Visas & Permits for Spain

Spain is a member of the Schengen agreement, so, depending on your nationality, you may need a Spanish visa or work permit in order to obtain a right to travel to, work, or study in Spain. This guide will help you to find out whether you need either a Spanish visa or a work permit, what documents you should collect in order to apply for a visa/work permit and how to do it, as well as you will get some information about becoming a Spanish national.
Who requires a Spanish visa and how to apply
Spain is one of the members of the Schengen zone, which comprises countries that share one common border and the citizens of which can freely travel within the Schengen zone, get employed in other states of the Schengen area, etc. The members of the Schengen agreement are the following: Switzerland, Sweden, Spain, Slovenia, Slovakia, Portugal, Poland, Norway, the Netherlands, Malta, Luxermbourg, Lithuania, Liechtenstein, Latvia, Italy, Iceland, Hungary, Greece, Germany, France, Finland, Estonia, Denmark, Czech Republic, Belgium, and Austria.

Spain is also a member of the European Union. You must keep in mind that non-EU member can be a member of the Schengen area (Switzerland, Norway, etc.), while EU members (Romania, Bulgaria, Croatia) can be not members of the Schengen agreement.

Citizens of one Schengen state may freely work in another Schengen state or stay there longer for 3 months (in the period of 6 months). Citizens of some countries may visit Spain (and other Schengen countries) for up to 3 months without having a Spanish visa, but they cannot stay for work or longer than 3 months without a special visa or work permit. Countries, the citizens of which do not require a Spanish visa for short-term visits, include: Venezuela, Vanuatu, Uruguay, United States of America, United Arab Emirates, Tuvaly, Trinidad and Tobago, Tonga, Timor-Leste, Taiwan, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, St. Lucia, St. Kitts and Nevis, South Korea, Solomon Islands, Singapore, Serbia, Seyschelles, San Marino, Samoa, Peru, Paraguay, Panama, Palau, Nicaragua, New Zealand, Montenegro, Monaco, Moldova, Micronesia, Mexico, Mauritius, Marshall Islands, Malaysia, Macedonia, Macau, Kiribati, Japan, Israel, Hong Kong, Honduras, Holy See (or State of the Vatican), Guatemala, Grenada, El Salvador, Dominica, Costa Rica, Colombia, Chile, Canada, Brunei Darussalam, Brazil, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Barbados, Bahamas, Australia, Argentina, Antigua and Barbuda, Andorra, and Albania. The citizens of Georgia and Ukraine will also be able to travel to Schengen states for as much as 3 months until the end of summer 2017.

This map shows the present-day members of the Schengen area and EU
Citizens of other countries need to receive a Spanish visa for short-term visits (travel, shopping, short-term study purposes, etc.) by going to the website of the Spanish embassy in their countries. There, they must fill in the application form, pay a fee, get the filled application form and checklist (of the required documents) printed, book an appointment at the embassy. Documents, specified in the checklist, must be collected and brought along for the appointment at the Spanish embassy.
All you need to know about obtaining a work permit
Citizens of the EU countries and nationals of EU/EEA countries as well as Switzerland do not need a work permit in order to work in Spain. Citizens of all other countries, indeed, must obtain a work permit prior to starting to work in this country. Though, there are can be exceptions, including for family members of people who already work in Spain (and thus, they have a work permit) or researchers who arrived in Spain to work on a particular project.

If you don’t belong to any of those groups of people, then you need to find a job in a Spanish company first. Once an employer has expressed a wish to hire you and you have received a job, the company should issue a work permit for you. Considering that it may take up to 8 months to grant you a work permit, you should apply for a visa while you’re the permit is being processed.

Once you have received a copy of an application from your employer, send it to the Spanish embassy in your country and apply for a residence/work visa. The embassy will provide Spain’s labor office with a confirmation that it has received your application, and so you will be granted a work permit as well. Your visa will be processed right after you will receive the work permit.

Work permit in Spain is valid not longer than a year, but, once a year has passed, you can renew it while staying within the country.

There are also so-called “fast-track visas”, which can be obtained by non-EU highly skilled professionals, researchers, investors, or entrepreneurs. Such a visa allows a person to get a residence for him/her and his/her family. Though, depending on what a reason of your application for a fast-track visa is, you may be asked to satisfy certain requirements.
Who and how can apply for Spanish nationality
If you want to have all the rights that all other Spanish citizens have (including the right to vote), you need to become a Spanish national. In order to become a Spanish national, you must have an uninterrupted residence of up to 10 years. The Spanish state doesn’t allow dual citizenship, but some evidence proves that the citizens of such state like Andorra, Equatorial Guinea, Philippines, Portugal, and Latin American countries venture to keep their old nationality along with a new Spanish one. Typically, governments of those countries do not exchange this kind of information with the Spanish government, but, indeed, preserving an old nationality implies a certain risk.

Spanish citizenship gives you a right to vote
Depending on some criteria, a requirement for residence may be lower, namely:

5 years for asylum seekers and refugees;
2 years for nationals of Portugal, Equatorial Guinea, the Philippines, Androrra, Latin American countries, and Jews with a Spanish origin;
1 years for people, married to Spanish citizens, or those who were born in Spain to foreign nationals, or those who were born in other countries to Spanish citizens, or those who were adopted by Spanish nationals.

You must keep in mind that, in order to count your residence, you mustn’t be out of Spain for longer than 6 months in 1 year.

The exterior of the Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs
You can apply for a Spanish nationality if you are 18 years old or older. Though, it is possible to apply for a nationality if you are 14 years old or older, in case if legal custodians or parents will assist in doing so.

The Spanish Justice Ministry (Ministerio de Justicia) is responsible for granting Spanish nationality, while the institution where you can apply for it is called Registro Civil.

You need to bring the following documents to the Registro Civil:

Your passport, which must be valid;
Your certificate of birth;
A certificate from the consulate, which provides the following evidence: the former nationality, the military status and criminal records of yours in the home country;
Registration that you have completed at the town council in Spain;
Proofs that certify your ability to receive medical assistance during the period of your residence in Spain;
Certificates of marriage and/or divorce;
A document proving the residence period of yours in Spain: either a long-term contract for accommodation rental or a certificate from the police that certifies your actual time of residence;
A certificate that shows your criminal records in Spain.

Translation of the documents into Spanish is required.
Useful sources
Social Security Offices

Ministry of Justice of Spain

Oficina de Extranjeria (needed for obtaining NIE, Numero de Identificación de Extranjero)