Visas for Spain

Updated 2021-08-13 12:58

Spain is one of the most visited countries in the world, and people travel to vacation and live there for a variety of reasons. Gorgeous landscapes, a pleasant climate, a relaxed lifestyle, world-class universities and job opportunities are just some of the reasons that entice people to this southwestern European country. If you're starting a new chapter in your life by moving to Spain to live, work or study, you'll need to know whether or not you need a visa. There are different types depending on your nationality and reason for visiting.


At the time of writing this guide and for the foreseeable future, everybody needs to obtain a Health Control Form to enter Spain. This measure was introduced to help curb the spread of COVID-19. To complete the form, individuals have to provide their:

  • Full name, age and nationality
  • Mobile telephone number and email address
  • Date of arrival and departure

EU-EEA nationals

EU-EEA nationals have an automatic right to live and work in Spain. However, you will need to apply for a Spanish residency card/certificate and an NIE (foreigners' identity number). You can apply for your NIE at the Spanish embassy in your home country or any National Police station in Spain that handles foreign documentation. You will need:

  • A valid passport and photocopies.
  • A completed Ex-15 application form which you can download from the Ministry of the Interior's website
  • Two passport-sized photos.
  • Supporting documents justifying the reason for applying for an NIE.

Visa types

The principal visa types for Spain are a tourist visa, a work visa, EU Blue Cards, a student visa and a Schengen visa.

Schengen visa

People not from visa-exempt countries need to obtain a Schengen Visa. This permits a 90-day stay (in any period of 180 days) for reasons of tourism, business, medical treatment, family business, studies, non-work practices or volunteer activities of less than three months or other non-profit endeavours.

Visa-exempt countries include the 26 member countries of the Schengen Area (all are inside Europe) and the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Brazil, Argentina and Japan. Citizens from all other countries will have to apply for the visa in the Spanish embassy or consulate in their home country.

The basic visa fee is 80 euros for those aged 12 and over and 40 euros for children between 6 and 11 years. The visa is free for children under the age of 6.

Schengen visa requirements

  • Completed application form (original and copy)
  • Two recent photos taken within three months of filling in the application form
  • A valid passport that should be valid for at least three months beyond the date you leave the Schengen area
  • Travel insurance policy
  • Proof you have sufficient finances to support your stay in Spain/Schengen area
  • Additional documents may also be required from some people depending on their employment status. These documents can include an employment contract, pension statement and proof of student enrolment.

Note that at the end of 2022, the European Union (EU) will introduce the ETIAS Visa Waiver. Many nationals wanting to enter Spain or other countries in the Schengen Area will have to complete an online application form. They will not have to go to a Spanish embassy or consulate. Once approved, the visa waivers are valid for three years.

Work visas

If you are from a European country, you do not have to obtain a work visa if you plan to live and work in Spain. Everybody else will need to apply for one.

With a long-term visa, you can live, work, research and study in Spain. There are several types of visas for different jobs and lengths of employment. Among the most common are:

Long-term work visas

To work as a highly-skilled professional in Spain, non-EU citizens will need to find a job on the Shortage Occupation List. This is a job that cannot be filled by a Spanish or EU citizen. If accepted for a job, your employer will launch the visa application process which you will continue in the Spanish embassy or consulate in your home country.

Seasonal work visas

Seasonal work visas are issued based on the duration of the contract. Applicants are required to provide evidence their travel costs are covered, that they have accommodation and will return to their home country once the job has been completed.

Au pair visas

There is no official au pair programme in Spain, but those who want to be an au pair in the country will have to apply for a visa if their stay will be more than 90 days.

Among the requirement for an au pair visa are:

  • Applicants must be aged between 17 and 30
  • An au pair agreement with the host family that includes details of salary and conditions
  • Medical cover
  • Proof of sufficient finances to support their stay in the country

EU Blue Card

This is for highly skilled people who have spent at least three years completing a higher education qualification or have a minimum of five years of high-level professional experience.

An EU Blue Card is valid for one year but can be renewed provided certain conditions are met.

Long-term visa application process and requirements

In some cases, the prospective employer will start the application process. In all situations, the person requesting the visa will have to:

  • Present a completed application form (original and copy)
  • Apply in person at the Spanish embassy or consulate in the individual's home country
  • Have a passport with a minimum validity of 120 days (if student, au pair, seasonal work visa or EU Blue Card, your passport must cover the period of your stay)
  • Criminal records certificate from your home country
  • A medical certificate stating the applicant does not suffer from any contagious or infectious diseases, mental disorders or drug addiction
  • For work visas a copy of the "resolución de permiso de trabajo" issued to the prospective employer by the Ministerio de Trabajo y Asuntos Sociales
  • For student visas, applicants have to provide proof of scholarship or grant, if applicable, proof of previous studies, accommodation details, travel insurance for the period of stay in Spain, and evidence of sufficient funds.

Typical processing fees for long-term visas are 60 euros.

