Visas, Passports & Travel Documents

If you're not a European Union citizen, you must get a Spanish student visa so you can study in Spain for more than 90 days. This helpful information will help you get this important documentation

General Visa Information

A visa is authorization from a country's government to enter and/or temporarily reside in that country. A Spanish visa is actually a green sticker that's placed on a page in your passport.

Finding out whether you need a visa and then obtaining one if you do is solely your responsibility. Suffolk Madrid cannot intervene in any visa request procedures.

Spanish consulates around the world handle visa applications. See where to find them, since most require that you apply in person. Although they follow the same general guidelines, specific documentation varies by consulate and some require supplementary forms. Be sure to contact the consulate with jurisdiction over your place of residence for details.

Most consulates require that you make an appointment online, but a few don’t. Check the consulate’s website where you will submit your application.

You need to be enrolled full-time to obtain your student visa. In fact, all consulates will require an acceptance letter in its original form stating that you have been officially accepted to Suffolk Madrid. Don't start this process until you've been accepted!

Once you have been accepted, we strongly encourage you to start this process as early as possible. It can be quite long, and you need to gather various documents.

With few exceptions, you must obtain a student visa to study at Suffolk University Madrid Campus. We can deny enrollment if you arrive in Spain without a valid visa. These exceptions are:

  • If you plan to stay in Spain for 90 days or less, and your country does not require a tourist visa for Spain, you just need a valid passport. To see whether your country is exempt from the visa requirement, please see the General Visa Questions section
  • If you hold a European Union passport, you don't need a visa

General Passport Information

A passport allows you to travel to foreign countries. This international identification verifies your nationality. You must have a passport before you can apply for a student visa.

Another Travel Document to Keep in Mind

If you're spending a full year with us, you'll need a Spanish Student Residency Card too once you're in Spain. You'll need to start this process within 30 days of your arrival. Unlike with the visa process, our staff will help you with this.

General Visa Questions

Countries that do not require a tourist visa to enter Spain:

  • Albania*
  • Andorra
  • Antigua and Barbuda
  • Argentina
  • Australia
  • Bahamas
  • Barbados
  • Bosnia and Herzegovina
  • Brazil
  • Brunei
  • Canada
  • Chile
  • Colombia
  • Costa Rica
  • Dominica
  • El Salvador
  • Georgia*
  • Grenada
  • Guatemala
  • Honduras
  • Hong Kong1
  • Israel
  • Japan
  • Kiribati
  • Macau2
  • Malaysia
  • Marshall Islands
  • Mauritius
  • Mexico
  • Micronesia
  • Moldova*
  • Monaco
  • Montenegro*
  • New Zealand
  • Nicaragua
  • North Macedonia
  • Palau
  • Panama
  • Paraguay
  • Peru
  • Saint Kitts and Nevis
  • Saint Lucia
  • Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
  • Samoa
  • San Marino
  • Serbia*3
  • Seychelles
  • Singapore
  • Solomon Islands
  • South Korea
  • Taiwan
  • Timor-Leste
  • Tonga
  • Trinidad and Tobago
  • Tuvalu
  • Ukraine*
  • United Arab Emirates
  • United Kingdom4
  • United States of America
  • Uruguay
  • Vatican City
  • Vanuatu
  • Venezuela

*Visa exemption only applies to holders of a biometric passport.

1Visa exemption only applies to holders of a passport issued by the “Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.”

2Visa exemption only applies to holders of a passport issued by the “Região Administrativa Especial de Macau."

3Does not include holders of passports issued by the Serbian Coordination Directorate.

4Includes British Nationals (Overseas), British Overseas Citizens, British Protected Persons, British Subjects, and British Overseas Territories Citizens (including Anguila, Bermuda, British Antarctic Territory, British Indian Ocean Territory, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Falkland Islands, Gibraltar, Montserrat, Pitcairn Islands, Saint Helena, Ascension, and Tristan da Cunha, South Georgia and the Sandwich Islands, and Turks and Caicos)

List last updated on May 7, 2020

A: A visa allows you to stay longer than the amount of time normally allowed to tourists. It’s a way for governments to control who enters their country and for what reason, and to determine how long they can stay. In order to apply, you need to submit a series of documents to verify the purpose of your stay

A: A short-term visa is for travelers who are going to Spain for business or tourism. Students who are going to study in Spain for at least one semester need to apply for a long-stay visa. There are two types of long-stay visas:

Type 1 is for students who are going to study in Spain for a semester (fewer than 180 days).

