The waiting game


The news started hitting Facebook on Saturday night: that the auxiliares in Andalucía had started receiving their placement letters. It was bad enough to know that I was going to have to wait through the long holiday weekend to check my mail again, but it was worse to open my mailbox after work today and see only two things: 1) a recall notice from Hyundai, and 2) a letter for my sister from the company that manages her retirement fund (she lived with me last summer and gave her work my address). No letter! Nothing from any other country at all! Patience is a virtue that apparently I have not yet mastered.


Hopefully soon I will be hearing about my school placement, and when I say soon, I mean tomorrow. So I’m going to move on and talk about the background check. To apply for this program, we needed to have a background check done by the FBI. I don’t actually think anyone at the consulate looked at it (you will see why soon), but you need one to apply for a visa to study in Spain, and you need one when you are in Spain to apply for a residency number – kind of like a Tax-ID number. If we don’t get one, we don’t get paid. So, way back in December when I applied for the program, I gathered up all the spare change in my house and went down to the main precinct of the police department here, gave them $5 exactly in cash, and got fingerprinted. I then sent that fingerprint card to the FBI in West Virginia, and I guess about 4 weeks later I got back a form letter that said I had no criminal record. Great! So I faxed this document into the consulate and then in March I was accepted into the program. This is when I started hearing about something called the “Apostille of the Hague“. This is like getting a document notarized, but it is accepted internationally. Your FBI background check needs to have one. So does the letter from your doctor that I had to get back in November. Even better, if the background check isn’t signed and stamped, you can’t get it apostilled! To get your background check signed and stamped, you have to ask specifically for them to do so by attaching a sticky note to that effect to your application.

. . . . . . .

This is why I say I bet no one at the consulate looked at my background check, because if they had, they would have seen right away that it had no signature. After a few months of waffling back and forth, and trying to figure out a way to get the document I had notarized, then apostilling the notarization, I finally gave up and just got my damn fingerprints taken again. Another trip to the precinct, another $5 in dimes (who carries cash these days anyway?), and 2 weeks ago I sent off the fingerprints again, this time with a note asking for official authentication.

I know that even if you prepare everything and have all your ducks in a row, when you are traveling, something will always go wrong. You will get to the airport and no one will be there to pick you up. You will get to your university and the International Programs coordinator will say, “Where’s your visa?” and you will answer, “I wasn’t allowed to get one because I’m only going to be here for 4 months”, and she will say, “You need a visa before the end of the month.” You will wander aimlessly through the cloud forest, hoping desperately that whatever you ate last night does not make its reappearance and force you to despoil a protected wilderness – and then you don’t even see any quetzales. I know. But. Bureaucracy is stupid and this problem could have been avoided. And I didn’t get my placement letter today, so I’m cranky.


I will end this entry on a less irritating note: people have been calling the process the “Apostle” of the Hague. I don’t know why I find this so funny, but when I get my background check back and take it to the State Department, I fully expect to see a guy dressed up like Jesus stamping documents.


3 Responses to The waiting game

  1. Pingback: Fauxrony, à la Alannis Morissette « Siebs in Spain

  2. laurensieben says:

    Hey there, thanks for subscribing to my blog, I’m enjoying yours as well! I completely relate to the FBI check/bureaucracy nonsense. I thought I was so prepared, requesting my check back in November, and now I’m scrambling to send off another request because mine wasn’t authorized to get the Apostille. Oh, and I’m very guilty of referring to it as the “Apostle” more than once. It’s that Catholic upbringing, I guess. Anyways, I’m curious to read your perspective on the Auxilares program, as someone with teaching experience on the higher ed side. Hasta luego!

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