Our Experience as a Family in the Auxiliares de Conversación Program.
Now that we have started our third year here in Spain, I am finally ready to talk about it: Our experience as a family in the Auxiliares de Conversación program.
The Auxiliares de Conversación program is a federally funded program providing Spanish public schools with native English speaking languages assistance to aid within a classroom setting. This program allows Spanish school children to experience cultural exchange opportunities with instructors from the US, the U.K., Canada, Ireland and Australia. It allows students to hear the language as spoken by natives and is an inexpensive way for Spain to provide its students with immersion education.
For US participants, you have to have a college degree and you can apply for the program up until age 65. This is not a permanent way to move to Spain but it's a great way to gain international teaching experience or get your foot in the door while planning a long term European stay.
In addition, the program pays 700€ a month (1000€ if in Madrid) and you are only contracted to work 12 hours a week. To supplement income, some Auxiliares tutor in their spare time and if you are consistent you can make a decent amount of extra money.
Now that that is out of the way, I will say this in big bold letters...
The program was never meant for you to support a family. We are a family of five and there is no way that 700€ a month would sustain us. Remember, you must provide a roof over the heads of everyone, feed everyone, maintain the same financial commitments you would responsibly have in the States (life insurance, health insurance, renters insurance). And let's not forget the cost of books, school supplies, activities, etc. Whether you decide to get a car or rely on public transportation, this is still a cost. With all of this said, if you don't have supplemental income this program is not financially feasible for your family.
Here is the break down of what we have experienced going through the program and moving to Spain.
The visa requirements get complicated when you have a family. You have to prove that you can support your little people. We had to prove we had 8000€ per child. We have 3. If your spouse is not working or does not have income, the consulates will actually require the spouse to apply for a non-lucrative visa. You and the children will receive a student visa but your spouse will receive another visa stating that they can stay but not work in Spain. The non-lucrative visa requires that person to prove they have income or savings equivalent to 26,000€ a year. My husband is here on the non-lucrative visa and the kids and I have student visas. Before you ask, my husband is retired. He has a pension.
Note: Some have been able to enroll their spouse as a dependent with their children. That only requires you to prove you have 8000€ for that individual. Also, if you partner is your depended, you must be married.
Once You Arrive
You have to apply for a residency card. The visa that is in your passport is only good for 90 days. The packet that was returned to you by your consulate, plus additional copies of your passport pages, empadromiento (see rent section), and the application (Modelo 790 052) should be submitted. The cost is 10,61€.
You will receive a notice in the mail saying that the application is approved. It will be accompanied my another Modelo 790 017. It will cost between 15-17€. Both forms can be paid for at any bank. Take 2 passport sized photos with you. Take this to the immigration office, and you will have to submit fingerprints. A few weeks after that, you can pick up your card. This must be done for the entire family.
Once we received my assignment, we looked at two places. A 6 bedroom house with a pool for 650€ a month and a 4 bedroom apartment for 425€. The house was outside of the city and was beautiful but we ended choosing the apartment because of its proximity to the school. Also, the kids have to go to school in whatever municipality you live in; meaning if we lived outside of the city, the kids would have to go to school somewhere else.
Though our rent was cheap, our utilities were not. We generally ended up spending an extra 350€ a month on water, electricity and gas.
Note: The water and gas company told us consistently that we had the highest bills they had ever seen. One winter it was so cold we keep the heat high and our bill was 700€. Be mindful of your usage. This is not America. Utilities are expensive in Spain.
The biggest money saver is groceries. In the states we were spending $1200 in groceries a month. That bill has been cut in half and we buy fresh and organic food. We also utilize farmers markets. You end up cooking more here because of the fresh ingredients and as a wonderful benefit, you end up losing weight and becoming healthier.
You have to provide proof of medication insurance with your visa application. I cannot give any advice since our former insurance carried over here. But, when I entered the program, the auxiliaries were enrolled in the Spanish health program. And because I have a family, they were enrolled also. We don't utilize it often, we use are primary mostly.
The current insurance provider for the program is private and if you have a family you can pay to have them added to the policy. These policies don't cover much and some don't cover dental.
Banks here offer health insurance. Look into the policies once you arrive. They will be cheaper than the policies you pay for in the States.
You cannot enroll your kids in school until you arrive in Spain. Once I received my carta (work contract) I contacted the school I was assigned to a let them know I had three kids coming. I was advised that once I arrived and find an apartment, to take my lease to city hall (ayundamiento) and ask for an empadromiento. This is a form saying that you are a resident in the local area.
You have to live in the city your children go to school in. You cannot live in Madrid and work in a suburb and enroll your kid in that school. You have to live where you want them to go to school. This is important because I know that some people want to live in a larger city but are assigned to small villages. You can, but the kids will go to a different school.
They can then enroll your children. My children went to school where I worked. It was an easy walk, 5 minutes there and back everyday.
Note: Homeschooling is illegal in Spain. You have to enroll your kids in school.
You will not receive your first check until November and there are often inconsistencies with the pay dates. I suggest you have your monthly budget covered before you arrive and the Auxiliares pay be considered as extra. There have been months where payments were skipped all together and then they were doubled up the next month. It's just better to have the money in advance.
Though you have decided to have this amazing adventure, remember your children are along for the ride and they may not be so excited. It was a difficult transition for them and for 4 months we almost thought we had made a mistake. They are now adjusted. They are all speaking Spanish, some more than others, are getting through their school work fine and are involved in activities.
Each city has some sort of sports center where your children can participate in activities. We paid by semester. It was around 40€ per child. My daughter and son played basketball and my other daughter was on the triathlon and dance team. They made a lot of friends and it kept them busy and immersed in the community.
Spain offers a discount card for large families. If you have 3 or more children, take your identification cards along with your empadromiento to city hall. They will ask you to complete an application. You can then return in a week to pick up your cards. This card is a life saver. You can enter any museum in Spain, free. You get 25% off of all travel. Bus, train, and Spanish airline. This card can even give you a discount on clothes. Simply ask the store if they accept it.
This year we have changed regions and my kids do not go to school with me. It is a blessing that this happened now and not our first year. The school simply didn't have enough space for 3. I enrolled them into a school that would take them all. My husband walks them to the bus and he picks them up. This is why it is very important to notify your school once you know your assignment. They may not have space and you will need to make additional arrangements.
Also, different regions have different processes and rules. Please read up on the process of your region before you arrive.
Once we got through the initial shock, this is hands down the best thing we have ever done for our family. My kids have learned Spanish and are now taking French. We have traveled all over Spain and to London. They have met people from all over the world. Their interest are diverse and they are no longer picky eaters. Yes, I had picky eaters before Spain. Now they try and eat everything.
This has also made my husband and I closer. He worked so much in the states. We actually get to spend time together.
I hope this helps. I have been asked a lot of questions about this program. This is my straight to the point answer. You can email me with any person questions. I will be happy to answer them. Info@bareborders.com
Candice is an introverted extrovert who loves to read, wander aimlessly and is addicted to olives. She is a photographer and loves to share travel experiences. She is married to the best husband ever hands down and they have 3 wonderful creations.