Categorized | First Things First, Visas

Getting Legal – The Student Visa

Posted on 16 February 2015 by American expat!

The second most common question I receive after the where should I live question is the “How Can I Stay Legally as an American?” question.

There are several ways to get residency in Spain–either for the short or long term. I have a long overdue interview I need to publish on this from someone who is taking a different route than what I am going to present here, but meanwhile, I want to share a relatively simple solution with my readers (Key word relatively. there are no simple solutions in reality)

Student Visa for Spain

Many Americans don’t know that you can get a student visa from language school. It’s true, you don’t need to attend a University to get a student visa. You just need an accredited language school where you attend classes for 20 hours a week or more. Now, there are a lot of language schools in Barcelona–I should know, I’ve attended no fewer than six seven of them–and each have their varying levels of cooperativeness in arranging the Spanish paperwork for a visa. I actually applied for a student visa in 2011 and received all the paperwork I needed from a school very quickly. Despite my level Spanish level being advanced intermediate at the time (B2 that would be called here), they enrolled me for a full year course, starting with the very beginning level and adding in study time for their level tests, in order to extend the length of the visa. Very helpful! I didn’t actually have to attend the beginning classes, and jumped into the program later at the advanced intermediate level, which I repeated, and then repeated the advanced level too.

Schools should work with you to arrange a 6 month, 9 month and 12 month visa if their class schedules coincide with those lengths – smart schools will have that figured out. (Some schools are better than others at this!) I would suggest a 9 month course, because that ensures that you get a visa that is over 180 days in length. Here is why you want a visa that is 180+ days: Because once it is up, you can renew it from Spain. No traveling back to the US and waiting around for another application to be processed.

You only need to be prepared to pay tuition up front, (and then of course fulfill the paperwork on the US side of the visa). Some schools are much more expensive than others, but all of them are a lot cheaper than a student visa from a University.

So if you looking for a way to extend your stay beyond the 30 day tourist visa, and are planning to learn Spanish while you are here anyway, a student visa could be a good solution for you. (If you would like to know my recommendation on the cheapest–and best–school for studying Spanish in Barcelona, feel free to contact me.)

Check the student visa requirements page for a detailed list of everything required (it’s long, but thorough).

Note: Apply for a student visa early. Getting all of the medical checks, FBI background check, paperwork and of course processing time can take up to three months!

EDIT: After many, many emails and messages, I will just post my top recommendation here rather than emailing everyone individually. My first recommendation–especially if you need a long term student visa–is Speakeasy BCN near Plaça Universitat. I went there on and off for two years. They also arranged a year long student visa for me (which I ended up not needing after all). They are affordable, flexible and the classes are very good.
If you want to find out more about the schedule and the prices, email the student coordinator Gabriel at:
I just ask that you please mention my name if you do.
Other recommendations would be:
  • Kingsbrook – not the cheapest but probably the best classes in my opinion
  • Escuela Medeterraneo– again not the cheapest option very qualified teachers and small classes.
  • Version Original – Loved these teachers and would have stayed here until they brought in some Argentinian woman for the conversation classes who was a total waste of time. They also merged levels because they did not have enough instructors for separate classes which was very frustrating for the lower levels. We just got lost and learned nothing.
  • International House – A big school with lots of resources (and many languages taught) which means I imagine they deal with student visas regularly. You can find special cheeeaaap classes here with teachers in training, but remember, you get what you pay for….though the regular priced classes could have adequate and experienced instructors.

24 Comments For This Post

  1. Kristen Woods Says:

    I would love to hear which schools you recommend so I can explore the tuition costs.
    Thanks, Kristen

  2. American expat! Says:

    Sending you an email 🙂

  3. Lynn Pepper Says:

    Would you send me a list of your recommended language schools too?

    Thank you!


  4. American expat! Says:

    Email sent!

  5. Kathy Says:

    I would love a list of language schools also!
    Thank you!


  6. American expat! Says:

    Ok sent you an email.

