Thanks to the Freedom of Movement Act, if you’re an EU national – or from the EEA or Switzerland – you don’t need a visa or other permit to visit or live in Spain, including for work and study. One notable exception is that citizens from the relatively new EU nation of Croatia will need work permits to live and work in Spain until 2020. Everyone else will need to apply for some sort of visa or work permit for Spain.

Short Stay (Schengen) Visas

The Schengen Visa is valid for 90 days within a 180 day period, and this time slot is triggered on the day you enter the Schengen territory – probably Spain in your case. You can then stay in the Schengen Area for 90 consecutive days, and leave and re-apply for a new Schengen visa if necessary. Alternatively, you can space out the 90 day stay across 180 days, but must apply for a multiple-entry visa if this is what you plan to do.

Nationals of the following countries will need to apply for a Schengen Visa in order to enter Spain, because their home country is not part of the Schengen Agreement:

  • Afghanistan
  • Algeria
  • Angola
  • Armenia
  • Azerbaijan
  • Bahrain
  • Bangladesh
  • Belarus
  • Belize
  • Benin
  • Bhutan
  • Bolivia
  • Botswana
  • Burkina Faso
  • Burma (see Myanmar)
  • Burundi
  • Cambodia
  • Cameroon
  • Cape Verde
  • Central African Republic
  • Chad, China (PRC)
  • Colombia
  • Comoros
  • Congo (Brazzaville)
  • Côte d’Ivoire
  • Cuba
  • Democratic Republic of Congo
  • Djibouti
  • Dominica
  • Dominican Republic
  • Ecuador
  • Egypt
  • Equatorial Guinea
  • Eritrea
  • Ethiopia
  • Fiji Islands
  • Gabon
  • The Gambia
  • Georgia
  • Ghana
  • Grenada
  • Guinea
  • Guinea-Bissau
  • Guyana
  • Haiti
  • India
  • Indonesia
  • Iran
  • Iraq
  • Jamaica
  • Jordan
  • Kazakhstan
  • Kenya
  • Kiribati
  • Kosovo
  • Kuwait
  • Kyrgyzstan
  • Laos
  • Lebanon
  • Lesotho
  • Liberia
  • Libya
  • Madagascar
  • Malawi
  • Maldives
  • Mali
  • Marshall Islands
  • Mauritania
  • Micronesia
  • Mongolia
  • Morocco
  • Mozambique
  • Myanmar (formerly Burma)
  • Namibia
  • Nauru
  • Nepal
  • Niger
  • Nigeria
  • North Korea
  • Oman
  • Pakistan
  • Palau
  • Papua New Guinea
  • Peru
  • The Philippines
  • Qatar
  • Russian Federation
  • Rwanda
  • Samoa
  • São Tomé e Principe
  • Saudi Arabia
  • Senegal
  • Sierra Leone
  • Solomon Islands
  • Somalia
  • South Africa
  • South Sudan
  • Sri Lanka
  • St Lucia
  • St Vincent and the Grenadines
  • Sudan
  • Suriname
  • Swaziland
  • Syria
  • Tajikistan
  • Tanzania
  • Thailand
  • Timor-Leste
  • Togo
  • Tonga
  • Trinidad & Tobago
  • Tunisia
  • Turkey
  • Turkmenistan
  • Tuvalu
  • Uganda
  • Ukraine
  • United Arab Emirates
  • Uzbekistan
  • Vanuatu
  • Vietnam
  • Yemen
  • Zambia
  • Zimbabwe

Apply for your Schengen Visa at your local Spanish Consulate. This visa also permits travel into the other 25 countries of the Schengen Area during the given period. Within 30 days of arriving in Spain, Schengen Visa holders who know they wish to stay in Spain for longer than the allowed 90 days must apply for a residence card at the Foreigner’s Office in the province they are staying in.

Applicants will need to present their valid passport and colour passport photos with their application form, plus proof of their Spanish address, bank statements, evidence of adequate medical insurance and either an employment contract or other proof of their reason to be in Spain – proof of enrolment on a degree course, for example. This temporary permit allows people to stay in Spain for 90 days to five years, and can be renewed on a rolling basis.

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Long Stay Visas

There are three types of Long Stay Visa for Spain:

  • A combined residence and work visa
  • A student visa
  • A residence visa for retirement or family reunification

You can apply for your Long Stay Visa from your local Spanish Consulate or Embassy, and sometimes online instead. Applications normally cost a non-refundable EUR 60.

Fast-Track Visa (NEW)

From 2014, non-EU entrepreneurs, highly qualified professionals, investors and researchers can apply for a fast-tracked visa for Spain. These give successful applicants extra benefits like automatic residence for the whole family, and free travel throughout the Schengen Area. Conditions apply, of course: investors would need to spend at least EUR 500,000 on a new property for example. Contact your local embassy for further information and criteria specific to your proposed application.

Permanent Residence in Spain

After five unbroken years of residence in Spain you can apply for resident status. Holding a Blue Card from another EU-member state – if you have lived elsewhere in the EU for five years, for example – will also entitle you to long-term residence in Spain. With a long-term residence permit you can live in Spain indefinitely with the same entitlements as Spanish citizens. You can then go on to apply for Spanish nationality after living for ten years in Spain. You can also file for permanent residency through marriage to a Spanish citizen, or if you have Spanish parents – even if they don’t currently live in Spain.

Family Reunification

Once you have been living legally in Spain for a year you can apply for family members – spouses, partners, dependents and parents over 65 – to join you in Spain, whether you are living here or just here for a period of study. Family members over the age of 18 can then work in Spain without the need for a specific work permit. Long-term residence permit holders from another EU member state can apply for family reunification at any time.

Working in Spain

EU, EEA and Swiss nationals won’t need a Work Permit to undertake paid employment in Spain but everyone else will – including Croatians until 2020. Your employer applies for your permit on your behalf once you have a job offer and contract secured. Those coming to Spain for voluntary work do not need a Work Permit.

Studying in Spain

For study, research, training, voluntary work and internships or voluntary work in Spain you apply for a visa once you have been accepted onto a program or into a specific organisation.

Foreigner’s Identity Number (NIE)

All foreigners will need a Foreigner’s Identity Number (NIE) before they can undertake any kind of financial transaction in Spain, such as opening a bank account, being paid a salary, paying taxes and obtaining a driving licence.

EU citizens receive their number when they apply for their registration certificate, whilst others should apply from their local Foreigner’s Office once they have their residence permit.

Sometimes you can apply for your NIE from your home country before you arrive in Spain – especially useful if you need to open a bank account ahead of arrival. This can take four weeks to process though, so plan ahead.

You should also get a Certificado de Empadronamiento by getting your name on the census register at your local Town Hall in Spain.

Legalisation of Documents

For foreign documents to be valid in Spain, they must be translated into Spanish and legalised. Translations are only valid if undertaken by proper Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation translators, or through the local Spanish consulate in your home country.

You can find all the relevant application forms for Spanish Visas here. Use Google translate – or your Spanish skills – to work out which PDF you need, as they’re all here!