Obtaining a visa to spend more than 90 days in Spain is no small feat. We had no real idea of what would be required of us in moving to Spain and just recently started doing research. We knew that US Passport holders don’t need a visa to enter the EU but found out that they cannot stay more than 90 days in a 180 day period, in all countries in the EU combined, without a visa. So we started doing some research on what it would take to get a visa and found that, in general, the easiest visas to get are those for Sweden, France, Italy, or Germany and that the German visa is the only one you can get once you are already in the EU. All other visas must be obtained at that country’s consulate in the US before going to that country. While there is a open travel allowed for all of the EU, you generally should be actually living in the country that you have a visa for and have to prove a rental address there in the application process.
We found that Spain’s visas can be a little harder to qualify for because their economy is not in great shape right now and they really don’t want anyone coming to the country and taking jobs. So, the process of obtaining a Spanish visa requires quite a bit of financial investigation and proving that you have assets and income from other sources and will not need employment while in Spain. We decided to go ahead and apply for a Spanish visa rather than the “easier” countries simply because, if we can get it, it will allow us to live in Europe exactly as we had planned from the beginning rather than having to be conscious of how much time we are spending in each country to comply with a visa.
We are now in the process of getting FBI background checks, all of our legal information translated into Spanish and notarized, certified statements of health, insurance, assets, income, and a lot more (complete list of required documents here) all while trying to change my last name on all of those accounts and documents from Fraser to Solano.
To speed up the name change process, I did go in person to the State Department to apply in person and get a rush on my passport. I was holding a passport with my new name on it in just 5 business days. If you live near a Passport office, I highly recommend doing it this way. The Denver office doesn’t, but some agencies do require proof of travel within 2 weeks in order to apply in person, so be sure you check that before going. The fee is exactly the same as checking the “rush” box on a standard passport application but you get your passport in 5 days or less instead of waiting 3+ weeks for rush service. Already having a photo ID with my new last name is making changing my name on everything else so much easier.
We will fly out to the Spanish consulate in LA on September 12th to present our application and documents in person and have an interview with an immigration officer. We chose one of the first available appointments but it is unfortunately only 2 weeks before our flights leave for Spain, so we’re hoping and praying that the application and approval process will go quickly and smoothly. I’ll post more of our experiences in applying for this visa and any tips we discover as we go through it, it has definitely been more of an undertaking than I expected it to be so far!