3.3. Definition and Categories of Visas

The visa or prior authorisation of entry is a legal instrument (attached to the passport or included within its pages) bestowed by the destination country, in this case Spain, through its consulate or embassy in the country of origin or residence of the person who is due to travel, which authorises cross-border circulation of foreign citizens.

Its objective is to control entry of people to the country in accordance with the authorisation they possess, and it authorises them for various kinds of stay by duration or activity to be conducted. There are various kinds of visa depending on the duration and purpose of the stay in Spain:

-          Short-term visas: these authorise stays in Spain of up to 90 days per six months. EU legislation establishes the list of third countries whose nationals are exempt from the need to obtain a visa for stays in the Schengen Area[1] for under 90 days per six months and for nationals of third countries subject to this requirement.

-          National or long-term visas: when the stay in Spain exceeds three months, a national or long-term visa needs to be obtained. In this case, there are no exceptions by nationality except for the special regime for nationals of EU Member States, the European Economic Area and Switzerland. Visas issued for the undertaking of professional activities with a duration of less than 90 days per six months are also national visas. In this category, the visas set out in legislation for the undertaking of research or training activities are as follows:

  • Study visa.
  • Exemption from work authorisation visa.
  • Research visa.
  • Residence and work visa.

[1] The objective of the Schengen Agreement, signed in 1985 and applicable since 1995, is to abolish border controls within the Schengen Area and to harmonise external border controls. The majority of the Member States of the Union are signatories (except Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Ireland, Romania and the United Kingdom) and some third countries like Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland.

NB: foreign citizens who are not nationals of EU Member States, the European Economic Area and Switzerland will be subject in all cases to visa requirements if their stay in Spain is for professional purposes, regardless of nationality and length of stay.


The first aspect researchers must take into account to determine whether or not they have to apply for a visa to enter Spain is their nationality. Some researchers may not require a visa at all or only need one for stays of more than three months, or have to apply for one regardless of the type of stay.

Researchers from the following countries do not need to apply for a visa to enter and reside in our country: 

Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Holland, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, [1] Slovakia, Slovenia, the United Kingdom (Member States of the European Economic Area: the European Union, plus Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, as well as the Swiss Confederation).

[1] A Romanian national does not need a visa or permit to enter and reside in Spain, but until 31 December 2013 a transitional regime is in place regarding working, for which a work permit is needed in order to be hired

If your stay in Spain exceeds ninety days (in six months), you must register at the Registro Central de Extranjeros (Central Registry for Foreign Nationals) and request an EU citizens’ registration certificate (for family members this is called the Tarjeta de residencia de familiar de ciudadano de la Unión (Residency card for family members of EU citizens)), which is associated with an identification code called an NIE (Foreigner’s Identity Card in English).

The second group of countries to be taken into account are those included in the European Union regulation which stipulates that the list[1] of third countries whose nationals are exempt from visa requirements when crossing the external borders of the Union, proving their stay does not exceed 90 days. The following list was last updated in May 2013:

[1] Appendix II of EU Regulation (EC) No 539/2001 of 15th of March, 2001 and later amendments: Regulations (EC) 2414/2001, 851/2001 and 1932/2006. More information at http://europa.eu/legislation_summaries/justice_freedom_security/free_movement_of_persons_asylum_immigration/jl0031_es.htm {in all official EU languages}





Antigua and Barbuda







Costa Rica

El Salvador








St. Kitts and Nevis





South Korea










Bosnia and Herzegovina




Romania [3]

San Marino

Holy See

Serbia [4]



New Zealand

List of third countries whose nationals are exempt from visa requirements when crossing external borders for stays that do not exceed 90 days

[1] Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia

[2] Croatia has been a full member of the European Union since 1st July 2013, although a transitional period will be applied in which free movement of workers will be restricted

[3] Order PRE/2072/2011 of July 22, by which prior authorisation is required in order to work in Spain

[4] Excluding holders of passports issued by the Serbian Coordination Directorate (Koordinaciona Uprava in Serbian)

Nationals from any other countries that have not been mentioned above are required to apply for a visa in order to enter Spain, regardless of the type of stay.

Last Update: Wednesday January 28 2015 04:57:29 pm