So you want to be an Auxiliar de Converación through the Ministerio de educación to teach English in Spain? Excellent.
If you’re like most people who apply, you’re probably wondering what to expect.
The application process is red tape city. It’s lengthy, arduous and confusing – especially if you aren’t fluent in Spanish. At some points, I wondered if it was purposefully frustrating, as if to weed out the people who aren’t serious enough to push through it.
But even when you finish the application process and you’re admitted, you are kind of on your own to figure the rest out:
- When should you buy your ticket?
- How do you prepare for the Visa application?
- What if you don’t get a Visa?
- What do you need to bring to Spain?
I think this program is great because it gives you the freedom to choose your own adventure, but a little guidance is useful when you’re moving to another country. In an effort to pass along what I learned from my application process last year, here’s a timeline (it’s as specific as possible) of what to expect along the way:
Early January: The PROFEX application opens
Get your application in as early as possible. Although there’s a three-month window for the application process, the positions are more-or-less filled on a rolling basis.
Here are three things that are good to know:
1. The lower your ‘inscrita number,’ the faster you’ll get an assignment. The higher your ‘inscrita number,’ the more time you’ll wait to receive your assignment.
2. A low inscrita number does not guarantee you a better setup in Spain. Some auxiliares with very low inscrita numbers have to commute an hour to get to their schools in small pueblos. I had an inscrita number in the 3,000s and both of my schools are within walking distance. Why? I have no idea. The best I can suffice, it’s completely random.
3. A high inscrita number doesn’t mean you won’t get a placement – it will just take longer. In fact, I met some auxiliars who were just arriving in November to start teaching – after the regularly contracted start date. If you really want to get to Spain, remain calm and wait for your assignment.
January – April: You are admitted into the program
At some point after you submit your application through PROFEX, you should receive an email from the Ministerio de Educación, Cultura y Deporte that says: “solicitud admitada.” I received mine roughly 2-3 weeks after I submitted by application.
- This means that you’ve met all the requirements for the program.
- This does not mean that you have a placement yet.
April 5: The application process closes
After this, you can’t submit your application. You have to wait until the next year to try again.
End of April: Assignments start rolling out
People with the lowest inscrita numbers begin receiving their regional assignments, but you might not receive your assignment until June, July, August or even September. Don’t panic. Eventually it will come in the form of an email that says “Adjudicación de plaza.”
3 days after you receive your assignment: Accept the placement
This is SUPER important. You need to go back into PROFEX and accept the assignment within three days of receiving the email. If you don’t, you will forfeit your place and it will be given to someone else.
A few days after you accept: Receive your “Carta de nombramiento”
I know this is imprecise, but I received my carta two days after I accepted my placement. You might get yours sooner, you might get yours later.
This is important because it’s the document that lists the towns and names of schools where you’ve been assigned. This is your employment contract. Once you have this, you can start preparing to LEAVE FOR SPAINNNN!
Start shopping for your Visa appointment right away. I read somewhere that you shouldn’t make an appointment more than 90 days out from your departure date, but it needs to be at least 45 days in advance.
If you live in:
- Washington, DC, Virginia, Maryland, West Virginia or North Carolina, Visit this consulate for information.
- Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Vermont or Maine, Visit this consulate for information.
- New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania or Delaware, Visit this consulate for information.
- Florida, Georgia or South Carolina, Visit this consulate for information.
- Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota or Wisconsin, Visit this consulate for information.
- Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Missouri, Oklahoma or Texas, Visit this consulate for information.
- Southern California (County of Imperial, Inyo, Kern, Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara and Ventura), Arizona, Colorado or Utah, Visit this consulate for information.
- Alaska, Northen California, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Washington, Wyoming or the U.S. Pacífic, Visit this consulate for information.
I made the mistake of waiting until the 90-day mark to start looking for a Visa appointment at the Boston consulate, and nearly panicked when I saw that there were no openings AT ALL for the next month. Luckily, I checked back on a daily basis and saw that some time slots opened up, so I was able to get in by the end of July or early August and get my Visa on time.
If you schedule an appointment online as soon as you get your carta, you can be sure you have one with plenty of time before you plan to leave and then use the lead time to prepare your documents.
