Getting a Student Visa for Spain as an American

Written by on June 9, 2015 in Blog, Europe, Expat Life, Expat Life Featured, Spain - 61 Comments

Step-by-step tips on how Americans can get a student visa to live in Spain via www.dtravelsround.com

For most of my adult life, I have dreamed of living in Europe. But, as an American, actually living in Europe beyond the Schengen visa limit of 90 in/90 out in a 180 day period makes it pretty much impossible (unless I get hitched to someone with an EU passport, which is never entirely out of the question).

So, what is a girl to do when those dreams of residing in this bubble of history and culture can’t be achieved without an EU passport? Answer: she gets creative.

For all you Americans out there, there is a way to live longer term in Europe without marrying in or digging deep into Ancestry.com. In Germany, there is the coveted artist visa. Originally, that was the route I was going to go. Until I ended up back in Spain (one of my favorite countries in the world and one I have talked about calling “home” numerous times in the past). When I was in Madrid earlier this year, I found out how I could go about getting a student visa for Spain as an American, which would grant me permission to live in the country for an entire year.

After some research, I found a TEFL program that includes both the course and Spanish lessons, which earns the year-long visa. From there, I applied to the program (if you want to know the school, just shoot me a message), paid my down payment of 300 euros, and began the pain-in-the-ass accumulation of documents to get the student visa.

Planning Your Trip

If you intend to apply for a student visa, give yourself a few months to get everything in order. As an American applying, you must be in the USA in order to apply from the Spanish consulate that covers your state. Each consulate varies in exact times to process the paperwork and rules for setting appointments, etc.

I had to go to the New York City Consulate — who I should note was very patient and responsive in regards to the barrage of emails I sent them in the months leading up to actually dropping off my passport. Don’t expect to have your visa-laden passport in your hands in anything under two weeks. And, don’t be like me and cut it so close to your actual departure date that anxiety takes over.

I highly suggest heading to Spain before you being your application and determining where it is you want to live, and then finding a place to rent. As a student, you don’t have proof of income, which can make it a bit difficult to sign a lease. I went with a private landlord, and did not have to show money, but that isn’t always the case.

Documents Needed for the Student Visa

Step-by-step tips on how Americans can get a student visa to live in Spain via www.dtravelsround.com

What don’t you need in order to get a student visa for Spain as an American? Nothing. I kid. Seriously, you will need the following items … and I am putting them in order based on what you should do first and what you can do just before you walk out the door to drop your passport. I will go into detail about most of these steps after listing them. Please note, this is based on my experience at the NYC consulate. Please check with your local consulate for other items which may be required:

– an FBI background check

– the FBI background check certified by the US Department of State with the Apostille of the Hague

– a letter from the school in Spain saying you are enrolled in a year-long program

– proof of health insurance in Spain that includes repatriation (the actual coverage varies depending on the consulate; mine was for 30,000 euros)

– a letter from a doctor saying you are in good health

– proof of financial means (a letter from your school assuming full financial responsibility during your stay, proof of financial aid or scholarship for at least $700 a month, a notarized letter from your parents or legal guardian assuming full financial responsibility of at least $700 a month, or personal bank statements show at least $700 per month)

– your original passport (valid for the entire length of stay with at least one page to place the visa)

– a copy of your State ID or driver’s license

– two passport-sized photos of yourself

– a money order for the visa fee ($160 in New York)

– an envelope with postage pre-paid to return your passport with visa to you

The FBI Background Check

The FBI background check will take the longest to acquire. As soon as I was accepted to my school, I returned to London and got my fingerprints done at Scotland Yard (for a whopping 250 GBP) and then express mailed the prints, form and credit card authorization for $18, to the FBI to conduct the background check.

I read varying information online, but somehow got it in my head that they took 10 weeks, so I booked my flight to America to apply for the visa based on that timeline. However, in late April, I called the FBI to find out the status of my check, and mail delivered prior to the date I sent my prints had not even been opened.

