Dominating southwestern Europe’s Iberian Peninsula, Spain is a vibrant and sun-soaked country with diverse geography and cultures inhabiting its 17 autonomous regions. From the artistic capital of Madrid to Gaudí’s playground of Barcelona and over to the star-studded Balearics, Spain is riddled with alluring vacation destinations, and who wouldn’t want that laidback holiday lifestyle to become an everyday reality?
If this is you, you’re probably wondering how long you can stay in Spain as a tourist, and we’re here to help. Spain ranks in the top 20 countries for ex-pats and eighth on the Quality of Life Index, so it’s no surprise that six million foreigners call the land of tapas and siestas home. If you want in, our guide has everything you need to know about staying in Spain as a tourist and how to move there permanently.
From free visa allowances to what to do if you overstay and how to become a resident, it’s all here. Let’s get started.
How long can you stay in Spain as a tourist?
With thriving culture, sprawling cities, endless museums, and galleries, and dazzling island destinations, we don’t blame you for wanting to make the move over to Spain. Although, how long you can stay in the country depends on whether you’re taking a short trip across borders or venturing all the way from the other side of the pond.
As an EU citizen, you can move to any EU country to live, work, study, start a business or retire, but if you plan to spend more than three months, you’ll still need to register as a citizen. If it’s only 90 days you plan to come for, the process could be as easy as holding a national identity card and showing it at the border or airport.
Spain exercises the 90-day rule for most visitors, but sticking around longer to live, work, or retire, could be a lot harder if you’re coming from further afield. The 90-day rule says that any foreigner from outside the EU can stay in Spain for three months before they have to acquire a residence permit or leave, and this applies to all nations in the Schengen area.
The Schengen visa, as it is officially called, is a short-stay permit that covers most of Europe, making Schengen the largest free travel area in the world. The zone includes 26 countries and anyone from within this zone can move freely around Europe without a visa. If you spend one month in Spain, you’ll still have two months remaining on the Schengen visa that you can spend in any other EU country that has signed the Schengen agreement.
There are around 100 countries whose nationals are required to obtain a Schengen visa prior to entering Spain. These nations are concentrated in South America, Africa, Central Asia, and the Middle East, whereas most Central American, North American, South Asian, and Australasian citizens can acquire a Schengen visa on arrival at no cost just by showing a valid passport. The UK, USA, Australia, and Canada, for example, all benefit from the 90-day rule. Check if you’ll need to apply for your 90-day Schengen visa before you leave for Spain here.
What can I do on my 90-day visa?
The main difference between EU and non-EU nationals for their 90-day stay in Spain is that any non-EU national cannot work on a Schengen visa. To work in Spain as a non-EU citizen you must apply for a work permit and the position you wish to fill has to be on Spain’s shortage occupation list. These roles include manual labor and fieldwork, but also highly skilled occupations like medicine, engineering, banking, and energy.
The exception to this is to acquire a C-type EET visa to carry out permit-exempt work, but it only applies for a maximum of 90 days. This type of work includes university lecturing, scientific studies, journalism, performances, and trade union work. These visas are easy to acquire if you’ve already secured short-time employment as your Spanish host can sponsor you in your application.
If you want to work for yourself in Spain or work remotely for a foreign company, you can do so without registering within your allotted free 90 days, but you’ll need to apply for a non-lucrative visa or self-employed visa to do so after your first three months are up. With the boom in digital nomadic lifestyles, which has been seen to bring talent and investment to nations worldwide, Spain no longer requires remote workers to have full work visas to stay in Spain.
Other things you can do on your 90-day visa include attending business meetings, lectures, and conferences, as well as studying, competing in national events, and traveling between other EU countries.
Can I extend my 90-day visa?
So your 90 days are up, you want to stay in Spain, but you’re not quite ready to make the commitment towards residency, what can you do? While it’s possible to extend your 90-day tourist permit, to do so is quite complicated. You must apply for your extension at the national police with all your relevant documents and an adequate reason for extending.
In most cases, requests are rejected as extensions are generally only valid in exceptional circumstances. For example, if you’ve suffered an injury that prevents you from returning home or you’ve contracted a disease.
Simply put, if you want to stay in Spain longer than 90 days you need to apply for another visa, and in good time, as the authorities won’t wait around for your new visa to come through if your days are ticking over the original 90. Your options are also limited if you’re in Spain, as some visas require you to start the application at the Spanish embassy in your country of origin.
We recommend applying for one of Spain’s long-stay permits, if it is available to you, the moment you arrive in the country in the hopes it will come through before your 90 days are up. Or better yet, apply from your home country, whether you do that before coming to Spain or you return home after your 90 days to start the process and wait for the all-clear before you come back.
When can I return after my 90 days?
Spain’s 90-day rule comes hand in hand with the 180-day rule. Basically, your allotted 90 days start the minute you cross the Spanish border and get that stamp in your passport, but you have 180 days to fulfill that three months in the Schengen region.
While you’re allowed to leave the Schengen area, and therefore pause your 90-day visa, you must finish all 90 days – if you want to use them – within a 180-day period. What’s more, you cannot return to Spain until that same 180-day period is up. Without a residence permit of some sort, you can’t stay in Spain for more than 90 days within 180 days.
