Find out if you need a Spanish visa or permit to visit, live, work or study in Spain.
This essential guide will help you find out which Spanish permits you need depending on your nationality and situation.
The information given here is for guidance only and you should seek specific advice from the Spanish embassy or consulate in your home country for your specific circumstances.
Who needs a visa or permit for Spain?
Under the Freedom of Movement Act, if you’re a national from one of the countries in the European Union (EU) or the European Economic Area (EEA) – that is, all the countries of the EU plus Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway – or Switzerland, you don’t need a visa or other permit to visit, live, work or study in Spain.
EU/EEA and Swiss citizens moving to Spain will need to register with the authorities and get a national identity number.
Nationals from other countries will need a visa to live in Spain, and in most cases, a work permit too.
Entry and short-term visas for Spain
Spain is one of 26 countries making up the ‘Schengen’ area: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Sweden and Switzerland. They have one common visa and no border controls between them.
There are three types of visa allowing entry to Spain:
- Airport transit visa.
- Short-stay Schengen visa.
- Long-term visa.
Airport transit visa for Spain
An airport transit (visado de transito aeroportuario) allows you into the international transit zone in a Spanish airport. Not everyone needs one but to check whether you do, check the information and list at www.exteriores.gob.es. You’ll need to apply for a transit visa through the Spanish embassy or consulate in your home country.
Short-stay visa for Spain
A short-stay Schengen visa (visado de corta duracion) allows you to stay in Spain – but not work – for up to 90 days in a 180-day period.
If you have a Schengen visa issued by another Schengen state you can also come and stay in Spain for 90 days.
Nationals from the US, Australia, Canada and New Zealand don’t need a short-stay visa to enter Spain but will need to apply for a long-term residence visa to stay longer than three months.
You need to complete an application form, which you can download here and apply through the Spanish embassy or consulate in your home country.
You can renew your short-term visa at your local Foreigner’s Office (Oficina de Extranjeros) or Police station as long as you will be staying in Spain for a total of less than 90 days. You can’t come to Spain on a short-stay visa as a visitor and change your status to employee, student or resident from within Spain – you have to return to your home country and apply for a new visa from there.
Find the contact details of the Spanish embassy or consulate in your own country to apply.
Long-term visas for Spain
Unless you’re a citizen of the EU/EEA or Switzerland you’ll need a longer-term national visa (visado nacionale) if you intend to live, work, study or carry out research in Spain for longer than three months. This will depend on your purpose of stay, as detailed below.
Long-term Spanish residence and work visas
There are different residence and work permit types, depending on the purpose of your stay, including:
- a combined residence and work visa (visado de trabajo y residencia) allowing you to live and work in Spain;
- a student visa (visado de estudios) for the duration of a educational or training course;
- a residence visa (visado de residencia) for family reunification or retirement.
Spain work visa
There are several different types of Spanish work visas, as well as exemptions, depending on your employment situation in Spain. Work visa requirements can be found in our full guide. You cannot apply for your own work visa in Spain – Spanish immigration law dictates that employers must submit the application on your behalf.
Work visa/permits are issued by the Labour Authorities in Spain (Delegación Provincial del Ministerio de Trabajo e Inmigracion).
Spain student visa
Spain is very popular with students from overseas. Indeed, a 2018 survey by GoEuro claimed Spain was the number one destination in Europe for students looking to study abroad.
If you want to study, carry out research or take on an apprenticeship in Spain you have to find a course or programme that will accept you first – only then you can apply for a visa.
Spanish tourist Schengen visa
Spanish tourist visa requirements include completing an application form, which requests a photograph and information about your residency, purpose of journey to Spain, and the number of Spanish tourist Schengen visa entries you require. You can watch a short video on how the process works.
Spanish residence visa
Both Spanish citizenship and a Spanish residence visa (permanent) allow you to stay living in Spain, but some differences exist between the two. Residence visa requirements include giving up your original nationality and passport to become a Spanish citizen.
Spanish business visa
Spanish business visa requirements state that a short-stay visa for Spain will enable you to visit the country, but does not permit you to work there. Should you be relocating to Spain for business purposes you will need to request a Spanish business visa. This is otherwise known as a work permit.
Spain spouse visa and family reunification
Once you have been living legally in Spain for a year and have received official confirmation that you will be staying for a further year, you can apply for family members (for example, spouse, common law partner, and dependants, including children under 18 and parents over 65) to join you in Spain.
If you hold a long-term residence permit from another EU member state (an EU Blue Card), you can apply at any time.
Students can apply for their family members to join them while studying in Spain. The relatives’ residence permits are usually granted for the same duration as the student’s residence permit, and allow the holders over 18 to take on employment in Spain without a work permit.
Should you be looking for a Spanish spouse visa, you will need to apply for family reunification.
