Obtaining my Spanish visa has been one of the most ridiculous, bureaucratic, tug-of-war battles I’ve had to endure in my travel career. Sure, I was annoyed at the process of obtaining our Indian visas while traveling in Ghana. And I was disappointed that I could never get my Chinese visa while traveling in Europe last summer. But I did have some level of understanding at those situations. The Indian Consulate in Ghana wondered why the hell I wasn’t getting my visa in the States and the Chinese embassies (we visited multiple) in Europe just needed to hold on to my passport longer than my travel plans would allow. My Spanish visa was a different story though. I have a job in Spain. I have an apartment. I was applying in my home country. Why the hell was this so difficult?
Mostly, it came down to to circumstances.
We arrived in Europe last April with our 6 month French visas before I had even received the job offer to teach in Madrid. After receiving the offer in June, I immediately began the complicated, visa application process which required an FBI criminal record clearance and a medical exam. I even applied for a second US passport to send with my visa application as I obviously couldn’t send the one that I was currently traveling with.
I was on top of things. I was Martha Stewart and my visa application was that day’s delicately prepared holiday craft. Attention to detail was paid! Yet I was blocked at every turn leading to a nearly 6 month process to getting that damn visa. It all started with the Apostle Paul. No, not the gospel spreading follower of Christ. But rather, the Apostille of the Hague Convention. What does that have to do with the Apostle Paul? Nothing. Nothing at all. I just had never heard of an “apostille” before and began calling it something I could remember: the Apostle Paul. Anyway, the apostille is an internationally recognized form of authenticating documents. It just so happens that when I sent my FBI clearance to be authenticated (not “authentificated” as I mistakenly said on the phone when I called for an update. Authentificate is not a word. I know that now.) they stopped processing it due to their own clerical error.
That mess took a month to figure out.
Then the Spanish Consulate in Los Angeles said that they would need to issue the visa while I was in the States, not abroad. Luckily, I intended to travel to the States for Thanksgiving and could fax them my exit and entry stamps and flight itinerary to prove I was in the US so they could mail it back to my home in Phoenix. That wasn’t satisfactory as they then stated that Spain wouldn’t recognize two passports and that I would have to send them the physical passport I was currently traveling with. There was no way on god’s green earth I was going to mail a passport to Los Angeles during a holiday week when I had a flight to catch back to Spain just one week after I arrived in the States.
Therefore I had to plan a stopover in Los Angeles to sort this out in person.
Of course, during all this there was the issue that my current visa was going to expire before I had my new Spanish visa in hand. I planned to fly out right after my last day of work (I got a week off) to limit any risk of overstaying my current visa. Knowing I would have to change planes somewhere in Eurasia, I decided it would be best not to do so in the EU as I technically should have left two days prior. I had heard some horror stories of people overstaying their visas and getting illegal immigrant stamps in their passports and I wasn’t about to risk that. Granted, this was more for people who stayed months or years over, but still. I have a job, an apartment, friends, and a life in Madrid. I did not want to risk that. So I began looking for the quickest flight out of the EU on my way to Madrid. A cheap flight to Bodrum, or Bucharest, or the moon. I didn’t care. I just wanted to be out of the EU quickly (I ended up in Istanbul for 7 hours).
Upon arriving at the Spanish Consulate in LA Monday morning I spent all of 30 minutes getting my visa. Of course I was relieved that it was so quick in person. But after all I went through beforehand while applying for it, I was prepared for some hand to hand combat at the Consulate and I have to admit I was a little disappointed that it didn’t occur. I had arguments ready. Backup documents were falling out of my ass. I was ready to do what it took to get that visa yet all it took in person was a smile and a nudge.
Well now that that disaster is over, I begin the hoopla of applying for a Spanish residency card and possibly even a marriage license (so that Auston can receive a visa/residency as well). Living in Madrid is 100% worth every obstacle. Yet the thought of more paperwork makes me want crawl under the kitchen table I’m currently sitting at and cry while clutching a bottle of wine.