How to obtain a 6 month student visa

Upon enrolling in the TEFL International TESOL program through LanguageCorps I knew I needed to apply for a visa. Admittedly I had done little to no research on the process prior to enrolling. I also assumed that each consulate had the same application requirements, big mistake! One day before flying back to San Francisco I realized that the Consulate of Spain in San Francisco requires several additional documents v. the Consulate of Spain in Houston where I had originally planned to apply. This left me scrambling to secure proof of insurance abroad and running to the bank to get documents notarized hours before my flight departed.

When the day of my appointment finally arrived I thought I had everything I needed. I had after all read over the requirements online numerous times and continually checked over my own pile of documents. Still as I sat down for my appointment and laid out all of my paperwork the Specialist looked up at me with a quizzical expression, “You will need to go to the Consulate of Houston as you are not a resident of California” she announced. I was stunned. What was she talking about? I had been living in San Francisco for over nine months. Yes, I had returned home for several weeks to visit family, but I had paid taxed in California! I finally realized that her concern stemmed from the fact that I still held a Texas license, and that I had written down my mothers home address on the application in case anything needed to be mailed after my departure. “Do you have proof that you reside in California?” she pressed on. No, I had just moved into a new apartment, quit my job and my name was no longer listed on any of the bills. The website did not say anything about bringing proof of residency! I spent the next 15 minutes begging [almost crying] her to review my paperwork until finally I remembered that my name was still on the internet at my old apartment. I quickly pulled up the mobile website on my phone and presented her with an old receipt. It was only at this point that she agreed to look at my documents and well basically grill me about every last detail. Finally, after what seemed like hours she granted me a long-term student visa. Phew! Of course, she still asked that I walk home, print my w-2 and bring her a hard copy as proof of my residency. Could I simply email her the document and have her print it at her desk? No, that would be too easy.  My advice? Do your research!

Below is an overview of the different options to consider when applying for a visa as an English teacher.

  1. Work Visa

It is difficult for non EU citizens to obtain work visas. While some schools prefer to hire teachers who already have permission to work in the EU, most schools do not want to go to the trouble to obtain work visas, as it is a lengthy process. In fact, if a school sponsored you for one, you would need to fly back to your home country and go to a consulate there to get the visa, and then return to Europe.  Most people do not want to go through the hassle and expense of doing that.

2. Tourist Visa

The common practice is for schools to hire non EU citizens for “cash-in-hand” positions, and most people just overstay the 90 days allowed as a tourist. I’ve been told that people who take reasonable precautions have not had problems doing this and many good schools will hire teachers without work visas; with flexibility and persistence, teachers get jobs lined up.  It is recommend that teachers complete any air travel while their visa is valid, and remain within the European Union after that until they are ready to return home. Remember that Switzerland is not an EU member so avoid traveling there. Most teachers travel by bus or train after the visa period, and those over 25 sometimes rent cars.

3. Student Visa

The other option is to apply for a long-term six month student visa. This will require a signed letter from the program coordinator [in my case TEFL International & LanguageCorps] verifying participation in the program. The letter should include the duration of the program (six months) and list the initial teaching position as a “practicum”. The student visa must be obtained in the U.S., and requires a fair amount of paperwork, which can take several weeks to process.  You will also need to go into the consulate for the district in which you live in person, as opposed to using a visa service.  Spanish consulates are located in Boston, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New Orleans, New York, San Francisco and Washington, D.C.  Honorary consulates are also located in many cities, although some of them will not process student visas  – this link lists many of them:

Some consulates may want to see proof of insurance coverage so you should check with your current provider to confirm if they will cover you overseas. If you need insurance coverage while you are overseas, LanguageCorps offers an international comprehensive medical policy. Remember there is no guarantee that a student visa will be issued, but if you think this is the best option it might be worth the risk. I know several people including myself that have received student visas to teach English abroad.
Good luck!
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We travel, some of us forever, to seek other places, other lives, other souls.

-Anais Nin

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A New Beginning

At the end of this coming August 2014 I will be make the move from San Francisco, CA to Barcelona, Spain to teach English.

Whenever I am tasked with a difficult decision I think back seven years ago to Project Stepping Stone, a one-week college prep summer program for high school students, where I remember sitting in a boardroom listening to an exec from Eli Lilly speak about choices. One statement in particular caught my attention, “do what you are most afraid of”. It is a statement that has stuck with me throughout the years, and a large part in why I decided to move to Spain.

After getting accepted into the Language Corp teach abroad program I took my acceptance email and filed it away in a folder. It was a nice thought, but how could I drop everything and quit my job? It seemed like a fantasy; however, with each passing day I felt more and more trapped in a career path that I did not want. I hated getting up in the morning to go to work, and I spent most of my time wishing I were doing something else. It’s not that I had a terrible job. In fact, it was quite the opposite.  I had an incredible job with a clear path for growth, but it was simply not a personality fit. Finally, on the day of my 23rd birthday I couldn’t take it anymore. I quit my job and accepted the opportunity in Barcelona. I was [and I still am] terrified of putting my career on hold and moving to a foreign country, but I know it’s the right decision.

If there is one thing that I have learned over the years it’s that each day is a gift and that regret can be crippling.

I leave for Barcelona on the 29th of August. I will be documenting the planning process up until the 29th as well as my experience in Spain on this blog. For the first month I will be taking classes at TEFL International Barcelona where I will work to obtain my TESOL certification. After this is completed I will [hopefully] find work teaching either adult classes or at an elementary school. I have also secured a part-time job at a high school in Fort Lauderdale as a Spanish assistant, which I will complete virtually.

I’m sure my time in Spain will be filled with a medley of excitement, love, tears and joy and I hope to come back a better person because of it. Comments are welcome and enjoy!

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