Spain visa

Moving to Spain: Guide to Spanish visas and permits

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Find out if you need a Spanish visa or permit to visit, live, work or study in Spain.

You may need to apply for a visa or other permit if you want 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.

This guide to moving to Spain: Guide to Spanish visas and permits includes:

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. The one exception is that citizens from the ‘new’ EU nation of Croatia will need work permits probably up until June 30, 2020.

EU/EEA and Swiss citizens do need to register with the authorities and get a national identity number. To find out more about this, see Expatica's guide to EU/EEA/Swiss citizens moving to Spain.

Everyone else will need a visa, and if you want to work, in most cases, a work permit.

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 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.

To find out if you need a Schengen visa click here. 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.

Spain visa

Long-term Spanish residence and work visas

There are different residence and work permit types, depending on the purpose of your stay:

  • 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.

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 EUR 60. Allow plenty of time for the consulate to process your application – check with yours for the timescale – and you or your representative must collect it in person.

Find the contact details of the Spanish embassy or consulate in your own country to apply.

New fast-track visa

As of 2014, non-EU national investors, entrepreneurs, highly qualified professionals and researchers can now 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. However there are conditions to fulfil for each category, for example, investors may need to spend EUR 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.

Spanish visa

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.

For more information, see Moving to Spain to join a relative or partner.

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.

For more information, see A guide to permanent visas in Spain.

Studying in Spain

If you want to come and study, carry out research or training, take on an internship or voluntary work in Spain you have to find a course or programme that will accept you first – and then you can apply for a visa to come to Spain.

For more information, see Study in Spain: Spanish student visas and permits.


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. Click here to find your local office.

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

You should also get a Certificado de Empadronamiento by registering on the census register called the padrón at your local Town Hall.

Working in Spain

EU/EEA and Swiss citizens, with the exception of Croatians up until 30 June 2020, 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.

For more information, see Work in Spain: Guide to Spanish work visas and permits.

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. 

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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.

Have a question? Post your question on Expatica's Ask the Expert service to see if we can help.  



Updated from November 2012.


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12 Comments To This Article

  • Sera posted:

    on 8th August 2017, 22:40:24 - Reply


    I will soon be going to Spain to study. I hold a turkish passport and have a norwegian residency card but not a citizenship. Do I need a student visa to study there?

    Thanks in advance.


    [Moderator's note: You can also post questions on our Ask the Expert free service.] 

  • Nick posted:

    on 15th September 2016, 21:03:28 - Reply

    is it possible to apply for a job in spain and get a work visa in spain?

    [Moderator's note: You can also post questions on our Ask the Expert free service.]

  • brenda posted:

    on 19th September 2016, 00:45:50 - Reply

    Hi there! I have a question! If a person is self employed (has online business) and pays for their own private health insurance and wants only to live in does that work? is there a way to do this easily or easier? We are Canadian. We would like to hopefully stay for years. Thx

    [Moderator's note: You can also post questions on our Ask the Expert free service.]

  • ramesh posted:

    on 14th August 2016, 07:08:24 - Reply

    i have just married to spanish girls .we are planning to go spain and live our life is it possible for me to work there or not.

    [Moderator's note: You can also post questions on our Ask the Expert service]

  • ErinNakagiri posted:

    on 22nd August 2016, 08:54:13 - Reply

    Hi, is it possible to apply for a Spanish visa while living in Spain?
    My husband and I married just two months ago and have encountered some difficulties while trying to obtain my spousal visa. The process for getting a visa is taking much longer than expected. I am stuck in my home country waiting for my FBI criminal background check to come in the mail so I can move on to the actual application of the visa. My husband has already gone to Spain without me. I will need to travel to the nearest Spanish embassy and apply for the visa in person, and then I will have to wait 4 weeks plus up to ten days for shipping. I am wondering if after I receive my background check and all necessary documents, it's possible to be reunited with my husband and submit the paperwork to an immigration office in Spain?
    Thank you

    [Moderator's note: You can also post questions on our Ask the Expert service]

  • Nishan posted:

    on 8th July 2016, 20:37:06 - Reply

    Does anyone know if I can get married to Spanish national in Spain with a tourist visa?

