Spanish Visas and Residency – What you need to know


The rules governing how easy it is to move to Spain full-time or spend time here as a short-term visitor depend largely on whether or not you are an EU citizen. Here’s a quick guide to help you understand your options:

EU Citizens

Spain is a fully fledged Member of the European Union (EU), which means it shares reciprocal rights with all other Member States. Nationals of all Member States are classed as EU citizens, which entitles them to borderless travel to and from Spain (or any other country within the Schengen Area, which includes most of the EU).

Second homeowners who are EU citizens, eg French, German, Dutch or Belgian, can visit their property in Spain unrestricted. They should register as resident if they stay in Spain for longer than three months in a single trip. Anyone spending more than a total of six months (183 days or more) in Spain over a calendar year should declare themselves tax resident here.

As part of the EU’s free movement policy, all EU citizens have the right to move to Spain to live, work, study, look for a job or retire. They should apply for residency after arriving and there will be conditions depending on their status (proof of income/ health insurance).

Swiss and EEA Citizens

The free movement and settlement rights of EU citizens outlined above extend to Swiss nationals and nationals of three other countries that are not Members of the EU but are part of the European Economic Area (EEA), namely Norway, Liechtenstein and Iceland.

British Citizens

Following the UK’s departure from the EU, British nationals entering Spain are classed as non-EU citizens (also known as third-country nationals). This means they no longer benefit from free movement within the EU and could be subject to Spanish immigration rules.

As things stand, British citizens travelling to Spain are free to stay up to 90 days in a rolling 180 day-period without a visa. The 90 days can be one long stay or a number of shorter visits. As a guide, this means British owners can spend a total of six months at their Spanish holiday home spread across a year, with no visit exceeding three months and with the appropriate time gap between trips. To stay longer requires a visa.

For British nationals wishing to move to Spain permanently, currently the process is the same as any other non-EU national. This means they must apply for a visa in order to gain a residency permit. The most suitable option for retirees and early retirees is the Non-Lucrative Visa, which is renewable after a year and then after every two years (before permanent residency can be applied for). With this visa applicants must have the financial means to support themselves and they are not allowed to work.

Or there is the Golden Visa, a type of investment visa which grants residency status to non-EU nationals who complete a property transaction worth at least €500,000 (or invest in other specified financial entities). Other options include a student visa and working visa.

British citizens who applied for residency in Spain before 31st December 2020, have nothing to worry about – they retain their free movement and residency entitlements granted to them when they had EU citizenship status. If you were living in Spain before the end of last year but failed to register for residency, it’s not too late to make an application so long as you have documentation that proves you were living here.

Other non-EU Citizens

Like British citizens, other non-EU citizens are subject to the 90/180-day immigration rule when visiting Spain, with many nationals requiring a Schengen Visa even before entering the country. South Africans and Chinese, for example, require a visa, while Americans and Canadians do not require any visa. Once here, visa options for residency are the same non-EU citizen options as outlined for British people.

The Visa process – How HomeEspaña can help

HomeEspaña advisors will be able to discuss your specific requirements and explain further about the options available to you. If you need further advice, we will be able to recommend specialist legal representatives who can assist you with your visa plans.  You can email us at [email protected], or use our contact form >

For more information about the steps to buying a property in Spain, we have compiled this further short guide – Buying Process in Spain >