Last Monday our family spent the morning in Chicago applying for non-lucrative visas that will hopefully permit us one year of residency in Spain. This type of visa is also sometimes referred to as a non-profit visa and will not allow us to work while there.
Our experience was a bit different from others who had documented their process. I think the requirements have changed over the years and I wanted to make note of what they look like at this point in time.
Most U.S. citizens are able to travel to Spain visa-free for periods up to 3 months. We wish to remain longer than that. This is the first step to enrolling our kids into public schooling for the 2014-2015 academic year in Spain.
- This information is valid as of February 2014.
- This is our experience merely applying for the visa.
We should hear back in about 2-3 months as to whether or not we’ve been accepted.4/4/14 update: our visas were approved today, pretty much 8 weeks on the nose from the date of submission on 2/10/14.
- We live in one of the states supported by the Spanish consulate in Chicago which services: IL, IN, IA, KS, KY, MI, MN, MO, NE, ND, OH, SD, and WI.
- Initial enrollment is valid for one (1) year. For instructions to renew your residency click here.
The Spanish Consulate in Chicago outlines the requirements pretty well here. Below are my additional notes with regard to each line item that I wish I had known ahead of time.
1. One (1) passport size photo for each applicant (white background).
2. Original passport for each applicant.
My Note: I also submitted a color copy of the pages that contain the photo and passport details (number, birth date, expiration, etc).
3. One (1) application form for each applicant.
My Note: It is this form on which they’ll glue your photo. You’ll notice they have a global requirement that everything be translated into Spanish. This is a hefty document that I wasn’t particularly looking forward to translating. Fortunately I found a Spanish version on the Miami Consulate’s site that I used for submission. In the end, however, they sent the Spanish copy home with me since the English version apparently was enough.
4. State Police Criminal Background Check for each adult applicant (with Apostille).
My Note: This was easy for us since we live in our State’s capital. We visited our local Crime Information Bureau where they put together a formal letter that basically said we had no record on file. We were then able to walk across the street to the Secretary of State to get it legalized with the Apostille which was completed in one day.
5. Medical Certificate for each applicant.
My Note: Pretty straight forward. The consulate instructions provide the needed verbiage. It needs to be on proper letterhead and signed by a medical doctor. I provided the translation to our clinic’s office and they were able to crank out a copy in both English and Spanish – each hand signed by the doctor.
My Note: To prove you can live for a year in Spain without stealing a Spaniard’s job, they require proof of recurring income. The instructions say you need income totaling a minimum of €2,130 per month (~$2,920) plus an additional €532 per month (~$730) for a spouse and each additional dependent. This means €3,726 per month (~$5,100) for our family of four (4).
I had read about other applicants simply submitting bank statements showing savings that eclipse the monthly amount extrapolated to a year. For us, this translates to €44,712 per year (~$61,300). I submitted one year’s worth of bank statements that totaled an amount almost three times this. I’m thinking this should be sufficient.
7. Proof of accommodation (one per family).
My Note: This is a bit of a chicken-egg thing. This definitely would be tricky if you weren’t willing to sign a lease like we did, sight unseen. I instructed the landlord to provide a copy in both English and Spanish.
8. Proof of health insurance with full coverage in Spain and including medical evacuation (for each applicant).
My Note: If anything causes us trouble, I suspect it may be this requirement. We’re currently covered by my employer’s health insurance but we won’t be once I quit and we prepare for our move. Knowing this, we researched several international health plans and found some good options that would cover us in Spain and beyond including the needed repatriation if disaster strikes. The issue is that these plans wouldn’t allow us to enroll for coverage starting in June. They would only allow enrollment up to 45 days in advance.
I put together a cover letter that attempted to explain this. It included paperwork outlining our existing coverage and a quote from one of the vendors showing the insurance we intend to pick-up in the May time frame. We’ll see if this flies.
9. Form EX-01 – Application for non-lucrative temporary residence (one per applicant).
My Note: This is a one-page form already in Spanish so no additional translated copies are needed.