I panicked and found an FBI-approved channeler that promised to handle the FBI check in five to seven business days. Again, I had to go get fingerprints, and again express mail them. This check cost me another $50. Do some research on the channeler you go with. The one I hired actually ended up taking more time than they said they would and ended up being delivered within days of the one I sent the FBI to do.

If you are requesting it from the FBI directly, be sure to note that your document needs to then be certified with the Apostille of the Hague.

Securing the Apostille of the Hague

Step-by-step tips on how Americans can get a student visa to live in Spain via www.dtravelsround.com

Once you have your background check in your hands, you have to bring it in to the US Department of State in Washington, DC to get an Apostille of the Hauge certification. If you are not close to DC, you can hire a company to do this for you.

This certification requires the request form, as well as your original FBI background check. The cost is $8. As of this time, it takes three days three days (not including the day you drop it off) to secure this document. If applying in person, you must go between 8 a.m. and 9 a.m. I highly suggest arriving early, as they often begin taking people around 7:45 a.m. You do not need an appointment for this.

A letter of Enrollment from a Spanish Institution

The letter from your school must be in Spanish and issued in Spain. It needs to include the name of the program, start and end dates, the address, a contact in Spain and that you are studying at least 20 hours per week. Your school should handle this for you.

Proof of Health Insurance in Spain

As I mentioned before, the coverage varies based on your consulate, but you will need to be covered for around 30,000 – 50,00 euros during your stay. This includes repatriation. I used HCC MIS for mine. It cost me around $450 for the year and I have no pre-pay so long as I stay within their network of providers. Once you have the insurance, you will need to print a form (found on the site) that states your coverage as a student abroad.

Letter from a Doctor

Depending on your doctor, schedule an appointment ahead of time. It is a basic examination and the letter needs to state that you are in good health in accordance to the International Sanitary Regulations. You will need two copies of this letter for your student visa application. The letter must be dated within three months of your application date.

Proof of Financial Means

There are a few different options to prove your financial means. You must have one of the following: a letter from your school assuming full financial responsibility during your stay, proof of financial aid or scholarship for at least $700 a month, a notarized letter from your parents or legal guardian assuming full financial responsibility of at least $700 a month, or personal bank statements which show at least $700 per month.

If getting a letter from parents or guardian, you can use this text: “I hereby certify that I’m the (father/mother/other) of (…), will support him/her with a monthly allowance of at least $700 while he/she is in Spain and that I’m financially responsible for any emergency that may arise”.

Other Items

While I’m not touching on the other items (they are pretty self-explanatory), you must have everything listed above in order to have your visa processed.

For more on living abroad in Spain, check out:

Moon Living Abroad in Spain

Coming soon! Getting your NIE card.

Did this post help you? If so, please let me know. Has anything changed since this was published? Again, please let me know. Note: the Moon Living Abroad book is an Amazon affiliate link and if you make a purchase using that link, I will get a small portion of the sale … which helps to cover the cost of this visa madness.

About the Author

Diana Edelman is an avid traveler who recently spent four years living as an expat. Most notably, Diana spent nearly three years in Chiang Mai, Thailand where she worked with Save Elephant Foundation to raise awareness about the realities of elephant tourism. Currently based in Las Vegas, Diana works in many industries as a publicist, social media expert, content creator and journalist. The founder of Vegans, Baby, you can normally find her hanging out at vegan restaurants around town, exploring the beauty of the desert southwest or camped out at a coffee shop banging on a keyboard. The co-founder of the Responsible Travel & Tourism Collective, Diana has spoken at conferences about travel blogging and responsible tourism.

61 Comments on " Getting a Student Visa for Spain as an American "

  1. Adam June 10, 2015 at 6:11 am · Reply

    Useful guide! I won’t lie that I’m bummed you didn’t come to Berlin, but Spain is so great (shhh, don’t tell Germany but I think Spain is my favorite European country) so I can’t really blame you. Glad to hear that this kind of opportunity exists in Spain!!

