This information is provided as a general guideline. Each consulate works independently so check the consulate that has jurisdiction over your domicile for exact specifications. Student Visa Info as of April 2016.
Do I need a visa?
If you are not a European Union citizen, you are required to obtain a Spanish student visa.
Why do I need a visa?
A visa allows you to stay longer than the amount of time normally allowed to tourists. It’s a way for governments to control who enters their country, for what reason and determine how long they can stay. In order to apply, you need to submit a series of documents to verify the purpose of your stay.
Do I need a passport?
A passport allows you to travel to foreign countries. It is international identification and verifies your nationality. You MUST possess a passport before you are able to apply for a student visa.
What is a visa?
A visa is authorization from the country’s government to enter and/or temporarily reside in their country. In the case of the Spanish visa, it is actually a green sticker that is placed on one of the pages in your passport.
What type of visa should I apply for?
A short-term visa is for travelers who are going to Spain for business or tourism. Students who are going to study in Spain for at least one semester need to apply for a long stay visa. There are two types of long stay visas – Type 1: for students who are going to study in Spain for 1 semester (fewer than 180 days), Type 2: for students who are going to study in Spain for one academic year or more (more than 180 days).
Where is the consulate I have to apply to?
Each Spanish Consulate has its jurisdiction and only accepts applications from residents within their jurisdiction. Although all the consulates follow the same general guidelines, specific document requirements and procedures do vary from one consulate to another. You need to look at the requirements and specific information for the consulate that has jurisdiction over where you reside or study. Most consulates require an appointment, and some require supplementary forms.
What do I need to submit?
Check the particular website for the consulate where you will submit your application. As each consulate works independently, there may be additional forms or specific information required. Generally speaking, at the time of your appointment you need to submit:
- Application form: The form is free and downloadable from the consulate’s website (must be printed double-sided).
- Supplement form: Some consulates have a supplement form, in addition to the application form.
- Passport: Must be valid for the period of your stay in Spain and have at least 1 blank page.
- Photos (passport-sized). See your consulate’s website for how many.
- Letter (the one in Spanish) from Suffolk Madrid: This letter covers the consulate’s requirements for acceptance to the university, name of school, address and registration number, full payment of tuition, subjects of study (bachelor’s degree) and hours per week (full-time). This letter also verifies that you will be staying in our university-sponsored housing and will be covered by our health insurance, Sanitas, and repatriation of mortal remains.
- Proof of financial means: The above letter (in Spanish, provided by Suffolk Madrid) is usually sufficient, but as a safeguard you should take additional information, such as (any ONE of the following): 1) Notarized letter from your parents or legal guardians assuming full financial responsibility for at least $1,000 per month for your education in Spain. Suggested wording: "I hereby certify that I'm the (father/mother/other) of (...), will support him/her with a monthly allowance of at least $1,000 while he/she is in Spain and that I'm financially responsible for any emergency that may arise". This letter will need to be notarized; your local bank normally provides notary services. 2) Copy of your merit scholarship and/or financial award letter 3) Personal bank account statements showing at least $1000 per month of stay.
- Visa fee (most consulates only accept a MONEY ORDER). See the consulate’s website the most current fee and required payment methods.
- Non-U.S. citizens must present their U.S. residency card or visa status.
- For those who will be under 18 years old when you arrive to Spain – a notarized authorization from your parent/guardian to travel and study abroad.
- Photocopies of each document.
For students staying longer than 180 days, there are two additional requirements:
- Police record background check which indicates no arrest record. This must be issued by the STATE police department(s) where the applicant has lived during the past 5 years. Local police background checks will not be accepted; it must be at the state-level. This document must then be legalized with the Apostille of the Hague Convention (see FAQ #11). Some consulates require that this document be translated into Spanish.
- Medical certificate. This is a letter from your doctor which verifies that you’ve been examined and found in good physical and mental health to study abroad and are free of any illness that would pose a threat to public health according to the International Health Regulations of 2005. Make sure your doctor uses the exact wording that is specified on the consulate’s website. Also, the letter should be on their office/clinic stationery (no handwritten notes on a prescription pad) and the letter must be signed by the doctor.
Do I need an appointment?
Check the consulate’s website where you will submit your application. The majority of the consulates require that you get an appointment online, but a few do not.
The application asks for my address, but I don’t know where I’m going to live yet.
Use Suffolk Madrid’s address as your “address in Spain”. You may change to a different housing option while you’re in Madrid, but Suffolk’s address will remain the same so it’s best to just use this one:
Suffolk University Madrid Campus
Calle de la Viña 3
I received two documents in Spanish from Suffolk. What do they say?
The letter from Suffolk in Spanish is directed to the Spanish Consulate and requests a student visa for you. It fulfills the requirements that the consulate needs: your acceptance into the university, the name, address, phone, contact details and registration number for Suffolk Madrid. We also verify that your payment covers your tuition, room & board and that you will be a full-time student studying at least 20 hours per week for your bachelor’s degree. The other document from Sanitas specifies that you will be covered by health insurance with no coverage limit and repatriation coverage.
How do I get a police background check?
