How to get your Visa or Residence Permit in Spain

visas and residence permits in Spain

There is no denying the fact that the Spanish territory is one of the preferred destinations for foreigners worldwide. The perfect weather, an amazing cuisine, delighting people… 

Nevertheless, before being able to start enjoying all those wonders, one must obtain a valid residence permit or visa to live in the country legally. 

How to do it? In this article we will go over the main types of residencies in Spain so you can understand all the residence visas available

Are you ready?

There are two different ways to classify all the Spanish residence permits. Understanding this distinction is crucial. Why? Because the path to obtain your visa will change drastically according to the chosen option.

Here you can see a video explaining that: 

As you have seen, this classification depends basically on two things: your country of origin (whether if you are from the EU or not); and the amount of time you are willing to spend in the country. Let’s see the main differences:

Types of visas according to how long you stay in the country

In this sense, two main groups appear:

  • On the one hand, you have the short-stay visas, allowing you to stay from 90 to 180 days in the country, without working. That visa is called the Schengen visa.
  • On the other side, you can apply for the long-term ones. If you are considering residing in Spain for longer than a year, and even planning to work in the country, you need a regular residence permit.

Let’s suppose then, that doing tourism in Spain is not enough for you.

You would like to start your new life in this beautiful nation, therefore spending more than 180 days.

Then, in order to define how exactly should you get the residence visa that best matches your interests, you need to understand where you are coming from.

Residence permits depending on your country of origin

As we have briefly mentioned before, applying for a permit won’t involve the same procedure for EU citizens than for non-EU nationals.

Unfortunately for the non-Europeans, they have it tougher.

But don’t worry, we are going to exactly detail how to successfully apply for them so you don’t have any problem.

Going deeper into this topic, let’s first define what EU citizens must do in order to start living legally in Spain for more than 3 months.

They need to apply for what is called “certificado de registro de la Unión Europea”,  a residence permit that is permanent and does not expire.

In order to get this permit, you, as an EU citizen, must demonstrate the possession of 6.000€ in a bank account; and having a private medical insurance. Alternatively, you can get a work offer in Spain and it will work too.

Is that simple. This are the main requirements for European Union citizens.

They can even get their permit in just 24 hours. A permanent residence permit that allows them to live and work in the Spanish territory.

You can access a step by step guide to request the EU certificate here.

But let’s say that, unfortunately, you are from outside Europe and cannot enjoy the easiness of application that Europeans do.


Do you have any doubt? Ask anything to our immigration lawyers and get an instant answer:

The 7 ways of getting your residence permit in Spain as a Non-EU citizen

Let’s now analyze the different ways you have to obtain your legal residency in the country. Which are your options?

1. Student visa

This type of residency was created for those who are interested in studying or conducting research in Spain. In that sense, you can apply for the student visa for an undergraduate course, Masters, Ph.D. and other short term courses.

The first thing to consider when applying to this permit is where should you apply for it. You can do it in the Spanish consulate located at your country of origin. But it is also an option to do it during the first 60 days after you have entered the country.

During this application procedure, you will mainly need to provide your criminal records, a bank statement with 10.000€ and a proof that you have enrolled in a course that takes, minimum, 20 hours per week during one year. After that is submitted, you will receive the student residence permit.

Validity and renewal of the student visa

You should take into consideration that the period of validation of this type of visa depends on the exact duration of your studies, which can range from 3 to 9 months, or even 2 to 4 years, depending on the concrete degree and University.

This type of visa can also be renewed only if you will be studying at the same university after the first permit expires, or if you are applying for a superior degree (for example, transitioning from a bachelor to a master).

This visa will allow you to get the TIE – (tarjeta de entidad del extranjero) foreign identity card, only if your studies will last more than 9 months.

The renewal of the student visa can be done in Spain.

2. Business visa: start your company in Spain

If you are willing to start a business in the country and obtain the Spanish residence while doing so, you have two different options.
  • In the case that the project is innovative and involves a high degree of technological application on its operations, you can apply for the entrepreneur visa. Bear in mind that, to get the permit under this visa, you will need a pre-approval from the ministry of economy, and they are really strict and selective.
  • If your project is not that innovative, you can apply in your country (at the Spanish Embassy) of origin for a regular self-employed work permit. Although under this option submitting a business plan will be also required, the institution in charge or approving it is not that restrictive as in the prior case.

3. Non-lucrative residence visa

But what happens if you are not planning to work?

Then, If you want to start living in Spain without conducting any kind of economic or professional activity, then the non-lucrative residency is for you.

The non-lucrative visa will authorize you to live in Spain for a period longer than 90 days, lasting 1 year from the moment of the first concession.

This type of permit can be renewed only if you have lived in Spain for at least a period of 183 days (becoming a resident). Once you have spent this time, you will be eligible to apply for the renewal. The second concession of this residence permit can allow you to stay for 2 more years.

