If you want to benefit from a quick and easy application process to get your residence permit in Spain, keep on reading. In this post you are about to discover the 6 different ways to enter Spain as a tourist and get residency, as well as the 2 most important considerations and requirements you will have to take into account to avoid your application being rejected.
Can I really enter Spain as a tourist and obtain a residence permit?
This has become one of the most common doubts among foreigners who are considering moving to Spain.
Many soon-to-be expats are wondering whether they can travel to Spain with their tourist visa, and once they are in the country, carry out all the required steps and procedures to obtain their residency; thus being able to stay in the Spanish territory for the long term (without the need to leave in between).
(Let’s first remember that in many cases being a tourist in Spain may not require a visa since there are double treatment conventions, but the conditions and requirements that we will see below still apply anyway).
Is it possible to do this process effectively?
The answer is yes, it is possible to obtain residency by entering Spain as a tourist.
However, there are several important considerations to take into account, a series of essential requirements to be fulfilled (see next section).
In addition, you will not be eligible for all residencies or visas once you are already in Spain.
But don’t worry. In this article, we will explore the complete list of residence permits that can be applied for directly from the Spanish territory during your stay as a tourist. In that sense you can find out if one of those options applies to your particular case.
But, before doing so, we must first understand a very important rule.
The 90-day rule
The 90-day rule establishes that any foreigner can stay a maximum of 90 days as a tourist in Spain per semester (whether or not she has a tourist visa as required by her country of origin).
Before this period of time comes to an end, she must return to her country of origin and leave Spain.
Otherwise, if the foreigner over those 90 days in Spain, she will start being in an irregular situation.
This point is very important since in the great majority of cases you will not be able to obtain residence while in an illegal situation (it is a fundamental requirement).
In other words, if you wish to obtain residency by entering as a tourist, you must carry out all the relevant procedures during the 90 days of your stay as a tourist, and never after.
You can find all the details and frequently asked questions about this rule here.
Can I get a work permit in Spain as a tourist?
Generally speaking, no; that is not possible.
If you intend to apply for a regular work permit as an employee or self-employed professional, the application procedure must be initiated from your country of origin.
In other words, it is not possible to apply for a work permit directly from Spain.
However, what you can do is visit the country during the 90 days of your stay as a tourist, and take advantage of these 3 months to look for a job and find a company willing to hire you.
Once this period is over, you must return to your country of origin to start the application process from there.
But, as always, there is an exception.
In case you apply for a work permit under the Entrepreneur’s law (entrepreneur visa or highly qualified permit) it will be possible to go through the whole process directly from Spain.
In the following section, you will discover all the details.
How to go from tourist to legal resident in Spain
As we have already mentioned, in order to go from tourist to resident in Spain you will have to make the legal transition from being under a tourist status (with or without a visa as required by your country of origin) to obtain a residence and/or work authorization.
In that sense, carrying out this complete process directly from Spain (without returning to your country of origin) means following one of the limited paths available for that purpose; since certain residence permits, such as the non-lucrative visa, can only be requested at the Spanish consulate located in your country of origin.
Let’s see, then, which are the specific residence permits you can obtain directly from Spain as a tourist.
Residency card as a family member of an EU citizen
In case your partner is an EU citizen (i.e. from a country from the European Union), you can get the so-called residence card as a family member of an EU citizen (“tarjeta comunitaria” in Spanish).
It is a 5-year residency that allows you to live and work legally in the country.
The main requirement to be met is that you must be legally united with your partner through a civil partnership or directly via marriage.
One of the main advantages of this process is that you can carry it out, completely, from the Spanish territory.
That is to say, in the cases in which the marriage or civil union is already registered in another country, you will simply have to present the marriage certificate and make the application for the residence permit. (It is important that, for the certificate to be valid, it must have been issued in any country of the European Union).
But, in case you have not yet legally formalized your relationship, it is totally possible to enter Spain, register a civil partnership or get married to an EU citizen, and get the EU card afterward.
And without the need to leave Spain at any time!
You can find all the details about getting the EU card and entering as a tourist in this post (which includes an explanatory video).
