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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 Pla├ža 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.

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