Everything to know about moving to Spain as a US citizen


Updated on Sep 10 • 8 minute read

There're around 1,554,087 Americans living in Spain, of which 39,812 are from the United States. This isn’t a surprise. After all, Spain has a cheaper cost of living, provides easy access to other EU countries, and has many beautiful cities for people from all walks of life.

If you’re dreaming of moving to Spain from the US as a student, expat worker or a retiree, then you’ve come to the right place! In this guide you'll find out the practicalities of moving to Spain as an American citizen.

Recommended read for residence-permit holders in USA: How to Get your Spanish Residence Permit as an International

Types of visas for Americans entering Spain

Americans who want to visit Spain for less than 90 days for tourism, study, or business don't need a visa. You can enjoy this visa-free access until the end of 2022.

From early 2024, US citizens need to apply for a visa waiver called ETIAS to enter Spain. You'll need to apply for ETIAS at least 72 hours before your flight. If successful, your permit will be valid for 3 years or until your passport expires.

If you’re planning to visit Spain for more than 90 days, you’ll need to apply for a valid visa depending on your purpose of visit or stay.

The top 7 visa types for US citizens moving to Spain are:

  1. Student Visa
  2. Job Search Visa
  3. Work Visa
  4. Golden Visa Spain (Investor visa)
  5. Non-Lucrative Visa
  6. Permanent Residency
  7. Family Reunification Visa

Student Visa

Who is it for: American citizens who’re enrolled in a study or exchange program in Spain, who want to do an unpaid internship, or want to conduct research or training can apply for a Spanish student visa .

This visa could be a gateway for the job search visa or a work visa.

Validity: There are 3 types of Student Visas depending on the duration of your stay.

  • Schengen student visa: Maximum stay of 3 months (90 days).
  • Short term student visa: Maximum stay of 6 months (180 days).
  • Long term student visa: For students who need to stay longer than 6 months.

Application: You need to have an offer letter from the educational institute before you can apply for a student visa in Spain. You can apply for this visa up to 3 months before your planned departure date to allow enough time for processing of the visa application.

The required documents are slightly different for each student visa type, but the process to apply is the same.

  • Have your offer letter and other documents ready, such as visa form, proof of finance and medical insurance, passport, etc.
  • Book an appointment at the embassy or consulate and submit all the documents.
  • Pay the visa application (€60).
  • Hear back in a few weeks about the outcome. If positive, you can collect your visa. If negative, you can appeal or try again.

Students with the long-term student visa can work up to 20 hours per week if they apply for their Tarjeta de identidad de extranjero (foreigner identity card).

Job Search Visa

Who is it for: The job search visa allows student visa holders to stay in Spain after their undergraduate or master’s degree in an effort to find a job.

Validity: The job search visa is a non-renewable visa that is valid for 12 months.

Application: US citizens can apply for the Job Search Visa if they:

  • Have recently completed their bachelor or master’s degree on a Spanish student visa. You can apply 60 days before your student visa expires or until 90 days after.
  • Have the means to supports themselves (and any dependents).
  • Have Spanish health insurance.

You'll hear the decision in approximately 20 working days.

Work Visa

Who is it for: For all US citizens who’ve a job offer from a company in Spain and want to enjoy benefits such as a minimum wage of €1,260 per month, access to free public healthcare, and minimum 30 days of paid vacation leave.

The company will need to apply for a Spanish work visa on your behalf as they need to prove that either you're filling an in-demand or shortage occupation in Spain or that they couldn’t find a EU person.

Tip: To increase your chances of getting a job in Spain as a US citizen, it's good practice to include your profile photo on your CV. It also helps if you already know some Spanish.

Validity: The work visa's valid for 1 year. After that, you can ask for renewals twice. Each renewal will grant you a 2-year visa.

Application: The company that’s willing to hire you needs to start the process by applying for a work permit. You need to be in America when you conditionally accept the work offer.

Once they’re done, you can submit your entrance visa application. After you’ve arrived in Spain, don’t forget to officially sign the work contract and then apply for your foreigner identity card, social security, and health insurance.

Read our full guide to Getting a Spanish Work Visa to know more.

Highly Skilled Visa

Who is it for: This visa is for those highly skilled Americans:

  • Who are hired as a manager or in some senior leadership role. You’ll likely need to be hired by a big or medium-sized company that can match the minimum salary requirements.
  • Or hired by the government or a university as a lecturer or researcher.

The advantages of this visa include:

  • You can bring your family with you.
  • Visa processing time takes 10 business days.
  • Unlike other work visas, you can be in Spain when your employer applies for this visa.
  • Your job does not need to be in an in-demand sector.
  • As a manager you’ll earn a minimum gross salary of €54,000. As a scientific professional, you’ll earn a minimum gross salary of €40,000.

Validity: Your highly skilled visa will be valid for 2 years and can be renewed later.

Application: The process is the same as applying for a residence permit in Spain. Or if you’re already in Spain, your employer can start the process for you.

