29 July 2013

Programs on Programs

If you want to work and live legally in Spain, one of the easiest ways to do it (besides marrying a Spaniard) is by being an auxiliar de conversación. Auxiliares act as the on-hand English language assistant at a designated school. Your role will vary based on the school and the age group you're working with, but generally speaking you will help provide the students with language development by speaking and instructing them solely in English. You will not be the main teacher, just an assistant. As such, the most important requirement for this position is being a native English speaker, not necessarily a background in education (although that will probably help you out when you start the job). There's a wide range of programs for auxiliares, and choosing the right one for you is just as important as deciding to move abroad in the first place. I've tried to accumulate the information I have for some of the most popular ones to give a general guideline.

The Ministry's program is run directly through the Spanish government. The application period opens in January, and while it's open until early April, it is highly recommended that you apply early. You will be asked to fill out an application, complete a 500 word statement of purpose, submit a letter of recommendation, and upload a transcript. There will also be a section for you to select your regional preferences. If your application is complete, you're basically guaranteed to get in. You will eventually receive an email notifying you of your regional placement (usually starting late May), and then a while later a second email with details of your exact school placement.

  • Payment details: €1000/month for Madrid, €700 for all other communities
  • Pros: no cost to apply or participate; easy application and essentially guaranteed a spot; placements all over Spain unless a particular region chooses not to participate (this year, they were Cataluña, Valencia, and Castilla-La Mancha)
  • Cons: cannot specify a particular city and limited options for ranking your top choices; program administration is disorganized and many things take forever to arrive (including placements); placements are first come, first served; program has a history of delayed salary payments to auxiliares 

This organization has a wide range of study and teach abroad programs in different countries. For Teach in Spain, there's actually different programs depending on your comfort level with Spanish and prior teaching experience. There are both 2 and 4 week immersion programs for those who want to bring their Spanish up to scratch. Teach in Spain Regular is for those with little to no teaching experience, the Basics program is more suited for those with more of a background (such as those with an education degree), and the Professional program is for those who wish to teach in a business setting rather than at a school. I am focusing on the two most popular, the Regular and the Basics. The application process is very similar to the Ministry one, with just few more requirements but still simple. After completing your application, you will receive an email when accepted and eventually a school placement (starting in late April). *note: I am participating in the Regular Teach in Spain program, so I am best equipped to answer questions on CIEE

  • Payment details: €1000/month in Madrid, €700/month in Andalucía
  • Pros: more organized than Ministry program; placements are generally better because they are given out earlier; plenty of support and advice from the staff both before departure and after; on-time payments
  • Cons: a rather hefty program fee (which covers things such as hotel accommodations your first week); only work in Comunidad de Madrid and Andalucía; CIEE acts as third-party between you and the government

I only applied to those two. The remaining programs on this page are other programs I have heard and researched on. I have also in some cases asked for information from former participants.

This program works solely with Catholic schools. The applications period opens in November and run through the end of January. BEDA is a bit more selective than most other programs, as they require a Skype interview (done in English and usually quite short). Many people have stated that having some sort of teaching experience or a high level of Spanish gives you an edge when applying. If successful you will receive in assignment in either Madrid, Alicante, Andalucía, las Islas Canarias, Castilla-La Mancha, or Murcia. More details here!

  • Payment details: Dependent on how many hours you work. This can range from €693 (16 hours a week) to €1040 (24 hours a week)
  • Pros: more organized than the Ministry program; no late salary payments; plenty of support from the staff in preparing for NIE/TIE paperwork; no preference given to those who apply earlier
  • Cons: program fee; required course with Comillas University that generally meets on Fridays (though not every Friday); limited to Catholic schools

Activa has a language assistant program to help them directly at their language schools rather than at an actual school. They do have programs that work in conjunction with schools to aid in language development but it's much more a language school than an actual school. They help in the preparation for all the official English language exams in Europe. To apply, you have to send your CV to the email listed on their site. They will contact you if they are interested in pursuing an interview with you. Language assistants with Activa work in 14 different cities across the Spanish peninsula.

  • Payment details: €900/month
  • Pros: located in some of the largest Spanish cities, including Barcelona and Valencia which no longer participate in the Ministry program; simple application process; rolling admissions
  • Cons: (according to some) long hours; rather spotty with communication and difficult to reach them with questions

Of all the programs on this list, this is perhaps the most prestigious. The Fulbright Teaching Assistant Program is available in many countries ad the requirements vary for each. For Spain, 41 spots are available in Madrid and 17 in Cantabria. As such, it is much more competitive and the application is more extensive. Applications open in May and remain open till October, and they include a statement of grant purpose, personal statement, references, and a foreign language evaluation. After the application period ends, there is an initial screening process, and, if selected, your application will move on to the final selection round.

  • Payment details: the amount of the grant varies by year depending on availability of funds and cost of living in your chosen area
  • Pros: extremely prestigious
  • Cons: much more difficult to receive a spot; will require undertaking a project in addition to teaching; aimed specifically at students and recent grads; no predetermined grant amount

Again any questions you may have, send them my way, and I'll try to help out as best as I can (or at least point you in the right direction!).

