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Spain Visa

Travel Visas to Spain This is a page all about visas to Spain. It includes information on tourist, student, work, spousal, and other types of visas as well as a collection of reader questions that I have answered. Submit information and links about how to obtain travel visas to Spain. How did you get your [...]

Support VBJ’s writing on this blog:

Travel Visas to Spain

This is a page all about visas to Spain. It includes information on tourist, student, work, spousal, and other types of visas as well as a collection of reader questions that I have answered.

Submit information and links about how to obtain travel visas to Spain. How did you get your Spain visa? Contribute information below to help other travelers.

Q and A about visas to Spain

Can I return to Spain after overstaying my visa?

I am a mexican girl. Last year I was studying in spain. I had a student visa and I overstayed for 10 days in Spain because I had to do some paper work at school. I left Spain via the UK. I flew from Madrid to London and from London to Mexico. No one said to me anything nor in Spain or in Egland. I am applying for a new visa now, this time to study a Phd. I am wondering if I’ll have any problems to get my visa approved this time. Thank you for your help.

Although you could be denied a visa to continue your studies in Spain (visas can be denied for any reason or lack there of) because of your previous unpunished overstay, it is not my impression that this is very likely. As you were not impeded as you exited the region it is safe to assume that you were not entered into the SIS — the Schengen information system. I would assume that you could apply for a student visa without much worry.

How to exit Spain after overstaying a visa?

I had this time in my passport a Visa valid for four months in Spain, where I would have received my foreigner’s card that would have permitted to work in Spain for a year. Long story short, I didn’t get the job I was promised, so I did not have this card. I still decided to make the most out of my stay and travel in Europe after my 4 months visa expired. It expired in january. Since then I have been avoiding taking planes inside Europe and been travelling by bus. The point is, I’ve overstayed for 5 months now.

Right now I’m living in portugal, but I am leaving Europe around mid-june. I have, as I know now, three options for leaving:

Option 1: I leave from Malaga, in the south of Spain, just dress good, have a nice haircut, look confident and casual as I pass the controls at the airport. I hope the known laxism of the spanish culture will influence the decision of the guy to just let me go.

This is not a bad option, as many overstayers leave from Spain without being caught, but this is probably not the best option.

Option 2: I go north to take my plane from France. I hope the fact that so many french canadians take this route will influence in the fact that they will let me go easily without asking me anything…

Flights out of France have proved to work out well for many travelers who have overstayed in the Schengen zone. This is probably your best bet. Keep in mind that just about everything with Schengen immigration is inconsistent, so I can only give information out on the basis of patterns that I have observed.

As you know, the entire Schengen zone has dropped their internal borders, so there should be no immigration checks between countries, but keep in mind that I have received two reports of Spanish authorities checking passports coming into Spain from France. This should be directly against the Schengen treaty, but I have no reason to doubt these reports. So flying to France may be just as good of an option as going overland. There should be no immigration inspections on domestic flights (I have taken many and can attest to this).

Option 3: I take a boat from spain to Morroco, in a moroqui car. A morroqui guy I know in Maroc goes back every year to Morroco, and when you take the boat with a Moroqui car, they don’t ask anything, they don’t even check your passport as you leave the EU. But if you go walking on the boat they do check everything.

As for going to Morocco with the moroqui car. This could be an adequate option, but don’t bank on them not inspecting your passport — remember, inconsistencies are everywhere here. Just because your friend did not (or does not remember) having his passport inspected doesn’t mean you won’t. But, even if you do, Spain does not seem to be incredibly vigilant about prosecuting overstayers (though they seem much more active than France). If you leave from Spain on a flight back to Canada, make sure that you are not routed through any other Schengen country, as this will be where you go through immigration.

That [taking car to Morocco] option would have me go through the UK before going to montreal, as the flights from morroco to montreal are too expensive.

This is OK, as you are coming in from Morocco, a country that the UK has no immigration affiliation with. Although the UK is not a part of the Schengen zone, they will sometimes “assist” with Schengen immigration enforcement, but I have only received one confirmed report of them doing so. Again, by the time your flight lands in the UK, you would have cleared Schengen exit immigration two countries ago. There should be no problem, especially if you are just transferring flights.

