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I see lots of posts on staying in a country as a tourist after the expiration of a student visa. This is the opposite.

I will be studying in Spain from August 2016 through July 2017. I carry a US passport, and my Spanish student visa process is underway.

However, I would like to arrive in Spain in July 2016 to vacation with my family before school begins. So I have two options:

  1. Ensure my student visa begins in July rather than August
  2. Travel in July as a tourist, leave the Schengen area, and return after the August start date of my student visa

I am having trouble with #1 because one of the health/medical insurance visa requirement (must be covered for duration of stay). I am covered through my school (and have the appropriate documentation) for the months of my program, but not for July. And it's been difficult to find appropriate coverage for one month only.

So moving on to #2. My plan would be to enter Spain as a tourist and have onward travel plans to UK/Morocco. I would stay in Spain for two weeks, fly outside the Schengen area, spend a weekend there, and re-enter Spain on my student visa, which would be valid by that point.

Questions: Any ideas on #1? Do you see any potential issues with #2?

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    Off topic? I mean, I see how expats could answer this, and suggestion #1 would be. Be Suggestion #2 surely comes within our remit?
    – CMaster
    May 17, 2016 at 14:15
  • Not got the legal info in front of me to answer for sure but - idea 1 seems unlikley - you'd be asking to extend your student visa for tourism reasons. Idea 2 however, sounds completely routine and not something that anybody should raise an eyebrow at.
    – CMaster
    May 17, 2016 at 15:24
  • @CMaster That varies by country. For instance, if you tried to enter the US as a tourist a month before your student visa validity begins, you should expect some intense questioning and possibly to be refused entry and maybe even have your visa revoked. The US does not allow first-time students to enter more than 30 days before the start of classes, and the visa start date is set to that date. Given that we really don't deal much with student visas here, I think #2 should be answered at Expatriates as well. May 17, 2016 at 15:42
  • As far as I understand the rules, you can just enter early as a tourist without having to leave. Schengen doesn't operate on the principle of status, as the US does, where you need to change your status. Rather, you have to abide by the 90/180 rule, but you exclude days that are covered by the student visa.
    – phoog
    May 17, 2016 at 16:19
  • @MadisonG Probably a longshot as OP, hasn't been active. But I'm curious as to how this turned out....
    – Ozzy
    Aug 12, 2019 at 8:04

2 Answers 2

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Both your options should work without any problem, but you also have a further, much simpler and also legal option: Enter in July as a visa-exempt US citizen and stay. Assuming that your Spanish long-term visa is valid from e.g. August 1st, the period you stay until end of July will count on your 90/180 days visa-free allowance and the long-term visa will take effect on August 1st without any action from your side.

Your situation is similar to back-to-back short-term visas. Let's say you are from a country requiring a visa for any stay in the Schengen area and you already have a visa valid until July 31st. You are however planning a trip from July 20th to August 10th. Since overlapping visas are not allowed, you will if your new visa application is granted, be issued a new visa valid from August 1st. Since there is no interruption in the validity of the two visas, you can simply enter with the old visa and stay beyond the validity of the first visa. Also in this situation, it is not required by you to exit the Schengen area before the expiration of the first visa and reenter on the second visa later.

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  • Thanks so much for your response - I did not understand the rules well enough to see this option. One follow-up question: the visa application requests "Intended date of arrival in Spain." Should I indicate my planned date of arrival in July, even though my other documents cover the year beginning August 1? OR should I indicate August 1?
    – Madison G
    May 18, 2016 at 0:14
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I see that this was a few years ago. How did it work out for you?

Here's what happened to me, a U.S. citizen coming from the U.S., in a similar situation, which I present so that anyone who should come across this can make a decision based on what might happen to them:

I went to Spain to visit some friends on a tourist visa. While I was there, I applied for a Master's program. I got in to the Master's program on the same day classes started (I was granted admission on the the last plazo extraordinario). I started attending classes and applying for a student visa (some of the visa application was possible from Spain a través de mis amigos y parientes but I was going to have to return to the U.S. for one of the trámites, which I was disposed to do).

I had not been aware of two problems that I think arose: A) Spain will not grant you a student visa while you're already in the country on a tourist visa because legally outstaying a Spanish tourist visa creates a weird legal situation whereof it's easier for you to get citizenship (and you would be legally outstaying the tourist visa had you another visa for more than 90 days) and B), in order to avoid A), an actual prerequisite of the student visa is that you not be in the country before the start date of your student visa (which, I believe, is supposed to be the start date of the academic program--e.g., but not necessarily, the first day of classes).

I believe, but am not totally sure, that therefore you must list the first day of the academic program as the "intended date of arrival in Spain" on your visa application. Since I clearly did not have the prerequisite and was still on my tourist visa, the consulate / embassy / etc. would not grant me the Student visa--I had already annulled the possibility by being in the country on a tourist visa.

In retrospect, I wonder whether I could have simply put an "intended arrival in Spain" well after the start date of the program then left the country and come back at that later start date--this would have only harmed only me and my professors, not the legality of the immigration process, since it would have just made attending classes and making the grade difficult for a few days but would not have taken me any closer to citizenship. Alas, it all happened quickly and I was confused, so I ended up leaving the Master's program and returning to the U.S.

(The following might not be useful to potential emigres but in case you're curious: the due date for tuition was fast approaching as I was navigating the visa process and I wasn't even sure that I was going to be able to get the student visa with which to stay in the country for the duration of the master's and that is why I didn't try the latter. I might have ended up paying a few thousand dollars for a master's I couldn't have completed! Phew, I left the master's just in time not to have to pay.)

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