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Visas

A visa is an endorsement placed in your passport that indicates that you can enter, exit and stay in a country — in this case, Spain — for a specific period of time. Although tourists from many countries may enter Spain without a visa, the length of their stay is limited to 90 days over a period of 180 days.

A passport, a visa and a blue pen.

Saint Louis University — Madrid students who need a visa to enter Spain must leave enough time for the complete visa application process as detailed below. SLU-Madrid does not reimburse visa costs, even if a visa is not granted.

SLU-Madrid requires students to provide evidence of their legal residency in Spain. Failure to present the appropriate student visa upon arrival, if necessary, or to maintain legal residency as a student will result in immediate withdrawal from classes and expulsion from university housing. Refunds will be issued according to the refund policy.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do I need a visa?

SLU-Madrid students who are not legal residents or citizens of the European Union must apply for a visa to enter Spain and study at the Madrid campus. This usually includes any student who plans to study for at least one semester.

Which visa should I apply for?

There are two types of student visas for Spain:

  • Short-stay visa (valid for stays of up to 180 days): For students studying at SLU-Madrid for under six months or one semester. This could be called a short-stay visa or a "long-stay visa up to 180 days," depending on the consulate. 
  • Long-stay visa (valid for more than 180 days): For students who plan to study at SLU-Madrid for two or more semesters. This visa is required for students to obtain their student residency card, the tarjeta de estudiante, within a month after arrival in Spain. This ID card — and its subsequent renewals — will allow you to stay in Spain until the completion of your studies and to travel in and out of the country. SLU-Madrid's Office of Student Life will assist you in obtaining the tarjeta de estudiante
Where should I apply?

Apply at one of the 117 Spanish consulates or within the consular section of an embassy worldwide. Verify which consulate you should apply to by visiting the Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation website, noting that physical proximity to a consulate does not mean you are within that consulate's jurisdiction. You may have to travel to another country.

Each consulate has its own appointment system, and some consulates allow walk-in or mail-in applications. For the most up-to-date information, refer to your consulate's web page.

Read the requirements carefully, as most frequently asked questions regarding application procedures and materials are answered on each consulate's web page. Note that requirements vary between consulates.

Student visas for Spain take about four to six weeks to process from the time an applicant submits a complete application. Remember that collecting the documentation you need to present as part of your application can take time; this is especially true of document legalizations and translations. Please plan accordingly. 

What sort of documents will I need for the student visa application?

Generally speaking, a successful visa application will include, but may not be limited to, turning in the following:

  • Completed Spanish Visa application form:
  • Passport, valid for at least one year with two continuous blank pages. Photo ID (in addition to your passport).
  • Proof of full-time university enrollment.
  • Proof of Spanish health insurance.
  • Proof of sufficient funds (form letter) (PDF).
  • Proof of housing.
  • Non-refundable visa fee.
  • Students staying two semesters or more must also present:
    • Certificate of good behavior.
    • Certificate of good health (form letter) (PDF).

Your consulate will provide a checklist and instructions for submission.

Visas for Minors

If you are under 18 when you apply for your Spanish student visa, the Spanish consulate may require you to present additional documents. The requirements vary among consulates, so you must check with your corresponding consulate as to their specific protocol. 

When you apply for the visa, at least one of your parents or legal guardians must accompany you to the consulate. The parent or guardian who does not attend needs to provide a notarized document in which they authorize the present parent or guardian to request the visa with you. 

Contact your consulate directly for special instructions if you are a minor living in a single-parent/guardian household. 

Spanish consulates routinely request additional documents, listed below, if you are a minor: 

  • Written authorization from both parents/legal guardians to travel abroad.
  • Certified with the Apostille of the Hague (In countries that are not under the Hague Apostille Convention, you/your parents will have to take these documents to the Spanish Consulate for the Spanish Consul to sign and stamp the Consul's seal.)
  • Notarized copy of parents' passports.
  • Original and notarized copy of your birth certificate (issued in the last 12 months).

Spanish authorities require minors (under 18 years old) to have legal representation in Spain to process official paperwork. You are responsible for finding your legal guardian. A legal guardian must be over 18 years old, a Spanish legal resident with the corresponding documentation and be available to represent you in different matters. Your guardian could be a family member or a family friend. The legal guardianship lasts until you turn 18.