Type 2 is for students who are going to study in Spain for an academic year or longer (more than 180 days).

Documents and How to Get Them

A: Check the individual website for the consulate where you’ll submit your application. Each consulate works independently, so additional forms or specific information may be required. Generally speaking, at the time of your appointment you’ll need to submit your:
  • Application form: This form is free and downloadable from the consulate’s website (must be printed double-sided).
  • Supplement form: Some consulates have a supplement form, in addition to the application form.
  • Passport: Must be valid for the period of your stay in Spain and have at least one blank page.
  • Photos (passport-sized). See your consulate’s website for how many.
  • Letter (the one in Spanish) from Suffolk Madrid: This letter covers the consulate’s requirements for acceptance to the university, name of school, address and registration number, full payment of tuition, subjects of study (bachelor’s degree), and hours per week (full-time). This letter also verifies that you will be staying in our university housing and will be covered by our health insurance, Sanitas, and arranges for the repatriation of your mortal remains.
  • Proof of financial means: That same letter (in Spanish, provided by Suffolk Madrid) is usually sufficient, but as a precaution you should take additional information, such as (any one of the following):
    • 1. A notarized letter from your parents or legal guardians assuming full financial responsibility for at least $1,000 per month for your education in Spain. Suggested wording: “I hereby certify that I’m the (father/mother/other) of (...), will support him/her with a monthly allowance of at least $1,000 while he/she is in Spain and that I’m financially responsible for any emergency that may arise.” Your local bank normally provides notary services.
    • 2. A copy of your merit scholarship and/or financial award letter
    • 3. Personal bank account statements showing at least $1,000 per month of stay
  • Visa fee (Note: Most consulates only accept a money order). See the consulate’s website for the most current fee and required payment methods.
  • Non-U.S. citizens must present their U.S. residency card or visa status.
  • If you’ll be under 18 years old when you arrive in Spain, a notarized authorization from your parent/guardian to travel and study abroad.
  • Photocopies of each document

If you’re staying longer than 180 days, there are two additional requirements:

  • Police background check that indicates no arrest record. You’ll find more information further down in this FAQ.
  • Medical certificate. This is a letter from your doctor verifying that you’ve been examined and found in good physical and mental health to study abroad and are free of any illness that would pose a threat to public health according to the International Health Regulations of 2005. You’ll find more information further down in this FAQ.

A: Use Suffolk Madrid’s address as your “address in Spain.” You may change to a different housing option while you’re in Madrid, but Suffolk’s address will remain the same. It’s best to use ours:

(Your Name)
Suffolk University Madrid Campus
Calle de la Viña 3
28003 Madrid

A: The consulates require a police background check to verify that you have no arrest record. The background check must be issued by your state police, not local police. Procedures vary from state to state, so contact your state’s police department for details. You should request a “certified” or “notarized” background check. Once this document is notarized, you must have an Apostille affixed on it.

A: The “Apostille” of The Hague" seal makes a document legal outside the country where it was issued. When you request your police background check, be sure to indicate that it must be “certified” or prepared to be notarized. A notary public will authenticate the document, and then you need to have the Apostille of The Hague seal placed on it. Contact the secretary of state (of your home state) to find out about how to get the Apostille placed on a document. Specific requirements, the time frame, and cost vary by state.