    • Diana June 10, 2015 at 9:43 am · Reply

      I know! I thought a lot about Berlin, and I LOVE Berlin, but when it comes right down to it, I love Spain more. 🙂 And now, we are so close we can hang out!

  2. Laura June 20, 2015 at 4:01 pm · Reply

    Wow, what an involved process! I’m glad everything worked out.

    • Diana June 22, 2015 at 1:20 pm · Reply

      Me, too! I wasn’t sure I’d be getting on my flight for a minute there!

  3. Mindy & Ligeia June 20, 2015 at 9:11 pm · Reply

    Congrats, D! Looking forward to reading about your Spanish adventures! 😀

    • Diana June 22, 2015 at 1:20 pm · Reply

      I’m looking forward to having Spanish adventures!

  4. Kristin Addis June 21, 2015 at 4:26 pm · Reply

    So glad that worked out for you and while I wish you were a Berliner too at least it’s all the more reason to visit Madrid again 🙂

    • Diana June 22, 2015 at 1:19 pm · Reply

      That and the two bottles of Lambrusco I have waiting for you!

  5. Wendy@TheNomadicVegan June 23, 2015 at 3:33 am · Reply

    Yes, the issue of how to live in Europe legally is one that has plagued my husband and I for many years now. Just in case you have a few hundred thousand euros lying around, one way in is to buy property under the “Golden Visa rule”, which now applies in Spain and Portugal and a few other countries.

    • Diana June 23, 2015 at 7:04 am · Reply

      I’ve heard about this visa, but only in reference to how expensive it is!

  6. Wendy@TheNomadicVegan June 23, 2015 at 7:11 am · Reply

    Yeah, I think the cheapest option is Portugal, which requires a 500,000 euro investment, or 400,000 if it’s in a less-developed, rural area. It does get you a passport after six years though.

  7. Abi June 26, 2015 at 11:17 pm · Reply

    Oh, I’m so lucky! Here’s hoping the UK doesn’t vote to leave the EU…

    • Diana June 28, 2015 at 1:28 pm · Reply

      You are SO lucky!

  8. Camels & Chocolate June 28, 2015 at 10:35 am · Reply

    Germany does an artist visa? That’s bad ass! Both times I lived in Europe, I did so on a student visa—I really wish there were an easier (and cheaper) way to stay over there long term as an American!

    • Diana June 28, 2015 at 1:27 pm · Reply

      Yeah, that visa is cool!! I wish it was easier, too. Sadly, it’s not. 🙁

  9. De'Jav July 7, 2015 at 11:56 pm · Reply

    I’ve been looking into options of where to relocate to next. Spain is one of my favorite places wouldn’t mind checking it out again. Does the student visa allow you to work any?

    • Diana July 8, 2015 at 8:20 am · Reply

      It allows you to work 20 hours, but I believe that to be teaching hours. Not sure if you can work otherwise.

  10. Brenda July 30, 2015 at 2:40 pm · Reply

    Too bad I didn’t find this article prior applying for my student visa, it wasn’t that bad however, the process is even longer than applying for an American student visa and the Spanish consulate website doesn’t provide with information on how to fill out the two forms and also the waiting time or instructions on what needs to be done when you arrive to Spain.
    For all the people applying in Boston, you may find this tip very useful, don’t waste your time requesting the background check through FBI, when I applied for the background check last may, I was told that my order was scheduled to be ready by august-September. Since I need the visa for September 2015 I freaked out, contacted the Consulate in Boston and they told me that the ICORI for MA residents was enough as long as you have been living in MA for the last 5 years .In my case, it took me 24 hrs between the time I submitted the request online and got the background check then I followed the additional steps that includes having the ICORI translated and stamped by the apostille of the Hague. The fee for ICORI was $25 and $6 for the apostille.
    If you are planning on printing the visa form from their website, make sure you print on both sides of the sheet, I failed on doing this and the lady that collected my papers at the consulate was very annoyed and made me fill out two new forms. Also make sure to bring copies of EVERYTHING, in my case they kept all the copies and returned the originals to me, since I found this to be very odd, after goggling and talking to people from my University in Madrid I found out that the consulate will give you the student visa for 90 days only, once you are in Spain you need to go to the Police department to apply for the student ID card and then they will request for you to present your passport with the visa and ALL the ORIGINALS, specially the background check.
    My visa is now being processed and I supposed to contact the consulate a month from now in order to get a status, so don’t expect to get your visa/passport right away and also do not plan any trips outside USA during that period.
    On the overall it was quick process but don’t expect too much explanation from them, bring all your documents, copies, be on time and don’t ask too much LOL