18 July 2013

Visa Application FAQs

All right, so now that my visa process is over and (almost) done with, a quick Q&A about the questions I got asked most often (and some of which I asked myself):
  1. What are the general requirements for the visa application?
    I wrote a post on this a while back. Keep in mind, those instructions are specific to the MIami consulate!
  2. Where can I find requirements for the other consulates?
    I compiled a list of instructions for the other consulates from other blogs. Any questions though should be directed at that particular blogger; I know nothing:
  3. Where can I find the visa application?
  4. Where can I request the Florida background check and the apostille?
    For the FL background check, you must mail a request to the office in Tallahassee. Make sure to note that you would like your check to be certified/notarized. Once you get it back, you can send it to the state for the apostille at this address.
  5. How long does the background check take to come back? And the apostille?
    The FL state background check takes approximately a week. The apostille took me approximately two weeks total time (allow at least 5 business days). FBI checks are known to take between 6-8 weeks.
  6. What does the medical certificate have to say?

    This medical certificate attests that Mr./Ms. ____________________ does not suffer from any illness that would pose a threat to public health according to the International Health Regulations of 2005.

    Signature                     Date

    Spanish version (your doctor can just write this on his/her letterhead and sign and stamp it)
    Este certificado médico acredita que el Sr./Srta. ________________ no padece ninguna de las enfermedades que pueden tener repercusiones de salud pública graves de conformidad con lo dispuesto en el Reglamento Sanitario Internacional del 2005.

    Firma                          Fecha
  7. Which forms need to be translated? Which need to be notarized?
    For Miami's consulate, the background check and the medical certificate will need to be translated. You may request a Spanish version of your background check from the state, and you may also request that your doctor write the medical certificate in both Spanish and English.
    The background check must be notarized in order to get the apostille. It is the only document that needs to be notarized/apostilled.
  8. How do I provide proof of financial support?
    Your carta de nombramiento from the Spanish government will provide this information as well as insurance info. If you're in CIEE, you will receive a letter directly from them with proof of insurance and income.
  9. Where is the Miami consulate located? 
    2655 S Le Jeune Rd Suite 203
    Coral Gables, FL 33134
  10. Who do I make the money order out to?
    Consulate General of Spain
  11. What is the actual appointment like?
    Read my post about my experience here!
  12. What if I don't have all my documents ready by the time of the appointment?
    Depends on what documents you're missing. The most important thing is to have your carta de nombramiento from Spain. Background checks are flaky, so if you don't have it in time for your appointment, Miami will let you mail it to them once you receive it.
  13. How long does it take to get your visa back?
    This varies by consulate, but in Miami it is usually within 4-6 weeks. My receipt tells me I can pick it up starting August 15th, so approximately 4 weeks from now. It may be less time if you are having yours mailed or are leaving earlier.


After two months of sending off random requests to the state capital, multiple trips to Kinkos, and a million questions on the auxiliares Facebook page, the day of my visa appointment finally arrived. For those who haven't had theirs yet, I will admit it is extremely pain-free as long as you have everything with you. Here's a basic rundown of how it all went:

  • Get there early! Miami's consulate requires an appointment, but once you get there, they give you a number and you go in based on that rather than appointment time. I got there at 8:30 (the consulate opens at 9) and there were already 7 people ahead of me even though my appointment was at 9. I lucked out because all the people ahead of me had something missing (no photocopies, missing consent form, etc.).
  • Make sure to have the following:
    • two copies of the visa application with a passport picture attached to each
    • original letter of acceptance from your communidad (extremely important!) and your CIEE letter (if applicable)
    • your passport and a copy of the information page
    • original and translated version of medical certificate, plus one copy of each
    • original background check with Apostille and translation, plus a copy of the check and the translation
    • driver's license and a copy
    • money order
  • The lady at the window asked for each of my documents in turn and then asked me to have a seat while she reviewed them and got me my receipt. When she called me up again, she gave me back:
    • original background check with the Apostille and original translation
    • original medical certificate with translation
    • driver's license
    • one visa application (with picture) stamped with the consulate's seal
    • a receipt
  • If you choose to pick up your visa in person rather than have it mailed to you, she wrote the date on which it will be available for pick up on my receipt. To pick it up, anyone can do it for me as long as they have the receipt and the visa application!
  • The entire appointment took about 15 minutes. It's really not that bad, trust me.
  • Check out this post on some questions I've gotten (and asked) about the process.
Buena suerte, chicos! :)

08 July 2013

To Do List, Version 1.0

So with my visa appointment fast approaching (next week, ah!), here is Nic's ridiculous to-do list is looking:

  1. Fill out visa application.
  2. Request and receive background check.
  3. Translate BGC using Rev Translation Services. Will take about 24 hours.
  4. Request and receive Apostille from the State of Florida.
  5. Medical certificate signed by doctor for both consulate and CIEE.
  6. Translated medical certificate (thanks, doc!).
  7. Two passport photos (but I'm going to Walgreens tomorrow or Wednesday).
  8. Copies of: letters from Comunidad de Madrid and CIEE, passport info page, my license. Kinkos, I'm looking at you.
  9. Money order from USPS.
  10. Book flight!
  11. Make money to take with me...work in progress. Anyone trying to give me a late graduation present?!?
Y'all. This is so legit now that my flight is booked. I was kind of iffy about purchasing one before getting my visa, but I did that before I studied abroad and didn't have an issue so I decided to go for it again. For those of you who are trying to book a flight, I definitely recommend STA Travel and Student Universe. They have the cheapest prices I've seen on international flights. I lucked out: I had enough miles on my frequent flier account to travel for free (minus taxes)! 

I will be posting about my visa appointment next week after it happens...hopefully it all goes smoothly!