From Spain Student Visa to Permanent residency to Citizenship: A Comprehensive Pathway

From Spain Student Visa to Permanent residency to Citizenship A Comprehensive Pathway

The journey of transitioning from a Spain student visa to a permanent resident (long-term residency) and eventually obtaining Spanish citizenship is fraught with challenges and opportunities. Here’s an expanded guide on how international students can navigate this path, from obtaining a student visa to achieving Spanish citizenship.

Starting with a Student Visa

For students from outside the EU/EEA, obtaining a Spanish student visa (Type D) is essential for pursuing education in Spain for periods longer than 90 days. This visa is applicable not only to university students but also to secondary school exchanges, au pairs, language assistants, and those involved in internships or voluntary work.

Working on a Student Visa

Recent changes in 2022 have simplified the process for student visa holders who wish to work in Spain. Previously, students needed to apply for a separate work permit. Now, they are automatically allowed to work part-time for up to 30 hours a week, provided the job does not interfere with their studies and their primary source of income remains independent of their earnings in Spain. This change allows students to gain professional experience and immerse themselves in the Spanish culture and language more deeply.

From Spain Student Visa to Permanent residency to Citizenship: A Comprehensive Pathway

From Student Visa to Work Permit

Upon completing their studies, students have several options to remain in Spain:

  1. Work Permit: Students can convert their student visa into a work permit if they find a job related to their field of study. This process involves the employer applying on behalf of the student, which may take up to three months for approval from Spanish immigration authorities.
  2. Self-Employment: Students opting for self-employment must present a viable business plan and can apply directly for the necessary authorizations, demonstrating their ability to meet the requirements and sustain themselves financially.

In Spain, the process of obtaining long-term residence or citizenship involves several stages and requirements that international students must navigate carefully. Here’s an overview of the implications of time spent on a student visa towards these goals:

Long-Term Residence

  1. General Requirements:
    • To qualify for long-term residence in Spain, non-EU nationals generally need to have legally resided in Spain for an uninterrupted period of five years. This status allows the holder similar rights to Spanish citizens, including working without a permit and access to social services.
  2. Does Student Visa Count?:
    • Time spent in Spain under a student visa (permiso de estancia por estudios) is typically considered a temporary stay (not a residence) and does not count towards the five-year period required for long-term residence. However, it is not entirely lost; half of the period spent on a student visa can be counted towards the residency requirements if the student transitions to a work or other residency permit subsequently.


  1. General Requirements:
    • For non-EU nationals, acquiring Spanish citizenship typically requires ten years of legal residency. Shorter periods of 2 years apply for Ibero-americans and passport holders of nations culturally related to Spain. Applicants must demonstrate integration into Spanish society, which includes passing language and cultural tests, and in most cases, promise to renounce their original nationality.
  2. Does Student Visa Count?:
    • Similar to long-term residency, time spent in Spain under a student visa does not directly count towards the residency period required for citizenship. However, once a student visa is converted to a residency permit, subsequent years under this permit can contribute towards the residency requirement for citizenship.

Important Considerations

  • Economic Self-Sufficiency: Students must prove economic self-sufficiency throughout their stay. Earnings from part-time jobs cannot be considered as the primary source of income for visa purposes.
  • Legal Pathways: Transitioning from a student visa directly to residency can be complex. Options like the highly skilled worker permit, job search visa, or internship residency might be available depending on the student’s situation.
  • Legal advice: Navigating the transition from a student visa to citizenship in Spain can be complex. For accurate guidance tailored to your specific needs, consulting with experienced immigration lawyers is highly recommended.


The path from holding a student visa in Spain to obtaining citizenship is complex and requires diligent preparation and adherence to Spanish immigration laws.

While time spent on a student visa does not directly count towards residency for citizenship, making strategic decisions during and after one’s studies can lay a solid foundation for transitioning to a work permit and eventually to permanent residency (long-term residency) and citizenship. This process not only secures legal status but also facilitates a deep, rewarding integration into Spanish life and culture.