Saint Louis University

Visas for Spain


What is a Visa?

A visa is an endorsement placed in your passport that indicates that you are able to enter, exit and stay in a country (in this case, in 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. Prospective SLU-Madrid students who are not legal residents of the European Union must apply for a visa to enter Spain and study at the Madrid Campus for a semester or for the academic year. 

Please read below for specific instructions that will guide you through the Spanish visa process.

Summer Sessions

Most students who plan to attend one or both of the summer sessions only do NOT need a visa as they will be in Spain fewer than 90 days. However, a visa may be required for some nationalities even in the case of summer sessions. You can consult this list of nationalities  for which a visa is required to enter Spain.

Where to Apply

To obtain a visa, contact the Spanish consulate that corresponds to your residence outside of Spain. Consult this list to find the consulate or embassy closest to you. Note that you may apply for a visa outside of your country of origin so long as you have legal residency in the country you’re currently living in. The application process varies slightly between consulates; some will likely require you to make an appointment via an online appointment platform and pay a fee. Be sure to budget for this extra fee and make arrangements well in advance. Note that, should your application be denied, this fee will not be refunded.

Which Visa?

There are two types of student visas for Spain:

  • Short-stay visa (valid for up to 180 days and non-renewable): For students who are certain that they will be studying at SLU-Madrid for under six months (one semester). This visa cannot be extended, so if there is a possibility you may want to stay for an additional semester in our program, please apply for the long-stay visa. Please note some consulates rather confusingly refer to this “short-stay” visa as “long-stay up to 180 days.” 

  • Long-stay visa (valid for stays of more than 180 days and renewable): For students who plan to study at SLU-Madrid for more than one semester. This visa is required in order for students to obtain their student residence cards (tarjeta de estudiante), within a month after arrival. This card will allow you to stay in Spain until the completion of your studies and to travel in and out of the country. 

Applying for a Spanish Visa in the USA

The United States is serviced by nine consulates in different geographic areas of the country. Note that proximity to a consulate does not mean you are within that consulate’s jurisdiction; to check which consulate you should apply to, please follow this link. Be aware that each consulate has slightly different requirements and procedures for obtaining the student visa. Please click on your corresponding office to be linked to the requirement specifics.

We advise you to read the requirements carefully, as most of the frequently asked questions regarding application procedures and materials are answered on each consulate’s webpage. As a rule of thumb, student visas for Spain take about four weeks to process.

Saint Louis University-Missouri provides a visa service for those students whose permanent residence requires them to apply for their visa through the Spanish consulate in Chicago, Illinois. Students send the required documents and their visa application to the SLU Spanish Visa Service, who take the completed applications to the Spanish Consulate in Chicago and pick them up on behalf of the students. You can find more information at the SLU Visa Service. The link contains information that may also be useful for those U.S. applicants not applying through the St. Louis Campus.

FBI Background Checks

U.S. students applying for a long-stay visa will need a certificate of good behavior, which documents criminal activity or the absence thereof in the last five years. Some consulates ask that this document come from your state (State Background Check), whereas others require it from the national level (FBI Background Check). If you ask for a state background check, be sure to specify that it is for the entire state, and not merely the county of residence.

For a national background check, apply for an FBI background check authenticated by the U.S. Department of State with the Apostille of the Hague Convention. Obtaining background checks can take up to 12 weeks: apply for it with ample time. Background checks can be ordered by following these instructions

Should you need a translation, you can find a list of certified translators recognized by the Spanish Foreign ministry by clicking on this link. English to Spanish translators begin on page 591; you can click CRTL+F and type in ‘inglés’ to easily reach the page.

Apostille of the Hague

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

In the case of a state background check, you can obtain an apostille by contacting the Office of the Secretary of State for your state; FBI federal background checks require an apostille issued by the U.S. Department of State. For more information regarding the apostille, check Authentication and Apostilles and Apostille Requirements.

FBI-Approved Channelers

If you find you are short on time for obtaining your FBI background check there are “channelers” who, for a fee, will speed up the process to 2-4 weeks. SLU-Madrid strongly recommends using an FBI Channeler. Here is a list of FBI-approved channelers.

If you have any visa-related questions, please direct them to the consulate corresponding to your state.

Visas for Minors

If you are under the age of 18 when studying in Spain, Spanish consulates may require additional documents to apply for a student visa. Please note that every consulate requires slightly different documents and the process may vary. Below are possible documents you may need to present, however you should always check with your consulate for the specific required documents.

  • Notarized written authorization of both parents/custodians to travel abroad, legalized with Apostille. 
  • Notarized copy of parents' passports.
  • Original and copy of minor's birth certificate (issued in the last 12 months).
  • Letter from parents/custodians authorizing the legal guardian in Spain. 
  • Letter from the person in Spain assuming responsibility for the minor.

In order to apply for a visa, at least one of your parents/guardians may need to appear in person with you. If both parents/guardians are not able to attend, the absent parent/guardian might need to provide a notarized legal representative authorization form, allowing the other parent/guardian to act as a legal representative in his/her place.

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