Whether you intend to visit the country for a short period of time or if your intention is to stay in Spain for the long run (in order to live and work), there is a very important step that you will have take do in both cases: to understand which is the exact visa type you need.
That is why in this article we make it easy for you.
We are about to review all the different types of visas that exist to travel and emigrate to Spain along with their requirements and application process. After reading this post you will know which one best fits your situation and how to apply step by step.
What visa do I need to travel to Spain?
Whatever situation you are in, you will most likely need a visa to travel to Spain. But now the important question is, which one? Of all the options that exist (which as we will now see are not few), which type of visa should I apply for?
The answer depends largely on two fundamental questions:
- What exactly do you want to do in the country: either live, work, study, or simply visit and do tourism for a few days or weeks
- How long you intend to stay in Spain, encountering a big difference depending on whether you stay less or more than 3 months
By combining these two variables it is possible to determine exactly what visa you will need.
And below you cand find the results.
Types of visas in Spain
Generally speaking, there are three main groups of different visas. Keep in mind that for those within the third group (long-term visas), even though they are often called visas, we find residence permits with all their characteristics, so it is essential to understand in detail all the points we will now see.
Let’s understand what these three groups are and their main differences.
Tourist visa (or short-stay visa)
First of all, we find the most typical visa: the tourist visa, also known as Schengen or short-stay visa.
These are type C visas.
This is the visa you must apply for if you intend to visit Spain for a period of fewer than 90 days per semester. Whether it is to stay a week in Barcelona or Madrid while discovering the city or 2 months visiting your family, this will be your option; and it will be the document you will be asked for at the airport border control once your plane lands.
But here we encounter an important distinction.
While it is true that by staying less than 3 months in the Spanish territory you will acquire the status of tourist, you may not have to apply for any kind of physical document (visa) to enter the country.
Spain (and the European Union in general) has many agreements with third countries to facilitate the entry and exit of their nationals.
Here you can find the complete list of countries that do require a visa to enter Spain as tourists.
Of course, if you are a citizen of a member state of the EU, European Economic Area, or Switzerland, you will not need to apply for any type of visa as you would enjoy free entry.
What does the Schengen visa allow you to do?
This tourist visa will allow you to stay in Spain for the duration of your trip (which must be less than 90 days), but you will not be able to work or carry out any type of economic activity.
For this, you would have to apply for a visa inside the third group (long term).
However, you will be able to carry out any type of training activity or study a course whose duration is, again, less than 3 months; in addition to internships.
And, in addition to that, it also allows the realization of certain business activities (such as attending a fair or meeting with clients with what is known as a business visa), visiting relatives, medical treatments, or volunteer activities with a duration of fewer than 3 months.
The need to enter Spain for territorial and airport transit is also covered under this short-stay visa.
Bear in mind that once those 90 days come to an end, you will have to exit the Schengen area or get a regular residence permit if you want to avoid legal problems.
What are the requirements to apply for a tourist visa?
In case your country is in the list we have seen above, you must make sure you comply with the following requirements and documents:
- Tourist visa application form, which must be duly completed and that you can download here
- Passport, which must be valid
- Two passport size photographs
- Invitation letter in case you are staying with family or friends in Spain, or hotel/apartment reservation in case you are staying in a hotel/apartment (always showing the dates of your stay in the reservation)
- Plane tickets to and from Spain, which must round-trip
- Travel medical insurance with full coverage in the country
- Proof that you have sufficient financial means to pay for the trip
- Payment of the corresponding fee, which is 80€
You must apply in person at the Spanish Diplomatic Mission or Consular Office in the demarcation where you reside. You can find the one closest to you here.
You can also find an article with all these requirements explained in greater detail here.
You can continue reading for more information, or ask any questions to our lawyers through the following link:
Transit visas (type A)
So far we have reviewed the visas that allow you to stay as a tourist in the country. But there is another similar type that allows you to stay in the Spanish territory for a very limited time if this short visit to Spain is a stopover on a trip to another country.
That is to say, let’s suppose that you come from a Latin American country and you intend to travel to another country outside the EU, but your plane makes a stop in Spain. In these cases, you must apply for one of the following visas in order to be able to stay in Spanish territory between flights.
More specifically, there are the following transit visas:
Airport transit visas
It is the visa for those foreigners who make a stopover in Spain within a longer trip to another country by plane.
This airport transit visa will allow them to stay in the corresponding Spanish airport during their stopover.
Marine transit visa
In the event that the trip takes place by the sea, this visa allows the foreigner to make a stopover in a Spanish marine.