    • Diana August 4, 2015 at 12:39 pm · Reply

      Thanks for sharing your experience!! I am in the process of getting my ID card, but have heard no mention of any of the other items you mention. From what I saw at the office, you simply bring the document that includes your ID card information and your passport and pick it up. We shall see!

  11. Jonny August 3, 2015 at 8:19 pm · Reply

    Thanks for the info! Very helpful. I’m an American currently teaching in Thailand and have been looking into getting the student visa so I can study and teach in Spain, but it doesn’t seem realistic to start gathering the documents from Thailand. Given your experience, what is your opinion on teaching private lessons or working in a language center without any visa? Did you consider this at all?

    • Diana August 4, 2015 at 12:36 pm · Reply

      I honestly am not the person to help you in terms of private lessons/working at a language center. I don’t have experience with that. I am in Spain right now on a student visa and getting my TEFL. In a few months, I may have more insight into this, but right now, I don’t know. I do know that the student visa was easy enough to get, and it would allow me to learn both Spanish and get my TEFL, while working a little bit. I haven’t started working yet though. The only thing which might be realistic for you in terms of gathering stuff is getting your fingerprints. But, even that can be done easier back in America.

  12. Estrella August 17, 2015 at 9:53 am · Reply

    I remember the Spanish visa process well, and it can be so nerve-wracking!

    You’ve probably already heard of it, but perhaps your readers will be interested. There is a program called the North American Language and Culture Assistants Program which places Americans and Canadians in Madrid public schools to teach English. It’s great for people that might not have the money saved up to prove their financial means (in Madrid assistants get paid 1000€/month), and also includes really good insurance coverage. It’s only 16 teaching hours a week, spread out in 4 days, and the majority of assistants get three day weekends. Not a bad deal at all. (I did it for two years myself.)

    Anyway, good luck with the rest of your paperwork! Dealing with Spanish bureaucracy is truly tests a person’s patience.

    • Diana August 17, 2015 at 12:39 pm · Reply

      Hi Estrella, I hadn’t heard of that! Thank you for sharing! 🙂 Paperwork is now done (at least for this year!!).

  13. Dan May 20, 2016 at 2:11 pm · Reply

    Hi Diana,

    I’m coming to Spain next year as a BEDA language assistant, and I’m looking to get my FBI background check through a channeler. Which specific channeler did you use and how much longer than the 5-7 business days did it take? And do you have any more info on which channelers are/aren’t recommendable (maybe some other blogs you’ve stumbled across since posting this last year, or expat forum threads, etc…)?

    Thanks,
    -D

    • Diana May 25, 2016 at 1:51 pm · Reply

      Hi Dan, I believe the link is in the post. If not, please let me know and I will dig for it. I was not happy with them though — they took longer than their promised time and ended up setting me back quite a bit. If you go to the FBI site, they have a link of recommended channelers. I’d give ALL of them a call and see what guarantees they make for you in terms of time. Depending on when you need it by and their load, it can vary in terms of actual time it takes to get it to you. Once you get a feel for the one who best fits your needs, go with them. The channeler I used ended up refunding me some of the money, but that didn’t take away my stress or the fact that I had to drive up to NYC twice because I was going to miss my ticket back to Spain.

