Visa for EU family members(or my big, big mistake)

December 8, 2022

I am an EU family member, as Hubby and Kiddo are both EU citizens, while I am Brazilian; so this topic describes our case. I’ll share how, despite having worked on both an Embassy and a Consulate, and having spent countless hours preparing our move, I still managed to make a rookie mistake and get it all wrong when it came to my own visa requirements. Once again, it is worth checking the official pages and then double check it. Then check again.

Visa for EU family member

There are two visas that refer to family members: the Visado de reagrupación familiar en régimen general (Visa for family reunion) and the Visado de familiar de ciudadano de la Unión (Visa for a family member of an EU citizen). Among their differences, the first one applies only when the EU citizen is already in Europe, which was not our case, as we were all in the USA; the second one would be the right choice for us, because it applies to when a family member is traveling together with the EU citizen from outside the EU. But I didn’t notice the difference while preparing.

I don’t know if I read about the right visa during my preparations or not. I may have found just the one about family reunion and concluded (correctly) that it wasn’t our case. If I did read the one about visa for EU family members, I probably ignored it because it just allows stays of up to 90 days, which is the same I would have without any visa (due to the agreement between EU and Brazil that exempts visas for up to 90 days – tourism visa – both ways).

EU family member
Original image obtained from the visa section of the Spanish Consulate in San Francisco.

It is possible that I read about it in the beginning of my preparations, concluded it was pointless, and didn’t realize that without it, I would have to comply with tourism requirements beyond the visa, which are considerable. Therefore, I should have checked the Consulate page, and then checked it again. Rookie mistake.

Tourism requirements

When entering Spain as a tourist, one may be stopped by immigration and be made to prove that they are travelling with tourism intentions only. To do so, immigration officers may require to see the ticket to go back to the original country and a proof of accommodation reservation (hotel or vacation rental) for the period between arrival and departure. If one is staying in friend’s house, then an invitation letter is needed, in which the host (legally resident in Spain) says they are inviting you there. Travel without these in hand and you may be sent back home on the next flight.

So, for lack of information (or attention), I was unaware of the existence of a Visa that would be perfect for me and went ahead to have everything ready to pretend I was travelling for tourism. We bought two-way tickets for the whole family and booked our stay accordingly – 12 days only, when booking for a longer period would have been a lot cheaper.

We could have booked a stay for 90 days, but I was afraid it would look suspicious, as we had a school-aged kid with us. If I had the visa for family member, I would need only one-way tickets, we would have gotten them with miles, and we’d have spent absolutely nothing on tickets; we didn’t have enough miles for 3 two-ways tickets, though, therefore we paid quite a few bucks on this trip.

Even worst, I was very afraid that I would be in the uncomfortable situation of lying to an authority and scaried that Kiddo would spill the beans and say we were moving to Spain, where he would go to school, learn Spanish, go to the beach after classes (all things I was saying to prepare him for the move)… Tsc Tsc. I should have gotten the Visado de familiar de ciudadano de la Unión (Visa for a family member of an EU citizen), then entered Spain without any fear. And this visa is free of charge!

EU family member
Photo by Gratisography on Pexels

How it turned out for us…

Luckily, we were not stopped and therefore I didn’t have to pretend to be coming for tourism. Kiddo actually helped by throwing a tantrum about his face mask right when we were going through immigration, which may have helped us speed through, out of compassion or Covid fear, but probably compassion.

We arrived at Frankfurt in the middle of the night and faced a big line of US passengers with two police officers asking for documents. When it was our turn, kiddo sneezed while I was dealing with passports, Covid passes, tickets and the QR codes on the phone.

Kiddo made it very clear that his mask was now dirty and that he needed a new one, adding in full lungs that we didn’t care if he would get Covid and die or not, or else we would stop everything to fix his new mask (you see, by the time he got to this part of the sentence we had already provided him a new one; the problem was that I had not tied a knot to fit it better).

The officer checked the documents fast, gave us a smile (compassion, see?) and sent us through. And that is how we were admitted to Europe and boarded our last flight leg, from Frankfurt to Málaga, despite me not having the most adequate visa.

I gotta add that Kiddo is usually a great kid and very well behaved. This was about the third tantrum he threw in his whole 7 years, and just because he felt his life was under real threat.

Please don’t do like me. Save a lot of money on your move and sleep well by getting the proper visa even if you can enter Spain as a tourist. Then check which of those two types of family visas correspond to your needs, prepare the documentation according to the requirements of the Consulate’s page and book an appointment with them. It will be worth it.

Next: Spanish Non-Lucrative Visa and Digital Nomad Visa – interview with Tarragona Legal

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