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Student Visa Fiasco

In my last post, I was happy to report that I had passed the CFP® Exam – hooray!

What I neglected to mention is that within 48 hours of the exam, we were in the car headed for the Spanish Consulate in Chicago.

My husband will be studying for a master’s degree so it is obvious that he needs a student visa.  However, our daughters and I must also apply for student visas to accompany him.  This seems nonsensical to me, but apparently, non-students who accompany students must also have student visas.

In preparation for our big day, I had spent months reading and re-reading a 2-page single-spaced “get out your readers” list of documents we must provide.  Don’t forget the apostille stamps, the notary signatures, or the certified Spanish translations.

I was born in Nebraska, one daughter in Missouri, and another in Kansas.  We needed original birth certificates from all three states.  Gonzalo and I were married in Nebraska, so we requested an original marriage license from there, as well.

Let’s not forget the fingerprints, the Police Affidavit or the FBI records.

Almost everything was multiplied by 4.  We had four neat folders stuffed with documents for every person contained within.

We had proof of health insurance with a $0 deductible that would haul our bods back Stateside should we become terminally ill or meet with an untimely demise.  We pre-paid for our insurance coverage for October through December, then received a bill in September saying we owed for October through December.  We don’t need coverage from Sanitas while we are still living in the United States.  My husband called to complain and was told we needed a letter from the Consulate stating we did not need the insurance yet.

Fat chance.  Like the Spanish Consulate in Chicago is going to write a letter for us to provide to our health insurance carrier.

Frustrated, I emailed the Consulate to inquire if there was a form letter they could provide and they replied.  I forwarded their reply and it was (miraculously) sufficient to drop the overcharge.  However, when our next bill came, it was 20% more expensive.  Come on!

We also had to provide proof of sufficient personal savings, so I requested a custom statement from our bank.  I went ‘round and ‘round, trying to print off a statement for just the “Valencia” account but every statement showed aggregate balances, along with a listing of all banking transactions.

Too much information.  They need to see we have X in the bank.  I will show them that with a little more for good measure, but they don’t need to be in my personal business.

In the final days before our trip, I finally got a Client Care Associate on the line who knew the 10 clicks I needed to make to find what I was looking for online.  A quick email to the Spanish Group yielded a certified Spanish translation of our bank statement.

Do numbers need to be translated?  Apparently so, along with everything else on the page.  Fast forward to our appointment and another American in line next to me did not have a certified Spanish translation of his bank statement.  He questioned why it was necessary but this was wasted breath.  It was on the list and he didn’t have it.  He had to get it done and send it in later.

My husband was also crazy-mad that we had to pay hundreds of dollars for certified Spanish translations of documents he was capable of translating.  This led to a big argument.  I had done my homework and learned that we really did need the certified translations and our homemade ones would not be accepted.  Do we want to get all the way to Chicago and get declined?  His classes will start in October.  We don’t have time to get declined, pay for what we should have done in the first place, and go back to Chicago for a 2nd round!

He also needed a Letter of Acceptance from his school with very specific verbiage.  And applications for all 4 of us.  And passport-sized photos.  And copies of every original document.

We spent hundreds of dollars pulling together all these documents.  Add in a trip to Chicago with hotels, meals, and the cost for the appointments, and we were easily $2,000  dollars out of pocket.

Have I mentioned I was cramming for one of the most important exams of my life?

Yes, and wading through Spanish bureaucracy from this side of the pond.

Thankfully, the preparation paid off and we had (almost) everything in order at the Consulate Office.  They needed some extra copies of something so Gonzalo made a beeline for the nearest copy center in the pouring rain.  He ran back breathless and soaking wet, but he had the copies.  There was another document that required a Spanish translation for both of us – and we only had one.  Why pay twice for the same thing?  We’re traveling together.

No importa.  They need what they need but they were kind enough to hand us a blurry, crooked photocopy of a letter with instructions for mailing in what was missing.  And a deadline for them receiving the paperwork.

Back in Kansas City, I shelled out more money to the Spanish Group (they did a great job, by the way), then paid to UPS the documents to Chicago.  I was determined to make the deadline.

I later emailed the Consulate to confirm receipt and the associate replied that it is my problem, not hers, to confirm delivery. I found my tracking number and confirmed the date and time it was received and emailed that back to her.

Now we wait and hold our breath.  We do not buy plane tickets.  We do not rent an apartment.  We do not pass “Go” or collect $200 or do anything else until we receive the visas.  Assuming all goes well, we will be allowed entry into the country 10 days before classes start.  No sooner.

Can’t we just use our US passports?  Sure, but we can only stay 90 days.

Since Gonzalo will be studying in a one-year program, he technically needs the right kind of visa. Preparing the visa applications cost 3 months of my life and a couple thousand dollars.  While I was studying for the CFP® Exam.

We’d better get those visas.

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