By Sarah Perkins Guebert
For many recent US graduates looking to teach and/or travel, teaching English abroad in Spain as a language assistant is a fantastic way to gain experience, boost a resume, and see the world. There are many programs available to those who wish to teach in Spain, and all of them require obtaining a visa in order to stay in the country for more than the 90 days permitted as a tourist.
Most teaching programs enroll their language assistants in an academic course so that they can apply for a student visa, which is much easier to obtain than a work visa in Spain. The process of securing a student visa in Spain can be overwhelming and confusing, so to help you better understand the steps, I’ll explain them here. For further information, visit the DC consulate website.
As you’re applying for your visa in Spain, keep in mind that this year some regulations have changed due to the pandemic. For example, you may only arrive in Spain fifteen days before the start date of your program when coming on a student visa. Be sure to stay up to date on these restrictions and any changes to consulate policies before starting the process.
How Do You Get A Student Visa in Spain?
So, what do you need to obtain your student visa? First of all, the program you’re teaching with should provide a letter verifying enrollment and stating your income, proof of insurance, and the start date. This letter alone satisfies many of the requirements for the student visa and is invaluable. Be sure to make copies of it!
Next, you need either a state or FBI background check. Choose whichever you feel is easier, but start this process early! This should be your first step after you’re accepted to a teaching program. After receiving your background check, you will then need to get it certified with an Apostille of the Hague. The apostille proves that your document is legitimate in certain foreign countries (Spain is one of these).
The background certification process is an easy but time-consuming ordeal. You will need to mail the background check to a government office in order to obtain the apostille. Where you send your document will depend on what state you live in, so you’ll need to look up the appropriate office to send it to. If you’re confused, I recommend emailing a Spanish consulate or the study abroad department at your college or university. If you studied out of state, you can contact a local college or university for help.
Tip: When arriving in Spain, certain programs will request a notarized and apostilled diploma as proof that you have completed your studies and graduated. It may be helpful to apostille both the diploma and the background check at the same time. To notarize your diploma, simply head to your nearest library! Many libraries have a public notary that can provide this service.
Proof of Health
In addition, you’ll need a doctor’s note on their official letterhead within ninety days of your departure date stating that you’re in good health and not carrying any infectious diseases. This must be completed in your state of residence, or it will be considered invalid. Many doctors have never done this before and some do not have an official letterhead. At the very least, make sure that they include their name and address at the top of the letter. Additionally, the letter must be in both Spanish and English. This seems complicated, but your physician can simply copy the text onto their official letterhead and sign and date in both languages using an official translation service.
Facing the Embassy For Your Student Visa in Spain
You also need to print and fill out two copies of the application for a national visa in Spain. When you turn in your paperwork, you must provide copies of all the above documents, as well as your physical passport, a copy of the picture page of your passport, and a passport-sized photo. Ensure you scan the important pages of your passport, because you’ll be without it for several weeks while the embassy processes your visa.
The embassy requires a fee of $160.00 paid either in cash or by money order made to the embassy of Spain. This is a hefty fee, so check and double-check all of your paperwork before you turn it in to avoid repeating it.
Finally, you’ll need a self-addressed and prepaid US express mail envelope from the post office. This is how your passport and visa will be returned to you. This is a very important step, because you cannot turn in your application without it.
- Apostilled background check
- Two copies of the visa application
- A medical certificate in both Spanish and English
- The letter provided by your program
- A passport-sized photo
- Your passport and copy of the picture page
- A prepaid, self-addressed express mail envelope from the US post office
- $160.00 fee
- Copies of EVERYTHING, both for yourself and the embassy
- (Optional) A copy of your airline ticket
Follow Up For Any Regional Procedural Differences
Spain has many consulates throughout the US, so check online to find out which one you need to go to. Some require prior appointments, while others, such as the DC embassy, allow walk-ins, so make sure to check beforehand. Certain consulates may accept mail-in applications due to the current situation. Usually, you must go to the consulate in your region and turn in your paperwork in person. Budget for plenty of time for the consulate to reply, especially if the nearest one is not in your state.
Once you’ve turned in your paperwork, you’re done. Now you just have to wait three to six weeks for your visa to arrive in the mail.
Good luck and see you in Spain!
What happens after getting your visa to teach abroad? Read about Leesa’s experience at her teach abroad orientation! Check out Dreams Abroad’s interview with Ryan Gomez before he set off of teaching abroad in Bocairent, Spain, or follow his journey from start to finish by checking out Ryan Gomez’s member page!