First of all, since I don’t go trough to the computer system, I’m still officially in Europe? How can they know when I got out once I come back, to determine if I have the right to be there? Will they question me a lot when I come back? Will I have problems? Will the UK inform the EU that I am in fact out of the EU since I read they were collaborating?

Don’t make more of the Schengen immigration computer system (the SIS) than what it is. It is my impression that you are not really entered into the system unless you are prosecuted with a previous overstay. Although they probably could track each traveler who comes into and out of the region, this does not seem to be the case. I have heard a couple of cases where a traveler suspects that they are tracked in this computer system prior to being busted for an immigration infraction, but I currently feel that the this is not the rule. Generally, you will not have any problems with the SIS unless you are logged as an overstayer, but I suspect that this will change in the near future and every traveler will be logged and digitally monitored.

My fear is not to pay a fine, as I can borrow money to pay it. My fear is to be banned from the EU for three years, as I want to visit friends there in the future. I read on another site that if you payed the 600$ fine on the spot, in cash, at the airport, you didn’t have any other problem and you weren’t banned. Is that true?

Only Switzerland and Greece are currently fining visa overstayers. It has been the experience of some other travelers that paying these does NOT prevent them from being banned. Some pay are are still banned. Keep in mind that nothing about this Schengen immigration system is cut and dry. MANY travelers are told that they are not banned by immigration just to be denied entry the next time they try to re-enter the zone; some are told they are banned and have no troubles reentering. The experience of one person cannot be regarded as being the rule for everyone, but keep in mind that if you have ANY sort of hiccup when going through immigration, there is a reasonable possibility that you are banned.

And concerning this three year ban, I think I read on your site that people were still coming in Europe even though they had a ban, as long as they were not overstaying a second time. And as long as they don’t enter by germany or switzerland…

No, this is not necessarily true. Currently, the bans are enforced very inconsistently, sometimes banned individuals are allowed back in and sometimes they are denied. Not overstaying a second time has nothing to do with it, there is no force of login here. Generally, it is all left up to how diligent the immigration official is when checking you out that will determine if you are allowed back in. Also, it seems to take a while before your overstay record really comes up in the SIS. So some travelers who have overstayed return prior to their record being accessible, and then they think they are free to go, just to be busted at a later date. Though it is good practice to not used Germany, Switzerland, or the Netherlands as entry or exit hubs into the Schengen zone if you have any blemishes on your immigration record. The other countries are very hit and miss in terms of their enforcement of bans, and while there are patterns, there does not seem to be a rule to any of this.

Do you think I have to go trough all that Morroco problem to avoid a ban? Or are the spanish relax enough not to care? Are the french relax and see so many canadians that they won’t care?

Spain is still not a bad place to exit from if you’ve overstayed your visa. Lots of people report exiting from there without incident, but it is my impression that France is a better bet if you can make it up there. Again, there are no rules to any strategy here, only patterns, and France seems to have one of the better track record in terms of not prosecuting overstayers in the region.

One final point of advice here. If you are caught and have problems with immigration show them the paperwork for the Spanish work permit/ visa and tell them that you were awaiting your foreigner’s card. Blame the overstay on Spain’s inability to process your card in a timely matter, say that you overstayed because you were awaiting an immigration decision. Spain is notorious for taking a VERY long time issuing these residency permits, and, sometimes (but not always), overstays are overlooked if you can make it seem that you were waiting for a particular country’s immigration to issue you proper credentials. This is probably your best bet if you are caught, telling them a girlfriend story will do no good at all.

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: Spain, Visas

About the Author:

I am the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. I’ve been traveling the world since 1999, through 91 countries. I am the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China and have written for The Guardian, Forbes, Bloomberg, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3716 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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VBJ is currently in: New York City

23 comments… add one

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  • Wade | Vagabondjourney.com November 3, 2010, 4:37 pm

    Overstayed Student Visa in Spain, No Problems Leaving, I have been out of the country for 90 days now, will I be ok to return? Should I get a new passport so my visa expiration date and exit stamp aren’t in my passport?

