I recently made my twentieth trip to the Spanish Consulate on Wilshire Blvd. in Los Angeles. I’ve been learning all about how to get everything accepted there for a visa. Sometimes there is more than one correct way to do things, but the paper given to you doesn’t always spell those things out. So from 2003-2009 I’ve picked up the updated requirements for the various kinds of visas that I would consider applying for. This last week I received a long awaited letter from the Ministry of Justice in madrid, verifying that I am a Clergyman of the FIEIDE, the Federation of Evangelical Churches of Spain. The letter verified that a congregation in Spain has requested I be granted a residency visa so that I can serve their congregation. So I took this Very Important Document (VID) with some other documents, like my letter documenting my Spanish Social Security Number and my letter of “Empadramiento” showing I’m a recognized, tax-paying, foreign citizen of a specific town in Spain. Well, luckily, one of the main office managers remembered me, but she wasn’t the one who helped me, but she came to the window when I waved to her, and I thanked her in Spanish for helping me with my visa two years ago, and I told her I had a very interesting time teaching junior college students and businessmen in Pamplona, Spain. She was appreciative that I thanked her and we a had a little chit-chat, she asked my name again, and then she remembered that she had also helped my mom get her papers.
When her collegues came to help me, they broke the news to me that my triple notarized (notary public, notarization authentification from the County Clerk, and the “Aposstile of the Hague” from the State Department) no-arrest record from the Sheriff’s Department was no longer accepted as of September 1st. No! That was like getting tagged out at home base! So they told me, (I already had guessed it) that now I had to turn in an FBIard with the triple notarization.
Another bit of bad news was that it didn’t matter that I had a Social Security Card for Spain or that I was a registered resident of a town, since it was a new form of visa, I had to do the whole process from scratch.
The third obstacle to turning in my visa paperwork right then was that all documents had to be translated by a state-recognized translator. Before, in 2007, I had the documents translated at the Spanish Embassy Education office down the street on Wilshire Blvd. They also broke the news to me that this service was no longer available. So I had to go home and price translation services. Well some wanted $45 and $55 a page, and the pages are very brief: FBI: No Arrest Record: J D Bennett. translated: $55 please. ouch!
So finally they asked more than once, in different ways, if I was in fact a minister, I guess my youthful appearance and my current hair-style isn’t exactly what they think of as a priest, but then again they could see on the paper that I’m a clergyman of the Evangelical Church. So I verified, yes I am a minister. I tried to be very polite, and I think it worked, that will come in handy next visit.
So now, in order to turn in my paperwork to get my visa, to get back to my job in Spain, I have to send in my FBI Fingerprints card to Washington, DC., instead of just getting an Aposstile here in L.A. at the Secretary of State’s Office. I called in to the office, after having done the first two notarizations, and they told me that they could not do an Aposstile for FBI prints, they had to be done by the Stae Department. That wasn’t what I asked. I asked about the form of payment required for getting an Aposstile Notarization on my FBI prints. I guess they were saving me a trip. So the prints, which I had taken when I flew from Madrid to Washington, DC, in 2005, which I didn’t end up getting to use toward my visa then, will now return to DC from whence they came, to get an Aposstile, so that I can hope the lady that I know at the Embassy will accept, since at least I will have all three correct notarizations attached, stamped, and sealed.
Then I’ll need a doctor’s letter of Health. I have one from 2005, which they accepted in 2007, since I had it triple notarized as required. I think they just saw the 3 notarizations and didn’t mind the date, so I might just try re-submitting them, since my doctor of 13 years could see me with a weeks notice before he began his 3 week vacation, in other words: “Doctor Raines can’t see you in September”. This was the second call I put in to the doctor after returning from the Embassy. I had about another 15 calls as they were referring me to another doctor who could see me, maybe, but his appointment service was down since someone hit a powerline by their Yucaipa office (Im not making this up). Over the next to days I had secretary’s calling me from both the Redlands branch, where the substitute doctor had an urgent care office, and from his primaryoffice/ appointment center in Yucaipa, and I would have to re-explain myself as being referred from Dr. Raines, since he was on Vacation, so I had Dr. Raines secretaries calling this other doctors people to verify this referral, then relaying the message to the Appointment office, which didn’t get the message since their online appointment data base was down. So then, when they did get the message, they were calling me too, so I had to use call waiting a lot on my cellphone. In the ended, after the 15 calls, it was determined by the Substitute doctor himself that a letter saying “JD Bennett is in health” would have to come from my primary care physician, who is snorkeling in the Bahamas through the end of September. So I’m presently recruiting quack doctors who could write down that “JD Bennett is currently alive.” on doctor’s stationary. I can pay, too.
Then, once I get my FBI prints back from the State Department and I also get my quack letter of health signed by a medical physician, I will have to have these documents officially translated by a State recognized translation service. I was ready to submit my previous No Arrest Document and Letter of Health to a translation service, before I got tipped off that they were no longer valid, at least not the No Arrest Record.
Then, I will call in to the Spanish Consulate to make my appointment to turn in the papers, and the lady will list off the documents that I must have in order to turn them in. I will verify that I do have these documents and will receive an appointment, then I’ll turn them in and wait several weeks for the visa to be granted from Madrid.
Upon receiving my visa, I will then be able to make an airline reservation, since I can’t make an airline resrvation before I have my visa, since I don’t know the day or hour when it will arrive.
I’m proud of myself, that I’ve done this successfully before, and from now on, I’ll go to great lengths to renew this visa from that side of the Atlantic.