First time living abroad? Barcelona GSE staff can help you get set up fast and get on with your studies.

This page provides a brief overview of the most common topics international students ask us about before arriving in Barcelona and during their first days here. Admitted students will receive detailed information and individual support from Barcelona GSE staff throughout the process of moving to Barcelona.

We strongly advise international students (non-EU) to apply as early as possible and allow themselves time enough to arrange relocation issues such as visas and accommodations.

Jump to any of these topics:  Before you travel When you arrive Accommodation and flatmates Bank accounts and mobile phones


What is required before I travel to Barcelona?

A bit of planning at home will ensure a smooth start for you here in Barcelona. Before you come to Barcelona, you should make sure you have the proper student visa and adequate medical insurance (required for your visa application). Depending on where you obtained your previous degree(s), you may need to take some steps to have them legalized and/or translated.

Student visas and visas for family members

Do I need to obtain a student visa?

Citizens of the EU, Iceland, Norway, Liechtenstein, and Switzerland do not need visas. Students of all other nationalities will need a student visa from the Spanish consulate in their country. You must apply for a long-term student visa and request multiple entries. A tourist visa is only valid for 90 days, and does not allow you to study in Spain.

As specific requirements vary widely, please contact the Spanish Consulate in your country directly to learn more about the visa process for your situation. For the address and phone number of the Spanish consulate in your country, visit the website of the Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

In many countries you must make an appointment in person to both submit and pick up your paperwork. The Barcelona GSE cannot make any visa inquiries on your behalf.

Do not assume that you will be able to obtain a student visa from a Spanish Embassy or Consulate outside your home country. If you enter Spain on a 90-day tourist visa, you cannot apply for your student resident permit to extend your stay, and you will be required to return to your home country to apply for the student visa.

The visa process takes at least six weeks, so we advise you to apply as soon as you receive your admission documents, even up to three months in advance. Visa applications are usually not accepted less than four weeks before departure.

Spouses or family members of Barcelona GSE students should also apply for a family reunification visa if they wish to reside in Barcelona with the student. According to the 2011 Spanish immigration law revision, family members and spouses accompanying the student can apply for their entry visas at the same time as the student applies for their student visa. 

Visa requirements

In order to apply for a student visa, you must present the following documents. All documents must be originals.

  • Completed and signed Schengen Visa Application Form, plus one photocopy. Illegible or incomplete forms are not accepted.
  • Information on date of arrival and departure from Spain MUST be included in boxes #30 and #31 on the form. 
  • Original, signed passport valid for at least one year from the date of visa application, with at least one blank page to affix the visa.
  • Two recent passport photographs, one glued to application. (DO NOT STAPLE THE PHOTOGRAPH.)
  • Admission letter from Barcelona GSE stating that you have been accepted to a master's program as a full-time student.
  • Proof of financial security for the period of stay in Spain. Proof can be in the form of one of the following:
    • A letter from an institution stating financial aid or scholarship for at least $1,000 USD per month for room and board.
    • A notarized letter from parents/custodians assuming financial responsibility while the student is in Spain. Suggested wording: “I hereby certify that I am the (father/mother/other) of (student name), that I will support him/her with a monthly allowance of at least $1,000 USD per month while he/she is in Spain, and that I am financially responsible for any emergency that may arise.”
    • A current statement from your bank account showing holdings equivalent to at least $1,000 USD per month of stay.
  • Proof of Medical/Accident Insurance with international coverage. This can be in the form of written confirmation from your insurance company of a valid insurance policy for international travel and a minimum coverage of $30,000 USD or equivalent.
  • A medical statement, issued within 3 months from the application date and on doctor or medical center letterhead, indicating that you have been examined and found to be in good physical and mental health to travel and study abroad.
  • Certificate of criminal record issued by the Police Department from the cities where you have resided for more than six months in the past five years.
  • Non-refundable visa processing fee of $75 USD (as of February 2015). 
Obtain student medical insurance

While the Barcelona GSE does not provide general medical care, all our students are covered by accident insurance in case of injury anywhere and any time including weekends.

EU Citizens

If you are a European Union (EU) or European Economic Area (EEA) citizen and entitled to coverage under the health care system of your country, you must obtain the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) prior to your arrival in Spain. If you need medical assistance, you usually must pay for the cost up front and claim a refund later.

Please note that the EHIC is not an alternative to travel insurance, since it covers neither accidents nor extra costs such as repatriation expenses to your home country. So although urgent serious medical problems can be handled at public hospitals, we strongly recommend having a private health insurance in order to get the best medical assistance in general. In many cases this will also be required when applying for your residence permit in Spain.

Non-EU Citizens

As a requirement for your student visa application, you must obtain private medical insurance for the duration of your stay covering medical care, hospital assistance, and repatriation expenses. If you require medical assistance while in Barcelona, simply call your insurance company and they will advise you where to receive to medical assistance. Don't forget to carry your medical insurance card when you travel.

The Barcelona GSE recommends that you either contract your own insurance or contact one of the following companies to discuss comprehensive plans:

  • IATI (the one usually used by Barcelona GSE)
  • ALLIANCE (usually used by UPF)
  • Atlantida (offers discounts to BGSE students)
  • AXA (usually used by UAB)
Legalization of transcripts and diplomas

Both your grade transcripts and your previous study diploma(s) must be legalized, depending on where your undergraduate degree was issued, before you arrive in Barcelona. You will need to bring these documents with you to course registration in September, before the academic year begins. Diploma(s) and certificates of academic records must be signed and sealed at your university, and must be certified by all of the below:

  • The Ministry of Education in the country where the documents originated  
  • The Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs where the documents originated
  • The Spanish Embassy or Consular Representation in your country

Documents will only be accepted in one of the following languages: Catalan, English, French, Italian, Portuguese, or Spanish. Documents in any other language must be accompanied by a sworn translation signed and sealed by either:

  • A Sworn Translator, duly authorized and registered  
  • A Spanish Diplomatic or Consular Representation in your country
  • A Diplomatic or Consular Representation of the country of issuance of the document

European Higher Education Area (EHEA) Applicants

  • If you obtained your undergraduate degree in a European Union (EU) Member State, your diploma and certificate of records only need to bear the official seal of your university. 
  • If you obtained your undergraduate degree from a non-EU Member State, your documents must bear a Hague Apostille. This include the countries: Albania, Andorra, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Moldova, Montenegro, Russian Federation, Serbia, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, and Turkey.

We make every effort to keep this information up to date. Please don't hesitate to contact the Barcelona GSE Admissions Office with any questions you have about these topics or other concerns you have about your preparations.

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What is required when I arrive in Barcelona?

As soon as you have a home address, you will need to request two documents: the Certificate of Residency ("Padró") and the Foreigner Identification Number ("NIE"). Instructions for obtaining these required documents are provided below (based on the latest available information from administrative offices). Barcelona GSE staff is happy to answer any questions and to assist you throughout the process.

Certificate of Residency ("Padró")

Once you have a home address, you will need to visit your district's Citizens Services Office (Oficina d'Antenció al Ciutadà - OAC) to request a Certificate of Residency (certificat d'empadronament, or “el Padró”).

What is the "Padró"?

The Certificate of Residency is a requirement for everyone living in Spain. Each time you change your address you will need to register in the Citizens Services Office in your new neighborhood. The "Padró" is required for all other documents you will need to obtain in order to live and study in Barcelona. The most important of these documents is your student resident permit (NIE/TIE). Without the certificate of residency you will not be able to file for your student resident permit.

  • If you live in Barcelona, you can obtain your "Padró" at one of the Citizen Services Offices located in each district: Check the list of offices for each Barcelona district.
  • If you live outside Barcelona, please check with your local town hall for the nearest Citizen Services Office.

How do I get my “Padró”?

The procedure is fairly quick, and it is free of charge. Be sure to request extra copies of your certificate, as you will need to supply these for various other permit and contractual procedures.

Documents you will need:

  • Application form (available in the Citizen Services Office). 
  • Original Passport or ID, plus one copy
  • If you are registering other members of your family, all members should have these documents and copies with them. Additionally, you will need to present documentation that you are related. In Spain this is the “Libro de Familia” (Family Book). 
  • Your new address and your rental contract (bring the original and one copy)

If your name is not on the contract, you must provide a signed authorization from your landlord and a signed copy of the landlord's ID. Alternately, you may ask a flatmate whose name is on the contract to accompany you together with their own ID, NIE, “Padró”, and rental contract. 

Foreigner Identification Number ("NIE")

All foreign students are required to apply for the Foreigner Identification Number (Número de Identificación Extranjero or "NIE").

When should I apply for my NIE and TIE?

Deadlines and document types depend on your citizenship:

EU citizens

  • Deadline: within 90 days of arrival in Spain
  • Document you will receive: Número de Identificación Extranjero (NIE), your Foreigner Identification Number

Non-EU citizens

  • Deadline: within 30 days of arrival in Spain
  • Document you will receive: Targeta de Identificación de Extranjero (TIE), a card with your Foreigner Identification Number printed on it

Where do I get my NIE/TIE?