  7. American expat! Says:

    OK quick note to everyone. i don’t actually have a prepared list I shoot off via email. But I do have a recommendation if you are looking for a student visa that will cost as little as possible and be for as long as possible. So email me for that.

  8. Ruth Says:

    Hi! I heard that even at an older age (40+) you can apply for a student visa? I would also like your recommendation of school. And if I go the non-lucrative route instead, what do I put for my reason to move that gives me the best chance for approval? I don’t really want to tell the whole truth, as I want to live with my boyfriend, neither of us are Spanish. I don’t want them to get the idea that we will overstay…I don’t plan to at this point, anyway. He already lives there and has a job. And no, marriage is not my idea of a solution(!)


  9. American expat! Says:

    Yes, you can get a student visa at any age. You don’t have to give too many details on your visa application as for the reason, you can just state that your pareja is there and you want to stay together. I’ll send you an email with my school recommendation 🙂

  10. BBT Says:

    Looking into Spanish visa options and just saw your post on the student visa. Would you mind forwarding me your language school recommendation, too? Thanks VERY much!

  11. Bobbie Jeffrey-Moughon Says:

    Sent you an email. Thanks.

  12. Esme Says:

    Would love your recommendations on getting a long term student visa – least cost, longest as possible sounds great! Also would love any recommendation for language schools.. Interested in flexible 1-2 +year programs in Barcelona
    Thanks so much! e

  13. David Greenly Says:

    I want to reside in BCN and learn Spanish-for real. We are retired. I would appreciate a clue re schools, visa, and apartment “agency”.
    Muchas Gracias

  14. Laura B Says:

    Hi there,
    Your blog has been extremely helpful in figuring out the visa situation for Americans. I wanted to know your recommendation for language schools that provide cheaper 180+ day student visas. Thank you very much in advance.

  15. Natalia Says:

    First off I wanted to thank you for having such a helpful blog! I also wanted to know the school you would recommend as well as how many hours a week it was. I am looking to work but also attend language school. You also mentioned you did not need to go the first half because you were advanced, so how many weeks did you miss? I am Argentine/American yet my spanish is no where near what it used to be due to the fact i’ve become lazy and most of my relatives speak english.

  16. Robin Says:

    Thank You for writing about the student visa. I’m interested in studying Spanish and would like to know which language school you recommend.

  17. Paloma Says:

    Hello AmericanExPat!

    I would like a list a recommendations for Spanish schools as well, Please? I also had a quick question. I tried contacting you via your contact form and my message would not go through even entering the correct verification code. Whenever you get a chance I would love to hear from you. Thanks!

  18. Kenji Says:

    Thanks so much for the information! It is very helpful!
    I would like to know your recommendation about the language schools too! Could you please email me? Thanks!

  19. Sahil Choujar Says:

    Hi, would love to get a list of these schools…

  20. Terrie Says:

    Hello. Thanks for the information. May I get the list? Or a recommendation for staying in Barcelona 6-9 months learning Spanish and teaching English. If it matters, I am 63, in good health, and have 2.5 years teaching Business English in Santiago de Chile.

  21. Joanne Says:


    I have a question regarding student visa and working. So I have been doing a program called CAPS home to home for over a year now and they help me obtain a student visa while being a conversation auxiliary for a school. But the pay is not that great, less than 1,000 euros a month. So this year I have tried to apply for an academy that is near the school I work for, but they said that because of my student visa I can’t work for them. Would you know how to get around this?

    Also, if not, could you send me language schools in Barcelona that aren’t too expensive to enroll in to help obtain a student visa. I just want to see what my options are, even though I am going through the process of re-applying for my student visa in the states.

    Any help you could offer, would be so great and so appreciated!!

  22. Merilyn Fiona Says:

    Could u send me the list of language schools.

  23. American expat! Says:

    I’ve updated this post with my school recommendations and evaluations.

  24. Ryan Says:

    Hi, great blog! Can you email me the school you recommend please!


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  1. non-lucrative residence visa spain | An Expat in Spain Says:

    […] few posts ago, we explored getting a long term student visa via a language school. If you don’t need to learn Spanish, there is another straightforward  […]

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