Spain is one of the most popular countries in the world with travelers and it's not hard to see why – incredible food, culture and the kind of sun-drenched landscape you thought only existed in your wildest vacation dreams.

Now imagine you finally get there only to be turned away at the airport....no, we don't what that for you either. With our round-up of all the essential visa information for Spain, you can figure out what you need and how to get it in order to ensure smooth sailing upon arrival.

Who doesn't need a visa for Spain?

Spain is part of the Schengen Area, which is a zone comprised of 27 European countries that have established unrestricted movement across their borders. If you're a citizen of an EU/EEA country that isn't part of this travel zone, you only need to show a national ID or your passport to enter Spain and you don't need a visa to enter or move around the travel zone. 

There are also some countries outside the EU/EEA that are permitted visa-free entry to Spain and up to 90 days of travel in a 180-day period within the Schengen Area. These include the UK, US, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Singapore and several South American countries, among others. You will need a minimum of three months' validity on your passport to travel and check well in advance of your trip to ensure your country qualifies for visa-free travel.

Keep in mind that you can only travel within the Schengen Zone for a maximum of 90 days. If you're planning to travel around after some time in Spain, you need to take into account the number of days you’ll be spending in each country and tally up the total.

You don't have to stay in the Schengen area for a consecutive 90 days – you can move in and out as you wish but 90 days is your max allowance in a 180-day period. Gauge the length of your Schengen-wide stay with online calculators if you're at all unsure, because overstaying the limit may result in authorities deporting you or prohibiting you from re-entering the bloc.

Meanwhile, the EU is expected to introduce its ETIAS visa waiver program in 2024. If you hold a non-EU passport, you’ll need to apply online for pre-authorization, along the lines of the USA’s ESTA scheme. Costing around €7, the process should be quick and painless.

Happy couple driving convertible car enjoying summer vacation in Spain
Take a short trip beyond Spain with your Schengen tourist visa © Getty Images / iStockphoto

How do I get a visa to visit Spain?

If you're a passport holder for any of the third countries listed here, you'll need to apply for a short-term tourist visa to visit Spain. This visa will cover you for up to 90 days of travel in a 180-day period within the Schengen Area, though the majority of your trip will need to be spent in Spain. Non-EU countries that require a visa include China, Ghana, India and Tanzania, among others.

Visa applications need to be made at the nearest Spanish embassy/consulate in your country of residence well in advance of your planned visit – up to three months ahead of your trip should be sufficient. You'll need two passport-sized photographs, a visa application form, your passport and evidence of health insurance to cover your planned time in Spain. You will also be asked for evidence of financial means to support yourself during your trip, as well as evidence of flight and accommodation bookings for the entire trip, including your return ticket. 

Schengen visas cost €80 for any applicant over 12, €40 for children aged between 6 and 12, and there is no charge for children under 6. Tourist visas are normally valid for six months and extensions are only possible in exceptional circumstances.

Young multiracial couple dancing on the city center of Barcelona, Catalonia
Enjoy everything Spain has to offer © Getty Images

Can I extend my tourist visa?

It is possible to extend a short-term tourist visa as long as the authorized stay is shorter than 90 days, but only in exceptional cases that arise after entering Spain. 

Getting approval for a short-term visa extension is not an easy task and you will need an exceptional reason to secure it. Schengen visa policy states those reasons include late entry, humanitarian reasons, (needing medical treatment, the death of a family member, etc), force majeure, or other important personal reasons that the immigration authorities will consider.

It's imperative that you request a visa extension from either the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation or the Ministry of the Interior in Spain before your existing visa expires.
 

This article was first published August 2021 and updated July 2023

Explore related stories

Waldorf-Astoria-Amsterdam.jpeg

Tips & Advice

Traveling to Europe using points and miles in 2024

Jan 29, 2024 • 17 min read