Disclaimer: Every Spanish consulate seems to have slightly different requirements and these requirements change frequently. This documents our experience as of February 2016 at the Boston Consulate.
The Boston Consulate does not have any information about non lucrative visas on their website. To get more info, I made an appointment at the Consulate last summer. The person I spoke with did not seem to know much about this visa either, but was able to print out for me a list of requirements. I believe it is identical to the Retirement Visa requirements listed on the consulate website.
I will list the requirements in the order we obtained them.
Criminal Background Check
There are two options for background checks that are accepted for visas. You can either get an FBI background check or a background check from your state. I heard the FBI check was preferable, but after researching it a bit it seemed much more complicated, so we opted for a state check. I did this first since it said on the website that it could take up to 8 weeks to process, so I requested it at the end of November. State background checks in Massachusetts are called CORI reports. Since I work in schools I am very familiar with the process, but had never gotten one on myself. I had to set up an account at iCORI online and then request a background check on myself. Then, I thought I would have to wait for a while for it to process. I was quite surprised when almost immediately I received a letter stating that I had no criminal record. In most cases such a fast turnaround time would be great, but this set the timer ticking on our visa application since we knew the background check had to be issued within three months of the date of application. So now we set the end of February as our deadline for applying for the visa.
My husband requested his background check soon afterwards. I thought perhaps mine was so fast since I have been CORIed so often as a teacher, but his was returned almost immediately as well.
The next step was to get letters from our doctors, which had to have very precise wording as stated on the visa requirements. This was quite simple and just involved a phone call to each of our doctors and our children’s pediatrician. Our kids’ letters followed the wording exactly, whereas both of our doctors added a line to it stating the date we had last had a physical exam (which in both cases was within the last year). This ended up causing some minor issues at the Consulate office, so I’d encourage your doctors to follow the wording exactly.
Birth Certificates, Marriage Certificates, and Apostille of the Hague
We live in the same city where we were married and where our kids were born so this was an easy errand. We had copies of these documents already, but they had to have been issued within 3 months of the visa application date (which, perhaps, is the most bizarre of all the visa requirements). All these documents and our criminal background checks needed to be certified with an Apostille of the Hague, which is sort of like having something notarized. There are only three locations in Massachusetts where this can be done, but one is in Boston which is a quick trip for us. I went by our city hall and obtained copies of all the documents, and then just took the subway into Boston for the Apostilles. I thought this would be completed in a one day errand, but they will only allow you to walk in with up to 3 documents, so since I had 7 I had to leave them until the next day. They called me the following day to say they were ready and my husband biked over to pick them up.
This was a tricky one. We will be maintaining our U.S. coverage while abroad but also need Spanish health insurance for the visa. I got in touch with many Spanish health insurance companies and none of them would issue insurance more than a month in advance. I saw in the comments on a Bucking the Trend blog post that someone had gotten HCC insurance far in advance which was acceptable for a visa to Spain, so after a great deal of emailing back and forth with other companies, I applied for insurance through them which was a quick and easy process. I could even print out a visa letter in Spanish directly from their website, which saves the cost and hassle of translation. It can also be cancelled prior to our arrival so when we get closer to the date we will compare this against other options and decide if it is the insurance that makes the most sense. It is possible we will find that insurance companies based in Spain offer better coverage at a lower rate.
Letter of Intent
I wrote a short letter explaining our reasons for wanting to move to Spain. My husband and I brought it to the local bank and both signed it and had it notarized.
The requirements state that they require proof of periodic income, but I also knew of several people who had gotten visas just based on savings. Since we still weren’t clear on the remote work situation, we decided to just submit evidence of sufficient savings to cover the required amount of money they expect, which is about $60,000. I had heard some consulates want to see around $100,000. To play it safe, we submitted statements from a savings account and an investment account (which each had around $60,000) in addition to a statement from my husband’s 401k which has a larger amount.
The next step was to have some of our documents translated by a certified translator. This was required for the letter of intent, birth certificates, marriage certificate, doctors’ letters, background checks, bank statements, and health insurance (although health insurance was unnecessary, since I had been able to print out the form in Spanish). It was 21 pages in all. I had heard that some consulates require you to choose from a list of official translators, but when I called the Boston Consulate they said any certified translator was fine. I found a list of translators from around the country approved by the Spanish government and started emailing them, and got quotes ranging from $450-950 plus shipping. I also sent an email out to our school email list to see if anyone in our school community was a certified translator and got a recommendation for a local translator, Andy Klatt, who I emailed as well. After I sent him the scanned documents he gave a rate of $500, and since he was local, we wouldn’t have to worry about shipping, so I ended up hiring him. He gave me a turnaround time of a week but had the documents ready for us even sooner.
