Jumping Through Hoops

Can I just say that I have experienced few things as stressful in life as getting the necessary paperwork done to live in Spain.

I hated the process when I applied for a student visa in 2009 to study in Madrid. I don’t remember all that I had to do for the UC EAP office, but the real nightmare was applying for a visa. First, the process of figuring out whether I needed a short-term visa or a long-term visa was more complicated than you’d think, since I ended up having to get a 90-day visa and then getting a residency card once I got to Spain. Getting a health clearance form, passport photos, itinerary, driver’s license photocopy, passport photocopy, school acceptance form, proof of financial ability, self-addressed envelope, and visa application was tedious but relatively easy.

I also had to figure out what the heck a money order was (okay, maybe they’re not that bizarre, but you’d be surprised how few places do it…and they only accept cash). Then I had to deal with the entire police record nonsense. I was supposed to get a clean police record from every city I’ve lived, though I ended up just doing one from Pasadena. Then I had to go to a notary to confirm it was legit, and few notaries in the area were open on weekends. Next, I had to drive to some county office in Norwalk to verify the notarization, and then I had to go to the Secretary of State in downtown L.A. to get an Apostille of the Hague. And finally, I went to the Spanish consulate with all these copies, praying I hadn’t forgotten anything (I had, in fact, forgotten some photocopies, but I was able to run down the street and make them). And all this was when I was going to school and interning full-time during the week, so I actually had to skip classes and my internship to drive all over L.A. county getting this done.

And now the nightmare is back. Just applying for the North American Language and Culture Assistants Program was super stressful and almost made me not want to do the program at all. Everything has to  be perfectly timed since you have to have step one done in time for step two in time for step three, etc., and the offices you need to visit are only open certain hours, and they each take a long time to process what you need. And now as I’m trying to get my visa, it’s happening all over again. And I’m freaking out a bit.

The FBI background check (which involved a bunch of steps and took forever to begin with) has to have an Apostille of the Hague, but can I get that from the California Secretary of State like the L.A. consulate said, or do I have to ship it to DC, like the program guide said? Some of the paperwork has to be done within 90 days of something, but which paperwork, and is it within 90 days of getting the authentication, the Apostille, or the visa appointment? This is insane.

Not to mention that in 2009 and again now, this is all falling right in the midst of finals. As if I weren’t already preoccupied enough. But the worst part of all: if I mess up one step, I could ruin my opportunity to live in Spain next year. And that’s a really scary prospect.

Fortunately, I have the help of the kind people on auxiliares Facebook groups to help me with these questions, though no one seems to really know what they’re doing, and none of the official sources are responsive enough to get a clear answer from them. Basically, when a process involves this many distinct government entities, it’s not pretty.

Brilliant business idea: get paid to deal with all of this for people. I’d pay good money to have someone else take care of it completely.

Moral of the story: it’s not easy to spend a year living it up in Spain, and this is one of the major reasons. But as I learned last time, it’s all completely worth it in the end. Because, in four months, I very well may be living here.

Life is good.

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