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The Decision to move to Spain

We talked about retiring about three years before we actually did it. I had always envisioned I would retire outside of the USA.   The cost to retire in the USA was significant and everything I read about being able to retire comfortably in the USA meant you had to have at least a million dollars or more to be able to live and retire in USA.   I had subscribed and started reading news letters from International Living years ago in my early 50’s about the affordability to retire outside of USA.  

In September 2015 Mark and I traveled to Spain and Italy with our good friends Sue and Dave for two weeks.  Taking two weeks off from work when you are living and working in North America is considered a big vacation.  I saved up my entire years vacation to take this trip. We spent one week in Italy on the Island of Sardenia. It was late September and their tourist season was winding down.  Many stores and restaurants were closed. We had amazing weather the first day we were there and then the weather went steadily downhill after that. We experienced a medicane (the equivalent of a hurricane by our standards).

After the first week we took a ferry from the Island over to Barcelona. We loved Barcelona and stayed in an area called La Rambla. From Barcelona we traveled by high speed train to Valencia to make our way to our destination of Denia for our second week.  Again, Denia was winding down from their summer tourist season. We spent a day on the beach and several days exploring this lovely town. The weather turned at the end of the week and we left Denia in torrential rain. At the time we traveled to Europe we had not really thought or seriously entertained retiring there.  

In April 2017 we traveled with our same travel companions to Panama.  At this time we were talking more and more about retiring in the next few years.  I was hesitant, Mark was ready. Making the decision to retire is a huge one. I had put together extensive spread sheets on the cost to retire in various countries, including Mexico, Panama, Ecuador, Portugal and Spain.  At this point in time we were thinking we would retire from United States to either Mexico, Central or South America. This seemed to be the norm for most folks retiring from North America. We were only in Panama for 10 days but managed to travel most of the country to Santiago, Santa Fe, David, Boquette and Bocas Del Toro (Bastimentos), and also time spent in Panama City.  We traveled the entire time by bus on public transportation. The highway system was impressive.

We stayed in a lovely bed and breakfast in Santa Fe and found out this business was for sale. We loved the location and the property which was set amongst amazing mountain views in a very picturesque valley. We actually put an offer on the property to buy it thinking we would continue the bed and breakfast business until such time we would close the business and permanently retire on the property.  Our offer was declined. After this fizzled out we decided to pin down a date when we would officially retire. We decided to pick the date which was after my birthday two years from 2017, which was going to be May 2019. At this point in time we had not officially decided on our retirement location. 

 Mark and I have both traveled to Mexico extensively and we did consider Mexico as a potential retirement spot.  The US dollar against the Peso was inviting. We were also looking at Ecuador. I started joining Facebook groups in Ecuador and watching the sites and seeing what was going on with people’s lives in various locations around Ecuador.  Mark had talked about a small community in a town called Vilcabamba. We both had visions of living in a home in the countryside and growing our own food. Through research the cost of living in Ecuador looked very affordable. I read several books of people’s experiences living in Ecuador and also followed several blogs of people living in Ecuador.  The more I read about Ecuador and the more I saw of people’s experiences living there, we decided that Ecuador was not the place for us. There appeared to be consistent instability as far as poor infrastructure (water, electricity), theft and robberies, not to mention earthquakes.   

At this point I started to look at Portugal.  My cousin from Canada had been talking to me about Portugal through our email communications.  She spoke highly of Portugal as she and her husband had traveled to Portugal on numerous occasions for vacation. 

Then Mark had said if we were going to look at Portugal why not Spain? I had not really seriously thought about Spain.  I started to do some research on the requirements to obtain the residency visa (non lucrative Visa) for Spain. Comparing the requirements for Spain versus Portugal, Portugal’s requirements are a bit easier than Spain’s, but not by a lot.  The VISA requirements are all laid out on the Spain Consulate website. The whole process seemed daunting, but I figured what have we got to lose? We can put it all together one step at a time and see if we qualify.

I also started reading a lot of articles/blogs online of people’s experiences in dealing with obtaining the non-lucrative VISA for Spain, along with following several Facebook Groups in Spain.  We both knew we wanted to live someplace by the ocean in a warm season climate. Mark researched locations and decided on Almunecar. The cost of living in Almunecar seemed affordable for our first town to live in and explore. We put all the information together, booked our appointment to go to the Los Angeles Spanish Consulate and traveled from Arizona to California for our appointment.