10. Form 790 Code 052 – Initial Residence Authorization (one per applicant).
My Note: This is another form already in Spanish so no additional translated copies is needed. Per instruction while at the appointment, I just completed the top portion with my name and U.S. address, checked option 1c, and signed the first page.
11. Marriage License (one per couple applying)
My Note: Original + copy + translation into Spanish.
12. Birth Certificate (for each dependent applicant)
My Note: Original + copy + translation into Spanish.
13. Schedule Appointment. Once all the paperwork is together, you need to make an appointment with the Chicago consulate through their handy online tool. I would recommend booking the earliest time slot (usually 9am) as the process takes a while and you don’t want to be waiting behind a bunch of other people.
The consulate’s website goes out of its way to say that all documents are required in their original form plus one copy. It also says that all documents must be translated in Spanish.
Exceptions to this rule were:
- No copy of the photos are needed.
- The Spanish copy of the Application for National Visa in Spain (item #3 above) was not taken or apparently needed.
- Bank statements primarily showing dollar amounts and dates do not need to be translated into Spanish.
- All original copies of our background checks (including Apostille), medical certificates, marriage license, and birth certificates were returned to us. I think they needed to see the originals during our appointment, but only ended up keeping the copies. The attendant helping us said to bring the originals with us to Spain as they would want to see them at that time.
- I suspect the application paperwork travels to Madrid for approval but our actual passports stay in Chicago. Our attendant actually asked if we needed them over the course of the next couple of months. I think he would have given them back to us if we wanted.
- After our appointment was nearly done, our attendant took all the paperwork to his boss for one final verification. He came back requesting that we submit a ‘Letter of Intent‘ outlining why we wanted to move to Spain.
This threw me off-guard a bit since it wasn’t part of the requirements. I immediately felt better when he said I could fax it in the next day. I whipped up a one-pager that talked about how we saved up the money to move to Spain without jobs so that our boys could attend school there, learn the language, and we could all take in the culture. I’m not sure what is expected, but it was kind of nice being able to articulate why we were applying.
- All my phone calls and emails to the Chicago Spanish consulate went unanswered. Even so, here are their details:
Consulado General de España en Chicago
180 N. Michigan Ave, Suite 1500, Chicago, IL 60601
Phone: (312) 782-4588, Fax: (312) 782-1635, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Hours: 9:00 am – 1:00 pm
- Unless you know zero Spanish, I wouldn’t spend a lot of money using translation services. Not only can they be pricey, but if you have a base understanding of the language, you can get pretty far using online translators (Spanishdict.com being my favorite).
3/7/14 update – The Chicago Consulate overhauled their website and requirements. They appear to be better laid out and more clear. It explicitly calls out getting documents translated “by a certified translator“.
- Many other online resources suggest you need Apostilles for many other things including birth certificates, marriage licenses, medical certificates, and even bank statements. My thought is as long as it doesn’t specify this need in the online requirements outlined by the consulate, I wouldn’t be spending the extra $10+ per document to be legalized that way.
3/7/14 update – The Chicago Consulate overhauled their website and requirements. It now explicitly calls out that marriage and birth certificates need to be legalized with an Apostille.
- When scheduling the appointment, you are only allowed to book one 10-minute appointment slot. This confused me because I knew the process of going through our paperwork would probably take more than 10 minutes. I also wondered if because there were four (4) of us applying if I needed to block off four, 10-minute slots on the schedule. Turns out the online booking system doesn’t allow this. No one seemed worried that our 10-minute appointment stretched to about 90 minutes. It seems to me the scheduling process is more like obtaining a number at the deli counter than an actual meeting time.
- When you arrive for your appointment, have your documents organized by applicant.
- Everyone needs to be in attendance at the application appointment at the consulate.
We needed to bring two money orders to our appointment. One was for $560 ($140 / applicant for visa application) and another for $56 ($14 / applicant associated with Form 790 Code 052).
Do not complete the money orders until all paperwork has been verified by the staff. It should be the last thing they ask for.
And now we wait a couple of months for the response…
(Edit: To read about the next step in our personal story, click here)
(Edit2: To read about the next steps of the visa approval and pickup process, click here).