Many non-EU citizens require a visa to enter Spain. If the stay is intended to be under three months (90 days), a tourist visa may be required. This is called a Schengen visa, valid for all of the countries in the Schengen area, and is issued by the Spanish Embassy in the home country (or the embassy of the Schengen country in which a traveller will arrive).
The holder of a Schengen visa is not permitted to work or to stay longer than 90 days in the entire Schengen area, not just Spain. The same applies to nationals of non-EU countries that are exempt from needing a Schengen visa.
Currently the citizens of around 35 countries do not need a Schengen visa to enter Spain, however if the intention is to stay, a residence visa is required.
Anyone arriving in Spain with the intention of staying longer than three months requires a Residence Visa (Visado de Residencia). This must be requested from and issued by the Spanish Embassy of the applicant's home country, before departure for Spain. It is different to the standard 90-day Schengen visa in that it allows the holder to begin the residency application process. Application for residency is not typically accepted from anyone arriving on a Schengen visa.
Citizens of non-EU countries wishing to stay in Spain for more than three months must apply for a Residency Permit/Card (Tarjeta de Residencia) within 30 days of arriving in the country. The application must be made at the Foreigner's Office (Oficina de Extranjeros) or local police station in the province of intended residence.
The documentation required varies depending on the situation. Consult with the local Oficina de Extranjeros or police station to determine which documents are required.
The following documentation is required to apply for a Tarjeta de Residencia:
The following documentation may also be required (certified translations may be requested):
Documents in other languages need to be translated into Spanish.
Once the application for a residence permit has been made, a stamped copy of the application is issued; the Residence Card should be issued within three to four months. Resident Cards may be renewed at the Foreigners Office. In the event of a change of address or personal circumstance, the local Oficina de Extranjeros or police station must be notified within 30 days.
The initial Residence Card is valid for one year; this can be renewed annually for up to five years.
For non-EU nationals with an EU-national family member who is resident or intending to become resident in Spain, see the section on Family Members of EU Citizens
Non EU Nationals authorised to stay in Spain for more than 6 months must apply for a Foreign Identity Card (Tarjeta de identidad de extranjero - TIE) within one month of arrival.
The following documents are required in order to apply for a Foreign Identity Card (TIE):
More information about obtaining a Foreign Residence Card is available from the Ministry of Employment and Social Security (in Spanish)
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