Stay for study purposes
While it is true that a few years ago this was not possible, after the 2019 student law update, it is possible to get your student visa both from your country of origin and directly from Spain.
The most important thing to bear in mind is timings.
In order to get your student visa directly from Spain, you must start the application before the end of the second month of your stay as a tourist.
That is because the resolution usually takes about 30 days, and you cannot turn irregular at any point of the process.
Thus, our recommendation is that before traveling to Spain you already have your 1 or 2 top universities or higher education centers chosen and defined, and that you use the first month to visit them and meet with the admissions team.
Once you have a confirmed place at the university you can start your application for the student visa (which is not the same as a residency).
This is in addition to having sufficient financial means to stay in the country for the duration of your studies, as well as private medical insurance with no co-payments.
The option of obtaining residency after investing in the country is an alternative that was created to attract foreign investment to Spain.
Therefore, many facilities are given to non-European investors to make this process as favorable and attractive as possible.
So much so, that the golden visa or investor visa is another of the residences that can be obtained with your tourist visa in Spain.
You can find all the requirements of this visa in our complete guide, but for now it is essential to understand that the investor visa is granted to foreigners who invest a minimum of 500,000 euros in real estate located in the country (for example, by purchasing two properties totaling more than that amount).
It is a 2-year residency (with the possibility of renewal) that grants the ability to live and work legally in the country to both the main applicant (investor) and his relatives with whom she can make a joint application.
Highly qualified professional
While it is true that we have previously mentioned how it is not possible to obtain a regular work permit directly from Spain during your stay as a tourist, things are completely different when it comes to this special type of working visa.
The permit as a highly qualified worker is granted to those foreigners who are going to work in a company with a technical position that requires high levels of experience and training.
These are usually managerial positions directing people, with a crucial requirement being that the job offer must offer, at least, about 50,000 € per year.
In addition, it is essential that the applicant has completed level 6 studies or higher (bachelor’s, master’s, or P.h.D.) related to the job.
The resolution is extremely fast, and a favorable response can be obtained in 20 days or less.
Again, it is also possible to include your spouse and children in the application.
Together with the highly qualified work permit, the entrepreneur visa is another type of work permit also included under the Entrepreneurs Law.
In this case, this residency is intended for those entrepreneurs who plan to develop a completely innovative and technological business project in the country.
Its requirements are somewhat complex, especially regarding the business idea, which must be clearly defined in a business plan.
However, if you fully trust your business project and believe it can boost the Spanish economy, you can get this visa in less than 3 months as a tourist.
Visa for digital nomads
The last permit on this list that is also within the Entrepreneur’s Law is the digital nomad visa.
It is for sure a great option for many, as all those non-EU citizens who wish to start working remotely in the Spanish territory will be able to benefit from this visa, which also offers great tax advantages.
There are 2 different profiles of remote workers who will be able to get this residency:
- Freelancers who work for clients spread all over the world
- Company workers who are allowed to work remotely from Spain
In both cases, it will be necessary to demonstrate a minimum contract of 3 months prior the application, and to demonstrate an academic background filled with a higher-education degree in a prestigious university.
Finally, here we find the last way to obtain legal residency as a tourist.
This is a somewhat different case from the previous ones, and is conforms the exception.
Arraigo is the process by which a foreigner can obtain residency as long as she has lived irregularly for a minimum period of time in Spain.
That is to say, although we said in the previous sections that it is essential to apply for residency before the 90 days as a tourist are over, in order to obtain any of the 3 types of arraigo you must have been in Spain for much longer than that without a legal residency.
There are three different types of arraigo procedure, each with its own requirements:
- Arraigo familiar, if you are in Spain irregularly and you are the father/mother of a Spanish child (born in Spain) who is less than 18 years old, or you are the child of a Spanish citizen of origin.
- Arraigo laboral, if you have been living in Spain for 2 years without residency, and during the last 6 months, you have been working ilegally for a company.
- Arraigo social, which you can get as long as you have been living irregularly in Spain for more than 3 years and you find a job offer. Here you can find the keys to obtain social arraigo.
Remember that for any doubt, our team of immigration lawyers is at your complete disposal: