Guerrero, Mexico

The girls taking the public transportation to the swimming pool with their cousins. (February 2015)

Tlaxcala, Mexico

Erika picking out pan dulce at our favorite panaderia. (January 2015)

Bend, Oregon, United States

Our family photo taken in Drake Park with all three of my daughters (October 2014)

San Francisco, California, United States

Enjoying the beautiful view from the top of Twin Peaks (July 2015)

Palenque, Chiapas, Mexico

Exploring the ruins of Palenque during our Great Mexican Road Trip. (May 2014)

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

His One Year Anniversary

July 25, 2014 - A huge day in the history of our family. Jose crossed the border from Mexico into the United States of America with a visa in his passport. Only an immigrant to our "great" nation can truly understand that feeling. I've been there beside him for almost the last decade and I can't even grasp what this truly means for him. There will be no more long walks across the scorching desert to try and cross an invisible line between poverty and providing for your family. La migra doesn't invoke fear in our hearts, at least not as much. One year of permanent residency has come and gone in almost the blink of an eye.
Jose has been able to take two trips home to visit his family and his two sons in that time. After not seeing your family for 12 years, you cherish the ability to step onto that plane and go see them just because you can.

Our next step is applying for United States citizenship on his three year anniversary July 25, 2017. We can actually submit his application 90 days prior to that. The process will take approximately 6-12 months and in the meantime he needs to drastically improve his level of English and learn/memorize the 100 Civic questions for the citizenship exam. Most Americans can't even pass this test! Then we can apply for his oldest son Michel to come to the United States and once he crosses the border, he becomes a US citizen as long as he is still under the age of 18. We will apply to permanent residency for my mother in law which will take another year and apply for both of his sisters as well. Even though Isabel and Maria might get approved in a year or two, they have to get in the proverbial line. That line is currently backed up to petitions approved in March of 1997. It's only about 18 and a half years long. Heck, by that time, we might be able to get them tourist visas since they will be old and crusty and not pose a danger to overstay their visas according to USCIS.

So slowly but surely we are getting there. I am most depressed about the fact that US Immigration is going to play a role in my family's happiness for several more decades. What a depressing thought!

Friday, July 24, 2015

The Spanish Consulate in San Francisco

Finally, I feel like the biggest hurdle is behind us now. At 8:30am on Monday morning, our family walked up to the doors of the Consulate of Spain in San Francisco to present our student visa applications. I was scheduled to be seen at 9 am, Jose at 10 am, Erika at 10:30 am, and Mia at 11:30 am. There were lots of people starting to fill up the lobby. There was a sheet on a desk that told me how I needed to assemble the student visa packet. I had already assembled our four packets in nice, neat order like the instruction sheet on their website so I had to rearrange everything while sitting there. It would have been helpful if they had just published that sheet to the website in the first place.

A lady came down and called my name so all four of us stood up to go into my appointment. She said that there was no need for any of them to come up and that they should go take a walk or get something to eat. Even though our appointments were all spread out, she sat down with me and we went through every single one of our applications and processed them right there. She asked me lots of questions here and there but I had everything that was requested. The only thing I didn't have correct according to their sheet was that the girls birth certificates and my marriage license had not been issued within the last 90 days, they had only been apostilled within the last 3 months but she didn't say anything, just stamped them all. She gave me back our originals from the state background checks, medical certificates, marriage license, and birth certificates. She inputted something into the computer and gave us four receipts for our visa applications so we can track the status online.

  1. National Visa application and copy with two passport photos
  2. Valid passport and copy of the biographic page
  3. Identification from your state and copy (we used our driver's license to show Oregon residency)
  4. Original acceptance letter from your university and copy (or Carta de nombramiento for Auxiliares)
  5. Original letter from your health insurance (must have zero deductible, minimum $30K coverage, and include repatriation. 
  6. Evidence of funds
  7. Original Medical Certificate and copy dated within 180 days
  8. Original Background Check and copy dated within 180 days
  9. Copy of Airline Itinerary
  10. Correct change or money order for the visa fees ($160 for US, $65 for Jose as non-US)
On the visa application, it was fairly self explanatory to fill out. For our address in Spain, I filled in the address for the University of Salamanca since we don't have a rental lined up yet. I signed us up for a medical insurance policy under Atlas Travel. A ten month policy for the four of us cost me $1509 which was cheaper than the World Nomads policy I had been planning on purchasing. In order to bring Jose and the girls with me, I needed to prove sufficient funds to cover us so that we wouldn't have any reason to work and therefore take away potential employment from a Spaniard. The visa application says $800/mo and doesn't mention a spouse or dependent children. I had to do research on the Spanish Immigration pages to find the true requirements: Estancia por estudios. I had to show 532,51 for myself, 399,38 for Jose, and 266,26 for each child. That added up to a total of 1464,41€. That roughly equals $1607.04 at today's exchange rate. That gives me a very tiny margin of wiggle room providing that the exchange rate doesn't go any higher against the US dollar. I printed out a copy from the VA website showing how much I receive in monthly disability compensation and a printout of the last year of deposits to show it was consistent. We also have our tax refund in the bank so that is going to be our vacation fund. The medical certificate was easy enough. The template was on the website and our family doctor just copied it onto letterhead, gave us a brief medical exam and signed off on it, all without any type of vaccinations, just a reminder to look into any possible issues that might warrant them. The background checks were super easy for me, I even fingerprinted myself and did Jose's as well. I bought our airline tickets months ago so I printed out a copy of the receipt and the itinerary and that was all it took. Now we sit back and wait the approximate one month until we receive the passports with visas in the mail. 


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