As a foreigner, how long can I stay in Spain without having to apply for a residence permit? This is one of the most frequent questions among those interested in staying in Spain for a period of time.
As a starting point, you should keep in mind that there is a legal period during which a foreigner is allowed to stay in Spain without having to apply for a residence permit.
The 90-day rule: stays of less than 90 days in Spain
Spanish regulations indicate that you can live in Spain without the need to apply for a residence permit for a maximum of 90 days per half-year from the date of your first entry (we are talking about 90 days uninterrupted or totaled in several periods*).
*Example: You enter Spain and stay 30 days. Then you travel to Asia and stay a week. Returning to Spain would leave you with 60 days of legal stay.
The shortest stay option in Spain is the tourist visa/Schengen visa, which allows you to stay in Spain for 90 days and this is what must be requested by certain non-EU citizens who want to stay less than three months in Spain.
Who does not need a Schengen visa to enter Spain?
Important: The requirement (or not) for a Schengen visa varies from country to country.
If you are a citizen of a Member State of the European Union, of another State party to the Agreement on the European Economic Area, or of Switzerland, you do not need to apply for this tourist visa. However, if you are going to spend more than 90 days in Spain you need to obtain the Certificate of Registration for EU citizens.
In addition, there are certain non-EU nationals who do not need this Schengen visa in order to enter Spain.
Does this period apply only to your stay in Spain?
No. The period is calculated irrespective of the country of the Schengen area to which you travel. For example: you cannot stay 90 days in Spain, then 90 in Italy and then 90 in France.
The 90-day rule: stays of more than 90 days in Spain
If a non-EU foreigner wants to spend more than 90 days in Spain they have two options:
- Request an extension of stay: it is, however, difficult to get an extension.
- Apply for a residence permit: if you opt for this, you should keep in mind that most residence permits require that the application be initiated in the Spanish consulate of the country of origin. It is best to seek out expert advisors on international mobility to tell you which permit suits your personal and family situation.
As we mentioned before, if you are a citizen of a Member State of the European Union, of another State that is part of the Agreement on the European Economic Area, or of Switzerland and you want to stay more than 90 days in Spain, you must obtain the EU Registration Certificate.
Although all European citizens have the right to reside and move freely, it should be noted that there is also the duty to register if the stay in Spain is for a period of more than three months/90 days.
GD Global Mobility processes European Union citizen registration certificates (NIE procedure) for expatriates and companies that transfer workers to Spain.
The 90-day rule is not the same as the 183-day rule
Lastly, it is important to clarify a subtlety that is sometimes confused by many foreigners.
If a person stays more than 183 days per year in Spain, they become a resident for legal purposes. This legal situation entails a number of obligations. For example, with regard to taxes, being a tax resident in Spain results in the obligation to pay Personal Income Tax for income obtained worldwide (world income is taken into account).
Visa and residence permit in Spain: conclusions
To sum up: before travelling to Spain, the first thing you need to know is whether or not, depending on your nationality, you need a short-stay entry visa.
As a general overview, we provide you with the following infographic that indicates the different situations and the paths that must be taken to avoid finding yourself in an illegal situation in Spain (there may be certain specific exceptions).