At this point our house was sold with a closing date of early June.  For the last five months we had been selling off all of our personal items on Facebook Marketplace and Offer Up. There was a lot going on in our lives, we were both working full time, selling off items, the house had a solid sale with closing dates set, not to mention we had a family wedding to attend and help arrange. My daughter and her boyfriend had decided to get married.

The appointment at the consulate went well and we told them we wanted to move to Spain in early June.  About 2 weeks after our appointment we got the email to come pick up our Visas. At this point we booked our airbnb and our one way flights to Spain. We were moving to Spain! 

I sit here on my balcony and look out to the Mediterranean sea and still cannot believe we have made the leap to move here. We both are so happy that we decided to retire in Spain.  The weather is amazing and living with ocean views every day cannot be beat.

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Getting the FBI Background

After setting the appointment for the fingerprinting from I went to the appointment on time. The location I chose was a camera store. They had the fieldprint fingerprinting machine there and after logging into the system they confirmed my appointment in the online portal. It tool less than 5 minutes to scan a full set of my prints. A few hours later I had an email letting me know my FBI report was ready for download.

The email confirmation contained a link for me to follow to get to my report. I logged into the system and was prompted to request a verification code. A few seconds after making the request I got an email with the code. From there it was a quick copy – paste and the online portal gave me the official FBI background report in a PDF format. I downloaded it to my computer. It was such good news to read the FBI did not have any criminal record on me.

Apostilling The FBI Background

Spain requires the FBI report to be apostilled by the U.S. State Department which is located in Washington D.C. To accomplish this from my location in Phoenix AZ I found provided the service. The website provides an online application, online payment, and a document upload where I was able to provide the pdf for my FBI report. Monument Visa will print the report and hand carry the FBI report to the State Department to make the apostille request. The State Department takes two days to complete the appostilling. After two days, Monument Visa retrieves the apostilled document and mails it to me. They have a few return options including a free, 3 day USPS with tracking, and for extra fee they can provide next day shipping.

I’ve completed the form, uploaded my FBI report, and made payment. A few hours later I had an email confirmation of the payment. Early the next morning I had an email from Monument Visa letting me know they had everything they needed for the appositilling and that they would be delivering the document to the State Department the next morning. And three days later, they sent me confirmation they had my apostilled documents and had mailed them. the email included the USPS tracking number.

Next blog I’ll let you know how it goes.

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Getting your extended stay Visa

There are a few steps to cover before you can get the extended stay Visa. Most of the consulates will require that you meet specific criteria which can be:

  1. FBI background check
  2. Financial stability
  3. Medical release
  4. Insurance
  5. Application
  6. Translations
  7. Appointment at the consulate

The first thing to do is set the appointment with the consulate. Most of them provide an online calendar. I couldn’t find anything less than 60 days out so you’ll have time to get all of the paperwork and legwork done. However, the FBI and Insurance requirements will take a long time to complete, and 60 days goes by pretty fast when you’re trying to get something done from the government. Apostilling these documents will take even longer. Once you have your appointment set, it’s time to get the FBI background report.

FBI Channeler

There are a few FBI channelers that can expedite the process. You can find a list of approved channelers on the FBI website, here. For my purpose and location I went with Fieldprint. I also liked their modern — online processing and scheduling system — better than many of the other services which were all done by traditional mail. The FBI report is sent in PDF to the email you registered. For some countries, that’s all you need is the report, but some will require apostilling. I’ll explain this process later.

The channeler company will schedule you for a fingerprinting appointment and once they scan your prints, you’ll need to complete the FBI request form. With Fieldprint, I completed the form online, than waited for them to approve the form. Within a day I received an email from them notifying me that I was approved and they provided a link to complete my appointment. I followed the link from the email and logged into the platform using the username and password I set up previously. There were a few more questions to complete for my height, weight, eye color, etc. before the appointment could be set. I chose the location closest to me that had Saturday appointments available, and set the date and time. After completing the payment ($50), I was finished. Fieldprint emailed me confirmation of the appointment, and another for the payment receipt.

I’ll cover the fingerprinting appointment in the next post.

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