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Travel Through Europe on Spain Student Visa

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 [...]

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


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.



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,


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.


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:

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 3722 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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13 comments… add one

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  • Jessica November 1, 2010, 9:30 am

    Actually she did apply for and receive a Student Visa – However eventhough the application is for the entire length of stay they only issue a visa good for 180 days.

    I found this on a website:

    In order to apply for a student visa that lasts more than 180 days, you will need to complete the procedures for a student visa per the section above (Student Visas for Up to 180 Days). In addition, you will need to prove that you have no criminal record in the form of a Certificate of Absence of Police Records (Certificado de Antecedentes Penales) and prove that you are in good physical and mental health by submitting a letter from your doctor attesting to that effect.

    You are initially given a student visa for only three months. But don’t panic. This is just part of the process. Therefore, within one month of your arrival in Spain you will need to go to a Foreigners’ Office (Oficina de Extranjeros) or an office of the National Police (Policía Nacional) closest to where you live in Spain and apply for a student card for your Autorización de Estancia por Estudios. The student card will replace the student visa that you were issued in your home country. The card is generally valid for one year, but it can be renewed every year as long as you continue to fulfill the requirements.

    – It is this card that she is waiting for. But are you telling me she is not allowed to travel once she gets her student card? I’m confused because doesn’t the card make her a “resident” and as a “resident” of Spain aren’t you allowed to travel to the other parts of the EU?

    Let me know your thoughts.

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    • Wade | Vagabondjourney.com November 1, 2010, 9:47 am

      On most temporary residence permits you are given 90 days to travel to other countries in the region. If she did not use up all of these days with the tourist visa she entered with then she should be good to go. Don’t worry, if she has the student visa in her passport she will be alright. I thought that you meant that she has been on a tourist visa this entire time.

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  • Jessica November 1, 2010, 9:44 am

    One more question. If the worst happens and she is “caught” trying to get into Norway or denied re-entry into Spain upon her return . . . what happens? Is she arrested and thrown in jail? Is she barred from Spain forever? Would they require to fly back to the United States to straighten things out? Would letters from the family in Norway saying that she can visit and a letter from her host family in Spain stating that she is a student in Spain make things easier?

    I guess I just want to know the worst case scenario – if it means she has to make a few phone calls and her coordinator needs to come to the airport to vouch for her – while a hassle, that wouldn’t be so bad. But if the worst case scenario means she’s arrested and thrown into some nasty jail – I think that’s much too scary for a little 16 year old girl and not worth the risk.

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    • Wade | Vagabondjourney.com November 1, 2010, 9:52 am

      No, she won’t be put in jail. There is no immigration checkpoints between Spain and Norway, so there is no control to get through anyway. If your daughter has a 180 day student visa which overrode the 90 day tourist visa she entered with it seems as if she is within the legal limits of what she intends to do and everything is OK — she has not yet spent 90 days out of Spain. Again, there is no way to even know how many days she spends outside of Spain to begin with (no stamps in passport for traveling through Schengen countries) so I doubt that even if an immigration official was to look at her passport they would suspect her of wrong doing.

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  • Jessica November 1, 2010, 11:12 am

    Thank you so much! This makes me feel MUCH better. 🙂

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  • Lexi December 14, 2010, 4:44 am

    Hi! Sorry to interrupt but I’m also a student going to study in Spain & I got a Spanish Student’s visa & wish to travel to other schengen countries across Europe. You mean to say that I CAN TRAVEL with just a spanish student’s visa (it does not specifically say schengen) for 90 daysss??? (Is this 90 days CONSECUTIVE, like for instance if Im going to Spain from January to June, I may only travel from January to March and after that I am only bordered within Spain, or is this 90 days nonconsecutive, so I can travel outside of Spain for say, a few days then re-enter Spain, then go to another country for another few days, etc etc)??

    Alsooo, if my flight back home is from Rome, Italy… will I encounter problems entering Italy on the 6th month if my visa is only Spanish??

    Thank you very much!

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    • Wade | Vagabondjourney.com December 14, 2010, 10:02 am

      My understanding is that with most student visas you have 90 days to travel to other Schengen countries within the time allotted by your visa. You can break these days up however you wish, but, honestly, there is no way of anyone telling how long you spent in each country as there are no immigration controls within the Schengen region. Just be out before your student visa expires and you should be alright.

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  • kaleem March 15, 2011, 4:15 am

    i want a student visa for spain.please guide me .thanks

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  • Nolan October 26, 2015, 7:43 am

    I have a Students residence card expired on august 31st and I had forgotten to renew my students residence card. can I board a plane and show the immigration my expired NIE card and university student card valid till 2018 to enter Spain again? If I show them an appointment to renew NIE thru online will it help me?

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  • lou January 29, 2017, 6:12 pm

    hello. I just want to ask what happen to my son got his tourist visa and only stay for 90 days but he overstay in Norway because I want to apply him a residence visa in Norway. I dont want to send him in Philippines that’s why I decided to stay in Norway and apply him a residence visa. Is it possible? What happen to him. thanks.

    Link Reply
    • Wade Shepard February 5, 2017, 3:25 am

      Probably not. He could end up banned from entering the Schengen region for many years.

      Link Reply