    Link Reply
    • Wade | Vagabondjourney.com November 3, 2010, 4:39 pm


      Would not recommend getting a new passport. You should be alright to re-enter, just so you were out of the Schengen zone for three months.

      Walk Slow,


      Link Reply
  • Wade | Vagabondjourney.com November 3, 2010, 4:41 pm

    Hello Wade, I am currently living in Spain for a planned round trip of 98 days. I booked my trip last minute and had no time to apply for a visa in the US, so I decided I would just go to the UK for 8 or 9 days to get under the 90day limit in the Schengen country. I’m working a job here and it will difficult (but not impossible) to leave for 9 days, and after being here and talking to people about the visa situation no one seems concerned with an 8 day overstay. This of course is just opinion of friends living here, so I am trying to find more advice elsewhere. How will they even know I am here 8 days too long? If I go to the UK for just a weekend, wont that just be on my passport and I can tell them at the airport that I was only in Spain for 90 days? Youre help is greatly appreciated!

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    • Wade | Vagabondjourney.com November 3, 2010, 4:49 pm

      You can receive the same penalty for a one day overstay in the Schengen zone as you could for a ten year overstay. It is a silly system, and I have even received reports from travelers who have received 3 year bans from overstays of a single day.

      But Spain seems to be one of the most lax countries in the region in terms of punishing overstayers, so I would not worry too much about it — just don’t try to leave the Schengen zone through Germany or Switzerland. Keep in mind to check over your flight itinerary out of the region to make sure that you have no connections in any other Schengen countries, as this will be the place you go through exit immigration.

      In the end, if you can, I highly recommend that short trip to England (or even Morocco) to get under the legal stay limit. It would just be better this way. They will know how long you are in Spain by the stamps in your passport, as you will be stamped out of the Schengen region before entering England, and stamped back in on your return. Some immigration points even break out calculators and add up your days, but, as I said, as of now Spain seems to be one of the more lax countries in regards to immigration procedures in the region.

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  • Whitney November 5, 2010, 4:17 pm


    I am an American citizen who has been in Barcelona on my tourist visa I have been living and working here for the past month in a half and have recently run into an emergency the family that I have been an Aupair for has an ill family member that they must care for an I am no longer able to stay. Since I did not give myself enough of a financial safety net I am planning to go work for another family as an Aupair in Madrid. I know because my 90 days won’t have expired I will be fine to fly into Madrid in the next couple weeks, however I will be overstaying my visa. I do not plan to travel to any other EU countries the rest of my time overseas (I have already done my backpacking) will I be okay to return to the US without problem if I overstay my tourist visa 6 months in order to gain enough money for a ticket home?

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  • Michelle November 24, 2010, 5:03 pm

    I am currently studying in Santander, Spain. I am going to Stockholm on December 18th for Christmas until December 29th. My visa was supposed to be for 180 days, but is for 90. Which means I would need to be back by the 30th of December. However, it says single entry. I don’t know what this means? It also says it goes from Sept. 29, 2010 until November 20, 2010, which doesn’t make sense if it says the duration is 90 days. I am in the process of getting a student residency card, but it won’t be here until December 23rd and I won’t be in Spain. Will I have issues coming back to Spain? And then on the 29th I will go to Seville from Madrid to meet my mom and we will be there until January 7. Will flying be a problem if my visa is “expired.” Or will I be safe to travel?

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    • Wade | Vagabondjourney.com November 24, 2010, 5:11 pm

      It seems as if you only received a single entry, two month visa if that is what the stamp says in your passport. The immigration official who deals with your entry into a country can often give you however many days on your visa as they want. Though it is very odd that you would only be given less than two months, single entry.