A: The letter from Suffolk in Spanish is directed to the Spanish consulate and requests a student visa for you. It fulfills the requirements that the consulate needs: your acceptance to the university; and the name, address, phone, contact details, and registration number for Suffolk Madrid. We also verify that your payment covers your tuition and room and board and that you will be a full-time student studying at least 20 hours a week for your bachelor’s degree. The other document from Sanitas specifies that you will be covered by health insurance with no coverage limit and repatriation coverage

A: The letter from your doctor should indicate that you’re in good physical and mental health to study abroad and are free of contagious diseases. Many times a family doctor issues this letter without a consultation; that’s up to your doctor. Make sure your doctor uses the exact wording specified on the consulate’s website, for example: “This medical certificate attests that Mr./ Mrs. ……………………… does not suffer from any illness that would pose a threat to public health according to the International Health Regulations of 2005.” Also, the letter should be on official office/clinic stationery (no handwritten notes on a prescription pad) and the letter must be signed by the doctor in ink (no stamp or digital signature). If the consulate does not specify that it has to be notarized, then that is not required.

A: Some consulates require that you submit an official translation of your police background check (for applications for visas for more than 180 days). Contact a translation service or one of the following organizations for pricing and processing times:

American Translators Association
Search for a translator that works with legal documents from English to Spanish.

Certified Translation Services, Inc.
One Harbison Way, Suite 105
Columbia, SC 29212
Toll Free: 1-800-730-9970
Toll Free Fax:1-800-730-2339

The Process

A: To begin the process, you need to allow time to get your appointment. Depending on how busy the consulate is, it may take a week or two just to get one. Appointments fill up quickly, so the sooner you start, the better. Once the consulate accepts your application documentation, it usually takes four weeks. When you submit your application materials, the visa officer will give you an indication of when to expect your passport returned. To be on the safe side, we always advise students to allow six to eight weeks to apply for and obtain a Spanish student visa.

A: The consulate needs your passport to place the visa sticker in it. This means you must leave your passport there during processing. If you have travel plans and need your passport to leave the country, speak with the visa officer about an alternative. Take your flight itinerary to show the visa officer your travel plans and ask if the consulate can affix the visa sticker after you return to the U.S. At that point, they’ll still need some time, so don’t expect an immediate turnaround.

A: Be persistent. Getting through to the consulate can be exasperating. Keep trying, calling, leaving messages, and sending emails. Don’t expect a call back. You need to take the initiative in contacting them.

A: Although you may be staying in Spain for longer than 180 days, you’ll be issued a visa that’s valid for 90. Don’t worry: This is normal. Once you’re in Spain, we’ll help you with the next step in the process: getting your student residency card. We’ll go as a group to submit your materials with the local authorities.

A: Spanish consulates don’t offer expedited services. Make sure you have all the original documents you need for your application and keep photocopies of everything.

A: See the consulate’s website for details. Some consulates require that you pick up your passport in person. Some, though, may allow you to bring a pre-paid envelope so your passport can be mailed back to you. It's best to use a courier service like Express Mail or FedEx so you can track the shipment. Keep your copy of the air bill so you have the tracking number.

  • Write neatly on the application and supplement forms!
  • Make sure you write in day-month-year format.
  • Your visa application and the photocopy of it need to be double-sided.
  • Do not cut your passport photos, even though the space for them on the application is not the same size as the photo.
  • If you are using your financial aid award letter to prove your financial means, try and get an official copy from the Office of Student Financial Services. Do not print out the copy from MySuffolk.
  • Use the exact wording from the consulate website on any letters, including your doctor’s note and a parental note to prove financial means. Do not summarize.
  • Make sure the signature on your doctor’s note is in ink. This means the doctor will have to mail it to you or you will have to pick it up at the office. It should not be scanned or faxed.
  • Make sure your doctor’s note is dated, both with your date of birth and with the date that it was written for you.
  • If you are under 18 and your parents need to write an authorization letter, they both need to sign it. If one cannot, proof of “why not” is required.

  • If you turn 18 after your consulate appointment but before you arrive in Spain, you need a background check.
  • If you turn 18 after you arrive in Spain, you do not need a background check.
  • If you are under 18 at the time of your visa application, you need both parents to sign the authorization letter (even if you turn 18 before entering Spain), and it needs to be notarized. If one parent is not available, proof is required.
  • You need an original copy of your birth certificate.