Spain Expat's comprehensive information for obtaining the various visas -other than a working visa- and residency information: retirement visas, self- employment or investment visas and more.
...the legalisation procedure is difficult, lengthy, and expensive for everyone, making Spain an illogical choice for those who do not intend to be here for at least 2 to 3 years."
If you’re looking for information on a work visa for Spain, see our article under the working in Spain section, Work Visa in Spain
If you’re an EU citizen, you don’t need a visa; you already have the right to residency . You’ll probably find it useful, though, to apply for an NIE.
If you’re a non-EU citizen, and you want to stay in Spain for more than 30 days (90 days for some nationalities), you need a visa. If you want to live in Spain, the process is this: First get a visa from the Spanish Embassy or Consulate closest to your home. When you arrive in Spain, you work on getting residency . After you get that, you can begin work on getting citizenship.
Getting residency in Spain allows you to live anywhere in the EU. Likewise, getting residency somewhere else in the EU gives you a right to residency in Spain. That means that if your goal is residency in Spain and you have relatives or ancestors in some other country in the EU, then the easiest way may be to first apply for residency in that other country.
The various visas you can obtain are described in the following information noted from the Spanish Consulate of New York. Keep in mind that what is required for the visa application in New York may be different from what is required in other consulates, but it is probably similar.
For any visa application for Spain, expect to require the following documents, plus those specifically as noted below for each individual type of visa for Spain.
To apply for your visa the following requirements must be submitted in person:
It is also necessary to submit two (2) photocopies of all the documents.
In addition to the above General Requirements for Spain Visas, you will need:
Residence visa to retire in Spain (visa de Jubilados). This visa allows a foreigner to reside in Spain as a retiree without working. In addition to the above General Requirements for Spain Visas, you will need:
Note: on arrival in Spain, you may be asked to get medical insurance, so you’re not a drain on the Spanish public medical system. This may not be the easiest request for an older person. If you can’t prolong the health insurance you had in your country of origin then try some of the companies listed in Health Care and Health Insurance. The point is to convince them that you are insured, whether you are or not.
We have expanded this section over at the new Student Visas for Spain page.
Residence visa for investors or self-employment. If you’re wealthy or self employed (for example you work online with a foreign source of income). In addition to the above General Requirements for Spain Visas, you will need:
We’ve recently been notified that our favourite legal team/abogado in Barcelona is now accepting new clients for investment and self employment visas. You can visit them at [url=http://www.strongabogados.com]http://www.strongabogados.com[/url]
Residence visa for non lucrative purposes. Another choice if you’re wealthy. In addition to the above General Requirements for Spain Visas, you will need:
Residence visa exempt from the obligation of requesting work permit If you’re a Mormon etc. In addition to the above General Requirements for Spain Visas, you will need:
If you don’t fit any of the above, then it gets tougher. You can come for three months, then try to find a company to sponsor you, or you might try to get residence in another EU country first (do you have an Irish grandmother?). Or if you just love Spain but hate bureaucracies, you can probably live here illegally many years without difficulties, as long as you keep a low profile.
Here is a letter describing one couple’s experiences applying for this visa (thanks to Shelley Snowdon):
The process is a long and complicated one for a non-EU citizen who is married to an EU citizen, but not a Spanish citizen. I’m married to an Irish citizen. So, there were two ways I went about getting my residency .
Firstly, you will have to return to your own country (mine being Canada) or to the country of your husband if you were living there prior to coming to Spain (Ireland). It isn’t difficult to say you were living in your husband’s country if you can’t really afford to go back to Canada or wherever.
What you’re looking for from either embassy in either country is called a VISADO DE REAGRUPACION. The foreigner’s office here will ask you for a family book (Libro Familiar) or this visa . The difference is that the family book is really only used by a Spanish resident and his or her spouse, I think. This is important, as no embassy outside of Spain seems to know what you need if you ask before leaving your country, although they are strangely familiar with this visa once you get there.
I did go back to Canada first, but the process was incredibly long and complicated. The Spanish embassy in Canada wanted a notarized letter stating that my husband wanted me to live in Spain with him. This had to be done in Spain and brought to Canada. That would have meant finding a lawyer, etc., in Spain and seemed far too complicated. Also the Spanish embassy in Canada wasn’t able to process my claim in any less than four weeks and they said it could even take up to four months “you just never know how long these things take.”
