I just returned from my final trip to Chicago -- visa in hand!
It's been quite a process getting the student visa that will allow me to be in the country legally. The visa is actually only good for 90 days; I'll need to apply for some residency card when I get to Madrid, which will allow me to stay for a year. I still need to look into the details and requirements of that process.
Hopefully getting the residency card won't take as long or be as frustrating as it was to get my student visa. That whole adventure went as follows:
March 1: Got my fingerprints taken at the UW Police Department, which was required for the FBI background check - part of the program application. You have to apply for a background check when you apply to the program because the FBI background checks take about 12 weeks to process.
March 7: Mailed FBI background check application and finger prints to DC, sent in a copy of that application with my other program application materials
March 28: Interview with Peace Corps
April 7: Received letter in mail that I forgot to write my credit card's expiration date on the FBI background check's application form, so they haven't started processing anything yet. I let the letter and form sit in my room for a couple of weeks because:
April 11: Receive nomination from Peace Corps - start to forget about Spain application...
Late April/Early May: One day I re-fill out the credit card info. form for the FBI background check and send it in on a whim. Just in case.
June 2: Check I wrote out for FBI background check shows up on my bank statement.
June 27: Receive e-mail offering me a spot in the Auxiliares program
July 4: Panic and e-mail FBI Records office, because I still haven't received the background check (needed for the visa)
July 6: Receive background check from DC in the mail.
July 7: Write another check and mail background check to the Department of State in DC for the required Apostille seal. I'm thinking I'll get it by the end of the month and can apply for my visa by the beginning of August.
July 12: My Apostille request and FBI document arrive to the Department of State
[In the mean time, I'm collecting all of the other documents I need for my visa, the passport photos, the money order, proof of funds, etc.]
July 26: Still no Apostille. I call office asking for update. The phone goes to the answering machine because all lines are busy. The answering machine asks that I leave certain information and they'll get back to me. *Beep* A voice tells me that the answering machine is full, so I can't leave a message.
July 28: Mother calls the office of authentications for me while I'm at work. The people tell her there is now an 8 week processing time due to low staff. !!!! *Rebecca freaks out here*
August 5: Receive August's newsletter from the Auxiliares program. One short paragraph says that as of August 1, consulates are now accepting state background checks with the state apostille in place of the federal background check and federal apostille.
August 6: I send an e-mail to Chicago's consulate to make sure that little paragraph was true, that I can indeed use a state background check/apostille instead of the federal one I was waiting to get in DC.
August 8: Receive reply from Chicago's consulate saying indeed, they will accept a state background check/apostille instead of the federal (why didn't someone tell us this earlier??)
August 9: Get the paperwork together and mail in two checks and two application forms for the state background check and a rushed Apostille
August 10: My federal background check with federal Apostille arrives in the mail. I can now schedule my visa appointment in Chicago.
August 16: Bus to Chicago to apply for my visa in person. When it's finally my turn, I have all the required documents. The man tells me it will take 3-4 weeks to process, and they'll e-mail me when it's ready to pick up. While I'm at the consulate, I get a call and let it go to voicemail. It's the WI Records Department, saying my criminal background results with state apostille are ready to be picked up. (Which reminds me... I never did go pick those up)
August 29: I send an e-mail to the Spanish Consulate in Chicago, asking if my visa is ready to be picked up. (Because they haven't e-mailed me yet, and it's probably ready.)
August 30: The Spanish Consulate responds to my e-mail saying yes, I can come pick up my visa whenever it's convenient.
September 7: I go back to Chicago a second time, spend less than 5 minutes in the consulate, picking up my visa. Success!
So that was the fun adventure of getting my visa. Some of you may be wondering how much this governmental piece of paper costs. Here's the breakdown:
Fingerprints for FBI background check - $20
FBI Background check - $18
Passport photos (4) - $20
Visa Application Fee - $140
Money Order Fee - $5
Apostille stamp on background check - $8.00
Postage to send FBI Background check to DC for Apostille - About $9.00
State Background check - $12
State Apostille (Rush) - $35
Round trip bus to Chicago to apply for visa - $58
Round trip bus to Chicago to pick up visa - $58
Total cost of visa: PRICELESS
Just kidding, $383!