  14. Jacob June 16, 2016 at 10:40 am · Reply

    Hi Diana,

    Thank you for the very informative post! I was wondering what is the name of the program that you enrolled in to qualify for the year long visa? I am planning on traveling to Spain in a few months as part of a fellowship that I received from my university. I am supposed to stay there for a year, but it is not necessarily a strict academic program. Basically, I will not be officially studying at a university in Spain, so I am trying to find something in addition to my acceptance from this fellowship that will increase my chances of actually getting the student visa.

    • Diana July 13, 2016 at 11:18 pm · Reply

      Jacob – I don’t share the name of the school because they ended up threatening me and bullying me into paying more money. There are many schools who offer visas for students if you pay the 1k plus. If you truly get stuck, let me know. Otherwise, I much prefer you find one which isn’t the one I went through; I even get a commission for referrals and I won’t mention their name.

  15. Amelie September 16, 2016 at 8:34 am · Reply

    Hello Diana,

    Great info! Which schools are best to apply to?

    Amelie

    • Diana October 29, 2016 at 3:15 pm · Reply

      Hi Amelie, Look for schools which offer student visas to earn the TEFL.

  16. Tenia Williams October 15, 2016 at 3:51 pm · Reply

    Diana, thank you! I found this article extremely helpful, as I am planning to apply for a student visa for Spain. May I ask the name of the school you went to ? I am in Barcelona. Thank you !!

    • Diana October 29, 2016 at 3:12 pm · Reply

      Hi I won’t publicly promote the school as they ended up being one I would never recommend and don’t wish to send them any business. They do not have a program in Barcelona, as far as I can tell. Join Auxuilaries and expat groups in Spain on Facebook and there are many programs people can recommend.

  17. Antonia November 9, 2016 at 3:35 pm · Reply

    Hi Diana! Thanks for your post. I was wondering if you could tell me which TEFL program you did and what you liked (and disliked) about it. I am looking at moving to Europe, and luckily for me, I happen to have dual-citizenship in Germany so I don´t think I have to go through the visa process, but I am just trying to find a program. Any information would be helpful!

    Antonia

    • Diana December 28, 2016 at 3:25 pm · Reply

      I will not promote the program I did, as in the end, they were very unprofessional and bullying. If you do a search for TEFL and student visas, you should be able to find plenty of schools which offer them. 🙂 You won’t have to go through the process, so there are some legit programs out there. Enjoy!

  18. Heidi March 4, 2017 at 7:32 am · Reply

    Diana, thanks for all of the useful information in your post! Do you know if it is possible for a U.S. citizen to apply for a student visa for Spain while one is abroad in another country? My son, who is in college, plans to do an internship this summer with a company in Germany. He is then planning to go directly from Germany to Spain where he will be doing a semester abroad in the fall. Looking at the timelines for getting a student visa for Spain, I don’t see how he can apply for one here in the US within the stated timeline and still have his passport back from the Spanish consulate in time for him to travel to Germany. So, I am wondering whether he could go apply for his student visa at the Spanish Consulate in Germany. Thanks for any guidance you can offer.

    • Diana March 4, 2017 at 11:46 am · Reply

      Hi Heidi, unfortunately, the visa must be applied for at your home consulate in the US. I am not aware of any exceptions they make. It was a royal pain for me, for sure. I had to wait one month and cut it so close to my flight that I ended up having to drive to NYC to the consulate the day before I flew to get my visa.

  19. Heidi March 4, 2017 at 4:22 pm · Reply

    That’s kind of what I gathered. Thanks, Diana, for your quick reply. Enjoy your travels.

  20. Isabella G. April 26, 2017 at 4:36 am · Reply

    Hi! I was wondering (when applying for your visa) about the enrollment in a language course. Do you just have to prove you’re enrolled by paying the deposit? Or do you have to actually pay for all of the classes in full before you can get your visa? And just curious… could you possibly cancel your classes once you’re in Spain, after a month or so, so you do not have to pay for class fees? I’m Au Pairing in Spain in September, and this article really helped me! Thank you!