SLU-Madrid faculty and staff are not permitted to assume this role. Host families arranged by SLU-Madrid do not accept minors.

To establish legal guardianship, consult your consulate, as each may vary in terms of required documents. You may need to secure the following before arriving in Spain: 

  • Power of attorney from both parents or legal guardians authorizing the guardian in Spain, certified with the Apostille of The Hague.
  • Original and notarized copy of your birth certificate (issued in the last 12 months), certified with the Apostille of The Hague.
  • Your guardian in Spain must provide a letter assuming your legal guardianship while you reside in Spain (in Spanish).

Within 30 days of your arrival in Spain, you must apply for a residence card (Tarjeta de Identidad de Extranjero or TIE) if you will be studying in Spain for more than 180 days. The residence card establishes you as a legal resident in Spain during your studies. The visa alone does not. To apply for a residence card, the Spanish authorities will request the three documents listed above and a legal translation of the first two documents into Spanish.

Your legal guardian in Spain must accompany you to the appointment when you present your residence card application. Your legal guardian in Spain must also accompany you to pick up your card from the police authorities once it is issued. 

For more information on the steps you need to follow to apply for your residence card, contact the Office of Student Life. 

Applying from Outside the United States

Students wishing to apply for a student visa to Spain must apply for this document at one of the 117 Spanish consulates worldwide or within the consular section of an embassy. Note that proximity to a consulate does not mean you are within that consulate's jurisdiction; to check which consulate you should apply to, visit the Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation website.

In some cases, you may be asked to supply additional paperwork, such as proof of itinerary or proof of accommodation. Refer to your consulate's requirements and contact the Office of Admissions for additional help. 

Should you need a legal translation, you can find a list of certified translators recognized by the Spanish Foreign Ministry. Search the document for the name of your documents' language(s) in Spanish, then scroll for translators within your country. 

Remember that SLU-Madrid does not reimburse costs associated with applying for or obtaining a student visa, even in the case of a rejected application. 

Applying from the United States

Nine Spanish consulates serve the U.S. in different geographic regions in addition to Puerto Rico. With the exception of California, your state will be assigned to one of the nine consulates. Verify which consulate corresponds to your state on the Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation website. Proximity to a consulate does not mean you are within that consulate's jurisdiction.

Confirmed students will receive additional information that details the student visa process and timeline. 

Certificates of Good Behavior/FBI Background Checks 

Students applying for a visa of 180 days (degree-seeking students or study abroad of two semesters) or more must obtain a certificate of good behavior, which documents criminal activity or the absence thereof in the last five years. This is verified by fingerprints at the federal level via the FBI.  

Apply for an FBI background check authenticated by the U.S. Department of State with the Apostille of the Hague Convention. Choose the online option ($18) to avoid significant delays. Your criminal rap sheet will arrive within 48 hours, after which you can have your fingerprints taken electronically via Live Scan technology (approx. $50). 

You can find a complete guide to the FBI background check process on the FBI website. Please plan to have your background check completed at least 10-12 weeks before your appointment, as it will need to be legalized by the State Department and translated by a certified translator. 

If you have lived outside the United States for at least six months in the last five years, you will also need a background check from that country. Be sure to factor this into your application time frame, as you may also need translations and legalizations.

Apostille of The Hague

The Apostille of The Hague is an authentication seal for documents obtained outside the Schengen Zone. It certifies that the document is admissible within Schengen countries.

Obtaining an Apostille from the Department of State requires an additional application, so allow up to three for this process. 

Read More About the Apostille of the Hague 

In addition, your consulate may require certified translations; you can find a list of certified translators recognized by the Spanish Foreign Ministry. Search the document for the word "inglés," then scroll for translators within your country.

For fall 2023 students, the Apostille of the Hague took 8-12 weeks to return. We urge you to complete the FBI Background check step at least five months before the semester start date to avoid visa delays and potentially having to defer your admission. 

Remember that SLU-Madrid does not reimburse costs associated with applying for or obtaining a student visa, even in the case of a rejected application.