ULTIMATE Spain Long Term Visa Guide: How to Legally Live in Spain (Project Expat)
The number one question I’ve gotten about Project Expat is how to get a visa to live to Spain, so here is my complete Spain Long Term Visa Guide!
This information is for people who are looking to move to Spain, or stay here for longer than the free 3 month tourist visa. Full disclosure, I was intending on just using the 3 month visa since I was planning on traveling for most of the year, so that’s the one I have. I also got “lucky” with getting stuck in Bacelona during the State of Alarm because our visas got frozen so now we get 6 months instead of 3!
Anyway! This information comes from a meeting I had with an immigration lawyer here in Barcelona. The internet has various information, but it gets confusing because of all the ads for lawyers, and I didn’t know which was over-charging, so I went with one who a friend here highly recommended.
She went over every possible way I could legally stay here long term. Definitely listen to our conversation and the questions I ask her, but below is a general overview!
First a few notes about Spain visas:
- Pay attention to which visas you need to get from your home country before traveling to Spain, and which ones you can get while you’re already here
- When I mention Schengen States or Countries, they are: France, Germany, Belgium, Italy,
- If you have a long-term visa or citizenship (AKA any of the ones listed below besides the tourist visa and student visa), you do not have any limit on amount of days you spend anywhere in Europe!
1.Free 90 Day Tourist Visa
If you’re not planning on staying in Spain for more than three months, just fly on over and get the automatic free 90 day tourist visa. You don’t apply for it or pay anything, you just get a stamp in your passport upon arrival.
NOTES About the 90 Day Tourist Visa for Spain / Europe:
- The 90 days applies for ALL Shengen States, which are most of the European countries minus places like UK, Ireland, and Croatia.
- The 90 days can be broken up, but it doesn’t restart if you go to another non-Shengen country then come back. For example, if I’m in Spain for two months, I can’t just hop over to the U.S. for a week then come back and expect to get a new 3 month visa. They continue to add the days each time you visit any Shengen country until you reach 90 then you can’t come back for another 180 days.
- Let me re-iterate, after you spend 90 days in Spain or the Shengen States, you can’t come back for 180 days, after that, you can get another 90 day visa.
2. Non-Lucrative Visa / Residency
This is the visa I would get to live in Spain because I work remotely and don’t plan on actually getting a job IN Spain. According to Karla, it’s the quickest one to get, and easiest if you qualify. The hardest part for most will be showing you have €25k in your savings account, but don’t worry, there are still other options!
What You Need to Get a Non-Lucrative Visa for Spain:
- You must apply from your home country and state. For example, I would need to go back to Los Angeles and apply at the Spain Embassy there.
- It can take as little as 2 weeks, but in that time you must give them your passport
- You must show that you have €25k (must be in euros) in savings, and that it was there at least 6 months before you apply. For example, you can’ t just go raise €25k then apply for the visa the next day. As you can probably imagine, that looks sketchy AF.
- You need to get private health insurance in Spain and prove you already have it. It’s obviously drastically cheaper to get it in Spain and you can do it online.
- You must get a background check/penalty records, have it legalized, and translated to Spanish.
- You must go see a doctor and get a health check-up and health record to show you don’t have any contagious diseases. Especially during these crazy times.
- Once you get the visa, you must “live in” Spain for 6 months out of the year (if you intend to re-new it). Since technically you don’t get your passport stamped in the Schengen states though, you could get away with “staying in Europe”.
- For your first year, the visa is valid for one year. The next year after that, if you can re-prove all of the above, you get it for 2 years, after that you get another 2 years, after that you get 5 years, and after that total of 10 years, you get citizenship!
3. Work Visa
This is the hardest visa to get, apparently so hard, that Karla said it’s basically impossible. This is because Spain is very caring of its citizens, and makes it so that any Spaniard in need of a job, should get it over a foreigner, which I agree with.
The only way to get a work visa in Spain, is if your employer can say that they specifically NEED you and no one else in Spain qualifies for the position. For example, if a company specifically needs an American-English speaking, natural expert on American culture and lifestyle, you may be able to get away with it. In fact I know a girl who got away with a work visa because she is hired specifically to teach “American English” to rich kids prepping to apply to American universities.