The Spanish Embassy in Ireland required me to show them the following:
- A marriage licence
- my passport and my husband’s passport
- four photos
- a form that I filled out there
- and an E111 form (this is strange as it’s not valid here once you’re a resident, but they don’t seem to know about the E121 form nor do they realize that everyone gets free health care here in Spain. My suggestion is to just go along with it all without asking questions. Remember though, that you’ll need to have your social security number in the country you’re applying in to receive an E111 form. Hopefully, if everywhere is like Ireland, it won’t take too long.)
Every country differs, though, so people should call the Spanish embassy in the country in which they wish to apply for this Visado de Reagrupacion before heading there to get one. Also, it took four weeks for them to process it and between 1-3 days to pick it up, so you might need two trips to your chosen country unless the Spanish embassies differ. They will give you your passport back and you can bring it with you again when you pick up the visa if you don’t wish to hang out in the other country for four weeks waiting.
Once you get this visa (which will be processed and placed in your passport upon pickup—again taking 1-3 days) you will take it to the foreigner’s office and request an appointment and the necessary forms to complete. The first step is to go to the commisaria in Barceloneta and get your NIE, which is pretty simple. Then you will take that and all the necessary documents (they have a piece of paper on which they list all the documents, but bring whatever you have, as they always ask for more!) to your appointment. This could go smoothly, or you could run into more complications. For me, because we were married in Canada, we ran into complications. They wanted to see our official marriage certificate (not the church copy, but the one that you send to your government or whatever). Not sure how other country’s work. Anyhow, even though I had that, they wanted another bunch of stamps on it, which we never did figure out. After two attempts at getting it stamped (the first was a stamp from the Canadian Embassy in Madrid stating in Spanish that it was an official marriage licence and the second was a letter from the Irish Consulate in Barcelona recognizing our marriage) neither seemed to be what they wanted, but the woman saw our frustration and because we were careful not to show the mounting anger at the system but rather treated her with some courtesy, she passed it through for us. So, then I was issued my bank form to pay for my residency card (6.31 Euro) and that was that. I handed it into the commisaria along with two photos (though they ask for three they only take two for some reason. I’d be prepared with three, though, just in case!) and now I will wait four weeks and go to another police station to pick it up.
Simple, eh? I hope this helps others who apply. I started the process in the first week of November and will receive my residency in July. So, my advice to those applying is to have patience. Also, another way you can do this is to stay in the country illegally for a year (though be sure to get registered at your local Ayuntamiento (City hall) first—don’t worry, no one will notice that you haven’t left if you register). I was told that after a year I would have been eligible to apply for the whole thing in Spain. There was also some question as to whether or not I could have done the whole thing in Spain if we had been married for more than a year, too. Best thing is to call the Spanish Embassy in your home (or your husband’s home) country first just to be absolutely sure. This e-mail is not a guide, but rather what you might expect from the Spanish bureaucracy.
Once you have the residence visa in your passport, you have three months after arrival in Spain to go to the nearest Oficina de Extranjeros. Below are the following documents you will need to bring, based on our own experience (we haven’t found any official listing).
You will then receive your Resident Card in a few days or many months. (Each Oficina de Extranjeros processes candidates locally. The time spent both waiting in line at the office and waiting for your Resident Card can vary tremendously, depending on where you do it. If you want to get it done fast, you’ll probably find it better to do it in a small town.)
...the Spanish embassy in Canada wasn't able to process my claim in any less than four weeks and they said it could even take up to four months you just never know how long these things take."
Information about the special European Union work and residence visa scheme for highly-skilled non-EU citizens called the EU Blue Card, including the requirements for, the benefits of, and how to apply for the EU Blue Card.
The most up-to-date guide on the Schengen tourist visa, category C on the web, and for those traveling to Spain in particular.
Information about student visas in Spain: the different types, the requirements, and how to obtain one. Also, the rules about working on a student visa.
The nearly infamous, and relatively easy-to-get nonlucrative visa for Spain is now the primary route to Spanish residency for Americans, Canadians, Russians, and (thanks to Brexit) even for Brits. Here's a guide to doing the American NLV application process (assisted by an immigration attorney) with detailed consulate requirements variations and exclusive consulate ratings!
Information about the different paths to becoming a Spanish citizen, how to apply for Spanish nationality, and issues regarding dual nationality.