Transcontinental Visa Drama

Update 10 August below.

I may be a bit bold here in posting this before we have completed the process, but perhaps that is all part of the tension. Every story must have tension. We started our visa planning and document collection in March. We were ready to submit when we learned that the Consulate General of Spain in San Francisco was suffering from staffing challenges that put their visa processing, especially for retirement visas, on hold until late this year or early next. Upon advice of legal counsel, we changed our legal residence to David’s childhood home. This meant rebuilding the documents for the visa submission to Houston. We will detail the documents for the visa in a separate section as many readers will not need the detail.

Spanish Consulate in San Francisco

yellow plastic folder disgorging two stacks of papers, one labeled copies
It is critical to provide copies of everything when assembling the package.

We started this journey back in 2021 when we decided to pursue the visado non lucrativo or the non-lucrative visa (NLV). The other option was the so-called Golden Visa. This is a visa that is part of the investor visa scheme. With the Golden Visa, the applicant will demonstrate direct ownership of one or more properties totaling at least €500,000. We decided that rearranging our financial life to match this requirement was not necessary or desireable. With the NLV we needed to demonstrate fiscal solvency as detailed in the listed requirements. In addition, one has to have a myriad of documents including health certification, criminal background check, health insurance in Spain, proof of accommodation, and a few more. See Page 2 for more detail.

To make things even more interesting, each consulate interprets the requirements and adjusts them to local customs and concerns. This means that it was very important to research what was not listed that might be required at the particular consulate. We did a lot of reading of posts by people. The sum of all of it was first and foremost to be organized. Don’t use staples. Make copies of everything. Learn what an apostille is (oversimplified: an international notary) and obtain a few. And make sure all documents are less than 90 days old when they arrive at the consulate.

two yellow plastic folders holding papers held with a large binder clip
Keeping the application well ordered is critical to success.

We initially started collecting documents with those that needed an apostille as this process is reputed to take some time and we have to stay inside the 90 day window. We quickly learned that hitting these dates can be tricky. The first marriage certificate we ordered was provided so quickly that we had to re-order it to make sure it was inside the 90 day window. Even so, it took a month for the California Secretary of State to provide the apostille.

By mid-May we were ready, but we were already hearing that the San Francisco consulate was slow responding, so we emailed the PDFs a bit early and headed off to València to see about our apartment remodel. When we returned, we had heard nothing from the consulate, and the information online was trending negative for San Francisco.

The Great Pivot to Texas

We consulted with new friends who were also applying from the Pacific Northwest, then consulted with their attorney, and consulted with our attorney in València. The advice was clear. San Francisco was ceasing all visa processing due to staffing shortages. It was unlikely we would obtain our visa before the end of the year. If we could relocate to Texas and file with Houston, that was the best path.

Wow! This was not in the plan. We had planned to spend several weeks with my elderly parents ahead of moving to Spain, but full relocation was a bit more involved. We returned from València on 23 May and immediately began packing everything, closing up Laurie and Dave’s cabin, shipping four suitcases to Austin, selling the car, renting a car, loading up the dogs and starting a big roadtrip from Seattle to Denver to Austin.

Building for Houston

Stacks of papers held with large binder clips
Each document set is bound together by a paper clip or a small binder clip. Then the whole is bound with a large binder clip.

Ahead of our arrival, we looked for appointments with the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles. In preparation for that visit we changed our address with financial firms and insurance so we could provide needed documentation to the TxDMV. The driver’s license was needed to prove residence for the Spanish Consulate in Houston. When we tried to schedule the required appointment, the TxDMV offices around Austin were all booked into September, so we made an appointment with the office in Victoria and planned to visit friends and relations who live there.

At the same time, we had to begin rebuilding all the documents for Houston. Documents for San Francisco would be expired and there were different documents required by Houston. FBI background checks were requested with new fingerprints. A new (third) marriage license was ordered. These three documents were all sent to be apostilled. Updated financial documents were printed. New medical certification was obtained from my childhood physician. All this carefully collated and copied.

A US Postal Service Priority Mail Express envelope addressed to the General Consulate of Spain
Houston requires all documents for the NLV be mailed. This package contains everything.

By 27 June we had received the driver’s license cards and the FBI background check was back from the US Secretary of State in Washington, DC. The only document missing was the marriage certificate from the California Secretary of State and our lawyer in València had already recommended that we file individually as it was easier to manage, particularly if there was an unexpected death.

The only document left was the translation of the apostilled FBI background check. For this, we contacted Raphaela Wiss Translations (WhatsApp: +34 656 53 71 34 Email: She immediately completed the translations and we were able to mail the package to Houston on 29 June.

There is every reason to believe we will need to provide additional documentation and perhaps drive to Houston for an interview. I will update with any news. We are waiting impatiently.


As we said, 1 July application arrived Houston via USPS.

9 August, letter emailed indicating we needed the letter of termination from employer and the sworn affidavit that we would not be employed and a letter authorizing and holding them harmless for mailing our passports using the envelopes provided.

We received the email the morning of 10 August and immediately gathered or created the docs and they should arrive 12 August.

Approximately five weeks of waiting for a response. No idea how much longer for next act.

For those interested in the details of the NLV documents, please continue to Page 2.

7 Replies to “Transcontinental Visa Drama”

  1. David Burrows

    Wow – major logistical headache, but if anyone is organised enough to do it, it would be you!

  2. Katie S

    We are in a similar situation. Family of 4 trying to move to Sevilla for the year on an NLV (from Seattle). Submitted our documents around the beginning of June and learned about the current situation with the SF consulate. We are considering a similar option of changing residency to Miami. We have also heard that one of us could potentially apply for a student visa while already in Spain (allowing us to bypass the SF consulate) but have heard some conflicting advise regarding that option. It’s just hard to believe that a whole region of the United States cant get a visa right now. Will keep an eye on your website to see what happens. Best of luck!

    • David Wright Gibson Post author

      Hi Katie, yes, it is hard to understand at first. The reality as I’ve been told is that consulates are there for the citizens who live in the country and the visa work is a secondary priority. No malice, but lower priority. Also, challenging to hire at Spanish wages with San Francisco cost of living.

      Good luck! And keep us posted.

  3. Pingback: Viviendo el Visado Loco: Making it to Spain – Historic Adventures

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