Moving to Spain? 7 visas you may qualify for

Moving to Spain? 7 visas you may qualify for

by Laura Jones

Updated February 10, 2023

Do you dream about retiring in the Mediterranean sunshine, studying in beautiful Barcelona or taking up a job in Madrid? Moving to Spain may seem like an unrealistic goal, but there are ways to make your dreams a reality. Besides, starting a new adventure in Spain can be an excellent way to learn Spanish fast or even earn a bit of money with a vacation job. 

If you’re planning on moving to Spain from the U.S., you’ll be pleased to know that there are lots of options available to you. The Spanish government may grant visas to applicants ranging from self-employed workers to prospective investors. Read on to learn how to move to Spain from the US — and which visa you might qualify for. 

Learn languages at your pace

Do you need a visa to stay in Spain?

Are you actually moving to Spain, or are you just going on an extended vacation? If you plan to visit for 90 days or fewer, you do not need a visa to enter Spain as a US citizen. 

However, starting in late 2023, U.S. citizens will need to apply for an electronic travel authorisation called ETIAS in order to travel to the Schengen area (which includes Spain among its 27 European countries). For people ages 18–70, the ETIAS will cost €7 and be valid for three years. 

How to choose a Spanish visa

Alright, so you’re actually moving to Spain. Now it’s time to choose a visa and learn about the requirements to move to Spain. 

Here are a few of the most common visas available to U.S. citizens: 

  • Student visa
  • Employee visa
  • Highly qualified visa
  • Self-employed visa
  • Entrepreneur visa
  • Investor visa
  • Non-lucrative visa

Remember that every situation is different, and no visa is guaranteed until it’s granted. We recommend visiting the official webpage of the Embassy of Spain in your region for accurate and up-to-date information.

With that said, let’s take a look at how you may qualify and apply for four common visa types: the student visa, the work visa, the investor visa and the non-lucrative visa.

How to apply for a student visa in Spain

Are you planning to study in Spain? You may qualify for a student visa. That’s important, because whether you’re studying, training or doing volunteer work, you’ll need a visa if you want to stay for over 90 days. (You may also qualify for this visa if you want to be an au-pair or teaching assistant in Spain.) 

Before you apply, you need to be accepted into a course of study or university program. If you want, you can invite your family members over to have fun in the sun while you hit the books — but they won’t get a work permit just because you have one. 

Learn languages at your pace

How to apply for a work visa in Spain

There are quite a few different work visas available in Spain, but the most common are the employee visa, the highly qualified worker visa, the self-employed visa, and the entrepreneur visa. Whichever visa you’re applying for, it’s a great idea to learn the language before you go. Not only will this help with the essentials of cultural acclimation (making friends and ordering tapas), but it will also be an invaluable tool as you navigate Spanish bureaucracy.

To get an employee visa, you’ll need a work contract from a company in Spain. Seasonal work activities are covered by this visa, so if you want to work in a beach bar for the summer or be a ski instructor in the Pyrenees (yep, you can ski in Spain), this one’s for you. Note that you must be outside of Spain when you apply for this visa. 

Senior managers, lecturers and other skilled professionals can go for a highly skilled visa. With this visa, you can bring your family along and you can be physically present in Spain at the time your employer applies. 

Finally, calling all freelancers and small-business owners! The self-employed or entrepreneur visas may be for you. They work a bit differently, but for both, you’ll need to prove that you’re qualified, that you have sufficient funding and that your business is viable. 

How to apply for an investor visa in Spain

If you have a pot of money ready to be invested in Spanish assets, the so-called Spanish Golden Visa is for you. The easiest way to get this visa is to spend €500,000 or more on property, but you can also invest in Spanish government bonds or pour money into setting up a business. If you spend more than 183 days a year in Spain with this visa (why wouldn’t you?), you can apply for permanent residency and, eventually, citizenship. 

How to apply for a non-lucrative visa in Spain

Want to enjoy the Spanish lifestyle without that pesky thing called a job getting in the way? Take a look at the non-lucrative visa. This is a great choice for people who want to retire in Spain, or for anyone who’s lucky enough to not need to work for a while. Spain provides an excellent lifestyle for retirees — in fact, it’s been named the world’s healthiest country. You must be able to prove that you have enough money to live on. In 2023, this means $3,000 per month or $36,000 per year. 

You’re moving to Spain! 

Hopefully, you’ve learned about your options and found a visa that’s right for you. Whether you want to become a student or retire to the golden shores of the Mediterranean, Spain is ready to welcome you with open arms. Begin your journey by visiting the Embassy of Spain’s website and by starting to learn Spanish

Laura is a freelance writer and was an ESL teacher for eight years. She was born in the UK and has lived in Australia and Poland, where she writes blogs for Lingoda about everything from grammar to dating English speakers. She’s definitely better at the first one. She loves traveling and that’s the other major topic that she writes on. Laura likes pilates and cycling, but when she’s feeling lazy she can be found curled up watching Netflix. She’s currently learning Polish, and her battle with that mystifying language has given her huge empathy for anyone struggling to learn English. Find out more about her work in her portfolio.

Related articles