Citizen USA, retired. My tentative plans for next year are to go to Spain early in the year and find a low-cost apartment, probably in Navarra or La Rioja. Most of the year will be spent wandering around on hiking trails, improving my Spanish, and acquiring Chinese and/or Dutch online. I will likely volunteer at one or more albergues on Camino de Santiago, though nothing has been scheduled there. One of them has already offered to write a letter for me. Also, part of the year, do Camino Francés by bicycle. And occasional short trips to other parts of Europe.

A website that I read said that if I have official approval for such a stay from a Schengen country, that it would authorize free travel for the duration to any other. However, Both tourist and language course visa says that I would still be subject to the 90/180 rule for all the others.

Different pieces of advice I've been given (opinions of the "advisor," not necessarily mine):

  • Retirement visa—easy to get, no conditions on what you do.
  • Find a cheap language school as your reason. The school will help with the paperwork. Maybe Spain will do like USA does—if you drop out of school, you're not in violation for a year.
  • Don't tell them the entire plan. Just tell them one thing and they won't care what else you do.
  • Don't worry about the 90/180 because no one checks except in an airport.
  • Don't worry about a visa because Spain never checks (from someone who lived there for several long periods).

Another thing odd is that the government website listed a huge amount of documentation and said everything must be in Spanish. But the application for itself is in English. I'm pretty good at Spanish.

I have to go to U.K. for a couple of days at the beginning, so I will go from there to Spain by bike, bus, and/or ferry. Most likely through France but there are ferries to Spain. Considering a cruise ship or freighter to U.K. (cost comparable to airfare plus meals/lodging for same number of days).

Would want multiple-entry, so I can visit Andorra and Gibraltar. (Possibly U.K. again, and/or Morocco.)

I "hoard" expense receipts, so not afraid of questions on where I have been and when.

So, that's all the gory details, but the question again is (more verbosely), "What is the best type/method of visa application for an American to go to Spain for almost a year and have flexibility for the rest of Europe?"

  • 3
    "like USA does—if you drop out of school, you're not in violation for a year": I'm not aware of anything like this in the US, and would be surprised if it were true. I'd be less surprised if it were true in Spain, but only slightly less. I'd go with the retirement visa if I were you -- it's the closest fit for your circumstances. Schengen enforcement is getting tighter, so I would not advise you to rely on others' past experiences of "never checks." If you get the Spanish visa, strict enforcement of 90/180 in the rest of Schengen is unlikely. Finally, this belongs on Expatriates.
    – phoog
    Commented Sep 26, 2016 at 23:42
  • 1
    Remember that Schengen visas are not valid for travel to the UK.
    – SJuan76
    Commented Sep 27, 2016 at 0:25
  • 1
    They're about to close this (sorry) so just two words: retirement visa
    – Giorgio
    Commented Sep 27, 2016 at 0:29
  • 2
    @SJuan76 but US citizens can stay in the UK for up to six months without a visa, so WGroleau doesn't have much to worry about in that regard.
    – phoog
    Commented Sep 27, 2016 at 0:44
  • 1
    @WGroleau residence permits are generally an Expats thing, and you're far more likely to find someone who has experience dealing with the relevant authorities and procedures there than you are here.
    – phoog
    Commented Sep 27, 2016 at 0:46


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