In this article, I want to tell you more about documents in the immigration process. Obviously, whenever you present an application, be it for a visa residence permit, be at the consulate the embassy or at an office here in Spain, you always have to present application forms and documents to support your application. Usually, these documents, and the expectations of the immigration authority you present them at, are what keeps you from getting your permit, because it is not that easy to have obtain the correct documents and to have them prepared correctly.
Gathering and preparing the documents is where every application process gets tricky!
The Police Clearance Certificate
One of the most difficult documents to obtain and prepare in every application for a visa and residence permit for a non-EU citizen is the police clearance certificate. The applicant has to present a police clearance certificate for every country they have resided in during the past five years. What does this mean? Well, no worries, if you have just been traveling a lot you do not have to present the police clearance certificate for every country you have visited in the past five years. In general, this only applies once you have spent at least 6 months in a country.
There are countries where it is quite easy to get your police clearance certificate. In the UK for example, I can apply the document for you via the ACRO website. In many other countries, you first to have to go to the police station to get your fingerprints taken and it might take a few weeks or even months to get this document.
Preparation of the documents
The next step is the preparation of the document. Let us continue with the example of the police clearance certificate. First, you have to get the document legalised, because this is a public document issued by a government agency. Legalisation means preparation to be used in another country. If ACRO in the UK issued your police clearance certificate, how is Spain going to know whether it is correct, whether it is real, whether it is a true public document from the UK? They can't obviously. Spain does not have access to UK records. Legalisation is either done by putting an apostille on the document or by going through the respective ministry and consulate. In case of the UK police clearance certificate, the apostille has to be obtained. The UK is part of a treaty from 1961, the Hague Convention. The member countries created an option to legalise their documents to make it easier for documents from one member country to be recognised in another member country. To do so, they issue the so-called apostille. It is put on the document and shows that this is in fact a true document. It shows who issued it, etc in various languages.
Last step: Certified Translation
Once you have the police clearance certificate and you have it legalised for use in Spain, you have to have the document translated. Spain generally only accepts documents that have been either issued in Spanish or have been translated by an official certified translator. There is list the Spanish Government updates every few months of these certified sworn translators. Once you have the translation done, the document is ready and you can use it and present it with your application.
IMPORTANT: Limited Validity of Documents
Let's have a look at one very important aspect, police clearance certificates as well as marriage certificates, birth certificates, etc. are usually considered to only be valid for three months. You have to be very careful once you have your document issued. Once you get a police clearance certificate issued, then you have 3 months from that date to present your application, be it at the office in Spain, at the consulate in your home country or online through us.