Territorial transit visa
Finally, if the foreigner needs to cross the Spanish territory by land as part of a longer trip, this would be the visa to apply for.
In this case, the foreigner is allowed to stay in the national territory for a maximum of 5 days.
We also find the case of all those foreigners who wish to study in Spain, something very common and demanded.
Whether it is to study a university degree, a master’s degree, or a shorter language course, students from all over the world decide to do so in Spain because of all the advantages that the country offers.
In these cases the foreigner must apply for a student visa, although it is not always necessary:
- If the studies will last less than 3 months, the tourist visa will be sufficient and it is not necessary to apply for a student visa
- If the duration is between 3 and 6 months, then a short-term study visa is required
- And, finally, if the course lasts between 6 and 12 months, a long-term study visa (in this case the foreigner would also get a physical card or TIE).
In any case, if the academic year ends but the studies continue or if the foreigner will move on to higher education (for example from a bachelor’s to a master’s degree), an extension of the stay for studies must be made.
This last word, “stay” (“estancia” in Spanish), is of great importance when defining the legal status of the foreigner during his studies.
Unlike a period of residence, the period of stay does not count for Spanish nationality (although it does for long-term residence, but in those case each year would only count half).
If you wish to live, work, study, or research in Spain for a period of more than 90 days, it is necessary to apply for a long-stay visa.
These are known as type D visas.
This will be the case unless you come from a country of the European Union, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, or Switzerland. If that is your nationality, then you will have to apply for the EU registration certificate under a much more streamlined and simple process.
This long-stay visa is the prior step to obtaining a residence permit.
That is to say, it is the document with which the foreigner will be able to enter Spain once her residency application has been approved at the Spanish consulate (for which reason the great majority of applications are made from the country of origin).
With this visa, you will be able to cross the Spanish border to finally register your fingerprints and collect your physical residence card.
However, there are different types of long-stay visas.
Depending on the foreigner’s plans in the country and her particular situation, he will choose one or the other, as the requirements will vary greatly.
What are the long-stay visas?
Non-profit residence visa
In case you do not want to carry out any type of economic activity, the non-profit residency is the best option.
That is to say, it is a type of residence that does not allow you to work in the country.
To apply for it, you must have sufficient financial means in your bank account (minimum € 27.000 per year), and hire private medical insurance.
Its duration is 1 year, with the possibility of renewing for 2 years indefinitely if the initial requirements are maintained.
On the other hand, if you want to work legally in Spain, you must apply for a work visa.
There are two different types:
- Work permit as an employee (“por cuenta ajena”), when the foreigner finds a company or employer who wants to hire her (i.e., she will work for a company in Spain)
- Self-employed work permit (“por cuenta propia”), to develop tasks as an independent professional or freelancer
Here you can access a complete guide with all the requirements and legal procedures to obtain this visa.
Family regrouping visa under the general regime
It is very common for foreigners who are already legally in Spain to want to bring their family members with them.
By means of the family regrouping under the general regime, this process is possible.
As long as the foreigner has been living in Spain legally for at least one year, she will be able to bring her direct relatives to Spain as long as they depend on her economically.
More specifically, we are talking about spouse, children under 18 years old, and parents over 65.
Visa for family reunification with a citizen of the EU
But this reunification process is much simpler if the applicant is from Spain or a citizen of any country of the European Union.
In such cases, the non-EU citizen would obtain a 5-year residence card (which allows work) known as a community card (“tarjeta comunitaria”).
The most common case is the one in which the EU citizen and the non-EU citizen get married or form a civil partnership to formalize this community regrouping.
For the past years, this has become one of the most popular types of visas. Not only it allows you to work in the country and bring your relatives with you, but also offers very simple requirements.
The investor visa (also known as golden visa) is the residency granted to foreigners who wish to invest in Spanish real estate located (although it is also possible to apply for this visa after investing in company shares or bonds).
The minimum investment amount to carry out this procedure is 500,000 euros, and one of its main advantages is that it can be applied directly from Spain.
Finally, we find what was previously known as permanent residency.
The long-term residence is the goal for many: it is the permit that the foreigner gets when she has been living in Spain for 5 years and that will allow her to live indefinitely in the country, just requiring to renew her physical card every 5 years.
And so far we have seen all the visas you can apply for in Spain. Remember that if you need legal advice from our immigration lawyers, simply click on the following link and contact us. We will analyze your particular case in detail, providing the path to follow to immigrate to the Spanish territory easily, as well as submit all the documents for you:
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