Self-employed and freelance workers

Non-EU nationals who are self-employed/freelancers will have to apply for a visa at the Spanish embassy or consulate in their home country. Typical requirements include:

  • Completed application form
  • Evidence of relevant skills and experience
  • A business plan, if applicable
  • Proof of contracts and/or commissions
  • Any required professional licences
  • Proof of sufficient funds to support yourself

Airport transit visa

This visa entitles the holder to pass through the international transit zone in a Spanish airport.

Nationals of the countries listed below need an airport transit visa to transit an airport in the Schengen Area (including Spain) to catch a connecting flight to a country outside the area.

Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Democratic Republic of Congo, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Ghana, Iran, Iraq, Nigeria, Pakistan, Somalia and Sri Lank

Nationals of the countries listed below also need a visa to transit any international zone in a Spanish airport to take a connecting flight to a country outside the Schengen Area.

Cameroon, Côte d'Ivoire, Cuba, Democratic Republic of Congo, Djibouti, Gambia, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, India, Liberia, Mali, Sierra Leone, Syria, Togo and Yemen. Holders of passports issued by the Palestine Authority also need visas.

Among the exceptions for citizens of these countries are if they already hold a Schengen visa.

To apply for an airport transit visa, you will need to go to the Spanish embassy or consulate in your home country. Processing fees are 80 euros for applicants over the age of 12 and 40 euros for those aged between 6 and 11. It is free for children under the age of 6.

Formalities after entry into Spain

Once you are in the country, there are a couple of formalities that may be necessary:

You may be able to extend a short-term visa if the officially authorised stay is less than 90 days. This has to be done at a police station or aliens office.

If you have been granted a visa to stay for a period of more than six months, you will have to apply for a foreigner's identity card within one month of your arrival. You can do this at police stations and aliens offices. You do not need to apply for an identity card if you have a visa to carry out seasonal work.

Applying for residency in Spain

If you are planning to live in Spain long-term, you will need to apply for a residency permit, of which there are two principal types: temporary or permanent residence.

A temporary residence permit is for a stay longer than 90 days and shorter than five years. Authorization for a period not exceeding five years can be renewed regularly.

A permanent residence permit. If you have been a temporary resident for five years or more (not including students), you can apply for a permanent residency.

TIE Card

On July 6, 2020, the Spanish government introduced a new residency document to replace the current EU Residency Certificate for UK nationals. This foreigner's identity card (TIE, or Tarjeta de Identidad de Extranjero) is specifically for UK citizens and means they can reside in Spain following Brexit.

So what is a TIE card? A TIE card is a biometric card that contains the identity details of the holder (a UK national who lives in Spain). The TIE card and the residency certificate are equally valid, so UK nationals who already have a green certificate (from before July 6, 2020) do not need to apply for a TIE card.

How to obtain a TIE card

You have to apply for an appointment which you can do online.

  • Once at the website, choose your province
  • Then select ‘trámites cuerpo nacional de policía' (if the option is available)
  • Then select ‘Policía Exp tarjeta asociada al Acuerdo de retirada ciudadanos británicos y sus familiares'

You will be given a date and time for an in-person appointment at the police station. You will need to bring the following documentation with you:

  • The complete EX23 application form
  • A valid passport
  • Proof that you have paid the processing fee (via form ‘modelo 790, code 012' ? choose option ‘certificado de Registro de residente communitarian)
  • A photograph that meets the Spanish administration's requirements
  • You may also be required to present several photocopies of official documents, such as your passport. You should bring a few photocopies of all your documents just in case.

When your card is ready, you must bring your passport with you to pick it up.

If you were registered as a resident before July 6, 2020, you do not need to apply for a TIE. However, you can exchange your residence certificate for a TIE card if you want to. There is no deadline for doing this, and the process involves:

  • Applying online (same as above) for an appointment at a police station
  • Choose your province
  • Then select ‘trámites cuerpo nacional de policía' (if this option is available)
  • Then select ‘Policía Exp tarjeta asociada al Acuerdo de retirada ciudadanos británicos y sus familiares'

The documentation requirements are:

  • The complete EX23 application form
  • A valid passport
  • Proof that you have paid the processing fee (via form ‘modelo 790, code 012' ? choose option ‘certificado de Registro de residente communitarian)
  • A photograph that meets the Spanish administration's requirements

Registering on the Padron

Once you are living in Spain, you have to register on the padron. This is a list your local town hall will keep of all the people living in the area. You have to register whether you are a homeowner, tenant or live with family or friends.

Registration is a straightforward process. Book an appointment with your town hall and fill in the appropriate form when you are there. You will need to bring official identification such as a passport, NIE card, residence certificate card, deeds of your home or rental contract and a recent utility bill.

The main benefits of signing on the padron are better public services. The central government allocates funds to municipalities based on the number of people living there. Therefore if you're not signed on, the town hall will lose money that could be spent on the provision of health services, schools, firefighters, police officers and so on.

Useful links:

Schengen Visa Information

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, European Union and Cooperation

We do our best to provide accurate and up to date information. However, if you have noticed any inaccuracies in this article, please let us know in the comments section below.