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Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Au Pairin' with the TMax (The Spanish Visa Process)

How This American Became An Au Pair (The Spanish Visa Process)

The Who, What, Where, and When

I, "The TMax", have decided to become an au pair and I'll be moving to Pamplona, Spain, in the Navarra province by the end of the year.

The How (the long part)

BLUF: I spent almost 600€ and waited 2 months processing time for my visa.

Sign up for and create a profile.

I skype for the first time with Virginia of my potential au pair family, but the dad and oldest son aren't present. We have a good talk and plan to do another skype session.

I skype for the second time with my potential au pair family and we decide we are a perfect match for each other. Time to apply for a visa.

So, I spoke to the embassy here in Brussels and the lady that helped me, confessed that an au pair visa is one of the hardest to get. I need:
  • proof that I will take spanish classes (how do you prove this?)
  • au pair contract
  • passport photos
  • copy of my passport
  • 3 most recent months' pay statements from current job
  • criminal record and background check for the last 5 years
    • free in Belgium (been here 4 years)
    • 13€ in Germany (lived here before Belgium)
  • doctor statement of health form the last 90 days
  • copy of my belgian work contract
and I need some of these to be translated into spanish! wth?!!

Or I could get a student visa and I would have to have:
  • proof of enrolment in the univeristy
  • take at least 20 hours per week of classes
Now I need to enroll for 20 hours for an au pair visa too??? cmon! i might as well just get the student visa and i can work more!

Spoke with the official translator, and for two documents I need translated, official translation per document is 80€, so I pay 160€ in total. She translated like 8 words. It just said "no criminal record" on the background check. And "he is healthy" on the medical assesment.

Have coffee with high ranking friend in the Spanish Delegation to NATO and he sends out some emails to friends to see what info he can find.

I contact the public university in Spain and they say their Spanish classes are not enough to cover what i need for a student visa. They won't send me a letter.

Heard back from my Spanish friend's friend who says au pair visa does not require full-time enrollment and 4-5 hours of Spanish classes should be suffficient. I forwarded this information to the embassy in Brussels and now they had to ask Madrid for guidance. I got a quote on health insurance for $20/ month and waiting to buy it.

Viriginia says that the official spanish au pair invitations letter is only good for 90 days, so they didn't want to have that notarized. We are looking for a workaround. Also, for the language classes in Pamplona, they are only 5€/semester, but I have to enroll in person. So, I'll need to fly there and enroll? Still waiting to hear if the embassy in Brussels/Madrid says the spanish classes are sufficient.

I fly down to Madrid to meet the family and spend time with them for the weekend. I think we will be a happy family. Virginia says they couldn't get a notarized inviation letter with the correct wording. Also the language school nearby still wont let me enroll without doing it in person.

After searching for weeks for a German to Spanish translator, finally found one and recieved my official translation of German background check. Cost 70€ for this document, again, for a few words "no criminal record". 

Have a friend at NATO call a school in Pamplona about enrolling in classes, and need pre-inscription letter for visa. I get an email in 10 minutes. Turns out, it is the same school that I emailed before asking for the same exact letter (in English of course) and being denied.

I paid $239 for health insurance for the year. The Spanish embassy in Brussels called me and said they still had not heard from Madrid regarding if my Spanish classes were sufficient for the visa so they said just submit it and hope for the best. For whatever reason Americans have to pay 118€ for the visa application as opposed to the 50€ everyone else pays.

Meeting at the Spanish embassy in Brussels and they were actually quite helpful. I turned in 9 documents, resulting in 39 pages, yet I was still missing 5 documents, that I will have to take back on Monday. After a 40 minute meeting, I paid 117,65€ for the visa application.

I was able to email the missing documents in and my application was submitted. I will just have to bring the originals when I pick up my visa. So far, I have spent 578€ to legally apply for this visa. How many people are living in Spain illegally and mooching off the system for free?

I got an email from the Spanish embassy telling me that my visa is ready for pickup. I make an appointment for Wednesday to collect it. Despite all those issues and uncertainties of whether or not Madrid would accept my application, I am granted my one-year visa.

Picked up my visa this morning. 'Twas a tedious process, but I finished successful. I will move to Spain legally in a few weeks and begin my new adventure.

Start my road trip to Spain. Read about it here!

Go the police station in Pamplona and wait 90 minutes just to be given a paper to fill out and bring back later, along with some other requested documents. It was all of 17 seconds that the lady helped me.

Head to the town hall of Iza, and I meet the mayor, Jose Antonio Vazquez Rodriguez. The people are friendly and give me the paper I need to take back to the police station. I go to the bank and the guy tells us that the police forgot to put the amount of money required for my ID card. So we have to go to the police station, then back to the bank to pay 15,30€, then back to the police station. Thankfully, we are seen immediately and I am told my card will be ready in one month. 

I have to renew my residence card because it was only valid until June, instead a full year, because they consider me a student, and all student visas end in June (is what I was told). So, to renew I have to pay another 16,81€ for the processing fee and I have to wait for a letter telling me when I can get my new card.

Received a letter saying I have an appointment on the 9th of September to get my new residence card. I have to pay another 18,36€ fee for the card. Plus I have to go get new passport photos taken for 5€. 

Went to Foreigner's Office and I had an appointment, like last time, but this time, I actually got in and out quite fast. The guy that helped me wanted to talk American politics in castellano, and not only did I oblige him, I was able to understand and keep the conversation going. So proud of me! I have to go back within a month to actually pick up my new card.

I never picked up my residence card, as I will reapply for a new one under my new status as an English teacher. I'll have to pay the €18,36 again for the new card.

The Why

People ask me, "Tim, why would you leave your cushy four-figure salary job, during your earning years, to get paid practically nothing to au pair? What about job security, and money, and a career?" To that, I say "Phooey!"

I am counter-cultural and I will live my life during my earning years. Money is not important, I have my whole life to work. Now is the time to follow my dreams and do the things I've always wanted to do (and things I didn't know I wanted to do) while I'm young and have energy and am fearless. I am seizing the moment, carpe diem!

I want to learn Spanish and I don't want to let fear prevent me from living my dreams and chasing opportunities in unexpected places. I have no idea what the future holds, but I do know I won't be there wondering what would have happened had I just took a chance.

In order to get my visa in Spain, being an au pair was the fastest and easiest process. It just so happened that all of it worked and I got connected to an amazing family and had the right friends to help push the visa process along. I am confident that this is God's plan for my life and I am on the right track. Follow my adventures to see how they turn out!

Meet my au pair families 

Leo, Gonzalo (birthday boy), Virginia,
Rodrigo, and Arthuur - spent 3 months together
Maria Asun, Tatun, Emilio, and Emilio - spent 8 months together
Location: Pamplona, Navarre, Spain


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