Well, in the end it is not really the bad Spanish economy and employment situation that has made us make the decision to leave Spain but the terrible educational system. And yes, I feel I can judge that it is indeed a terrible educational system. I, myself, was a teacher for 13 years before changing career directions, my parents were university professors -- my mother specialized in teacher education, and I have participated in the local version of a parents' organization that is crippled by not including teachers (and not because the parents don't want the teachers involved).
My oldest son had already been sent to the States to study because he was not able to effectively get through his Sophomore year at high school even though he is intelligent enough just a lazy student. We accepted that as to a great extent, my son was to blame although I had difficulties accepting the lack of support provided by the schools and lack of interest demonstrated by the teachers. Then we had a fiasco with my second son at the school. My second son tries hard, works hard and is able to complete his studies more than adequately. The result of the school administration's complete and utter incompetence was that we pulled my second son from school at the beginning of the school year (which started about a month after school had started in the States), and sent him to the States to start his Sophomore year there.
The whole situation with the school left me heartsick and feeling that the time had indeed come to make a move -- the map had been laid out for us and we needed to start on a new road.
Anyway, in order to get my son to the States in time for his first semester subjects to count, we needed to act quickly and within two weeks he had started school there. I owe a thanks to Plano ISD and to American Airlines who allowed me to change his ticket last minute (paying through the nose) and also allowing me to accompany my son all the way to the gate because that is what you want to do if you are a mother leaving your son at the airport for him to fly half-way around the world.
As soon as he left, I started the process to have my husband allowed to immigrate to the U.S. and it is complicated and long. People I know had done this a year before had a completely different process to go through (which took about half the time). Just figuring out the forms you need and where to send them is difficult. Also, it isn't enough to be married to someone for over 20 years and have three kids with them. I need to sponsor my husband and because I am not a resident in the U.S. yet, I had to find another sponsor for him as well. The other sponsor could not be my brother-in-law because, besides the fact that he is already doing us a huge favor by taking in both of my sons, he now has 6 children and a wife under his care and economically it is possible that he couldn't sponsor my husband as he may not reach the poverty threshold for all of those people.
Like I said the forms and instructions are complicated and difficult to understand. From what it said the second sponsor needed a letter from his employer so I did not believe my retired 75-year-old father could be a sponsor, I asked my cousin who graciously said yes (another person I will never be able to repay). Later I found out that my father, who has a fixed income, could have been the second sponsor all along.
I sent the first forms and documentation out in mid-October together with a check, and received an email from the government that they had received them about a week after they were sent. The email at least gave me the peace of mind to know that the documents had not been lost in transit. Then we wait.
In late January I received a letter stating that the documents had been sent off to the Visa Department and that we should expect contact in a month's time. As the letter had taken over three weeks to arrive, the communication I received by email took only a week longer. It requested an additional payment which I made, a form signed by my husband, and then the actual sponsorship forms. I had great difficulty understanding whether these forms could be sent by email or whether I actually needed to send them in the mail. I finally decided they wanted everything sent to them in New Hampshire -- I have a Master's degree in linguistics and wonder what people who don't read very much do to understand what the instructions are getting at. I like being sure I am not doing something the wrong way and called the embassy in Madrid to try to figure out whether we needed to send out an additional form that was mentioned. The man in Madrid was very nice and between the two of us we decided that this next form would be requested later on in the process and presented to the embassy. I hope the State Department agrees with us.
Now being me, most of the documentation we will be needing I found back in October or requested from the pertinent authorities back then. I realized they wanted something to prove that my husband had fulfilled his military responsibilities to Spain -- which he had back in 1983-1985 and I remember clearly because we were going out at the time. There is a document from the military here which is commonly called "la blanca" which he was given when he finished his military service. The document is printed on white cardboard and I believe my husband gave it to me with other military memorabilia when we got married (20 odd years ago). I don't think at the time that I recognized that it was a document and not a souvenir and I have no idea what may have happened to it (maybe the thief that broke into our house in 2001 took it -- I'll go with that). So now we have to figure out how to get a certificate that states that my husband does not need to do any military service here in Spain which we should be able to get but this is Spain and well, I guess we will cross that bridge when we get to it.