When moving abroad to a new country, there are a lot of things to figure out. The biggest concern for many is all the bureaucracy and the legal matters that need to be taken care of. If you hold an American, Canadian, Australian, or New Zealander passport —among other countries— when traveling to Spain as a tourist, you do not need a visa if you are staying for a period shorter than 90 days. You can simply enter the country and enjoy your trip.
However, if you are planning to move to Spain to teach, you will need to get a visa. This process can be intimidating for many, but fear not, at RVF International we help hundreds of people through this process each year. Here we have gathered our top tips for dealing with Spanish bureaucracy!
This is a guest post written by RVF International.
Getting a Student Visa to Teach in Spain
The first step in the visa process is to figure out what kind of visa you will need. If you are planning to come to Spain and work as a language assistant, you will need to apply for the student visa. Don’t worry, this does not mean that you will be studying. The student visa covers a broad range of activities, including the Auxiliaries de Conversación program.
Note from Jamie: While there are other types of visas available to teach in Spain (work, self-employment, EU family member and a digital nomad visa coming soon), student visas are the easiest to get and most commonly used for teaching English in Spain.
Now that we know what kind of visa is needed, the next step is to prepare our documents. Applying for the student visa requires a lot of documentation. The first thing you will need is a valid passport, so make sure to check if you will need to renew it. Doing so in the middle of the visa process would not be a good idea.
Documents Needed to Get a Visa to Teach in Spain
For the visa process, there are a lot of documents that need to be prepared, so it’s important to plan out the process and see what can be started when. We recommend beginning with the criminal background check. You will need this background check from any country you have lived in for more than 6 months, within the past 5 years. This document is usually the one that takes the longest to obtain. This is because it needs to be Apostilled and then translated by a sworn translator. The background check can be up to 5 months old before the visa appointment, so you cannot start this process too early.
Another pro-tip is to write your corresponding Spanish consulate about what documents will be required from you. What is required does vary and change with time, and can be different between consulates, so it is a good idea to ask for an updated list. You will surely need to submit proof of the purpose and duration of your stay, your financial means and health insurance coverage. For language assistants, all these details are included in the Placement Letter (carta de nombramiento) you receive, which will already be in Spanish.
You need to keep in mind that all documents must be in Spanish. If they are not, you will need to get sworn translations. A sworn translations is a certified translation which fulfils the requirements stipulated by the Spanish government, meaning you cannot translate yourself even if you are fluent in Spanish.
Student Visa Application Process for Spain
The application process itself is pretty straight forward. Depending on the consulate you belong to, you will either need to apply in-person or by mail. One thing to keep in mind is that “the application must be submitted no earlier than 90 days prior to the planned date of travel”. This means that you need to start the application no earlier than 90 days before you are actually traveling to Spain.
Applying for a visa also costs money, so be prepared to pay a fee. The exact amount and payment procedure will vary according to what country you are applying from, so make sure to figure this out. Once you have submitted the application, it usually takes around one month to get the final decision, so be patient. The visa must usually be picked up in person, by the applicant themselves.
One thing that surprises many, is that your visa is actually only valid for 90 days from the date you enter Spain. But the whole point of applying for a visa was to be able to stay for more than that? Yes, there is more work to do!
Getting a TIE (Spanish Identity Card)
Now that you have arrived in Spain on your student visa, you will need to apply for something called a T.I.E, which stands for “Tarjeta de Identidad de Extranjero”, and translates to a foreigner’s identity card. It is an official identity card that every Non-EU citizen coming to Spain for a period longer than 180 days must apply for, within 30 days of arriving.
You don’t need to have the appointment within your 30 days of arriving, but you need to have it scheduled. So make sure to try to book an appointment from the Spanish government’s website as soon as possible after arriving in Spain. Very often there are no appointments available, so you will most likely need to be constantly on the website checking availability.
Once you have an appointment, you will need to prepare your documents. There is an application form you need to fill out and also a fee (tasa) you need to pay at the bank, among other documents. Our recommendation is to tackle the fee first, as it is the most difficult document to obtain since every bank has a different policy on how to make the payment.
At the appointment, your fingerprints will be taken, and you will submit your documents. Within 30-45 days you will be able to pick up your TIE card. In some places you will need an appointment to pick your card up, so make sure to research if this is the case for you.
Two things that are often confused are the TIE and the NIE. As explained, the TIE is a foreigner’s identity card for non-EU citizens living in Spain. NIE, however, stands for “número de identidad del extranjero”. It is an identity number that any foreigner living in Spain has. It is always one letter followed by 7 numbers and another letter.
This number is required for a lot of legal and financial matters in Spain. You will also need this number to open a bank account in Spain. As someone coming to Spain with a visa, you will not need to book an appointment to get this number, as it is printed on your visa, and your TIE.
Teach in Spain with RVF International
Even with the best of tips, dealing with Spanish bureaucracy can be complicated and frustrating. The biggest tip we can give is to not do this process on your own. With so many documents to fill out, appointments to book and payments to make, and the constantly changing and seemingly not straightforward procedures, there is plenty of room for error.
This blog post only shows the surface of what the whole process actually looks like, and it is not rare to have many hiccups during the process. At RVF International we provide a teach abroad program that helps you with everything you need to move to Spain and teach English. We’ll guide you every step of the way of the visa process and all the bureaucracy you need to deal with in Spain. In addition, RVF provids tips for you to find housing, open a bank account, or even get a phone number.
We help hundreds of people fulfil their dream of teaching abroad in Spain every year. We were even awarded the best teach abroad provider by Go Overseas in 2021, so you know you are in good hands. If you are looking to teach abroad in Spain, look no further. We accept applications year-around, so contact us today to learn more about our fantastic program!