      Immigration checkpoints have been removed between the countries of the Schengen region, so, theoretically, you could travel to Sweden and then return to Spain without going through immigration. But police or immigration may check your passport anyway — there is no guarantee against this. As far as entry goes, you would not be leaving the Schengen zone, so you won’t be violating the single entry stamp in your passport, but it seems as if you may be over your visa.

      I recommend that you go to an immigration office immediately and figure this out. It is my impression that they could give you up to 90 days, which would make you legal up until the point you receive your residency card.

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  • Meilanih February 23, 2011, 7:04 pm


    I am indonesian working in singapore, and currently i’m holding a working visa here in singapore. I will visit spain in june-july 2011, but i have an issue here. Apparently i will stay in my friend’s place in madrid, and my friend is spanish, due to this it required me a local police letter ( police letter from spain) in one of the requirement of the visa.
    My friend in spain tried to get one from me, but it was even more complicated, the local police told my friend that i might need to get a ‘letter in spanish’ pertaining where i live now with a notary stamp. I am totally at a lost here…

    could someone help me.. 🙁
    kindly appreciate it

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    • Wade | Vagabondjourney.com February 25, 2011, 5:15 pm

      Yes, it is often much more problematic if you apply for a visa or tell immigration that you are anything but an ordinary tourist on vacation. This extends to saying that you know ANYBODY in the country. If you can, I would back out of this and try to reapply again stating that you will just be staying in hotels and leave your Spanish friend out of it.

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    • Meilanih March 4, 2011, 11:43 am

      Hi Wade,

      thanks alot for the reply.
      I do have some other questions that i need to find out, and hopefully you can help me out before i go to the embassy and apply for my visa.
      Since i will travel around EUROPE, and I will not spend my whole trip ( for 18 days) in Spain, do i need to give the embassy the booking of my hotel in other places as well?
      I didn’t know that is difficult to enter Spain with this tourist visa.

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      • Wade | Vagabondjourney.com April 25, 2011, 11:48 pm

        No, just Spain. More often than not, you don’t even need to show proof that you are staying anywhere, just an address.

        Link Reply
  • Dave March 29, 2011, 1:28 pm

    I spent 45 days in Spain earlier this year (2011). I would like to go back for two months from April till June. This will, of course, put me over the 90 days. The passport I used (Canadian) has been replaced with a completely new one. Would I be ok with that new passport? Thanks…..

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    • Wade | Vagabondjourney.com March 30, 2011, 3:17 pm

      If you were not previously caught overstaying — probably.

      Link Reply
  • C March 31, 2011, 1:20 pm

    I am a US citizen who didn’t know to get a visa for my 6 month trip to the EU, 3 month study abroad, 3 month travel. (thought the 90 days was consecutive not in 180 days per embassy websites..thought I could leave Schengen stats and come back without a problem) My study abroad is in Spain and I will be in spain when my time runs out. Will it be a problem to travel around through the Schengen states on an expired visa? I already have plans and a plane ticket to marseielle france, then I have plans to go to switzerland and germany (i’ve read they’re strict?) and also Italy. My flight back to the US is through Brussels with a connecting flight in Dublin (also have read, they’re strict?!) How much trouble do you think i’ll get in? Will I be able to get to the US from dublin even if I have to pay a fine? Thanks for your help!! I’ve appreciated reading your advice to other travelers.

    Link Reply
    • Wade | Vagabondjourney.com March 31, 2011, 1:32 pm


      Typically, the penalty for overstaying a Schengen tourist visa is a 3 year ban from the entire region. Punishments are applied inconsistently. Ireland is part of the EU but is not a Schengen country, and they maintain their own immigration. Typically, if you are just making a flight connection you will not go through immigration. Brussels is your point of exit from the Schengen zone and this is where you will go through immigration.