May – June – July: Start preparing your Visa documents
Here’s a complete list of everything you’ll need to gather
1-month out from your Visa Appointment:
Police records/FBI criminal records
For your Visa application, you will need to get a copy of your police records. The requirements vary, depending on where you live and the consulate you need to visit. For the Boston consulate, you need to acquire a copy of your Criminal Offender Record Information (CORI) through the Mass.gov website. Other consulates ask for a copy of your criminal records from the FBI. I’m not sure how long that process takes exactly, but in my experience, this piece of the puzzle is lengthy and should not be saved until the last minute.
Side note: If you’re in Boston and need to submit the CORI report, be sure to request a paper version that will be mailed to you – not the online version that you can print out yourself. The Spanish Consulate requires that the document has a wet signature from a person in the office to verify that it’s correct. It may sound tedious, but they refused one of our applications because the page we had printed ourselves as in black and white and the state seal wasn’t in color.
Make an appointment for a physical
You will need to provide the consulate with a signed note from a doctor that says:
“This medical certificate attests that Mr./ Mrs. ……………………… does not suffer from any illness that would pose a threat to public health according to the International Health Regulations of 2005.”
Do this early so you’re not pressed for time and desperately seeking appointments with random physicians with appointments available just before your Visa appointment (like I did).
2-weeks out from your Visa appointment
1. Print your Visa application and carefully fill it out.
2. Get your passport photos taken (You can do this at Walgreens, CVS, the post office). You need to attach these to your Visa application.
3. Translate your police records and medical certificate.
The Gobierno de España’s Visa requirements for the Boston consulate state that you need to have these two documents translated into Spanish. My boyfriend and I both used Rev.com. I paid $135 (ugh) to have my CORI translated, which seemed a little steep considering that there weren’t that many words – but they said they had to charge for each page. They promised to complete the work in 48 hours and turned it around in about 24 hours. When I shopped around, I didn’t find anything that cost less. In fact, one company wanted to charge me over $300 to have the same work completed. Note that both warned me they can’t guarantee this will work for government Visa applications because it needs to be specially certified or something. However, the consulate accepted it. I did NOT have the medical letter translated … and that was OK for me. But neglect this at your own risk. I’ve heard that people have very mixed experiences at the consulate. It all depends on who you talk to at the office …
3. Get the “Apostille of The Hague Convention” on your police records from your local Secretary of State’s office (bring cash to the office. They don’t accept check or cards).
The ‘Hague’ isn’t anything like this, but it’s what I imagined every time I used the word:
It’s just an office that doesn’t require an appointment. You can just bring in your documents and tell them you need the report “Apostilled.” As long as there isn’t a line, it should only take about 15-minutes. This fancy ribbon-stamp tells the consulate that the document is official and has been certified as such by the state government.
1- week out from your Visa appointment
1. Get your $160 money order payable to the Consulate of Spain. The easiest way to do this is to take cash (they also don’t accept debit cards) to your local 7-Eleven and ask them for a money order.
2. Make copies!!! Lots and lots of copies.
2 x Visa application (DOUBLE SIDED! I saw people get turned away from the consulate because they didn’t have the application completed on double-sided paper)
5 x Carta de nombramiento (this is your employment contract, your proof of financial means, and your proof of insurance). The Consulate will ask for the original and one copy. They want you to have another copy that you can provide to the Oficina de extranjero when you are in Spain applying for your NIE card. When you receive your Visa, you will get back the originals.
2 x Passport (Forewarning: The Oficina de extranjero asks for a copy of every page of your passport. You might want to do this in the U.S. while you’re already on a copy-making spree rather than trying to find a copy shop in your new Spanish digs).
2 x CORI or criminal background check WITH the Hague seal
2 x Translated criminal background check
2 x the Medical certificate
1-3 days before your Visa appointment
Get organized!! If you’re prepared for your Visa appointment, you now have about a million copies of various documents. I recommend grabbing a folder with several pockets and sorting out your paperwork:
– 1 pocket for the app & copies, labeled
– 1 pocket for the carta & copies, labeled **remember that when they ask for insurance & financial records & acceptance letter, point to this document**
– 1 pocket for your passport, passport copies & Visa photos, labeled
– 1 pocket for your CORI & translation
– 1 pocket for your medical letter
45 days before you leave: Visa appointment
1. Eat a big breakfast and drink some coffee (if you’re into that)
2. Head to the Visa Consulate office for your appointed time, check in with the front desk and get a name tag, head to the consulate waiting room, go right up to the person at the desk and tell them you’re there for a student Visa. They’ll know what to do with you. They might even roll their eyes.
