If we intend to stay in Spain for more than ninety days, we’ll need visas. My investigation began today with a visit to The Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation website which, among other things, is charged with “promoting Spain’s economic, cultural and scientific relations.”

These are the people who will issue our visas and they’re interested in promoting a cultural (and economic) relationship with us. Cooperation! It’s right there in the title.

I navigate to the visa page and read the first paragraph:

The procedures and conditions for issuing these visas are set out in Organic Law 4/2000...

Organic Law? Thank God for Google. Turns out organic laws are really important laws, residing just below the Spanish Constitution. The mind reels with thoughts of disobeying laws like that.

The visa page continues:

The visa application must be made in person [emphasis mine] in the Diplomatic Mission or Spanish Consular Office in the country in which the applicant legally resides.

Oh-oh. A few more clicks and I discover the nearest consular office – in San Francisco.

There’s more:

If the visa application is successful, the visa must be collected from the Diplomatic Mission or Consular Office in which the application was submitted within a period of one month from the notification date.... The visa must be collected in person...

Two trips to San Francisco? For each of us? A quick online check on airfares and some rudimentary math points to a total transportation cost of about $1000, and that doesn’t include getting around in the city or lodging. (Do you think we’re going down there and back in one day? And dealing with Spanish bureaucracy while we’re there? See this video.)

As for the documents required, here’s a list:

  • valid passport with at least two blank pages
  • confirmation letter from your health insurance stating coverage & one copy
  • hotel booking in Spain & one copy
  • closed round-trip or tour ticket
  • current bank statement & one copy

This doesn’t look good. We have no idea where we’re going after we leave Spain, so there will be no round-trip tickets. And wouldn’t it be a bit premature to book an apartment before seeing if we can get visas?

Maybe the Americans can help. I visit the Department of State website and find this:

U.S. citizens who wish to stay in Spain for longer than three months...will also need to supply local authorities with an official criminal records check from their state of residence or from the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Criminal Justice Information Services office. Both types of documents must be apostilled by the state authority for state criminal records and by the Department of State for the FBI records.

Criminal records? Apostilled? The FBI?

I need a drink. And a dictionary.

Stay tuned to this station for further information.