Karla also said that if you can’t get qualified for work visas right away, you can still apply for a different one, and try to get a work visa approved later on.
We didn’t go too much into it since she said people rarely try to get it, but if you’d like more information, here’s a resource: Work Visas for Spain
4. Student Visa
I didn’t add this part of the conversation to the video because my particular Project Expat is about moving abroad, not just going temporarily for school, but technically a Student Visa can be an easy initial option. Especially if you don’t have that whopping €25k for the non-lucrative visa or a boo-thang to claim you as a partner!
If you are a student though, and looking for ways to start traveling ASAP, this would be a great, easy option for you! You just have to be willing to take a full course load…
How to Get a Student Visa in Spain:
- First of course, you need to apply to one of the acceptable schools, and get in. Don’t worry, there’s usually a good chance of acceptance!
- You need to technically take a “full course load” which is 40 hours per week. This includes time spent studying, working on projects, etc. and most teachers will write that off for you.
- You also technically need to take classes in person as opposed to online, but Karla said many teachers will write this off as well and allow you to do a lot of the work online.
- You still need to prove you have enough money to support yourself without needing a job in Spain. So you either have to show you have €7500 in your savings, OR you can get a sponsor (like your parent).
- You also need to get the health check up and report, plus private healthcare insurance.
- Student visas do not grant you residency. So if you’re trying to move to Spain for longer than a semester or two, you may want to consider a different visa!
- You can apply for a student visa from Spain but you MUST start the application process within the first 60 days that you are here!
5. Domestic Partnership Visa (“Pareja de Hecho”)
Most of the expats I know in Barcelona (so like, three) are able to stay thanks to what’s called a “Pareja de Hecho” or Domestic Partnership Visa. This is ONLY for Catalonia, not all of Spain!
Basically, they are living everyone’s fairy tale of meeting someone abroad and moving to their country. You don’t even have to get married! If you can prove that you live with you partner who is a Spain citizen, you can get a residency AND work visa!
Since, like the Student Visa, this visa doesn’t apply to most of my audience who is looking to move to Spain, I didn’t get too much information about it aside from you need to be living with your partner. If that’s you, I’d strongly suggest having an immigration lawyer like Karla handle the process for you!
6. Dual Citizenship by Family Members
If you want to become an actual citizen of Spain (and thus the EU), you can, IF your father and grandfather were both born in Spain.
Yes, that is right, I only named the male members, because apparently the females “don’t count”. Eye roll.
This is a lengthy process that requires all of their birth certificates, passports, proof of residencies etc., and another process that I would highly suggest just hiring an immigration lawyer for!
7. Citizenship by Long-Term Visas
As I mentioned in the process for the Non-Lucrative Visa, if you successfully re-new your visa for 10 years (meaning you have to be “living” in Spain 6 months out of the year), you get Spanish citizenship! This basically means you don’t have to go through the annoying process of re-newing your visa.
8. Citizenship Through Marriage
Ah, the oldest trick in the book for a fast way to stay in a country, except usually it’s the other way around. Most foreigners try to marry Americans for their strong passport and desire to live and work there, which I saw a lot of when I lived in LA for almost ten years!
I legitimately knew several guys who would pay American girls thousands, even tens of thousands of dollars, to legally marry them for three years so they could get U.S. Citizenship or at least a green card! And on the reverse, I knew of even more foreign women who would go there and try to seduce or enamor older wealthy men, then of course would drop the “I can only stay if we get married” card.
This can be seen of course with our lovely president who has a smoking hot, younger, foreign wife (even though he’s just so against immigrants), and in fact, a now-big “influencer” who coincidentally (and publicly) got divorced from a much older man in the entertainment industry, as soon as she hit the 3 year mark that qualified her for the citizenship. This was a ballsy move of course, because if the government caught on, she would have been immediately deported, and if her followers caught on, well, at least this is the least of the shady things she’s done! 😉
Anyway! In Spain you need to be married for one year to get citizenship. Just be sure to check with your work about which country you’ll be required to pay taxes to!
This post took a lot of time and research, plus I paid for the consultation with the lawyer out of pocket, so if you appreciate the information, please leave a comment and share this on social media!!!