Of course, every country’s immigration process is different, though many of the documents needed are standard for Americans no matter where you are moving or which type of visa you are applying. How you submit them or where may differ, but you will soon discover you need to go through some version of these steps if you intend to stay longer than your tourist visa will allow, typically 90 days.
Typical required visa documents:
1. Visa application form. See the website for the consulate of the country you are moving to, for example, Spain’s consulate in the U.S. if you intend to move to Spain. It should provide a specific list of the documents you will need and the process for submission.
2. Passport-type photos. Check the required size specifications; many differ from the standard U.S. passport photo size.
3. Passport. Ensure your passport is valid for a minimum of 4 months after your intended date of return to the U.S. This may differ depending upon the type of visa you are applying for.
4. Health documents verifying that you are in good physical and mental health, free of contagious or infectious diseases and drug addiction. These items must be specified, and this letter must be signed by a medical doctor. In many cases, this document can not be older than three months and must be translated into the language of the country you are applying. Consider your doctor may need a couple of weeks to dictate and process this letter.
5. Police criminal record clearance verified by fingerprints. In many cases, this document can not be older than three months and must be translated. The FBI website provides specific instructions and notes that the process can take up to 8-10 weeks. You can request expedited processing but there is no guarantee. See their website for details.
6. Proof of sufficient funds to live in the country without working for the period of time you and/or your family intend to stay there. Ask as many specific questions as you can to define what sufficient means and how to show it. Ask if you need to translate the documents and consider at least translating a cover letter that outlines your financial status. These requirements do differ if you are applying for a work or student visa.
7. Marriage certificate authenticated with the Apostille of The Hague, if you are applying with a spouse. Birth certificates authenticated with the Apostille of The Hague, if you are applying with children.
The Apostille of The Hague
in and of itself is not complicated, though the process of receiving one can be. In 1961, many countries agreed to accept each others public documents if they had an apostille, an embossed stamp certifying the authenticity of the document. In the U.S., it is given by the Secretary of State’s office in each state.
8. Proof of travel/health/accident insurance. In many cases, proof from your insurance company that they will cover 100% of medical expenses with emergency and repatriation services and a minimum coverage is needed. U.S. policies with deductibles and co-payments are typically not accepted, and you will need specific travel insurance to cover your time in their country.
See International Medical Group for information or call 1-800-628-4664. You can receive an instant online quote, and they will easily provide the documentation you need for your visa application. The cost for our family of four for one year’s emergency coverage was $2,410. For additional reading, visit Transitions Abroad.
Important visa considerations:
Knowing these requirements
and the time and money involved before you determine your destination and decide when to leave can be very helpful. If your intention is to retire abroad or stay for several years, this process may well be worth your time and money. If you are planning a six month or year move abroad, you may want to consider the immigration requirements for several different regions of the world before making your decision.
My running list of the costs incurred for my family for our visas, including insurance, to Spain:
- airfare for four people to California: $892
- hotel in Los Angeles for 2 nights: $358
- car rental in Los Angeles: $48
- visa application fees for four people: $400
- renewed passports for two: $296
- passport photos for four: $24
- health documents translated into Spanish: $311.72
- FBI fingerprinting fees and application charges: $48
- certified copies and fees for marriage certificate: $50.50
- certified copies of Colorado birth certificate: $37
- certified copies of California birth certificate: $71.40
- Apostille fees: $83.50
- Photocopies: $12
- FedEx to return passports with visas to us: $22
- travel health insurance for four for a year: $2,410
- translation costs for financials and FBI records: $600
Grand Total: $5,664.12
If you’ve made it to the end of this amazingly long post, you are cut out for the actual process of applying for a visa. Good luck.
Disclaimer: The information is this article relating to the legal requirements for immigration is provided for general information only. I am not an attorney and this information is based on my own personal experience. The information provided is general in nature, is not all encompassing and is current as of January 2010.