Is It Possible to Get a Residence Permit in Spain as a Tourist?


Spain has become one of the main destinations for foreigners from all over the world who want to start their life in a new country. According to HSBC’s annual ex-pat explorer survey, Spain is the fourth-best country in the world for ex-pats. 

And there is no doubt about it. A near-perfect climate 365 days a year, delicious Mediterranean cuisine, a country with a wide range of culture and leisure opportunities, the existence of so many foreign communities,… These are all the factors that make it the ideal place. 

However, all these non-European citizens who wish to begin their new adventure in the Spanish territory are faced with doubt. Which is the procedure that any foreigner must go through in order to establish herself legally in the country? In other words, they do not know how to get their residence permit.

It all starts with the tourist visa

A fairly high percentage of foreigners who intend to move to Spain always follow the same procedure. 

Before applying for their visa and going through the whole application procedure, they often prefer to visit the country for a certain period of time as tourists. 

The 90 days of legal stay that the tourist visa offers allows them to visit a large part of the territory. And that is a good opportunity to choose the city where they will later settle, find the specific areas where they can buy their property, or discover existing leisure opportunities. 

Thus, during their stay as tourists, it is also very common for them to want to start the immigration process right then and there. They are already in Spain, so it seems much easier to do so directly while in this country.

And this is where the question that we will explore in this article pops ups: is it possible to get a residence permit in Spain with a tourist visa?

Is that really possible?

The general rule says it’s not possible. The Spanish Immigration Law establishes that non-European citizens who want to establish in Spain must initiate the procedure from his or her country of origin. As a consequence, with a tourist visa, it is not possible to start the procedure.

However, there are 4 specific situations that act as exceptions to this general rule. These are new laws or particular cases that have emerged in recent years allowing this to be possible. 

Let’s then see into greater detail what they are all about.

Work permit as a highly-skilled worker

Although it is true that it is not possible to obtain a regular work permit as a tourist in Spain, in 2013 a new law was approved, the Law of Entrepreneurs, which establishes a specific type of work permit: the permit as a highly qualified worker

If the foreigner finds a job offer as a manager or in a similar position, has a university or master’s degree and the offer she receives offers a salary of over 50,000 euros per year, then she could get the work permit while being a tourist (and therefore the residency in the country).

Student visa

After the last modification of the immigration law in September 2019, it is now possible to enter Spain as a tourist, register at a university or higher education centre, and thus obtain a student visa

It will be essential to prove that the applicant has sufficient economic means to sustain herself in the country and private health insurance for the application to be accepted in this case. 

Furthermore, and just to avoid a denied file, the future Spanish student must send her application during the first 60 days of her tourist visa stay. Hence the importance of enrolling as soon as possible in a Spanish university.

Residence permit as a family member of an EU citizen

Many non-European citizens decide to marry or constitute a civil partnership with a European citizen, as this will enable them to obtain the residency in the country. 

And another of the advantages offered by this path is the possibility of managing the entire procedure by entering Spain as a tourist. And without the need to worry of overstaying. 

The only requirement, in this case, is that the partner or spouse (the European citizen) has an employment contract or is self-employed (with sufficient economic means).

Arraigo social (social roots)

Finally, the slowest option when compared to the previous three. The social arraigo procedure allows any non-European foreigner who has lived illegally in Spain during the last 3 years to regularize their situation and obtain the residency.

In order to do so, they must be able to demonstrate this period of irregular residency in the country and prove to have found an employer willing to hire them.