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  • Maggie A. March 28, 2012, 7:12 pm

    So I’m an American citizen, and I’m currently in Spain, au pairing for a family. I arrived on January 15th and I leave in a week and a half. All added up, I will have been here for 83 days. I’m going back to the United States for a few months, but planning on returning to Spain for another three months on June 28th. If I understand correctly, I can only stay in the country for 90 days out of a 180-day time frame. That means my 180-day time frame ends on July 13th and cumulatively, I will have reached my 90 days on July 5th. So..I have this really awkward over-lap and eight days where I’m staying past ninety days. But on the 13th, a new 180-day period starts. Should I try to apply for some sort of visa? Or should I just risk it? Would problems arrive in trying to get back into Spain in June, or would it be when I left in September? On September 13th, I’m leaving Spain and traveling across Europe for two weeks, leaving out of Rome on September 26th. From what I’ve read, Italy seems to be pretty lenient on these sorts of things, but will I have any problems going from country to country via trains? Any advice? Please help!

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  • John April 3, 2012, 9:16 am

    Hi there, my girlfriend is from the Philippines and overstayed her UK work/study visa for about a year. We are going to get married in a church and a registry office in the UK as I believe you do not need to notify immigration.
    I am going to apply for my Spanish citizenship as my father was Spanish.
    I was wondering that once I have my Spanish citizenship, how easy or difficult would it be to apply for my then wife to come to Spain?
    Would she have problems with the Spanish authorities in providing details regarding her UK work/study visa overstay.
    many thanks.

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  • Julia June 6, 2012, 2:17 pm

    My boyfriend was caught in LHR for overstaying a tourist visa in the Schengen area 4 months ago and was told he had been banned from the UK for all of 2012 and would have an Interpol record for overstaying his visa. He has since applied for a student visa in Spain and was summarily denied, but no reason was given for the denial of his application. He is planning to come to visit me (I’m living in Spain on a one-year student visa) and then we will be traveling in several countries both in and out of the Schengen area (Spain, Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany, US, Spain again, Greece, Turkey, Croatia, Montenegro, Italy, Austria, Germany again, and Spain again). He will definitely not be overstaying the Schengen visa again but if you have any information on the likelihood of his being denied entry to Madrid or any of the other countries and reapplying for a Spanish student visa in November I would very much appreciate it. Would it be any easier if he replaced his passport or is this not the fix-all trick it’s been made out to be? I’ve heard about 1 year bans and 3 year bans from all of Europe, but he was only told he had been banned from the UK. Is there anyway to find out if this is accurate information?

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  • Heart December 13, 2012, 8:44 am

    Hello there! I’m a Filipino. My Spanish boyfriend sent me an invitation for a tourist visa. Should I make an itinerary of my day to day trip and submit it to the embassy when I apply for a visa? I am going to maximize my stay of 90 days and I will be staying in my boyfriend’s house. But I don’t have plans to travel outside of Spain as I just want to visit my boyfriend and his family.

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  • jin July 9, 2013, 5:48 pm

    Hi Wade,
    I read the posts and your replies to most of them below.

    Is it still true Spain is lax on the overstaying?

    all over the webs, people are talking about 90 day visa and extension on top of that.

    Spain VSF gave me 14 day visa. my travels (as a tourist) is extended a few more days to 17 days.

    how high is my risk? i don’t want a fine!!!

    i hold a philippine passport and i am accompanying my sponsor and their family for this visit. we all have the same flights, hotel bookings etc. my sponsor is american and they do not need prior schengan visa application.

    your help is most appreciated.

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  • pepper September 15, 2013, 10:18 pm

    Hi good day, i am a Filipina girl lives in Philippines, i have a Fiancé who is a Spanish and also live in Spain. At first we decided to get marry in Spain next year but suddenly he changed his mind and he wanted to get marry now in Philippines. I asked him if we still get marry in Spain once i come over there. He told me that getting married in Philippines is enough and it is legal. Does our marriage is also valid when we get to Spain once we get married in Philippines?

    Thank you very much.

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    • Wade Shepard September 15, 2013, 11:04 pm

      It is best to get a fiance visa and get married there. It is far more difficult if you get married abroad.

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  • Nathan March 8, 2023, 5:39 pm

    Great stuff! I really loved it. Thanks for this helpful guide. It’s really helpful. Spain is one of the best countries in Europe. It has so many unique places. Everyone should go and see there.

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