    [Moderator's note: You can also post questions on our Ask the Expert free service.]

  • Quynh posted:

    on 2nd July 2016, 17:25:27 - Reply

    I am from Vietnam and want to work as an au pair in Spain. I found one host family so What kind of visa I can apply for getting visa to Spain?
    I look forward to hearing from you soon.
    Thanks in advance!

    [Moderator's note: You can also post questions on our Ask the Expert free service.]

  • Susan posted:

    on 31st May 2016, 21:41:36 - Reply

    I am from Nepal. I have got Polish visa. Now I want to change it to Spanish as my brother is in Spain. Is it possible? If yes what are the process?

    [Moderator's note: You can also post questions on our Ask the Expert free service.]

  • Dennis posted:

    on 29th February 2016, 04:00:10 - Reply

    Good Morning,

    I proceed in english so that I can explain better. I am German national and was living & working in Spain from 2012 - end of 2013 with N.I.E. (GreenCard Residente communitario en Espa%uFFFDa).

    Since 2014 I am in the Philippines and finally got married with my filipino Wife. In October this year we both are planning to move to Spain. My question is on how to handle the visa for my wife since I am a EU/EEA citizen?

    Thank you so much in advance and seeing forward to your help.

    Best Regards

    [Moderator's note: You can also post questions on our Ask the Expert free service.]

  • tanveer posted:

    on 17th February 2016, 11:11:15 - Reply

    Hi everyone
    Visa delays for family member of EU/EEA citizen exercising his free movement rights under the Directives 2004/38/EC.
    I have applied for my wife and son (my son is now a british passport holder) schengen visa for Spain to exercise my treaty rights in accordance with the pursuant to the EU/EEA Directive 2004/38/E Free Movement in may 2015 at Spain embassy Pakistan. But after 7 weeks it was unlawfully refused. On advice from SOLVIT We appealed against the decision and were successful. Embassy admitted it was their mistake and they have withdrawn their original decision and asked us to submit the passports and sworn Spanish translations of all the documents. Which we submitted again on end of oct 2015. They also said via email that decision will be in 21 working days.
    But it%u2019s been almost 4 months and we haven%u2019t heard nothing and despite sending them emails every two weeks there is no response at all. I have contacted Solvit and they are not responding as well. I don%u2019t know what to do......
    I have submitted following documents some of the documents were submitted as VFS wont processthe application.
    Applicants for non-Eu spouse and son
    1- filled application forms and passports for both applicants
    2- cover letter explaining about exercising my treaty rights
    3- marriage certificate ( original and translated in English and attested by ministry of foreign affair of Pakistan)
    4- birth certificate
    5- Nadra identity card copy
    6- Family registration certificate (Naadra)
    Additional supporting documents
    1- travel itinerary
    2- hotel booking
    3- travel and medical insurance
    4- evidence of dependency (house deeds, id cards copy, utility bill, bank statements from Pakistan and united kingdom banks showing transfers of money regularly
    Evidence of EU/EEa national working and residing in Spain
    1- certified copy of British passport and Nadra id card copy
    2- N.I.E
    3- Social security registration or Residence certificate
    4- Self employed registration and business details (autonomo)
    5- Updated registrar certificate from local town, or electoral register

    [Moderator's note: You can also post questions on our Ask the Expert free service.]

  • Kelly posted:

    on 15th December 2015, 10:57:41 - Reply

    Did anyone ever address this? I am having the exact same problem, and cannot figure out if I can obtain a visa to Spain as an American in Germany
  • Jenifer posted:

    on 20th June 2015, 13:37:00 - Reply

    My boyfriend is from North America and he was living in Germany for a while, after a time, his Visa expired. Now he wants to live in Spain. Can he apply for a working Visa here in Spain? Is it probably that he gets it even if Germany didn't give it to him? Now he will have a job contract in Spain, does that help to get a Visa?
    Thanks in advance,

    [Moderator's note: You can post questions on our Ask the Expert service]