Moving to Spain is very easy for EU citizens. This is because Spain is a member of the European Union (EU) and Schengen Area. Citizens of the EU, the European Economic Area (EEA), and Switzerland don’t need a visa to visit, live, work or study in Spain. All you need is a valid personal identity card or passport issued by an EU/EEA country. However, if you plan to stay long-term you must register with the Spanish authorities and get a national identity number. You have to do this within three months of your arrival.
Nationals from other countries will need a visa to visit, live, and study in Spain. In most cases, a work permit is required too. This includes UK citizens who were not legal residents in Spain before 1 January 2021. Citizens of countries without an agreement with Schengen states will need a visa to stay short-term (less than 90 days) in Spain.
Types of visas in Spain
- Short-term Spain visas – known as the Schengen or C-type visas (visado de corta duracion), allow stays of up to 90 days for tourism or business travel. Some nationalities also require an airport transit visa for Spain (visado de transito aeroportuario).
- Long-term national visas (visado nacional) – are required for non-EU/EEA citizens who want to stay longer than 90 days in Spain. For example, the combined residence and work visa (visado de residencia y trabajo) or the student visa (visado de estudios).
- Residence-only visas – If you want to stay long-term in Spain without working or studying, you will require a residence visa (visado de residencia no lucrativa). These are usually issued to people who want to live in Spain for family reunification or retirement.
Details of these visas along with qualifying conditions, costs, and application processes are explained below; current information is available from the Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Spain visas for short-term stays
Many nationalities can enter Spain without a visa for periods of up to 90 days. These include the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Argentina, Brazil, and Japan. However, you must still apply for a long-term residence visa to stay longer than three months. After the end of 2022, citizens of countries who can currently enter Spain without a visa will need to obtain an ETIAS Visa Waiver which will be similar to the US ESTA.
Like most EU countries, Spain is a Schengen area country. This means that if you have a short-stay visa issued by another Schengen state you can also visit Spain.
However, you will need to obtain a visa if one of the following statements applies to your situation:
- You are a national of a non-EU/EEA country that has neither a Spain visa agreement nor one with the Schengen states (and you do not have a Schengen visa).
- You are a national of a country that has reached a visa-free movement agreement with the Schengen states, but you were previously barred from entering Spain or any other Schengen country without a visa.
Retiring in Spain
If you want to retire in Spain as a non-EU/EEA citizen, you can apply for Spain’s non-lucrative residence visa (visado de residencia no lucrativa). You must prove that you have the financial means to support yourself in Spain without working.
Fast-track and golden visas in Spain
Citizens of non-EU countries who are investors, entrepreneurs, highly qualified professionals, and researchers can apply for fast-track visas. These permits offer automatic residence for the whole family and visa-free travel throughout the Schengen area. These allow you to live and work in Spain for two years and are renewable for the same duration, as long as you continue to meet the visa conditions. You can apply for permanent residence after five years.
Then there are the so-called golden visas that also grant residence for the whole family and travel through the Schengen area. There are various ways you can get a golden visa. For example, investors may need to spend €500,000 on property in Spain. Or, if you have the cash, you can buy €1 million of shares in a Spanish company or fund. Alternatively, you can deposit at least €1 million in a Spanish bank. Lastly, you can buy €2 million worth of Spanish government debt. For more information, contact the Spanish embassy or consulate in your home country.
Permanent residence and citizenship
After five uninterrupted years of temporary residence in Spain, you can apply for a long-term or permanent residence. You are also entitled to permanent residence in Spain if you hold a Blue Card from another EU member state and lived elsewhere in the EU for the same period. A long-term residence permit allows you to stay in Spain indefinitely. Permanent residency affords you most of the same rights as Spanish citizens, with the notable exception of voting in elections.