The consulates require a police background check to verify that you have no arrest record. The background check must be issued by your STATE POLICE, not local police. Procedures vary from state to state, so contact your state’s police department for specific procedures. You should request a "certified" or "notarized" background check. Once that document is notarized, you must have an Apostille affixed on it.
What is an Apostille and where do I get it?
The "Apostille of The Hague" seal makes a document legal outside the country where it was issued. When you request your police background check, be sure to indicate that it must be "certified" or prepared to be notarized. A Notary Public will authenticate the document, and then you need to have the Apostille of The Hague Seal placed on it. Contact the Secretary of State (of your individual state) to find out about the procedures to get the Apostille placed on a document. Specific requirements, time frame and cost vary by state, so contact your state’s Secretary of State Office for details.
What does the doctor’s letter have to say? Does it have to be notarized?
The letter from your doctor should indicate that you’ve been found to be in good physical and mental health to study abroad and are free of contagious diseases. Many times your family doctor issues this letter without a consultation; that’s up to your doctor. Make sure your doctor uses the exact wording that is specified on the consulate’s website, for example: “This medical certificate attests that Mr./ Mrs. ……………………… does not suffer from any illness that would pose a threat to public health according to the International Health Regulations of 2005.” Also, the letter should be on their office/clinic stationery (no handwritten notes on a prescription pad) and the letter must be signed by the doctor in ink (no stamp or digital signature). If the consulate does not specify that it has to be notarized, then that is not required.
Do I need to translate the documents into Spanish?
Some consulates require that you submit an official translation of your police background check (applications for visas for more than 180 days). Contact a translation service or one of the following organizations for pricing and processing times:
HSA Translation, Harvard Student Agencies, Inc.
67 Mount Auburn Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
Tel: (617) 495-3033
Fax: (617) 496-8015
American Translators Association
Search for a translator that works with legal documents from English to Spanish.
Certified Translation Services, Inc.
One Harbison Way, Suite 105
Columbia, SC 29212
Toll Free: 1-800-730-9970
Toll Free Fax:1-800-730-2339
How long does the visa process take?
First of all, you need to allow time to get your appointment. Depending on how busy the consulate is, it may take a week or two just to get an appointment. Appointments fill up quickly, so the sooner you start the better. Once the consulate accepts your application documentation, it usually takes 4 weeks. When you submit your application materials, the visa officer will give you an indication of when to expect your passport returned. To be on the safe side, we always advise students to allow 6-8 weeks to apply for and obtain a Spanish student visa.
Does the consulate keep my passport during the visa process?
The consulate needs your passport to affix the visa sticker in it. This requires you to leave your passport with the consulate during processing. If you have travel plans and need your passport to leave the country, speak with the visa officer about an alternative. You should take your flight reservation to show the visa officer your travel plans and ask if you can come back with your passport upon your return to the U.S. to have them affix the visa sticker at that time. At that point, they will still need some time, so don’t assume it’s an immediate turn around.
I can’t contact the consulate and they don’t return my phone calls or emails. What do I do?
Persistence is key. Getting through to the consulate can be exasperating. Keep trying, calling, leaving messages or sending an email. Don’t expect them to call you back; you need to take the initiative to contact them.
The visa is only valid for 90 days, but I’m going to be there 9 months.
Although you may be staying in Spain for longer than 180 days, the visa you will be issued is valid for 90 days. That is normal, so don’t worry. Once you are in Spain, we will help you with the next step in the process in order to get a student residency card. We will go as a group to submit the materials with the local authorities in Spain.
Can I pay an extra fee to get my visa faster?
Spanish Consulates do not offer an expedited service. Make sure you have all the original documents you need for your application and photocopies of everything.
Will the Spanish Consulate mail my passport back to me?
See the consulate's website for details. Some consulates will require that you pick up your passport in person. However, some consulates may allow you to bring a pre-paid envelope for your passport to be mailed back to you. It's best to use a courier service like Express Mail or Fedex so you can track the shipment. Keep your copy of the air bill so you have the tracking number.
What are some helpful tips for making this process easier?
- Write neatly on the Application and Supplement forms!
- Make sure you write in day-month-year format.
- Your visa application AND the photocopy of it need to be double sided.
- Do not cut your passport photos, even though the space for them on the application is not the same size as the photo.
- If you are using your Financial Aid Award Letter to prove financial means, try and get an official copy from Student Financial Services. Do not print out the copy from MySuffolk.
- Use EXACT wording from the consulate website on any letters: doctor’s note and a parental note to prove financial means. Do not summarize.
- Make sure the signature on your doctor’s note is in ink! This means they will have to mail it to you or you will pick it up at their office. It should not be scanned or faxed.
- Make sure your doctor’s note is dated! And not just with your DOB, with the date that it was written for you.
- If you are under 18 and your parents need to write an authorization letter, they both need to sign it. If one cannot, proof of “why not” is required.
What if I'm under 18?
- If you turn 18 after the consulate appointment but before you arrive in Spain, you need a background check.
- If you turn 18 after you arrive in Spain, you DO NOT need a background check.
- If you are under 18 at the time of application, you need BOTH parents to sign the authorization letter (even if you turn 18 before entering Spain), and it needs to be notarized. If one parent is not available, proof is required.
- You need an original version of your birth certificate.