Tuesday, August 7, 2012

How to Apply for a Student Visa for Spain at the Houston Consulate

LAST UPDATED AUGUST 2015

For Spain’s North American Language and Culture Assistant program, you work 12 hours a week as a teacher’s assistant in English-speaking classrooms. If this sounds like something you’d be interested in doing, check out my post on how to apply for the program. However, once you’re accepted, you’ll have to apply for a student visa, rather than a work visa, in order to work in Spain as a language assistant. The government technically classifies the program as “continuing education” and you officially receive a “grant” each month…whatever. At least the visa process is simpler!

Spanish student visa from the Houston consulate
My student visa for the 2012-2013 school year
In this post I’ll explain how to apply for a student visa through the Consulate of Spain in Houston. This information applies only to those served by the Spanish consulate in Houston; i.e., residents of Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and, of course, Texas.

The Houston consulate’s website offers how-to-apply PDFs for the generic student visa as well as specialized guidelines if you are an auxiliar de conversación. Since those required documents guidelines are hard to follow, I’ve put together an easy-to-read checklist below to help you out.

As I am not an immigration lawyer, please make sure to do your own research first and only use this blog post as a helpful guide during the application process, especially since requirements can change at any moment and processing fees may be raised without notice. As a general rule, bring multiple color copies of everything on this list…plus a stapler, just in case.

Two (2) application forms

Here’s the link for the application. Select “studies” for “20. Principal purpose of the journey,” “More than two” for “22. Number of entries requested,” and put your school’s information in “23. Applicant’s address in Spain” and “28. Data of the educational establishment or research centre in case of applying for a student or research visa.”

Two (2) passport-sized photos stapled or glued to forms

I went to CVS and got a sheet of six pictures made for $11.

Your passport

Consulate General of Spain in Houston
The shiny plaque outside the office
Pretty self-explanatory. Wouldn’t hurt to bring two color copies along with the original passport.

Driver’s license/ID

They just need to look at your ID and will give it back to you before you leave, unlike your passport, which they need to keep in order to affix the visa to one of its pages. Go ahead and bring two color copies of your driver’s license just in case.

School placement letter

If you’re a language assistant, your carta de nombramiento covers the requirements for letter of acceptance, proof of health insurance, and proof of financial means.

If you’re not a language assistant, you will need to separately demonstrate that you have been accepted as a student by some educational institution, that you have purchased health coverage through a private insurer, and that you have sufficient funds in your bank account to support yourself.

$160 in cash or a money order

Per the consulate’s fee schedule, you can bring the $160 in cold, hard cash or in a money order that the post office can process for you, for a $1.15 fee.

State background check with apostille

This is how I did it for Texas. I went to the Department of Public Safety’s website and after ending up at MorphoTrust USA’s website, I scheduled a fingerprinting appointment for $25.77. I had to go to Sylvan Learning Center—of all places—to get my fingerprints scanned. It was really awkward with all the kids running around and me looking like a criminal, standing at the fingerprint scanner. My appointment was on July 9 and I received the background check on the 14th. It arrived with two copies of the SBC and two copies of the official, notarized certification.

Then, to get the apostille—which is like getting a document notarized, except valid internationally—I sent to the Secretary of State of Texas the following items in a 9x12-inch yellow catalog-size envelope:

* an application form
* a $15 check
* a stamped, self-addressed, letter-size envelope
* one copy of the SBC with one copy of the notary’s certification

I sent everything off on July 16 and got the apostille-d SBC on July 27.

Spanish student visa from the Houston consulate
My student visa for the 2013-2014 school year
Returning language assistants, please be warned that consulate officers have now begun asking for background checks from Spain, so make sure you go through the gauntlet for that before you show up for your appointment. Check out Pueblo The Series’ blog post about their experience applying for a criminal records certificate.


Medical certificate

Go to your doctor (the guidelines say they must be an M.D.) and ask them to write and sign off on a letter with this information in it. You can probably get this done as part of a yearly physical for insurance purposes.
     This health certificate verifies that Mr./Ms. _____ is free of drug addiction, mental illness and does not suffer from any disease that could cause serious repercussions to public health according to the specifications of the international sanitary regulation of 2005.
     These contagious diseases include, but are not limited to smallpox, poliomyelitis by wild poliovirus, the human influenza caused by a new subtype of virus and the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), cholera, pneumonic plague, yellow fever, viral hemorrhagic fevers (e.g.: Ebola, Lassa, Marburg), West Nile Virus and other illnesses of special importance nationally or regionally (e.g.: Dengue Fever, Rift Valley Fever and meningococcal disease.)
     Mr./Ms. _____ is a very healthy individual in all senses, she/he has no pre-existing medical conditions, and she/he is capable of traveling abroad.

Appointment confirmation

Up until the fall of 2014 the Houston consulate accepted walk-ins, but now they require you to make an appointment online at a website managed by Acuity Scheduling. They’re open to the public  from 9:00am to 1:00pm Central Time, Monday through Friday. Yes, they close early for siesta. No, they don’t open back up again afterwards. Yes, it’s ridiculous. Welcome to Spain.

Prepaid USPS envelope

Unless you live in the Houston area, go to your post office, pick up a 12.5x9.5-inch Priority Mail flat rate cardboard envelope, and buy the Priority Mail postage for it ($5-6) so you don’t have to drive or fly all the way back to the consulate again just to pick up your visa. They’ll mail your visa and your passport back to you, saving you big time.

How to get to the consulate

Consulate General of Spain in Houston
The office complex the consulate is in
If you’re planning on driving there (or renting a car at the airport), plug in the following address to your GPS or phone and hit the road:

1800 Bering Drive, Suite 660, Houston, TX 77057

Whether you’re flying into Houston, taking the train, or riding the Greyhound or Megabus into town, you’ll inevitably have to catch a city bus—but thankfully there are public transportation options. The consulate is on Bering Drive (a north-south road) between San Felipe Street and Westheimer Road, and there are a couple different ways to get there.

To get to Westheimer Road (runs east-west south of the consulate), you can take the 82 bus from downtown Houston. Similarly, to get to San Felipe Street (runs east-west north of the consulate), you can take the 32 bus, which also leaves from downtown. Whatever the case, be on the lookout once you’ve passed the I-610 loop heading west. If you pass Fountain View Road, you’ve gone too far.

If this is all too confusing, I recommend checking out the public transit options on Google Maps (click the little bus icon when making directions) or using the snazzy Rome 2 Rio website to figure out all the logistics of getting from Point A to Point B. All of Houston’s transit information (hours, stops, lines, etc.) are already plugged in to Google Maps.

The consulate occupies suite #660 on the sixth floor of a three-sided office block with blue-green glossy windows. It should be free to leave your car in the parking garage.

Turnaround time

Consulate General of Spain in Houston
Inside the consulate
In 2012, I applied in person at the consulate on August 2nd and received my student visa in the mail on August 25th. I fared pretty similarly in 2013 and expect about a three-week turnaround time when I go to Houston for a third time this year (2014). It takes about two weeks from the time you submit your application to the time they actually issue and print your visa (from what I can see on dates the visas affixed to my passport have), and then no more than a week via the postal service.

If you’re pressed for time, you can provide a Priority Mail Express envelope which will expedite your envelope’s physical delivery once the visa is issued, or you can simply show up at the consulate in around two weeks and pick it up.

Processing times may be longer if you apply in June and July, as those are the hottest months for study abroad kids applying for the fall semester.

Post all of your questions about applying for a student visa below! Also, please share your experience at the consulate as well.
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