Should you not yet be in Spain, you can apply via the Spanish embassy who outline the Spanish spouse visa requirements. If you are already in Spain, you will need to visit the local Foreigner’s Office, taking a set of documents with you.
Spain retirement visa
The current pension age in Spain is 65 years for both men and women, though it will rise to 67 by 2027.
Should you be planning on taking your pension in Spain, you will need to set up a Spanish retirement visa. Spanish retirement visa requirements state that if you are an EU citizen you will need to possess an S1 form before travelling. This means you will have access to healthcare in Spain.
Spain visa for medical reasons
If you plan on living in Spain to access Spanish healthcare you will need to register, as your European Health Insurance Card won’t cover you.
You will not need a Spanish visa for a medical reason but if you have no insurance, you will most likely need to pay for being treated as a private patient. If you are a student, travelling to Spain you may need to provide a medical certificate for your Spanish visa (link to ‘Spain student visa’).
There is a youth mobility agreement between Spain and Canada for young people aged 18 to 35 to visit Spain to travel and work for up to a year. For details, see one of the Spanish consulates in Canada.
You can apply for a long-term visa from the Spanish consulate or embassy in your home country, or sometimes online on their websites before you come to Spain. The application must be made in person or through an accredited representative, and you usually have to pay a non-refundable fee of around €60. Allow plenty of time for the consulate to process your application.
Find the contact details of the Spanish embassy or consulate in your own country to apply.
New fast-track visa
Non-EU national investors, entrepreneurs, highly qualified professionals and researchers can apply for fast-track visas and permits, which offer preferential treatment, such as automatic residence for the whole family with no minimum stay, and free travel throughout the Schengen visa region.
There are conditions to fulfil for each category, for example, investors may need to spend €500,000 on a Spanish property. For more information on requirements for each category of applicant, contact the Spanish embassy or consulate in your home country.
Permanent residency in Spain
After five uninterrupted years of residence, you can apply for a long-term or permanent residence. If you hold a Blue Card from another EU-member state, and have lived elsewhere in the EU for the same period, this also entitles you to long-term residence in Spain. A long-term residence permit allows you to stay in Spain indefinitely, working or otherwise, under the same conditions as Spanish citizens.
You can apply for Spanish nationality after 10 years of residence in Spain. You can also acquire Spanish nationality through marriage or through having Spanish parents even if they were born outside Spain.
After arriving in Spain
Within 30 days of arriving in Spain, all non-EU/EEA and Swiss citizens who want to stay for longer than three months must apply for a residence card/permit (Tarjeta de Residencia or TIE). You have to apply at the Foreigner’s Office (Oficina de Extranjeros) or police station in the province where you’re living.
You’ll need a valid passport/travel ID, colour passport photos and a completed application form, plus proof of your address, bank statements, medical insurance, and other documentation relating to your own situation, such as an employment contract, proof of university enrolment or academic qualifications.
This temporary residence permit allows you to stay in Spain for between 90 days and five years, and can be renewed.
Foreigner’s Identity Number (NIE)
All foreigners, including EU/EEA/Swiss nationals, must have a Foreigner’s Identity Number (Número de Identificación de Extranjero) or NIE. This is essential for any financial transaction in Spain, including opening a bank account, being paid for employment, paying taxes, registering with social services, as well as getting a driving licence.
EU citizens will be issued with a NIE when they apply for their registration certificate; others can apply after they have their residence permit, from the Foreigner’s Office.
You may be able to apply for the NIE through the Spanish consulate in your home country (although it can take about four weeks to get it this way), unless you’re going to be living in Spain or intend to open a bank account. If you’re going to live in Spain, you must register with the local authority where you’ll be living.
Registering on the padrón
Working in Spain
EU/EEA and Swiss citizens can work without a work permit in Spain, but almost everyone else needs one.
It’s the employer’s responsibility to apply for one on your behalf so first, you need to get an offer of work and a work contract; once you have that and your employer has obtained the work authorisation on your behalf, you can apply for a visa to come to Spain.
Some people don’t need work permits, for example, family members joining a relative already here or those who are taking on voluntary work. You need to be over 18 (or over 16 if self-employed) to come to Spain to work legally.
Legalisation and translation of documents
For foreign documents to be valid in Spain, they must be translated into Spanish and legalised (certified as authentic) or have an Apostille seal.
Translations should be produced by translators certified by the Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation, or through the Spanish embassy/consulate in your home country. Contact the Spanish embassy or consulate in your home country for more information.
Spain visa tracking
There are several online Spanish visa tracking systems allowing you to monitor the progress of your application.
Note: The information given here is for guidance only and you should seek specific advice from the Spanish embassy or consulate in your home country.
Published first in Expatica.com