WARNING: Long, long post ahead. This is generally a more informative post/help guide for Singaporeans and those looking to study more than 6 months in Madrid, along with some interesting personal experiences of mine.
Alright, so the past 2-3 weeks have been a literal roller coaster ride of paperwork, appointments, emotions and just me trying to figure how the heck to do things around here in Madrid. Right now, i’m proud to say that i have managed to settle all the necessary administrative work (with the help of some friends) , so that i can fully enjoy what i came here for. With my personal experience, i hope this post comes to use for others looking to follow a similar path!
To start, this is my second time back in Madrid for studies. The last time i was here was in 2015/16 for my University exchange programme. Just a note, if you are planning to study in Madrid for just 6 months or less, you won’t need to go through most of whatever i mention below – all you need is a 180-day visa and you’re set. In my case, i’ll be here for more than 6 months, and hence all the procedures.
Before you go:
The first tip is to start your application for the visa early, don’t wait till the last minute because the in-between procedures may take awhile. The type of visa you require can be found here. In my case, it was the Long Term Study Visa. Before making the appointment for your visa, you’ll need to get all the items checked on the list of documents required here.
A few helpful tips on what is needed on the list of requirements:
Item 1. Schengen National Visa application form – can be downloaded here.
Item 9.1: Medical certificate: You will need to get a medical check-up for this. There are a few practitioners in Singapore that do this. I got mine done at IMC Camden. A note that the expiry of the certificate will be 3 months from the date of issue.
Item 9.2: Criminal record of the past five years: This is basically the Certificate of Clearance (COC) that the Singapore Police Authorities will issue to you. You just have to make an appointment online here, bring the necessary documents and turn up. The COC will be issued to you on the spot.
Once you have everything on the list of requirements, make an appointment with the Spanish embassy in Singapore here. Make sure to indicate that you are applying for a long-term visa. Turn up at the stipulated time, where they will check through the documents and take your visa photo. Make your payment (SGD 90.60 in cash, exact change only) and hand over your passport. You’ll be able to get your visa in about 7 – 15 days. Make sure to make photocopies of EVERYTHING, and at least 1-2 copies of each form for reference, including your passport and visa page.
HOMOLOGACION (i.e. VALIDATION) OF SCHOOL DOCUMENTS – PART 1
Not all schools will require this, so do check with your school if this is required. In the case of my school, they needed the homologacion of my studies in Singapore. Depending on what your school requires (it could be your secondary school, A level certificate/Polytechnic diploma or University degree), foreign students are required to validate their studies in order to study in Madrid.
To do this, there are a few appointments to make:
1. Ministry of Foreign Affairs Singapore: Take the certificate that your require to MFA. No appointment is required, just bring your IC or Driver’s license and walk-in. MFA will stamp the certificate to legalize that your studies are valid in Singapore. A fee of S$10/- is chargeable for each legalisation of document, payable by Nets, Cashcard or Flashpay.
2. Spanish Embassy in Singapore: Once your certificate has the stamp from MFA, you can take the same certificate to the Spanish Embassy in Singapore. No appointment is required, you can walk-in during opening hours. They will check for the MFA stamp, and provide another stamp to certify that the document is valid to be presented in Spain. A fee of S$12.20 (in cash only) is chargeable for each document with the MFA stamp.
3. Official Translations: The Spanish systems will only recognise documents in their language i.e. Spanish. Thus the stamped certificate will have to be translated into Spanish by a sworn interpreter/translator recognized by the Spanish legal system. The list of sworn interpreters and translators can be found here. It costs about S$60 per page for the translation.
Once you have your original certificate/transcripts and official translations. Make photocopies of every certificate and translation. The next step will have to be done when you arrive in Spain.
When you arrive in Spain:
For foreign students who are staying more than 6 months, the long-term visa is simply a document for you to enter Spain and apply for your residency card. Yup, the visa is not enough.
For the following appointments, if like me you are completely lost with the local language(I’m learning alright), it will be best to get in touch with a friend or ask your school if they can get someone to accompany you to these appointments. Mainly because most local civil servants do not speak english, and they will not entertain you if you aren’t able to communicate what you’re there for.
EMPADRONAMIENTO / RESIDENCY CARD APPLICATION
Step 1: Empadronimento (aka Padron)
The Padron is basically a document to state that you are a resident living in a specific municipal of Madrid and hence, grants access to community services. You will need the Padron to apply for the residency card. The list of documents required and steps to apply for the Padron can be found here. An appointment will be required, thus its best to make one early. Before you make the appointment, check with your landlord/hostel which office you should be applying for your Padron at, as they have multiple offices for each municipal. Another tip – get your rental contract in SPANISH. They will not accept documents in english.
Bring the necessary documents and turn up for the appointment. They will check, stamp and issue you the Padron on the spot.
