So you want to live in Spain? I did too. Luckily, I chose a university (FSU) that offered a whole first year abroad program. This was my first substantial amount of time in Valencia, Spain and I just fell in love. I decided that year that I would go back after I graduated, but didn’t know how.
When the time of my graduation finally rolled around, I did have my ducks all in a row and my plane ticket bought. However, it wasn’t without a few bumps along the way. I’m writing this “how to” to hopefully give you a general understanding of what it takes to cross the border.
If you haven’t been to Europe, then you may be unfamiliar with the Schengen Area. Essentially it consists of 26 countries, 22 of which are a part of the European Union. These countries signed an agreement that allows free movement between
them, with universal restrictions to those outside the Schengen Area. Spain is included in this area. To see a full list of the countries included and more details about Schengen travel visas, click here.
The restriction for “outsiders” states that during a 180 day period, you can only travel/reside in the the countries of the Schengen Area for 90 days. When these 90 days are up you have to leave the area, and you can’t return again until 90 more days have passed. If you have lots of free time, you can just go to another nearby country in the EU that didn’t sign the agreement like Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Ireland, Romania or the United Kingdom (Brexit), then return.
Or if you don’t mind the risk, you can overstay your visa. This website talks about the consequences of overstaying your travel visa. This brings me to my first point.
Can we just throw political correctness out the window for a second? If you have a US passport, getting harassed by immigration for overstaying your three-month welcome is probably not going to happen. Although you should ask yourself, is it worth the chance? You can be given a large fine or even banned from reentry. Let’s consider both sides of the issue. The first is that Spain is notorious for being one of the easier countries to slip past. In fact, my roommate lived with me for a year illegally without any hiccup. She went in and out of Spain a lot, never followed the 90/180 rule, and never got caught. I had another friend do the exact same thing but lived there illegally for two years, again without consequences.
But living illegally is not all it’s cracked up to be. If you want internet and don’t have Spanish roommates, you’re out of luck. If you’re staying legally you will be given a NIE (foreign identity number), which is your golden ticket to getting a Spanish bank account. You will need a bank account there in order to hire an internet provider, and it’s just a useful thing to have in general.
So yes it can be done. Considering how much time, money and effort it took to get a student visa, I see why people resort to this. I like to play by the rules, but you all can decide for yourselves.
2. Student visa
Did I mention how hard it was to get a student visa? Oh I did? Well let me mention it again, because it’s just that annoying. Honestly, dealing with bureaucratic non-sense from any country is horrible, but I feel like this is especially the case with Spain. The process is arduous and slow, and if you mess one small thing up you are completely out of luck. When I decided to go back to Spain after graduating, this was what I settled on as my option. However, I had already graduated… so how could I be considered a student again? I was consumed by this question for weeks until it finally hit me one day when I was in the shower (I do my best thinking in there). A language school!! It was so simple– not really.
All I needed to do was find a Spanish language school and have them draft an invitation letter to their school, specifying for how long I would be studying there.
The language school was a couple thousand dollars for the full year, and I also had to prove to Spain that I had a certain amount in my bank account. Don’t forget the costly translation of all my documents by an embassy-specified translator located IN SPAIN. I had to have all the documents shipped overnight, so you can imagine just how much it hurt my wallet. If you’re interested in pursuing this visa, you can take a look at Spain’s website for a more comprehensive list of the requirements.
3. Become a teacher
The Spanish government has a program with the US that allows us to apply online to teach in Spain for a year if you have a bachelor’s degree. This is the option I would recommend. You will still need to apply for a student visa, but you also will be given a monthly salary of 2500 euros to compensate for the money lost during the process. Not everyone is selected, but I think it’s relatively easy to be. The downfall to this is that, although you list your region of preference, they will ultimately decide which school you will be teaching at. They placed me in a very rainy region of Spain, which is why I rejected their offer and went ahead with my student visa.
At least 3 people I know taught through this program, and they all loved it. You have a 30-hour work week and chance to mingle with the locals. What more could you ask for? If you’re interested in learning more, here is their website in Spanish and a detailed English manual.