Studying Abroad in Spain: A Complete Guide for 2023

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A land of rugged castles, vibrant cities, and centuries-old universities, Spain is understandably popular with international students from all over the world. Of course, settling into a new country will require plenty of planning, and you’ll have to think about everything from your visa application to where you’d like to live in Spain.

While there’s a lot of information to process when relocating to Spain, taking a methodical approach can help make it less daunting. To help you get started, we’ve created this guide to the most important factors to consider when you’re preparing to live and study in Spain.

Applying for a student visa

If you’re coming to study in Spain from outside the EU/EEA/Switzerland, you’ll need a student visa. Once you’ve received your official acceptance at a course in Spain, you can approach your local Spanish consulate or embassy to begin the visa application. To obtain a long-stay student visa, you’ll have to submit a number of official documents, typically including:

  • Your passport.
  • Passport photos.
  • A letter of acceptance from your Spanish university or educational institution.
  • A bank statement, letter from a financial guarantor, or other proof that you can cover at least 100% of the current IPREM, which is the Spanish index for determining minimum living costs.
  • Proof that you have health insurance from an authorized company which will cover the whole period of your studies.
  • A criminal record check.
  • A medical certificate which shows you are free from diseases that may pose a risk to public health.

The exact list of documents you’ll need to show vary from consulate to consulate, so check with the staff to see what’s required. You may also have to have certain documents translated into either English or Spanish by an accredited translator. Again, consular staff will be able to point you in the right direction here.

If your course in Spain will last beyond 180 days, you’ll also have to apply for a Spanish residence card, or TIE. An in-person appointment must be booked at a local police station within 30 days of arriving in Spain. You’ll have to produce your passport and visa, and documents proving you’re enrolled at a course. You can select the police station and make an appointment to get your TIE card through the official website.

Anyone moving to Spain should also take the Spain Travel Health programme into account. Launched in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, it requires all visitors to the country to complete a Health Control Form. This must be done before you fly, and will give you a QR code which will allow you to enter the country.

Finding accommodation

You’ve picked the country you want to study in. Next, it’s the important question of where exactly you want to live while you’re here. Here are the main types of dwelling to consider:

  • Student halls of residence. These are a top choice with many international students, and with good reason. They provide complete convenience, with the bills and rent payments rolled into one, and you’ll be able to easily meet and make friends with other students. Halls also typically feature kitchens, dining areas, and laundry facilities. Your chosen university may run its own halls of residence, while you can also check out the offerings from private companies like Resa.
  • Private residences. The main alternative to halls is living in private apartments or houses. You’ll easily be able to browse the options offered by rental agencies online, filtering by price, location, and type of property. You can also try looking up online adverts by groups of students looking for new housemates to join them.
  • Homestays. If you like the idea of home comforts during your time in Spain, you can opt to settle in with a Spanish family. There are websites which specialise in connecting international students with families, and depending on the arrangement you may have dinner and laundry included with your homestay.

Finding a part-time job while studying in Spain

While your focus will be on your studies during your time in Spain, you may well want to work part-time. It’s a good way to immerse yourself in Spanish culture, improve your language skills, make friends, and, of course, supplement your budget. Working while studying is perfectly fine, and you’ll be eligible to take on paid employment for up to 20 hours a week during each semester.

As an international student from outside the EU, a work permit will be required from your nearest immigration office. The good news is this is pretty straightforward, and the application is typically made by your prospective employer. A form will need to be submitted, along with the usual official documents proving your identity and status as a student.

It’s a good idea to update and polish your CV or résumé before you actually arrive in Spain. After all, settling into your new life will be an exciting and hectic time, and having your CV ready will be one thing less on your to-do list. Once in Spain, you can browse job listings online or approach staff in bars, restaurants, and shops to submit your application for work.

Setting up a Spanish bank account

While it may be tempting to carry on using your existing bank account and bank cards while in Spain, you may find it cheaper and easier to use a Spain-based account instead.

The process of opening a Spanish bank account is simple enough – you can often begin the process online, and you can easily compare different banks’ services by checking their websites. Shopping around is a good idea, and you’ll want to consider whether:

  • There are fees attached their services, and how these compare
  • There’s a good, user-friendly mobile app available
  • They have staff members who speak your first language
  • They offer a good spread of services, from insurance to savings accounts, to special perks for students

Sending money home

Budgeting is crucial for the majority of students the world over. Everything from how much you spend on your weekly groceries to what you allocate for socialising may have to be carefully considered. This same care should go into planning how best to send money to loved ones at home, if that’s something you ever need to do.

The fact is, not all money transfer services are the same. Transfer fees may be higher at some banks and remittance companies compared to others. Exchange rates can also vary, which will impact how much your friend or family member back home will receive.

This is why it’s a good idea to research online beforehand, and see what different companies can offer. You may find that companies based entirely online can provide the most competitive prices and exchange rates, as they don’t have to cover the expensive running costs of land-based outlets.

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