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Everything you need to know about the ‘90-day rule’ in Spain

Everything you need to know about the ‘90-day rule’ in Spain

Spain is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world, registering more than 100 million international visitors last year alone.

When planning your travels, there’s much you need to check off your to-do list – from making sure you’ve packed all the essentials and that you’ve secured travel insurance to ensuring you’ve got a valid visa, if this is required.

If you’re staying in Spain for 90 days (or more), you’ll need to apply for a visa to allow you to do so. But why?

In this blog, our specialists explain everything you need to know about the 90-day rule in Spain, and what you need to do if you’re planning on staying for an extended period.

How long can you stay in Spain without a visa?

When planning an extended trip to Spain – be it for a family holiday, short-term studies, or a business trip – many people are unsure as to how long they can stay in the country without having to apply for a visa.

This is where the 90/180-day rule comes in.

Set out by the Schengen member states (a group of 27 European countries), the 90/180-day rule was introduced to limit the amount of time that international visitors can spend in a Schengen country – including Spain.

These guidelines state that foreigners can travel in Spain for up to 90 days every 180-day period visa-free, but if you’re staying for longer, you’ll need to apply for a visa.

What happens if I don’t get or overstay on a visa?

Travelling in Spain for more than 90 days without a visa, or travelling to a different Schengen country in the same 180-day window, is a criminal offence – which can come with some serious legal consequences.

If you’re travelling without a visa, some Schengen countries may simply instruct you to leave right away, but others could impose:

  • Fines – Overstaying your welcome could earn you a fine between 500€-10,000€ depending on how long you’ve overstayed. A fine could also be issued in conjunction with an entry ban.
  • Deportation – This usually only happens if you’re working or claiming benefits in Spain without a valid visa. You’ll be given a limited number of days to leave before you’re officially deported.
  • Entry bans – If you’re caught travelling in Spain – or any other Schengen country – past the 90-day period, you could be banned from re-entering for up to 3 years.
  • Prison sentences – Staying in Spain for over 90 days in any 180 days without a valid visa can result in jail time. Depending on how long you overstay your welcome, you could be sentenced to 6-12 months in prison.

How long can you stay in Spain if you own a property?

Even if you own a property in Spain, you’re still only entitled to stay in the country for up to 90 days out of every 180 days.

If you want to stay in Spain for longer than 90 days, you’ll need to look into applying for one of the following visas:

  • Work visa – If you’ve found employment in Spain and wish to stay for longer than 90 days, you may apply for a work visa. This is valid for up to 3 years, and if you wish to extend it at the end of this period you can do so. After 5 years, you may be eligible to apply for permanent residence.
  • Non-lucrative visa – You can apply for this visa in Spain without employment, and to qualify, you need to be able to prove that you have an annual income of at least €27,792. These visas usually last for up to 2 years, after which you can renew them if you plan on staying any longer.
  • Golden visa – These visas are issued to non-EU nationals who intend to make a significant investment in the Spanish economy – be it in stocks and shares, property, or government schemes. They allow applicants and their families to live, study, and work in Spain, and offer a pathway to citizenship. Initially, golden visas are valid for up to 1 year, and you can extend the validity for up to 5 years. After 5 years, you may apply for a permanent visa.

Can anyone buy a property in Spain?

As long as you have a Spanish NIE (Número de Identificatión del Extranjero), you should have no problem purchasing a property in Spain.

This number is unique to you and is essential to carry out any transaction in Spain.

Since it must appear on all documents that you sign or are issued to you, you must have this in place before buying a property.

Obtaining an NIE number is fairly simple, but it can take some time.

It’s also advantageous to have a Spanish bank account to make transactions quicker and simpler, and could even save you some commission fees.

Potential changes to Spain’s 90-day rule

In recent months, the Spanish government has been pushing the European Union (EU) to ditch the 90-day rule.

It has been revealed how the current ruling is currently working against their interests, and that it’s having a significant impact on the Spanish economy.

They wouldn’t be the first Schengen country to do this, and it seems Spain is attempting to follow in France’s footsteps, who in December 2023 scrapped their 90-day rule for UK nationals.

The bill amendment made grants automatic long-stay visas without the need for formalities, to address the challenges faced by British part-year residents who are currently limited to spending a maximum of 90 days in any Schengen area. Which is great news for those looking into buying property in Spain!

Non-lucrative Spanish visas

If you want to reside in Spain whilst still being able to travel throughout the Schengen area, then you’ll want to look into obtaining a non-lucrative Spanish visa.

This permit is suitable for those who:

  • Want to spend retirement in Spanish territory
  • Have the financial capability to relocate without having to work
  • Plan on spending their first year in Spain without working and applying for a work permit after 365 days
  • Wish to live on passive income (like pension, rents, dividends, etc.)

Applying for a non-lucrative Spanish visa is relatively straightforward. Along with your national visa and non-working residence application forms, you’ll need to submit:

  • A recent passport-size photograph of yourself
  • A valid passport or travel document
  • A criminal record document (or equivalent)
  • Medical insurance documentation
  • A medical certificate
  • Proof of income

The legal period for the government to make their decision is three months, but this period may be extended if an interview or additional documents are required.

Contact our expert Spanish mortgage brokers

Need more information about Spain’s 90-day rule? Looking into purchasing a property in Spain and need some advice?

We’re here for you!

We’ve got an impressive track record of helping our clients secure Spanish mortgages and would be more than happy to guide you through the process. Give us a call today on 0034 952 85 36 47, or email us at and we’ll be in touch with more information shortly.

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