We were able to get a state background check from Colorado. Some people need a federal one through the FBI but we’ve only lived in Colorado so we had it easier. We went to our local police station to get fingerprinted. We mailed the fingerprint card with a form (which we made a note on to please notarize) up to Denver.
Tip: You don’t have to write “please notarize” on it – they might not even do it. You can just have it notarized when you get it back. Check with your bank – they’ll probably notarize anything.
While we gave them our FedEx account number to send it back on our dime, they stuffed it in a normal envelope which made it so we didn’t get it back from them for about 4 weeks.
After it was notarized we sent it back up to Denver to have the apostille affixed on it. This took another couple weeks just because of the mailing and the work time.
What’s an apostile? Like how something notarized shows that it is official or an exact copy, an apostile shows the same thing internationally. To get an apostile you need the document to be notarized first, you can’t just jump straight to the apostile.
When we got it back apostilled (not a real word but going to use it like that) it had a huge sticker across both pages sticking them together. If you have something like this, don’t remove it. If you rip or tear that sticker you could invalidate your apostille. If you got an FBI check back it should have a metal ring holding the papers together – don’t remove that or separate the pages in any way.
We had everything ready to go – but we found out from a different paper than the main requirements that the background check needed to be translated. After a lot of deliberating and reading the Facebook page we decided not to do it. This ended up being fine – the translation is necessary only when you get to Spain (and even then maybe not).
We have also lived in many other countries – specifically South Korea. We had read somewhere that we would need to submit a background check from Korea since we had lived there longer than 6 months. We sent a form into the Korean consulate in San Francisco and got their background check back very quickly. As we read the visa requirements more, however, we decided not to send it in. This also ended up being fine – they never asked for it.
Time needed: ~6 weeks
Price: $31.50 Fingerprints ($10) Background check fee ($16.50) Apostille fee ($5)
Our doctor’s office seemed initially very confused by what we wanted. They were under the impression we were not from the US and were getting a medical check to be an American citizen. They actually kept rescheduling us so they could bring in other doctors who could extra drug tests. We put our foot down (no insurance, no money) that we just needed a normal thing for a foreign visa. Try to be really clear when you’re scheduling the appointment.
Since the medical check needs to be on their official letterhead we brought the form in on paper and thought we could make a copy of it onto their letterhead. After the appointment, though, they realized they couldn’t do it so they had to type it in manually onto their computers.
Tip: Bring it in on paper but see if you can email it/bring a usb with the words directly on it so they don’t have to do this. Also be firm about what you really need/what you can afford.
Time needed: 3 hours
Visa Application Form
This was self explanatory except for “applicant’s residence in Spain” I had written N/A but found out I should write my school’s address.
Time needed: under an hour. A day to get the passport photo if you don’t have it.
Price: Free – unless you needed passport photos from a store. (You can do it yourself if you want, you just have to be careful about the size).
We knew we would be mailing our documents in so we were confused about the ID.
I.D. Card that proves your place of residence is within the jurisdiction of the Spanish Consulate of Los Angeles (Original and a photocopy). You can provide one of the following documents: U.S. Driver license, State I.D. card, Voter’s Registration Card, current Student I.D.
Well that wasn’t going to work. We were supposed to mail our ID cards in? Forfeit them and thus driving for 4+ weeks? Fortunately, we emailed them and they said just send in a copy.
This was very quick as we are in Andalucia. They email their Cartas so we didn’t have to wait at all. Some provinces physically mail it in so you have to wait a lot longer.
Our fee was $160 and had to be paid with a money order. Being a good millennial I had only ever written checks or used my debt card and didn’t know much about money orders. Our bank said “we don’t do those anymore” which was a worry. Fortunately City Market (Krogers, Smiths, Fry, etc) can do them through Western Union and can use your value card to reduce the fee a little.
After you get it, fill it out carefully as you really can’t make mistakes without invalidating it.
Time needed: 10 minutes to wait in line
Mailing It In
We bought one express mail flat rate packet (the red one, not the blue overnight one). We addressed one to ourselves with the return address also as ourselves (as per their instructions). The lady said we couldn’t have a tracking number for this inner envelope (the return envelope) since she didn’t know when it would be mailed. We told her we’ve done it before. She stuck a sticker on it and gave us the other half of the sticker- you just have to check that tracking number every so often to see when it’s been mailed.
Tip: If they say they can’t put a tracking number on the inner envelope (the one that gets your passport back to you) tell them they can and that you’ll just check that number from time to time. It’s your passport, you want to know where it is.
We opted to pay for the 3-5 day delivery rather than overnight since they can’t even guarantee overnight from our area (check with them with these kinds of things so you don’t pay extra).
They then lost mine for a day which was a horrifying 18 hours of calling them and refreshing the tracking page – turns out they sent it to the wrong post office in Los Angeles. The error message they used was that “the address was illegible and would be returned” but they just sent it to the wrong place (USPS! You need to change your error messages!!!).
Time required: 1+ hour in the post office, 3 days to mail.
Price: For the inside envelope and the main envelope $16.
Total Price and Time
With waiting for appointments and mail to return the total time needed was probably 2 months. Active time needed is probably 3 days.
The total price $332.50 (probably a bit more with stamps)
When we were at the post office we had a bit of math to do – if it takes about 3 business days to get there and 3 back, and the LA consulate is quoting processing times at 4 weeks – when are we going to get our passports back? With all that math we figured we would not be getting them back until within the same week we were leaving which was worrisome with our nonrefundable LCC. The actual time was 2 weeks and only 2 days for mailing.
July 29th- Mailed out
July 31st – One arrives. Other is “illegible”
August 1st – The lost one arrives
August 15th – They mail first one back to us
August 17th – original arrives back at home
August 18th – The lost one arrives back at home
So they processed our visas within 2 weeks – not 4. Processing times are always changing but they look very well organized with the late one being processed exactly one day later as per when it arrived.
The only discrepancy between our two applications was that we both put extra passport photos in just in case. Chris got his extra one back and I didn’t.