If you reside in Barcelona, you must request an appointment via the on-line reservation system here. The page is only available in Spanish, so please let us know in the Admissions Office if you need help navigating the system. We'll be happy to assist you with the process.

If you live outside Barcelona, contact the city hall of the town where you reside and they will provide instructions for obtaining the NIE/TIE in your area.

Don't forget to register with your country's embassy or consulate in Barcelona upon arrival. This is very important so that you can get help in case of an emergency.
Download a list of consulates in Barcelona

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Accommodation options and flatmates

Barcelona is a metropolitan area with several types of accommodation available including student residence halls, apartment rentals, and room shares with other Barcelona GSE students. Our team can offer guidance to help you choose an option that fits your budget and preferences. To help you get started, we have provided a list of housing partners below that offer discounts to Barcelona GSE students.

Housing partners near Ciutadella Campus

Student halls

Apartments and shares

Housing partners near Bellaterra Campus

On-campus housing

Students can book on-campus accommodation at the Vila Universitaria. Bellaterra campus is equipped with all basic services such as laundry, supermarket, bakery, cafeterias, etc.

Nearby towns

Students can also considering living in other locations well-connected with Bellaterra campus, such as:

  • Cerdanyola del Vallès 
  • Sabadell
  • Sant Cugat
How to find flatmates

New students often choose to live together or to live with Barcelona GSE alumni who stay in the city after graduation. Many alumni announce available rooms in their apartments in the Barcelona GSE Facebook group. In addition to connecting you with potential roommates, the group serves as a great resource for discovering more about student life and learning about on- and off-campus events.

Request to join the Barcelona GSE Facebook group

Remember that the Barcelona GSE has two campuses, so please check where the majority of the lectures in your program will take place before beginning your search for accommodation.

To qualify for discounts, you may be requested to identify yourself as a Barcelona GSE student and may be asked to provide proof of enrollment. Visit each of our housing partners' websites to read more about available options and requirements.

If you prefer to hire an agency to arrange accommodations for you, you may contact International Student Relocation Barcelona.

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Bank accounts and mobile phones

Here are some tips we can provide based on our experience helping international students relocate to Barcelona during recent years.

Banking and bank accounts

Should I open a bank account in Barcelona?

You can either open a bank account in Barcelona, or work with your bank at home through banking or credit cards. ATM cash points are common and available at most banking locations. Before you arrive in Barcelona, check with your home bank to make sure you can use your card in Spain and under what conditions. Some ATMs, for example, do not accept PINs of more than 4 digits.

How to open a Spanish bank account

If you will need to use a Spanish bank, it is not difficult to open a new account with one of the many banks or savings banks ("cajas/caixes") in Barcelona. Be sure to always bring your passport and NIE papers with you when visiting bank offices.

Most general bank accounts to do not accrue interest, and annual maintenance fees may be applied but should not be exorbitant. Be sure to understand the conditions of your account and do not accept suspicious insurance plans. Students might want to ask about “Youth” or “Student” accounts, which can sometimes offer additional benefits or services.

Please note that it can take up to 7-10 days for new bank accounts (including on-line banking) to fully come into service.

Also, please note that non-resident bank accounts usually charge higher annual fees than resident accounts. Therefore, if you do not have a student resident card (NIE/TIE) number when opening your account, it is advised that as soon as you obtain your residency number that you change your account to resident status.

If you are required to obtain a student visa before arrival in Barcelona, your NIE/TIE number will be printed on the visa and you can use this to open a resident status bank account, even without the physical residency card.

Bank offices on or near campus

Ciutadella Campus:

  • Banco Santander (Roger de Llúria Building)
  • Banc Sabadell
  • Banco Popular
  • Catalunya Caixa
  • La Caixa

Bellaterra Campus:

  • Banco Santander (Technical Engineering School)
  • Catalunya Caixa (located in the Plaça Cívica)
  • La Caixa (Rectorate Building)
Mobile phone usage and plans

Calling and data charges may add up fast if you are roaming while using a service plan from outside of Spain. Be sure to contact your current provider before departing for Barcelona to verify the status of your contract and discuss your options. Some providers may offer to suspended your services while you are abroad, or may be able to issue you with a Spanish phone number. 

Most mobile service contracts in Spain last for two years. Therefore, consider searching for month-by-month or pre-paid plans, which are more flexible and usually include calls, text messaging, and even reasonable amounts of 3G data service.

If there is any other topic you would like us to cover here, please let us know!

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