    -Bella

    • Diana April 27, 2017 at 11:55 am · Reply

      Hi Bella! I had to pay an initial deposit to get the letter. It was 300 euros. According to everyone I had spoken to, that was enough to get the visa (and it was). However, once the school realized I wasn’t going to be paying for the rest of the program they began to threaten me and tell me that there was a chance I would get kicked out of the country and my visa would be revoked if I didn’t pay the rest of the money because they would not lie on their reports. Here’s the kicker: they would have gotten in trouble for this so I look at it much more of blackmail/bullying than anything else Others I spoke to never had an issue with this, but since I am assuming they thought I was being made an example since they were aware I wrote about it. I ended up paying in full and never going to the school.

  21. Phillip May 20, 2017 at 4:02 pm · Reply

    I live in California and need to do the live scan part for the Visa. Is there a specific forum I need to fill out ? How do I get a copy of the forum and where do I request the Forum from after I have done the live scan. and how do I get it legalized with the apostille.

    • Diana May 20, 2017 at 4:33 pm · Reply

      Hi, I outlined my experience in the post along with links to help with the Apostille service, etc. If you can’t find the information within the post, I can’t give you any additional information you can’t find yourself online or by calling your consulate. Each consulate is a different experience, and you will need to speak with the consulate in your region to help you if you have specific questions. I did not have live scan, and am not familiar with it. I went to the office in DC to get my forms stamped; there are services you can find which can do this for you so you don’t have to. Give it a Google and email your contact at the consulate and they can definitely help point you in the right direction!

  22. Isabella G June 20, 2017 at 12:39 pm · Reply

    Hi! Bella here again, one more question about school requirement since that is the last bit I’m finishing up… does duration of enrollment matter to get the visa or do they just want to see that it’s 20 hours per week. In other words I will be in spain for a year, do they need to see that I am enrolled in a year long course or just 20 hrs per week working towards certification, even if it’s say a 12 week long course. Thanks again in advance!

    -Bella

    • Diana June 20, 2017 at 12:57 pm · Reply

      Hi — you will need to ask your school. The one I went to, the course was 20 hours a week for a short period of time, but I was able to get the visa because the second part of the “course” was learning how to teach.

  23. Isabella G June 20, 2017 at 1:15 pm · Reply

    Was also wondering if you’re allowed to reveal which school you went through? There’s so many options and I’m not sure which is best. Thanks!

    -Bella

    • Diana June 20, 2017 at 1:32 pm · Reply

      They were terrible and ended up extorting money from me, so I will NEVER recommend them or give them an ounce of publicity.

  24. Megan July 19, 2017 at 5:47 pm · Reply

    Hi Diana,

    I saw your comment for attempting to only pay the school a $300 deposit and canceling classes to obtain a student visa without paying for classes. Do you know anyone who has successfully done this? If you cancel your classes will your student visa get cancelled as well?

    • Diana July 19, 2017 at 6:11 pm · Reply

      Hi Megan, there are people who have successfully canceled their enrollment and did not get reported/have their visa taken away. I was told if I cancelled, they would report me to the authorities, but I don’t believe they actually will as what they are doing is not exactly legal in the first place and they don’t want to get shut down for being a visa mill. I think if you go under the radar (unlike myself) and get the letter and the visa and then cancel, they may not threaten you. I ended up paying the full tuition for my class and they left me alone.

  25. AJ August 27, 2017 at 2:37 am · Reply

    Not sure if it’s too personal or not, but how much did you pay for 1 year of classes + visa etc.? 🙂 Could you give me a rough number? 🙂

    • Diana August 28, 2017 at 6:05 pm · Reply

      No problem. After all was said and done, including airfare back to the States, it was well over 2k.

  26. AJ September 1, 2017 at 8:20 pm · Reply

    🙂 Thank you. That sounds reasonable, i suppose. It’s at the cheaper end, isn’t it?

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