The world has changed profoundly in recent years, especially in terms of governance, which has become increasingly globalized. That is why, even if you want to travel to Spain, to consider the Spanish state as a bureaucratic island, independent of its surroundings, is a serious mistake. For years, the requirements for traveling to Spain have been the same as for entering any country that is part of the Schengen area.
The Schengen agreement, initiated in 1990 as a step towards the disappearance of national borders in Europe, has led to the countries that are part of it acting as one when it comes to the entry of foreigners. Thus, to enter the Schengen area from a country that is not part of it, the important thing is not so much which territory you want to go to -Spain, Germany, Portugal, etc.-, but from which point of the globe you do it. In this sense, a difference should be made:
- Countries that have agreed visa waiver programs with those belonging to the Schengen area.
- Countries that do not have a visa waiver agreement and whose citizens must therefore apply for a visa.
The countries that are part of one or the other group is somewhat variable, but depending on which of them you are a national and the objective you have, the process to enter Schengen territory will vary between three different types: the ETIAS, short stay visas and long stay visas.
The European Travel Information and Authorization System (ETIAS) is a new electronic method of authorizing travel to Schengen countries. This system, to be implemented and made mandatory by the end of 2023, will require nationals of countries that have a visa waiver agreement with Schengen to apply for a travel permit via the internet. The process will be very fast, and in 95% of the cases the ETIAS authorization will be received within minutes.
ETIAS is the European version of other electronic travel authorization systems, such as ESTA in the USA, or the respective methods used by Canada, Great Britain, New Zealand, or Australia.
This European system will be priced at 7 euros for those between 18 and 70 years of age, and will offer a three-year visa waiver. The objective of ETIAS will be twofold. On the one hand, to try to speed up the entry into Schengen of nationals of countries that are part of the visa waiver program, without the need for further controls. On the other hand, to increase surveillance and security at the Schengen borders.
In short, ETIAS will be the ideal method to use to enter Spain for business, leisure or health reasons from a country that is part of a visa waiver program. On the other hand, if you are coming from a country without a visa waiver agreement, or if you are coming for other reasons -permanent residence, or looking for a job- you will have to resort to another method: visas.
Short stay visas
Within the Schengen area, visas are divided into several types.
Among the short-stay visas, there are two: Type A —for airport transit visas, which allow one or several transits through the international transit zone of a Spanish airport, without entering the national territory, during stopovers or flight connections— and Type C visas.
Type C visas can be valid for all Schengen countries or only for a specific one, and offer a maximum stay of 90 days per semester. The reasons for applying for them can vary widely:
- Territorial transit: this type of visa allows travel through Spain on a trip from a third country to another country that admits the permit holder.
- Tourist and stay: the most common among countries that are not part of the visa waiver program. This is the type of visa requested for a leisure trip to Spain.
- Multiple entries: issued to any foreigner who proves the need to travel to Spain on a frequent basis, either for professional or family reasons.
- Family member of an EU citizen: allows the holder to visit a family member settled in Spain.
- Work: work authorizations with a duration of less than 90 days, which tend to be the least common.
- Others: courtesy visas, job search visas, etc.
Long stay visas
Finally, there are the Schengen Type D visas, which are national or long-stay visas. These authorize the holder to spend more than 90 days in the Schengen area, and also have a wide variety of grounds for applying for them:
- Family members: that allow them to join other family members in Spanish territory.
- Residence and work: all those that allow professional establishment in Spain, either for an indefinite or specific period, but always longer than 90 days.
- Studies, training or research: allows the entry into Spain of both long-term students and their family members.
- Residence: this includes non-working residence visas, such as visas for entrepreneurs, visas for investors or golden visas, etc.
- Others: embassy staff, accreditations, etc.
In short, any citizen of a country that has visa waiver agreements with the Schengen area and wants to make a short stay in Spain has it easy: from December 2023, you can apply for the ETIAS. A simple, cheap and fast process. For any other case, there will be no choice but to use visas.
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