I write this while sitting down on my couch, about halfway done with my packing in preparation for a year in Spain, with just a few days more to go — and not much else to do other than wait. Alas, it has taken a lot of time, a lot of effort, and a lot of patience to get me to this point.
If you’re interested at all in the Spanish government’s program for allowing Americans to enter their country and do some teaching of English, or you think you may ever be, then you’ll probably find this post interesting. Myself, I’m writing it down just so I have a record of just how crazy it was to jump through all the hoops of the Spanish and American governments (but for which I am very thankful to have the opportunity to do so, of course).
When I first firmly decided to do this program, I realized that there weren’t that many application materials for it. Just one letter of rec, a statement of purpose that allegedly never gets read by anyone, no knowledge of Spanish required (I mean to them, if you speak not a lick of Spanish that’s a-ok, because then you’ll be doing nothing except speaking English — which is your job). The main thing that stood out to me is that this program is strictly first-come, first-served: The sooner you submit your application, the more likely you are to be accepted into the program and the more likely it is that you’ll be in the location you want.
They didn’t release the date of the app’s opening until just a few weeks prior (typs of the spanish government, always keepin ya hangin), but as soon as it was official I honed in on the date and made sure I had my materials ready. I unfortunately was working the evening the app opened up (opened at midnight spanish time = 6pm in SC), but as soon as I got home I sped through the application. I was applicant #200, at about 1:20am EST that night — not too shabby.
From that point on, it was a lot of waiting. There seemed to be no action on my app for over a month, so I called my Spanish consulate in Miami — sure enough, they had somehow overlooked my app, but after my phone call, they went ahead and approved it. My first lesson that you will get far with Spanish people if you just pick up the phone and speak to them en español.
So I applied for the program in January 2013, got tentatively approved in February, and then got fully approved with my desired location in May. It seemed like a lot of just waiting around while my prospects of what I was going to do with my life after graduating were technically still up-in-the-air, but with my low inscrita number of 200 I was always fairly confident I’d get in, no problem; apparently, last week they just let in applicant #4300-something for this year.
For location, I chose Madrid as my top choice; because I was one of the early applicants, I got my top choice. I picked Madrid because it is the only comunidad autónoma in the program in which all the applicants are placed in schools within easy transport distance of the city center, e.g. no chance of a rural placement. I love big cities, so that vibed with me. Plus, I ideally would like to find a long-term job in Spain once I get over there — extreeeeemely far-fetched, I know — and Madrid seemed like the most conducive place to begin that search.
So after I got approved in May, I learned that I had only begun the mountain of paperwork I would need to accumulate in order to obtain my long-term national student visa I needed to be a part of this program. A quick run-though of what I had to do:
- Get passport pics. Easy enough, at AAA.
- Get my letter from the Spanish government stating yes, I am a part of this program, yes, I have health insurance (through the gobierno de españa), and here’s the school where I’ll be teaching (!). This, I received in June.
- Go to my doctor and have him sign off on a letter saying I’m free of smallpox, SARS, drug addictions, mental illnesses, yata-yata-yata. Cost: about $75
- Get a state police background check from SC, which was actually pretty confusing to request. Cost: about $30
- Get an Apostille of the Hague (which is wayyy different from a notary public — fancy fancy) on that background check. Cost: about $5
- Get my doc’s letter, background check, and Apostille of the Hague translated into Spanish BY A CERTIFIED TRANSLATOR ARE YOU KIDDING ME WHERE DO I FIND A CERTIFIED TRANSLATOR. This, as you may be able to tell, was one of the most confusing steps in the process. I ended up having to find a company over the Internet, and this ended up costing me $115. Like, what? Fees outta nowhere. Plus, I had to send them docs with my social # on it, over the Internet, which was pretty disconcerting.
- Get a money order for $160.
- Get an envelope for the consulate in Miami to mail me my passport back. Cost: $12.
- Then, once I had all this stuff together, they’d told me I needed to go to Miami in-person to submit my visa application. This seemed a bit unnecessary to me, so I emailed the consulate and told them that I lived in South Carolina, was it really necessary for me to come to Miami in-person, could I just mail in the materials like I had done in the past? They said, quite curtly, “No,” and then they tried to console me by telling me, “dont’ worry, it’ll only take 10 minutes.” Like that’s going to console me? If it’s only 10 minutes, then why in the world do I need to come there in person??!
- And of course, the consulate is only open until noon and only M-F, so there goes any hope i had of flying in first-thing in the morning and knocking it out. I ended up having to book a flight to Miami the day before my appointment as well as a hotel the night before — and when I went in to the consualte, it sure took literally 10 minutes, and I definitely could have just been somebody other than myself handing over my documents. What a colossal waste of time. Luckily, I was able to use SkyMiles to buy my plane ticket and hotel rewards points for the room — but imagine how much money that could have cost.
Anyway, the people in Miami were very good, and I recevied my passport back with a fresh visa in it exactly two weeks after flying in to Miami. Other than those steps above, I exchanged emails with a Spanish lady who works at my Spanish school and with an auxiliar at my school who was a part of this program last year and will be returning to the program again this year (a good sign!), about my upcoming assignment. That’s about it as far as what I needed to do in prep for this program. Total overall cost associated with the visa, its travel, being in Miami, etc.: about$500.
This was a fairly lengthy post, so I think it reflects just how much time and effort went into getting all the clearances for setting this whole shindig up. Take from it what you may, but for right now, it’s all looking worth it — I leave for Spain in 4 and a half days!!