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Travel Through Europe on Spain Student Visa

Map of Spain
Map of Spain
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Question: Can my daughter travel to Norway on a Spanish student permit?

Answer:

Hello Jessica,

It is understandable that your daughter wants to travel to other European countries while studying abroad in Spain, but the current immigration infrastructure in Europe makes doing so legally a little complicated. There are two ways to look at your daughter’s situation in Europe:

1. There are no (or there are not suppose to be) internal border checks within the Schengen Zone. As Spain and Norway are both included in this immigration zone, there should not be any immigration procedures to go through when traveling between the countries by land, air, or sea.

I have traveled all through this region overland and by air, and I can vouch that there are no immigration or custom procedures to go through — on intra-Schengen flights you show your passport at the airport for identification only. Although I have received reports of travelers traversing Germany getting caught up with passport checks, though I believe that this is not too common.

2. It is my impression that although a Schengen tourist visa is good for all of the 25 or so countries in the region, but a long term student visa is only good for the country who issued it and 90 days in the Schengen region outside of that country. In point, up to 90 days a student can travel on their student visa to the other Schengen countries, but once this time is up it seems as if they are bound to the country who issued the permit –Schengen visa rules.

It is my impression that your daughter may have used up all of these 90 days by entering the region on a tourist visa rather than a proper student visa (what the school should have had her get before coming to Spain). In the case of Spain, on year long student visas it seems as if  a student is only given five days of additional travel time in other Schengen countries outside of Spain. But I would strongly advise your daughter to talk with immigration directly about this (NOT THE SCHOOL! ) as my interpretation may not run parallel to some authorities. This is confusing, I know.

Map of Spain

It is legal in Spain to study on a tourist visa, so it seems as if your daughter’s school took advantage of this by not demanding that student visas be applied for before arrival (which they should have done for terms of study over 90 days). This seems funny to me, as it is clearly stated in many places that for terms of study exceeding three months the student visa needs to be applied for in advance (in the home country). But there is often “official” immigration policy and “actual” enforcement, your daughter’s school probably has a lot of experience dealing with these issues.

If your daughter applied for her Spanish student visa from the USA and entered on a student visa then it seems as if she would have 90 days to travel around to the other countries of the Schengen zone (though it is very unclear how this could be enforced without immigration controls), but as she entered on a tourist visa, it is my impression that she has already used up all of her days that could have been spent in other Schengen countries. Especially since your daughter does not yet have her student card it seems as if she is in a state of immigration limbo.

I would highly advise your daughter to talk with an immigration office directly (NOT THE SCHOOL!) about her situation, try to get her card expedited, and find out the ins and outs of her particular situation. Though remember, there is a lot of phony and incorrect information floating around about Schengen visa policy, and even the words of an official can not be taken as the rule of law — interpretation counts for a lot here.

But, I must say strongly, that there is official immigration policy in Schengen Europe and enforced policy. Honestly, I have no idea how immigration policy can readily be enforced within a region without borders. If your daughter took a regional flight to Norway from Spain she would not go through any immigration procedures, so the risks of doing so cold be said to be minimal. I highly doubt that your daughter will encounter any problems returning to Spain from a trip in other Schengen countries.

It is also difficult to get solid, authoritative information on this topic, but the following pages provide some insight on the rules surrounding traveling to other Schengen countries on student and residency permits.

http://www.learn4good.com/travel/es_visa.htm

http://www.tumbit.com/how-to-guides/articles/100-applying-for-a-student-visa.html

http://www.travellerspoint.com/forum.cfm?thread=67599

This seems to be a difficult situation to get a handle on, as there are many forces and factors at work. It is silly to expect a student in Spain to only stay in this one country, but as your daughter seems to have already used up all the days on her tourist visa so travel to other Schengen countries may be against the rules. But, then again, there are no border controls, she is legal (?) in Spain, and deportation for Americans is very, very rare.

If you have any further questions please leave them in a comment below.

Walk Slow,

Wade

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Original question about traveling through Europe on a Spanish student visa

My daughter is 16 years old and is a Foreign Exchange Student in Spain.  She has been invited by friends to spend the Holidays in Norway.  However they way they issue the student visa is a bit convoluted.  They give you a tourist Visa with multiple entires that is good for 3 months.  Within a month of arriving you apply for you Student Card.  (Which my daughter did).  Her Visa “expires” on November 1, 2010.  And the way I understand it is that the Student Residency Card is supposed to take the place of her soon to be expired Visa.  The problem is that apparently Spain is notorius for being very slow to process the Student Cards.  (Supposedly many students do not receive their cards until they have left the country – a YEAR later).  Because of this her program advisors say she may have trouble re-enterring the country if she travels and they want me to sign a piece of paper saying that it’s o.k. with me if she is denied entry back into Spain!  I’m not o.k. with that.  I’ve been pushing to see if there is some other document that she can get so that she can travel worry free, but I’m not having any luck.  Do you know of any document or ANYTHING I can do to make sure she can travel freely around Europe.  Part of the reason she went to Europe was to be able to travel and this is a real bummer.  Please let me know any thoughts.

-Jessica

Do you have a Schengen visa question?

If so, then take a look at our Schengen visa community forum. It’s a community just for people who have questions or concerns related to Europe’s Schengen immigration zone.
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Filed under: Europe, Schengen Visas, Spain, Travel Help, Visas

About the Author:

Wade Shepard is the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. He has been traveling the world since 1999, through 76 countries. He is the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China, and contributes to Forbes, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3054 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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