Never having needed to apply for a visa for any of my earlier excursions, I was a bit surprised when I found out about the lengthy process just three months before we were supposed to leave. To make sure that you don’t have the same confusion-filled anxiety-inducing experience, here’s a few tips and a step-by-step guide to the process.
First, our study abroad program suggested that we go through Perry International*, an organization that would attend our meeting at the Spanish consulate in Chicago for us. For me, this ended up being an impractical and expensive way of getting my visa for a few reasons:
- The Spanish consulate requires that you appear in person at least once throughout the process, either to drop off or pick up the materials. This means that you either mail in your materials and pick them up from Chicago in person, or pay a company $75 to drop them off, but still have to go to Chicago to retrieve them.
- Perry International* in particular required a lot more paperwork than the consulate itself, so the process was more time-consuming.
- Again, Perry International* may take up to 22 days to process in addition to the 4 to 5 week general turnaround for the visa by the Spanish consulate. While Perry International does offer expedited visas, they are not the most efficient means for obtaining one when you have a few months to plan your trip.
- It was incredibly easy to complete the process without hiring a company.
If that convinced you, here’s my easy step-by-step list to obtaining a student visa for Spain. Keep in mind that you do not have to apply for a visa if you are abroad for less than 90 days, and that these instructions apply only to individuals using the Spanish consulate in Chicago and traveling to Spain.
- Go to this link for a list of all the materials you will need. Make sure that you acquire the necessary documents early, especially your passport, because you will need to mail them with your application.
- You can get passport pictures taken at most Walgreen’s stores for fairly cheap (I believe for less than $10)
- Make extra copies of all your materials. You are required to turn in the originals and one copy of all forms to the consulate, but make a second copy for your own records.
- Once all of your materials are together, create an account at the Spanish consulate website, found here. Make an appointment at the consulate when you are able to drop off the materials.
- To get to the consulate, we took the bus from UW Madison, which has discounted tickets for students from the UW Madison campus to downtown Chicago if you buy them in person at the Memorial Union.
- The consulate, located at 180 North Michigan Avenue, was about a ten minute walk from the bus stop downtown Chicago. If you arrive early, you can go up to the desk right away. The entire appointment is very relaxed and only takes about 5 minutes.
Please feel free to leave comments, suggestions and corrections below.
*Our program suggested Perry International but because I did not utilize their services, I cannot provide feedback on their performance.