3. The person will then ask you for the series of documents with copies (which you will give them), they will put it in a manilla folder with your name on it, and assuming you have everything done correctly – they will take it to the back and you will wait (maybe for a long time! My boyfriend was there for like 2-3 hours waiting while they checked over his docs).
4. If they call you back to the desk and tell you that you don’t have everything you need, well – womp womp womp. You will need to leave and try again another time. The good news is: You don’t need to make another appointment to talk to someone. You just show up.
5. If they take your paperwork and give you a rough date to come back to the office to pick up your Visa, you should be golden!
After your Visa appointment: Celebrate & begin shopping around for your flights
1. It’s recommended that you don’t purchase a plane ticket to Spain until you have your Visa paperwork in motion.
2. I used Skyscanner to find my flight from Dallas to Madrid on September 16th (which was about $600 direct, one-way).
3. Another auxiliare I know said she booked an open-ended ticket that allows her to change her flight back the U.S. without penalty – so be sure to look into this option!
1 Month before you leave
1. Contact your schools. Just send an email to the addresses on your carta and let them know you’re coming. The English departments at my schools were quick to respond, but I also heard about cases where auxiliares didn’t hear back up until the scheduled start date.
2. Start scouring around for teaching materials – photos, maps, decks of cards, portable games, postcards, dice. Think about what you’ll want to show students when you’re talking about your culture and make sure to pack them.
1 Week before you leave
Start narrowing down what you want to pack – Don’t wait until the last minute to make those hard choices about what you can live without for the next year. There’s nothing more panic-inciting than discovering your ‘must-haves’ absolutely do not fit in your suitcase.
If you’re already feeling overwhelmed by the prospect, check out my guide on How to pack well when you’re moving to Spain as an English teacher.
September – October: Leave for Spain
I left for Spain on the 16th of September and landed in Madrid on the 17th. The same day, I took a bus to Logroño* and arrived there by around 2:30 p.m. My plan was to use the two-week lead-time to find an apartment and settle in. I quickly learned this wouldn’t be possible because everything was shutting down for a local week-long festival.
*I used the ALSA Bus line. It runs from the Madrid airport straight to Logroño. I recommend it. It’s an affordable and easy way to get around Spain. Caveat: You can’t buy the tickets with an American credit card. You have to use PayPal until you have an EU card. There is also a train line you can take – Renfe, but it’s the same story with the CC and it will run you a little more for a ticket.
I do recommend planning to arrive a week or more before your start date. This ensures you will be there for the training (which is all in Spanish, and is mostly useful because it’s where you sign up for the health insurance and you can hear from previous auxiliares about firsthand classroom experience), but also gives you some time to find a place to live and get settled before classes begin.
Here’s what I wished I did differently: Travel to one of the most important places on your ‘to-do’ list before you head to your city/town/pueblo. You’re already buying a flight to Europe – so why not? It’s an easy way to guarantee you make it there in case you find it’s difficult or expensive to travel from the place where you’re teaching.
In the final 1-2 weeks before school
1. Find a piso – This can prove more difficult than you might think. I recommend checking out this blog, this blog and this blog. I found my place by stumbling into an inmobiliaria (a.k.a. a real estate office), and bumbling through some Spanish to indicate the price range and size preferences. My place isn’t the piso of my dreams, but it’s clean, comfortable and affordable.
2. Visit your schools/Meet with your teachers – Get your schedule and make sure there aren’t any conflicts between your schools. If you have to commute to work, ask about carpool opportunities with other teachers, and get specific information about what you need to prepare for your first class. It’s likely this will be an ‘about me’ presentation.
3. Open a bank account – I went through BBVA, and only needed to provide my passport with my Visa that listed my NIE number and an address. If you don’t have a home address yet, you can probably give them your school address. The process took about 30-40 minutes (which was longer than I expected) but the teller set me up with an account and didn’t ask for a deposit to get started. I received my cards in the mail a couple of weeks later.
4. Go the Oficina de extranjeros to start the NIE process (more on this to come!)
October: Classes begin
As always, eat a big breakfast and go in with a great attitude. I’m not even sure if you need to drink coffee on your first day. Those chicos have a ton of energy and it’s pretty infectious.
November: GET PAID, FINALLY!!
You should receive your first paycheck during the first week of November – woohoo! That means you’ve made it. You can stop living off of your savings and start planning your travel in Spain and around Europe.
What other questions do you have? Did I miss anything or get it wrong? Do you have any other tips for how to make this as stressless as possible?