Self-employed or entrepreneurship visa

Who is it for: This visa is perfect for those Americans who are small business owners or freelancers wanting to set up shop in Spain.

Validity: This visa is initially valid for 1 year and can be renewed 4 times, for 1-year validity each. Each time you’ll need to prove your plan's still viable and has a positive impact on the local economy and society.

Application: You can apply for this visa in Spain if you:

  • Are qualified to work in the business sector.
  • Have sufficient funding.
  • Show a detailed business plan that will also be in public interest (create local employment, contribute to developments in science and technology, or have a positive socio-economic impact.

Golden Visa

Who is it for: The Spanish Golden Visa, a.k.a. the Investor Visa is for those who wish to invest a significant amount in Spain’s economy. Eligibility depends on a minimum investment in either of the options:

  • €500,000 in a property. This is by far the most common and easiest way.
  • €1 million in company shares or bank deposits.
  • €2 million in treasury bonds.
  • Invest a lot in a new business that will generate local employment, contribute to innovations in technology or science, or create positive socio-economic impact.

The Golden Visa includes a work visa and allows the visa holder to bring their dependent family immediately. This is why the investor visa is a gateway to a long-term residence permit or even citizenship (for those who’ve continuously resided in Spain for 10 years). If this is your preferred route, don’t forget to clearly understand the tax system in Spain before applying for this visa.

The Golden Visa is also beneficial for those Americans who do not plan to stay in Spain for extended periods of time or want a quick approval on their visa application. As someone not living in Spain, you can benefit from the dual tax arrangement between USA and Spain.

Validity: The Golden Visa is valid for 1 year. During this year, you’ve to visit Spain and collect your residence permit which is valid for 2 years. You can apply for renewals indefinitely as long as you maintain the minimum investment level.

Application: You need to be committed to making an investment or must have already made the investment at the time of your visa application. You’ll need to bring the following documents with you:

  • Visa Form and fees.
  • 2 passport pictures
  • Passport valid for at least 6 months and with at least 2 blank pages.
  • Proof of funds.
  • Police report confirming no criminality and local address. No older than 3 months.
  • Proof of Spanish health insurance.
  • Documents reated to your property investment, shares, or bonds.

Non-lucrative Visa

Who is it for: The non-lucrative visa is perfect for those American citizens who want to retire in Spain or live in Spain for more than 90 days without employment. So if you’ve the financial means to support yourself and you can prove it, this visa is for you. Some examples include pensions, savings, or income-generating investments.

Validity: This visa is initially valid for 1 year. If you’ve spent at least half a year (183 days) in Spain, you can apply for a two-year extension twice.

Application: To apply for this visa, you need to have a:

  • Filled in visa form and the visa fee.
  • Passport valid for at least 6 months.
  • 1 passport photo.
  • Proof of enough funds (minimum of $30,000/year).
  • Private health insurance.
  • Police report confirming your address. Must be legalised using the Hague Appostille.
  • Medical certificate proving you’re of sound mental and physical health.
  • Documents for your dependents (such as marriage or birth certificate).

Permanent Residency Visa

Who is it for: US citizens who’ve lived in Spain for at least uninterrupted 5 years are eligible for permanent residency in Spain. But if you've had a student visa in Spain, only 50% of your time spent in Spain will count towards your PR application.

The Spanish PR will let you live and work in Spain as if you are a Spanish resident. This visa is also the gateway for getting a Spanish Passport.

Validity: The Permanent Residency Visa in Spain is valid for 5 years. After this, you can apply for citizenship as you would’ve stayed in Spain for 10 uninterrupted years.

Application: The PR visa application needs to be filed in person. You need the following documents:

  • A filled out visa application Modelo EX11.
  • Visa fee of €80.
  • Valid passport with 3 months validity and current residence permit.
  • Proof of residence in Spain (Empadronamiento).
  • Proof of funds, either via savings or employment.
  • Spanish health insurance.
  • In some cases, police records from Spain or USA.

Family Reunification Visa

Who is it for: Americans who’ve direct family members in Spain and want to move there to reunite with their loved ones can apply for the family reunification visa.

In general, the following family members can apply for this visa:

  • Spouse or civil partner
  • Children under 18
  • Parents and parents in-law who're above 65

Validity: As long as the family member's residence permit or foreigner identity card (TIE) is valid.

Application: The documents required for the family reunification visa differ depending on who you want to bring. But here's a general overview:

  • Passport
  • Spanish residence permit
  • Original plus translated and legalised copy of birth certificate, marriage certificate, civil partnership agreement, or adoption papers.
  • Filled in visa application form
  • Adequate housing report
  • Proof of sufficient funds and proof that the family member is dependent on you financially.
  • Proof of health insurance for all
  • Criminal background report of the foreign family member
  • Health certificate to prove the foreign family member is not a threat to society

Now that you know about the different typs of visas for Americans moving to Spain, don't forget to check out the relocation checklist to prepare for your move.

Please reach out to content@housinganywhere.com if you have any suggestions or inquiries about the content on this page.

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