Posted by: Dee Andrews | February 10, 2008


I have a new found empathy for anyone trying to immigrate. Usually here in the United States, the word is associated with illegal immigrants from Mexico. I now have a better understanding and response when people say they should just come here legally.
Let me explain the legal process to immigrate to Spain. Because we are planning on staying longer than 90 days, a residency visa is necessary. The residency visa requires each of us to board a plane next week for Los Angeles, California (remember, we live in Colorad0) and appear at the Spanish consulate to submit our visa applications. All of the required information is easily found on the Spanish consulate website (once you figure out you need to go to the Spanish consulate website, that is!) Here’s the list we have to compile:
Required documents:

  1. Visa application form and two fotocopies
  2. Two passport-type photos: (of course, they require different sizes and specifications than US passport photos)
  3. Passport and two copies: Passport valid for a minimum of 3 months after the intented date of departure from Spain, with at least one blank page to affix the visa.
  4. Non-Us citizens will have to provide Evidence of their Immigration Status in the US (okay, one that doesn’t apply to us!)
  5. Health certificate, translated into Spanish and two photocopies: Letter typed on doctor’s stationery verifying that you are in good physical and mental health, free of contagious or infectious diseases and drug addiction. These items must be specified, and this letter must be signed by a medical doctor. This documents can not be older than two months and have to be issued in the place of your legal residence (US). (Have you ever tried to get a letter from your doctor, it required a couple weeks since the doctor just can’t write it and print it out; has to be dictacted and sent to a special word processing department at the main medical center.)
  6. Police criminal record clearance verified by fingerprints and two photocopies. This documents can not be older than two months and have to be issued in the place of your legal residence (We were very surprised to find upon pulling up the FBI website, that this process can take up to 5 months! Given that we didn’t have an additional 5 months, on top of the 3-6 months that it take for the visa, this was a big concern for us. We requested an expediated turn-around of one month, which you can request but with no guarantee, and were thankful to find them waiting for us in our mailbox in about 2 weeks. Perhaps it helped that neither Scott nor I had a record!)
  7. Proof of sufficient funds to live in Spain without working for the period of time you and your family, if the case, intend to stay there.
  8. Visa fee ($100 each)
  9. Spouse of the main applicant should submit the documents numbered 1,2,3,4,5,7,8 and a Marriage certificate authenticated with the “Apostille of The Hague” and two photocopies. (So let me talk about the Apostille of The Hague. In and of itself, it’s not that complicated of an issue. Back in the 1960s, many countries got together and agreed to accept each other’s public documents (such as birth certificates, marriage certificates, death certificates, etc) as long as they had this Apostille stamped on them. The Apostille is an embossed stamp certifying the authenticity of the document. It is given by the Secretary of State’s office in each state. So, since we had a marriage certificate from Kansas, one birth certificate from California, and one birth certificate from Colorado, we theoretically had three states to work with. After writing and requesting for additional certified copies of all of these documents, I then was told by the Colorado Secretary of State that they could give them all the Apostille. A chance phone call to the Kansas Secretary of State revealed that no other state could Apostille a Kansas document! The tricky part of this was that I needed the marriage certificate mailed the next day so that I’d receive it in time to get on the plane to Los Angeles. Thankfully, Diane in Kansas walked my certified marriage license copies over to Don in another Kansas department, who was to give them the Apostille, and Don sent them to me next-day UPS. (Of course, all for a small fee of $61.) So now I was worried, did California too require me to have a California birth certificate Apostilled there in California? Many phones calls and a reading of the Colorado Notary’s Handbook and the Colorado Statues governing notaries, revealed that Colorado could Apostille a “certified copy” of a California birth certificate, which any Colorado notary could make. (However, this apparently is the newest and least used notary service and most Colorado notaries don’t know they can do it or how to do it. Thankfully, I printed out all of the instructions from the various websites and took them with me to walk the notary through it all.) A final drive to Denver to the Colorado Secretary of State, and I had all of my Apostilled documents! Whew.
  10. Children of the main applicant should submit the documents numbered 1,2,3,4,5,7,8 and a Birth certificate authenticated with the “Apostille of The Hague” and two photocopies.

    Now you may have an idea of my professed new found empathy for immigration documents. The list is long, complex, expensive and takes a long time! And, all of these documents and processes are a regular and normal process for us here in the United States of America. What if you lived in a third-world country that didn’t even have reliable phone or mail service?

    Here’s my running list of visa costs:
    airfare for 4 to California: $892
    Los Angeles hotel for 2 nights: $358
    car rental: $48
    visa application fees for 4: $400
    passport photos for 4: $24.00
    renewed passports for girls, application fees:
    renewed passports for girls, expediated fees:
    renewed passports for girls, photo fees: $12
    health letters translated into Spanish: $285
    health letters FedEx overnight fees:
    FBI fingerprinting fees for 2:
    FBI overnight postage: $
    FBI application fees:
    Kansas marriage certificate, 3 certified copies: $26
    Kansas marriage certificate, overnight UPS: $25
    Kansas marriage certificate, credit card processing fee: $9
    Kansas marriage certificate, Apostille fee for 3 docs:
    Colorado birth certificate, 3 certified copies: $
    Colorado birth certificate, Apostille fee for 3 docs: $6
    Colorado birth certificate, Apostille fee to process in person, same day vs. mailing: $45
    California birth certificate, 3 certified copies: $
    California birth certificate, expediated processing and postage fees:
    California birth certificate, Apostille fee for 3 docs: $0
    California birth certificate, Apostille fee to process in person: $45
    parking in downtown Denver for Apostille at Secretary of State: $10

    I’m scared to add it all up.

    One note on expediation fees. We knew from the Spanish consulate website that it took 3-6 months to process our visa applications. So, with an intended departure of June 1 for Spain, we knew we were starting a bit late when we started in early January. (We did sell our house, move and celebrate the holidays all in December!) What we didn’t realize until we got into the process of tracking down certified copies of documents, is that each of these documents were professing to take anywhere from 2 weeks to 5 months. In many cases, the expediated fee helped take 5 months down to 3 weeks, which we considered a more realistic timeline. At some point, we just had to book our flights to Los Angeles, because waiting too long to do that could have increased that price substantially, and hope we had all of the necessary documents!

    Wish us well, we leave on Valentines Day for our visa appointments!

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