The second largest, and fourth most populous, country in the European Union, Spain is part of the Iberian Peninsula alongside neighbouring Portugal. The country also has overseas lands in the Canary Islands and the Balearic Islands, both of which attract millions of tourists every year.
Bordered to the west by Portugal and the Atlantic Ocean, Spain also has a northern border with France and Andorra. Spain has a population of close to 50 million, many of whom reside in the major cities of Barcelona, Seville, Valencia, Zaragoza and the capital city of Madrid.
The Iberian Peninsula was first inhabited approximately 42,000 years ago when it was settled by Celtic and Iberian tribes. Over the millennia, Spain has been conquered and ruled by Roman, Christian and Islamic forces before Christianity took hold in 1492 when Muslims and Jews were forced to convert to Catholicism or face expulsion from the country.
Modern-day Spain is a democracy although the king is the head of state. A developed economy, with citizens enjoying a relatively high standard of living, Spain (and the islands) depends on tourism for a large percentage of the country’s income and is a hugely popular destination for holiday makers, not just from Europe, but from all over the world.
Schengen Visa Rules
A member of the European Union since 1986, Spain also joined the Schengen Area five years later. As a member of both of these organisations, Spain enforces all the required policies regarding overseas visitors. While citizens of other EU member states may visit Spain using just a valid passport this is not the case for all intending visitors. Nationals of countries outside the EU and Schengen Area, or not on a list of approved visa-exempt countries, are deemed to be “world travellers” and will require the appropriate form of Schengen Visa to enter Spanish territory.
Standard Schengen Visas all follow the 90/180 rule which means that the visa holder is allowed to remain within the Schengen Area for a maximum period of 90 days within a 180 day block. The 90 days can be one continuous block or broken down into several smaller periods as long as the total does not exceed the 90 days permitted. Failure to follow this rule can result in fines, detention or expulsion and may adversely affect any future Schengen Visa applications.
Purpose of Visit
There are a number of different Schengen Visa types. It is important that world travellers apply for the visa type which best matches the main purpose of the visit to Spain.
Each is issued for a specific purpose and each type will require its own supporting documentation:
World travellers using a Spanish airport to make a connection for onward travel are required to possess an Airport Transit Visa. This type of visa restricts the holder to the airport and does not allow any movement outside the confines of the airport.
- Valid visa for the final destination country if this is applicable.
- Flight tickets for the onward leg of the journey.
The Transit Visa is usually reserved for ship crew members who are travelling into and from a Spanish port.
- Valid visa for the country being travelled to if one is required.
- Booking form or ticket for the destination country.
- Proof of employment with the shipping company.
- Copies of relevant pages from Seafarer’s Book.
- Copy of owner’s sailor certificate.
- Full listing of all the crew members.
All world travellers wishing to visit Spain for a vacation require the standard Tourist Visa which must be obtained before embarking on any trip to the country.
- Letter describing the main purpose of the visit.
- Travel itinerary detailing any sightseeing trips or outings planned while in Spain.
- Proof of adequate finances to cover the cost of the vacation.
Easily confused with the Tourist Visa, a Visitor Visa is reserved for world travellers wishing to visit friends or family members currently resident in Spain.
- Invitation letter from host giving personal details of both host and guest.
- Day-to-day travel itinerary.
- Proof of host’s status in Spain (passport, residency permit, ID card, visa, passport).
- Proof of relationship (if host and guest are related).
- Invitation issued by Spanish police (mandatory).
World travellers wishing to conduct business or tend to business-related matters in Spain should opt for a Business Visa rather than a Tourist Visa. Although the application process may seem more involved it is, in fact, quicker and easier to receive a Business Visa and is particularly recommended if the trips are frequent.
- Employer’s letter stating the reason(s) for the visit.
- Invitation from the Spanish concern involved giving details and dates of the scheduled agenda. The letter must be signed by a CEO or director of the Spanish company. The signatory of this letter must also provide proof of identity.
- If visits are recurring, proof of any ongoing relationship between the companies involved will be required.
- Proof of sufficient funding for expenses and any accommodation required.
Educational courses (or company internships) of up to three months duration are covered by a Schengen Study Visa which is valid in all Schengen member states. World travellers wishing to attend short courses in Spain must have a Study Visa while longer courses will require the longer-term Student Visa.
- Letter or certificate of No Objection from current educational authority. This states that the student will leave Spain at the end of the course.
- Internship contract from the Spanish company in the case of an internship.
- Letter of enrolment from an accredited Spanish educational institution.
- Details of the course (or internship) being undertaken.
- Proof of full payment for the course.
- Proof of sufficient funding for the entire duration of the course or internship.
World travellers who must attend a Spanish hospital or clinic for short-term treatment require a Medical Visa for this purpose.
- Medical report from a doctor or hospital in the traveller’s home country.
- Letter confirming treatment in Spanish hospital or clinic.
- Details of procedures being undergone and dates of same.
- Proof of full payment, or agreed payment plan, for treatment.
These are some, but by no means all, of the various types of Schengen Visa that are available. Some are for very specific purposes such as attending sporting, religious or cultural events and some are designed for specific classes of world travellers such as visiting members of official delegations or spouses of Spanish citizens. Failing to apply for the most appropriate form of visa can lead to misunderstandings and delays in processing the application.
Schengen Visa Processing Times
All Schengen Visa applications can only be accepted no more than six months before the first date of travel. The authorities recommend not applying until approximately six weeks before the planned arrival in Spain. Most applicants will receive approval in a matter of days which allows plenty of time to arrange the personal interview at a Spanish embassy, consulate or designated visa processing centre.
The interview is a face-to-face meeting during which the applicant will be assessed and any remaining questions answered and outstanding documentation delivered. Allowing six weeks from submitting the application to receiving the visa is considered more than sufficient for processing and approving the requested form of Schengen Visa in virtually every case.