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My NALCAP visa experience with the Houston consulate

Photo of an open American passport on a table. There are many stamps on the visible passport pages.

Fingerprints, background checks, and apostilles, oh my! My journey to getting my NALCAP visa from the Houston consulate was long and filled with tears. Hopefully, with this post, you can have your visa experience be more stress-free than mine.

Keep in mind the date when this post was made! Requirements for visas can change at any time.


Preface

I’m an overly anxious person. It doesn’t help that anything involving spending money doubles that stress. I’ve spent years building up an emergency fund, and this visa took a few hundred dollars of it!

Spoiler: $524 to be exact.

Woody Harrelson in Zombieland wiping his tears with a few $100 bills and then throwing them down.
How I looked paying for all of this

While NALCAP is a ‘free’ program, the cost of the complete visa application process is very expensive.

I began looking at the requirements for getting a NALCAP visa at the Houston consulate as soon as I got my plaza aceptada Profex status in May. I made a list of my own and marked off any that I had already completed. Photocopies of my driver’s license and passport were something I already had. While a photocopy of my passport was not required for the visa application, I included it anyway. It wasn’t returned to me when my visa was sent to me, so I assume it was used.

I’ll break down my timeline by month.

May

Monday, May 15 – I completed the official application online for the FBI Background check for $18. The online option allows to send in your application even if you don’t have your fingerprint card yet. This option also reduces your wait time from 2 months all the way down to 5-10 days!

An example fingerprinting card. There are fingerprints added to the card, but no personal information was added.
Example fingerprinting card.

Wednesday, May 17 – I got fingerprinted at the sheriff’s office for $20. Luckily for me, my internship during business school was in HR at the sheriff’s department, so it was very easy to get an appointment and navigate the building. I went in, paid my fee, and requested a live scan on the sheet with my SSN number. I was in and out in less than half an hour and shipped it out immediately.

Friday, May 19 – I received my email saying that due to having an Andaluc铆a placement, I get to pick my city and school myself! Note: being able to choose may not be an option every year. I logged into the Aux@nd portal and found that not many options were left within an hour from Sevilla. I picked out my school in Tomares, a pueblo in Sevilla province! My school is about 40 minutes from the center by metro + walking.

Sunday, May 28 – I received my official carta de nombramiento in the Aux@nd portal. This details the length of my contract (October 1 – May 31) and my health insurance information. This checks off both the requirement for proof of financial means and health insurance. Houston specifies these are covered by the carta, but other consulate websites may list those as separate requirements even though the carta covers them.

Monday, May 29 – After receiving no news, I contacted the FBI office, who claimed I never sent them my fingerprint card. After telling the woman that I had tracked it and gave her the name of the person that picked it up, she backtracked and told me it “might” be there. Miraculously, my background check was shipped out to me the next day.

May total: $38

June

Thursday, June 1 – I got my background check in the mail! Now time to prepare it to be shipped off to be apostilled.

A bilingual medical certificate template provided by the Houston consulate. The English section is headed with "Medical certificate" while the Spanish section is headed with "Certificado m茅dico".
A bilingual medical certificate template provided by the Houston consulate

Friday, June 2 – USPS told me they can’t give me a second tracked envelope to go inside the first, so I headed to UPS. I mailed off my background check at the UPS for $28, but then realized half a mile down the road that I didn’t write the tracking number of the second envelope on the apostille request form. Panicking, I turned around, and drove back to the UPS. I went back in crying, and the employee pulled the envelope out of the outgoing mail pile, tore it open, and let me add my number. He put it in a new envelope free of charge. :’)

Sometimes people ask their congressional representatives to contact the State Department on your behalf to expedite their apostille. Mine was no help during this time, but he did try.

Wednesday, June 28 – I went to my scheduled medical clearance appointment with my physician. I paid for a physical, which was $120 because it was my second physical of the year. However, all they did was take my weight and blood pressure. I hit a snag here that I didn’t realize until August – my physician isn’t an MD or a DO, so her signature didn’t count!

June total: $148

July

Wednesday, July 26 – I went to CVS for passport photos and had 4 done for $20. They came out blurry because the camera looked to be at least 12 years old. However, the blurriness didn’t impact my visa approval.

July total: $20

August

Thursday, August 10 – My apostille arrived while I was out of state visiting grandparents. I called my brother and had him take a photo of the apostille. Since I had a digital copy of my background check with me, so I sent everything to Daniel Rider, a certified translator. I didn’t put a rush job on it, but he can do 24-hour translations if you request it! If you would like his contact information, feel free to DM me on any of my social medias!

A legal form headed with "Application for long-term Visa" and its Spanish translation. The Spanish seal is on the upper left corner of the page. The other upper corner is a blank rectangle that says "photo".
A look at the monochrome visa application

Saturday, August 12 – My translation arrived! I paid $50 via Wise after a brief holdup with confirming my identity on the app. It was great practice for using Wise, since many auxes use it in Spain to cheaply convert their currency! Disclaimer: the Wise link above is a referral link. It gives you a fee-free transfer of up to $600. In return, Wise gives me a small commission at no cost to you.

Realized I had the wrong signature on my medical clearance form! But I couldn’t go to the office until Monday. It made Sunday very stressful.

Monday, August 14 – I drove over to my medical office without an appointment and got my medical form fixed in under 10 minutes with the correct doctor’s signature at no additional cost. I signed my postal delivery authorization and double checked my visa form. At my bank, I got a money order for $160. Then, I paid $108 to overnight express and track my visa application to Houston + express return shipping and tracking back to Tennessee.

Wednesday, August 30 – My visa arrived while I was at an appointment for pre-move therapy! I got home and it looks BEAUTIFUL! With my visa now in hand, I booked a studio Airbnb to share with my cat! I will be making a post about my cat’s trip abroad with me on a future Sunday.

August total (Airbnb not included): $318
NALCAP visa total: $524

Conclusion to the journey

After tears from both me and my wallet, everything is coming together. My visa is here, my flight is booked, my temporary accommodation is booked, and I’m awaiting my cat’s USDA travel health certificate. There is no denying that this process was one of the most stressful things I’ve ever done. It was a lot more expensive than expected and I almost gave myself stomach ulcers. But now my visa days are behind me and I’m ready for Spain! Also ready to tackle the TIE process once I arrive…

I’m hoping that this post can help other auxes, even if you aren’t going through the Houston consulate. This is meant to help auxes understand how involved this process is and how expensive it can be. Don’t underestimate this process; make sure you know what you’re getting into and that you have enough time to get your visa back before October!

See you next time. 馃檪

Beka

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