This isn’t a paperwork requirement, but we knew we would need an appointment with the consulate. Boston has an online system and they seem to release appointments just a week or two in advance. We heard mixed reports on whether we needed just one appointment for the family or one appointment per person. To play it safe, I set up accounts for all the kids so we could attempt to get one appointment per person. Since there are normally only 4-8 appointments listed per day, we knew we had to watch carefully for when they opened up so that we could try to get six appointments together. We planned to go to the consulate during the February vacation week, so checked the page regularly for the week prior and were able to get six consecutive appointments.
The documents state they require 2 passport photos. We spent a lot of time debating whether these were supposed to be U.S. Passport size (2”x2”), Spanish passport size (30 cm x 40 cm), or European passport size (35 cm x 45 cm). In the end we decided they were supposed to fit in the box on the application that said “photo.” We read somewhere that they want them glued on so we had glued on one photo and then attached the second photo with a paperclip. We also brought along several extra photos in various sizes just in case.
We knew upon arriving in Spain we would need many photos for our residence cards, school registration, etc. so we decided to take them ourselves at home so we could print however many we wanted. This was a process of trial and error to get it just right with no shadows and the face the right size. By the fifth attempt we had to bribe the kids with cupcakes to do just one more round, but in the end we got photos that appear similar to professional quality. Note that Spain requires a white (not off white) background.
We did this just a few days before our appointment since it seemed like the easiest thing to do. Perhaps we were burned out from our passport photo experience or maybe it was because the printer kept acting up, but it ended up being far more cumbersome than expected. I guess any amount of paperwork is quite a lot when multiplied by six. My husband said in the middle of assembling it all, “This is the worst part of having four kids.” We had to submit 3 pieces of paperwork:
1. National Visa Application Form
Most of this was straightforward but some of the areas required a bit of research to know what to put down. We saw somewhere that the expectation was that all paperwork be in all capitals with black ink. We were able to edit the pdf of the application and print it, which saved some time since we didn’t have to copy down the same information multiple times.
For number of entries requested we chose “more than two” since we wanted to have the option to travel while we are there. Some visa offices require proof of accommodation in advance, but that was not a requirement for Boston. So I was a little baffled about what to put down for Address. Another blog post said the consulate asked them to just put down the address of the hotel they were staying in initially, so I booked two hotels rooms for two weeks and put down that address. I also printed out documentation from the hotel reservation as well as an email conversation I had with a realtor who assured me we could find a place to rent within a week upon our arrival, so I was prepared to address this if it came up (no pun intended).
All documentation needs to be photocopied and I read that signatures have to be original, so we waited to sign until after all the applications were copied.
2. Supplement Form
This was a seemingly simple sheet asking for basic details, although again some of the questions tripped me up so I had to research. The most helpful document was the Visa Instructions from Middlebury College, which explained that our Legal Status is “citizen” and that the line for “Type of Visa” could be left blank. We also left the Reference section at the end blank since we do not have any university or employment connections in Spain.
3. M790 C052
I am still not sure what the purpose of the form was but we found directions for filling it out in English on the San Francisco Consulate. http://www.exteriores.gob.es/Consulados/SANFRANCISCO/es/ServiciosConsulares/Documents/Visados/M790C052.pdf
There is an $11 fee that goes along with this document. I was under the impression it could be paid with cash or check from reading about others’ experiences, but it turned out that it had to be paid with a money order.
The fee per visa was $190 and it had to be a money order. We weren’t sure if we needed to do a separate money order for each application, but just to play it safe we got six of them since the fee for each was only $1.25 and the total amount was already over $1000, which is the maximum possible with a money order. My husband got these at the post office and they had to be paid for with cash or a debit card.
The next step was assembling all the documents. There was no clear order given, but at the consulate we were complimented for how well organized everything was, so I guess we did a good job. I created a manila folder for each person which had all three applications on top, followed by the documents that required apostilles, followed by additional documents. For the documents that had translations, I put the translated version directly behind the original. I paperclipped the originals together into one large packet, and had two complete copies of all the documents in the same order behind the originals. Only one copy was requested, but I made an extra anyway, which may be necessary in Spain.
CORI documents, $25 each for a total of $50
Birth Certificates and Marriage Certificate, $10 each for a total of $50
Apostilles on above documents, $6 each for a total of $42
Health Insurance, $2431*
Visa fees, $190 + $11 each, plus $8.75 in money order fees for a total of $1,214.75
Travel costs, <$10
*We may replace this with a lower cost health insurance closer to our travel date.