To apply for this visa, you will have to do it at the Diplomatic Consulate of Spain in your origin country. This means that you cannot be inside Spain for the application to be successful. Once you get your visa, you will be able to enter Spain and receive your residence card.

Requirements for the non-lucrative visa

It is really important to take a step back and carefully understand the main requirements for the non-lucrative visa. Because, even though there aren’t many, they are a bit specific.
  • First of all, you will need to prove that you have more than 25.000€ in a bank account. This represents a 400% of the IPREM, the measurement used in this situations. You can have the money split into different accounts.

4. Working in Spain for a company as an employee

What if you would like to effectively conduct an economic activity in the country, but starting your own company is not your thing?

Well, then, the work permit as an employee (for cuenta ajena), will be the right option. But you can do it under two different paths:

  • The law 14/2013 states that those receiving a job offer in a highly qualified position can get a highly qualified professional visa. What does it mean to hold a job offer as a highly qualified professional? Mainly that the position is a managerial or similar one, and that the salary is higher than 40.000€ per year. In this case you can start the application procedure inside Spain.
  • And, for those who receive a regular job offer must apply in their origin country for the work permit. But an important caveat mus be made here. This option is really difficult to get, as the specific job position you are applying to must be inside a shortage list that respects the national situation of unemployment.

5. Golden visa

Due to the low requirements that characterize this permit, the Golden Visa is one of the most demanded ones.

We are talking about a permanent residency visa, issued to individuals who invest in the country. That investment is usually undertaken through the purchasing of a property. In that case, the permit will be given to the individuals who invest at least 500.000€ into real estate.

Nevertheless, there are other ways in which to get the permit. The immigrant planning to move to Spain can also receive the visa by possessing 1M€ in shares of a Spanish company, or public debt worth 2M€.

In addition to that, you will need to prove that you have enough financial means to support yourself and your family. For that purpose, you will need to demonstrate the tenure of at least 30.000€ as the investor.

If you want to also apply for the permits of your relatives, then 10.000€ more for every familiar will be needed.

This different amounts can be shown through bank accounts from any country.

Each applicant should also have health insurance covering him/her in Spain. In the case of applicants that are over the legal age, they should not have any criminal records.

6. Residence permit as a family member of an EU citizen

And, finally, the last way to get a residence permit in Spain. If, luckily you are the relative of a European Union citizen, then getting a residence and work authorization in Spain is more close to you than what you thought.
Because, then, you can get your residence permit as a family member of an EU citizen, just because of your kinship relationship.
That is why many individuals from outside the EU who have a partner who is an EU national constitute marriage or civil partnership (pareja de hecho); as they will become eligible to this procedure as now relatives of an EU citizen.
Learn about the whole process for registering your civil partnership here.

7. Family regrouping visa

For all those foreigners who have obtained their residency in Spain; good news. 

With the family reunion process, they can easily bring their relatives to Spain.

This applies to their spouse, children and parents. 

You can find a complete list of requirements for the family reunion in Spain here.


8. The arraigo procedure

In order to finish with all the options and possibilities that you have, we need to end up with the arraigo procedure.

Because, what happens if you have been living in Spain for 3 years under an irregular situation (which means, illegally)?

Are you doomed to go back to your country?

Good news: no. You can apply for what we call arraigo social or social roots.

And its requirements are simple: you need to be registered in the city hall for 3 years, period of time in which you cannot have left the country for more than 120 days.

Then, doing a Catalan (if you are in Catalonia) or Spanish course of 45 hours plus receiving a job offer will allow you to have an interview with the social services, in order to later on successfully go through the arraigo procedure.

From there you can jump into a different residence permit.

Finally, there’s two other types of arraigo, even though not so common due to its requirements.

First, the labor arraigo, if you have been working illegally for a minimum of 6 months.

Then, the arraigo familiar. This residence authorization is granted for those who are parents or children of Spanish citizens, easily.

9. Asylum and its red card

In case that you have moved to Spain because you were suffering a natural disaster or come from a region of conflict, you can ask for asylum.

While waiting for your asylum resolution, you will given a red card

This card allows you to stay in Spain for 6 months; and will be renewed as long as you still don’t get a response from the immigration office.

Permanent residency

After 5 consecutive years living in Spain you will be able to get the long-run or permanent residency

Basically we are talking about a card that has 5 years of validity, and that can be renewed indefinitely. 

There are two types: the EU permanent card, and the general one. 

Of course, this is the gateway to obtaining citizenship, something you get after 10 years in the country (in case of citizenship by residency).    

How to renew

If your goal is to stay in Spain in the long term, it is just as important to get your initial card as it is to renew it; as most are for even a year. 

So, here we leave you with a complete guide on how to renew your residence card or NIE step by step.

Get your Spanish residence permit now


Now you know exactly how to get your residence visa or permit in order to start your new life in Spain. But it is highly probable that some questions popped up to your head.

Do you have any doubt regarding any of this residence permits and visas?

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visas and residence permits in Spain

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