In other words, if you arrive in Spain and spend all 90 days consecutively in Spanish territories, you must wait another 90 days after those 90 days are up, either in your home country or somewhere else, before you can return to Spain and be granted another 90-day visa.
What happens if I overstay in Spain?
You never want to overstay a visa wherever you are. Spain’s free 90-day permit might seem like a relaxed approach to tourist stays, but you could face serious legal and financial penalties for staying longer than 90 days in Spain without permission.
An overstay, even of just two days, is considered an ‘irregular situation.’ In the eyes of immigration law enforcement, you would be committing a serious infringement and sanctions vary from fines of €500-1000 to time spent in holding cells and expulsion.
If you’re deported from Spain as a result of an overstay, you could be looking at a five-year ban from revisiting. This depends on how long you have overstayed your visa. If you stay three months over your allowed 90 days, for example, you’ll have to wait one year before returning to Spain. You would also not be allowed to apply for a residence permit until your suspension is up.
How do I become a resident of Spain?
Residency comes in lots of shapes and sizes in Spain. In order to be granted a long-stay visa or permanent residency, you should apply far in advance and make sure you choose the right permit for you.
If you are already in Spain, you are not eligible for all visas as you might have to start your application at the Spanish consulate in your own country. Therefore, it is best to apply for a visa before visiting Spain. Although, as a response to Covid-19, Spain now allows some visa processes to be carried out entirely online.
From investor visas to family member citizen cards and student permits, check out all of the Spanish visas available to foreign tourists below:
- Study visa – A student visa is one that visitors can now obtain from Spain as well as their country of origin. If you’re on a 90-day visa in Spain, you should start the application by the end of your second month at the latest. Once you have a confirmed place at a university or education institution, you can apply for your visa which will last for the duration of your studies. You’ll need to prove you have sufficient financial means to stay in the country and private medical insurance too.
- Golden visa – Otherwise known as an investor visa, this permit is another option that you can apply for from Spain. This visa attracts foreign investment and is usually only granted if you have a minimum of €500,000 to invest in Spanish real estate. The visa grants a two-year residency with the possibility of renewal and allows the applicant to live and work legally in Spain with any relatives who join the application.
- Residency card as a family member of an EU citizen – If you have Spanish parents or grandparents you might be able to obtain Spanish citizenship by obtaining a passport. This visa, however, is for partners of EU citizens who want to live and work in Spain. The residency lasts five years and you must be joined in a civil partnership or marriage with said partner to apply. However, you can enter Spain and register for a civil partnership there before you get your EU card.
- Highly qualified professional – HQP visas are granted to foreigners with a secured employment offer for a technical position in a Spanish-based company. The role you’re fulfilling must require high levels of experience and training and you have to apply for the visa from your home county rather than from Spain. These jobs are usually managerial positions and the role has to offer over €50,000 a year. The applicant must have completed advanced higher studies related to the profession, ie a bachelor’s, master’s, or P.h.D.. The applications are fast to process and can be obtained in less than 20 days. Spouses and children can be added to the application.
- Entrepreneur visa – This visa is reserved for foreigners who plan to launch an innovative or technological business project in Spain. The requirements for the application are complicated and a refined business idea with plenty of evidence is essential. You should be able to prove that your business project could boost the Spanish economy. If so, your permit could be granted in less than three months. Although, you must apply from your country of origin.
- Arraigo – Arraigo refers to the full Spanish residency, obtained by foreigners who have lived irregularly for a long period of time in Spain and essentially acquired Spanish roots. There are three types of this visa. The first is Arraigo familiar for children of Spanish citizens and parents of children born in Spain who are under 18 years old. The second, Arraigo laboral, is for foreigners who have been living in Spain for two years without residency and have worked for at least six months with a Spanish company, although unlawfully. Finally, there’s Arraigo social, for visitors who have been living irregularly in Spain for at least three years and have employment lined up.
If you’re unsure of which visa is right for you, contact an immigration lawyer or visa application center in your home country. For more information on Spain’s visa types, and requirements, and to start applying, visit the official Schengen visa information website.
Can UK citizens live in Spain?
As the UK is no longer part of the EU, British citizens who want to live in Spain longer than three months have to apply for one of Spain’s regular residence permits. EU nationals don’t need a visa to live and work in Spain, but they should register as a citizen.
Can I work remotely in Spain?
Visitors with EU passports or arriving from Schengen countries can work remotely in Spain for six months before needing to register officially, while visitors from elsewhere can do so only for the duration of their 90-day stay permit. Non-EU citizens will need to apply for a partial work visa after those 90 days are up to continue working remotely in Spain.
How much do you need in the bank for Spanish residency?
For most resident visa applications, the main applicant will need to prove an income of 400% of the Spanish IPREM, or Public Multiple Effects Income Indicator. In 2022, this number sits at €579.02 per month, so applicants for residency must prove an income of €27,792 a year. However, this is a base calculation and your available funds depend on which visa you’re applying for. You’ll need a promised salary of €50,000 for a Highly Qualified Professional visa, and €500,000 to invest for a Golden visa.