In principle, the stay as a tourist in Spain, either with or without a visa, can not exceed 90 days per semester, counted from the date of the first entry.
Those 90 days can be uninterrupted or added in several periods.
Thus, you can enter once and be 90 days in a row, or several times, as long as the sum of the days of all these trips is equal to or less than 90. We emphasize that the calculation is done by days, not by months.
To mention an example: If you entered as a tourist in Spain on January 1, 2016, you were uninterrupted and left on March 30 of that year, you could not return as a tourist until July 1, 2016.
Can the 90 day period be extended?
Yes, but only if an extension authorization is requested and obtained. This applies to both those who have a visa and those who do not. Unfortunately, the reasons are very restrictive, basically due to illness or accident, for which the vast majority of applications are rejected, and in this case they are accompanied by a requirement to leave the country almost immediately.
Does this term only apply to the stay in Spain?
Not only applies for your stay as a tourist in Spain, but also for your stay in any of the countries that signed the Schengen Agreement (most of the countries of the European Union); Remember that within these there are no proper borders.
Thus, it is not that you can spend 90 days as a tourist in Spain, then 90 days in France and 90 days in Italy, for example. If you travel within these countries, in theory you could not be in total more than 90 days. If you wanted to stay longer, you would have to ask for a long stay visa.
What happens if I exceed 90 days?
You would be in an irregular situation in Spain. In accordance with article 53.1.a of Organic Law 4/2000, of January 11, on the rights and freedoms of foreigners in Spain and their social integration (the so-called Aliens Act), this is considered a serious infraction of the law. law, which is sanctioned or with a fine (between 501 and 10,000 euros) or with expulsion from Spanish territory, taking into account the circumstances of fact, and then a sanctioning procedure.
If they agree to the expulsion, they can also be banned from entering Spain for a period of up to 5 years (again, depending on the seriousness of the infringement).
In the event that they impose the fine, in the resolution they tell you that being irregularly in Spain you have the obligation to leave the country within a period. In theory, the expiration of the deadline without you doing so would be cause to be opened by an expulsion procedure. In practice, they rarely do it.
The penalty is not automatic
It is important to clarify that the fact that you are in an irregular situation does not mean that they will automatically open a sanctioning procedure. Everything will depend on whether the authorities detect it, that is, if the police ask you for documentation in the street or in a bus or train station, for example, and corroborates that you do not have legal residence.
In fact, there is a high percentage of foreigners who remain in Spain in an irregular situation for several years. Even after a certain number of years of irregular residence and fulfilling other requirements, a residence can be obtained due to exceptional circumstances (family, social or employment, depending on the case).
Will I be able to return to Spain?
Theoretically (the practice may be different), if you voluntarily left Spain having exceeded 90 days, in principle you have no prohibition of independent entry, but the criterion of maximum time per semester applies.
In the example we used at the beginning, according to which you entered Spain on January 1, 2016, but you were 180 days, if you try to re-enter before January 1, 2017, you can be denied entry. In this case, they will hold you at the airport until you can take a flight back to your country of origin.
We point out that the practice may be different because we know of cases in which the immigration officer has not noticed that the person has exceeded the maximum time, and even cases in which the income has been denied, making an incorrect calculation (a year for every 90 days, for example).
We have also seen cases in which people who have exceeded but are within the deadlines (were 120 days and return a year, which is legally possible), they have reviewed the other requirements exhaustively (proof of accommodation, return ticket , economic resources for the stay, etc).
Be careful when trying to circumvent controls
We have seen cases of people who claim to have been able to return to Spain even when they exceeded the 90 day limit, supposedly obtaining a new passport in which there is no entry and previous exit, or leaving for another country, etcetera.
We dare not recommend this type of behavior, especially because according to articles 14.2 and 21.4 of the Regulation of the foreigners law, the Spanish State can keep a register of entry and exit of foreigners, which is independent of the stamp they place in the passport.
In addition, the System for the registration of passenger data will soon be implemented, an initiative of the European Union. Remember that if you are denied entry you will be held at the airport until you can take a flight back to your country of origin.