- Purchase the complete Expat Arrivals Spain Guide (PDF)
Expats will need to have the appropriate visa for Spain before their arrival. As Spain is a Schengen state, many foreign citizens don’t need a visa for short-term visits or business trips.
Visit and business visas for Spain
Citizens of the European Union (EU), the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) and nationals belonging to one of the countries on the Spanish government's designated travel list are afforded visa-free entry and the right to a 90-day stay. They would simply need a passport that is valid for three months from the final date of travel and was issued within the last 10 years; neither a visit visa nor a business visa is required.
This list includes Canada, New Zealand, Australia and the US, but does not include India or South Africa, among others. Citizens of countries that do not appear on the list must apply for a Schengen Visa for tourism or business purposes.
Applying for a Schengen Visa for Spain
Those who secure a Schengen visa can travel in Spain for up to 90 days within a six-month period, from the date of entry. The Schengen visa can be used to enter Spain for various purposes, including transit, tourism, business or medical treatment.
Those who wish to apply for a Schengen visa will need to gather the required documents, complete a visa application form and submit their paperwork to the Spanish consulate or embassy in their home country before travelling. Processing times can vary, so expats should be sure to submit their applications in due time before their departure date.
If applying for a Schengen visa to travel to Spain for business purposes, it is necessary to include a letter of invitation from the Spanish business party and a letter from the applicant's employer stating their duties in Spain. If attending a conference, proof of registration and accommodation is required.
In some cases, applicants may be asked to provide additional documents at the discretion of the Spanish embassy or consulate.
Long-stay visas for Spain
Long-stay Spanish visas allow holders to stay in the country for longer than three months. Spanish long-stay visas include study, work, au pair, golden, entrepreneur, working holiday and non-lucrative residence visas.
Au pair, work and working holiday visas allow expats to legally work in the country under certain conditions. Perhaps the most popular visas for Spain are golden visas, and these are particularly attractive for retirees, they allow expats to gain Spanish residency by investing at least EUR 500,000 in real estate. The entrepreneur visa is reserved for those who would like to invest and start a business in Spain.
Expats will need to apply for a Spain National Visa, attend a visa appointment either telephonically, online or in person and pay the visa fees. It is recommended that expats begin the application process at least six months before their desired departure date, failing which, expats should apply two weeks before travelling to Spain.
All third country nationals intending to live and work in Spain for longer than three months will need a foreigner's identification number, an NIE (Número de Identificación de Exrenajeros) number. The NIE number allows expats to open a bank account, secure a cellphone contract and purchase a car in Spain, among other things. New arrivals should check specific application processes for the NIE number with their local police station or foreigner's department, as procedures differ between Spain's autonomous regions.
*Visa regulations are subject to change at short notice and expats should contact their respective embassy or consulate for the latest details
►Work Permits for Spain gives info on the paperwork needed to work in the country.
►For more on residency and working in Spain, see The NIE Number and Residency in Spain.
"When I moved to Spain I got a job with a fixed contract in a Spanish company. After contributing to the Social Security system, and being from a European country, getting a residence permit was practically automatic. Things have changed a lot since then.
"I've done all my legal, residential and financial admin myself over the years. I find that it is important to actually understand the intricacies of the process. I like to know what I am signing and what implications it may have.
"In Spain, the most important document to obtain at the beginning of your time here is called the Padron. It's a register to show that you live in a specific municipality. This document then allows you to request further documents and permits." Read more about the expat life of Molly, a British expat who's lived in Spain since 1998, in her interview with Expat Arrivals.
Are you an expat living in Spain?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Spain. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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