedule your appointment as soon as you get the email!
It took about a day from when I emailed my application to get an email from the Spanish Consulate with my credentials to schedule an appointment. I immediately checked for an appointment but there were none…they get booked quick, people. After totally stalking this website, I realized that appointments open up at about midnight Spain time, and early in the morning Chicago time, so I was able to set my alarm and get an appointment for myself before it was too late.
Tip #5: Once you schedule an appointment, check frequently for earlier openings
The biggest issue I am facing right now is that I may not be able to be in Spain the day my program starts because of when I have my appointment. If you are a student who will be dealing with the consulate in Chicago and the consulate in Spain, here is a very important thing to know: it takes about two weeks for your passport to get returned to you AFTER your appointment (this may be true with other consulates as well but I am not sure). That is not something you will find on the website! So, you will get a link to schedule your appointment…check this link multiple times a day to see if any earlier openings pop up. People don’t cancel their visa appointments, but some do forget to confirm them, which is why earlier days/times will open up!
Just get on top of this as early as possible is all I am trying to say!!! It is difficult enough to obtain a visa, and everyone struggles with it, but try to make it easier on yourself :) If you ever have any questions about visas or need to rant to someone who has had the same experience feel free to contact me!!! All I will say is GOOD LUCK!