Moving to Madrid
Europe, Study Abroad

Moving to Madrid: What You Need to Know

Once again, it’s been a while since I’ve posted. This time, I have a legitimate excuse. I’m moving to Madrid! 

And by that, I mean I already moved to Madrid and am just now writing about it.

For the next year, I will be attending IE Business school to earn my Master’s in Visual & Digital Media, all the while enjoying everything Spain’s capital has to offer.

Moving to Madrid was a long, stressful, and exhausting process…and I wasn’t even trying to move here permanently. Just getting the long-term student VISA was hard enough without all of that extra paperwork. The last three months have been spent preparing for the move, and upon arriving in Madrid, I found that many of my fellow classmates found the process just as daunting as I did.

I even met one classmate who will have to go back to the United States in a couple weeks just to finish getting her VISA. Additionally, her bank accounts were frozen, her phone unable to use a Spanish SIM card, and her DSLR camera stolen from her luggage. I’m not usually an empathetic person, but even I felt bad for her.

After speaking with one of the professors at IE, I found that such hardships aren’t exactly an uncommon occurrence with students moving to Madrid from outside the country. I at least had some practice at obtaining a VISA when I studied abroad in Valencia, Spain for four months two years ago.

I haven’t been able to go out and explore Madrid yet, but here are some photos I took two years ago!

Because of my experience, as well as that of my classmate, I was inspired to write an article detailing the steps I took to get to Madrid. Later on, I’ll write an article about how terrified I felt, and what I did upon arrival. I was originally going to write about this now, but realized quickly that it was already going to be a long and confusing article even without all of that.

There’s going to be a lot of shouty capitals and bolded sentences, for which I apologize in advance…it’s just that every detail is kind of important here.

Please keep in mind this is not a substitute for visiting important websites, such as that of the nearest Spanish Consulate, or your school’s website (if you’re studying abroad).

VISA requirements vary, and your school may ask you for other specific documentation. For example, in order to obtain an official IE diploma, I needed to provide my legalized undergraduate degree — this means the document had to be legalized by the Hague Apostille…boy was that a process.

So, without further ado, here’s an extended explanation as to how I bumbled my way back into Spain:

Moving to Madrid
Royal Palace of Madrid

Moving to Madrid: Getting a VISA and Other Shit You Need to Do

Because I would be living in Madrid for more than 6 months, I needed to apply for a long-term student VISA. It was a long process, and there were a lot of hoops to jump through.

It took me about a month and a half to get everything together before I submitted my application 7 weeks before departure. I was told it would take 6-8 weeks to receive my passport and VISA in the mail. Needless to say, I was sweating it. There was no room for error. However, I received the VISA within 5 weeks.

This is not always the case, as VISA applications can become backed up. Do not follow in my footsteps and wait until the last minute.

10 things I needed in order to apply for a long-term student VISA for Spain:

1. A filled-out National VISA application form: which can be found on the consulate’s website.

2. A passport-sized photo: I got this at a Post Office.

3. My passport: it must be valid for at least a year and have a blank page for the VISA.

4. The letter of acceptance from my university: the letter must also state that you have medical coverage for your stay in Spain OR I could aslo supply a letter from my insurance company stating that I have coverage. My letter of acceptance to IE did include the medical coverage bit, but I got a letter from my insurance company too, just in case.

5. Proof of financial means: in my case, I used a notarized letter from my parents stating that they assumed full financial responsibility, of at least $700/month. This was the easiest option. We got the letter notarized at Wells Fargo.

6. A self-addressed and pre-paid US “Express-Mail” envelope from the Post Office: if you want the passport mailed back to you.

7. A police background check: and 1 copy issued by either the State police or Federal police (FBI) where the student has lived for the past six months. This document must be notarized with the Hague Apostille. This took the longest to obtain. Because I had only ever lived in Virginia long-term, I was able to get a State police background check, which only took about two weeks. I will get more into the Hague Apostille later.

8. Medical certificate: A doctor´s statement on a doctor or medical letterhead, indicating that I have been examined and found in good physical and mental health to travel abroad and am free of contagious diseases and drug addiction. I just went to my doctor, and she provided me with a note after taking blood tests. The whole process took about a week and a half.

9. A copy of every of the aforementioned documents: including a scan of the main page of my passport.

10. $160 which CAN ONLY BE PAID IN CASH OR MONEY ORDER: I wrote this in all caps because the girl in line in front of me was not prepared for this.

Moving to Madrid
Statue in the Plaza Mayor

Now for the Hague Apostille…my greatest enemy.

I had to get the Apostille twice. The first time was for my background check, and the second for my diploma. The first time I paid $195, the second time I paid $10. Why is this?

To put it simply, I got screwed.

I had never heard of the Hague Apostille before this, and had no idea how to get it. There were many websites out there offering Apostille services, and because it was a governmental thing, I never questioned the prices. Websites such as this will charge you $195 for the first Apostille, and $75 for a second — and this is only for Virginia. In New York they charged $295.

Other sites said there was no way to speed up an Apostille legalization. They told me the fastest way to get an Apostille was through them, and it would take a week. If you look at the Commonwealth of Virginia website, they’ll tell you it’s $10 and you can get it in one day. Do you understand my frustration?

Again, this varies from state to state. Please be sure to look at multiple websites before settling. I wish I had.

I know this hasn’t exactly been the most exciting or fun post, but if it saves anyone $185, it’ll be the worthwhile. Before I go, I want to remind you of a few things that may help you avoid any obstacles upon landing in Madrid (or really any country):

1. Notify your bank before leaving the country. I know this doesn’t stop them from screwing up, but it makes it just slightly less likely.

2. Talk to you cell phone provider and make sure it’s okay for you to switch out SIM cards. My friend she couldn’t do so because her phone wasn’t paid off.

3. If you don’t want something stolen from your luggage, put in in your carry-on. My friend’s camera was stolen from her checked luggage, which was lost in the airport for two days.

Now, I really need to sleep and will probably be fixing typos in this article for the next month. Oh, well.

Goodnight Sole Survivor who made it to the end of this article! Just for you, I’ve decided to finish with a fun quote from The Importance of Being Earnest.

I hope this article has been of some help to anyone moving to Madrid!


You have filled my tea with lumps of sugar, and though I asked most distinctly for bread and butter, you have given me cake. I am known for the gentleness of my disposition, and the extraordinary sweetness of my nature, but I warn you, Miss Cardew, you may go too far.

                              — Oscar Wilde


Have some of your own advice about moving to Madrid? Comment below! 

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