Step 2: Applying for your residency card i.e. TIE
If you’re a citizen of a country that is NOT a member of the EU or equivalent like me, the type of residency you’re looking to apply for is the TIE. An important note – you will need to present yourself at the office within 30 days of your arrival in Spain. The list of relevant documents and steps for application can be found here. Likewise, an online appointment is required. Before going for the appointment, you will need to fill and pay a tax form for the application. The tax form can be downloaded here. Oh for this form, fill in the NIE number on your visa instead of your passport number as they don’t recognise foreign passport numbers. Once you have filled and printed it, you can bring it to any bank in your area and make the payment. Turn up at the station with the relevant documents, photocopies and forms. They will take your fingerprints and issue you a piece of paper (to say they are processing your residency card).
Another note, the address listed on the appointment email is simply the address of the street (which is a very long street. The exact building for this is the Brigada Provincial de Extranjería y Fronteras, and the closest train station is Aluche. I had a whirl of time trying to find the exact location of this place. The application will take approximately 30 days to process, after which you can bring that piece of paper and your passport to collect your residency card.
HOMOLOGACION (i.e. VALIDATION) OF SCHOOL DOCUMENTS – PART 2
Part 2 of this process requires you to head to another legalization body in Spain, the Ministerio de Educacion, Cultura y Deporte in Madrid.
The list of documents include:
– Application form (Solicitud)
– Volante form
– Original and photocopy of your passport
– Photocopy of your visa page with the entry stamp
– Original and photocopy of your legalized degree and transcipts
– Original and photocopy of your official translations
– Proof of taxes aid (Modela 790), see below
As mentioned above, you will need to pay 1 more tax form. Depending on what certificate the school requires you to validate. Download and fill in the tax form here. Ask your school which box you should be ticking and prepare the respective payment for it. Similar to the above tax form, you can make the payment at any bank.
Once you have made payment, gather all the documents and their respective photocopies and head to the Ministerio (no appointment is required, just take a ticket number when your arrive). Present your documents, and they will give you a Volante with a stamp/sticker from the Ministerio in return which you can then send to your school for matriculation.
Once you have all the above, you’re pretty much set! Just make sure to arrive 1-2 weeks earlier to get these done. In my case, i arrived 2 weeks earlier and it was just about sufficient to get my appointments settled in a week. Start your days early as most places you’ll need to visit are open from early morning until about 2.30pm (most banks operate on these hours). Brush up on your Spanish, otherwise – Google Translate is your best friend.
Phone line: Until you get your residency card, you’ll likely have to settle for a tourist SIM. These can be found at any telco. I’m currently using Vodafone and it works fine. Get your SIM as soon as possible once you arrive in Spain, you’ll need it a lot for google maps and translation purposes. Roaming doesn’t work as well in Spain and you get zero reception in tunnels.
Bank account: I experienced more difficulty with opening an account this time as compared to the last time i was here. My last account was with a bank called Banco Popular, which they closed due to inactivity. When i tried to reapply with the same bank, they needed a lot more documents such as a letter of recommendation from my Singapore bank, the income tax of my parents and a translation of it. After consulting my school advisor, she told me to try opening an account with the partner bank of the school – Banco Santander. I waited in line for 45-50 minutes for them to tell me that they are not able to open accounts for Asian students (??). They mentioned it was something to do with a telecommunication issue and to check with my embassy. I didn’t see a point in insisting further, so i just decided to try another bank. In the end, i managed to open a student account with Banco Sabadell. They just needed my passport, IC and school admission letter. After consulting my school advisor, she told me to try opening an account with the partner bank of the school – Banco Santander. I waited in line for 45-50 minutes for them to tell me that they are not able to open accounts for Asian students (??). They mentioned it was something to do with a telecommunication issue and to check with my embassy. I didn’t see a point in insisting further, so i just decided to try another bank.
In the end, i managed to open a student account with Banco Sabadell. They just needed my passport, IC and school admission letter. I got my account on the day itself and signed the contract the following day.
Photocopies: For any official document you receive, make a PHOTOCOPY. Take a picture, keep it in a drive/your computer and make a physical copy. For any appointment, always bring the original and photocopy for everything. I was basically carrying a bag of documents everywhere i went for the past week in case i needed to fish out anything extra,
I’m lucky to have found help of some friends in Madrid to help me with the applications. Without their help, i definitely would have been very very lost. If you’re unsure of anything, email your school/meet with your school advisors. From filling up forms to various procedures, they’d be able to provide the help you need. Check your deadlines and make a timeline of appointments, it saves you the worry and frustration of having to rush at the last minute.
That’s about what i have for this post! If you’re a fellow Singaporean coming to Madrid and have any questions on the above procedures, drop me a line at my email! If you’re visiting, i’m most happy to meet and introduce a couple of my favourite Madrid hunts to you too. Till the next!