Are you considering a move to Spain? With fascinating culture and history, delicious food, and year-round sun, it’s little surprise that Spain w
Your guide to moving to Spain. Spanish residence permits, visas, Spanish citizenship, and passports.
Why live in Spain?
There are many reasons to seek out residency as an Expat in Spain. The same reasons make Spanish citizenship one of the most attractive in the world for you and your family. People love the way of life and the weather. The food and culture are world-class. The low cost of living means that most people can enjoy a higher standard of living than they could in their home country. We’ll also look at the many Spanish residence permits and visas available to you. Many of these visas and residency permits are a pathway to Spanish citizenship and an EU passport.
These add up to Spain being ranked the 5th best place on the planet for Expats. We’ll look at all the reasons Expats love Spain in more detail below.
Health and Health Care
Spain has one of the longest life expectancies in the world, and it looks set to keep on improving. There are several reasons for this. Firstly, the abundance of good, fresh food. Secondly, Spanish people traditionally follow the Mediterranean diet. This diet has been strongly linked to excellent health outcomes. Finally, there is a relaxed attitude and importance placed on strong social ties.
These all play a part, as does a very effective health system. There is both a public and private capability. Health insurance is affordable and comprehensive.
Lifestyle, weather, and climate
Spain is a very social country. There is an emphasis on spending quality time with friends and family. Eating out is cheap and forms an integral part of many people’s lives. Outdoor activities are also popular. There are beaches, mountains, forests, rivers, and lakes. Fishing, hiking, cycling, and skiing, and more are everyday activities for young and old alike.
Spain’s weather is excellent. There are the famous 320 days a year of sunshine along the southern Mediterranean coast. And, then there are some of Europe’s best beaches on which to enjoy that sunshine. If you prefer green rolling hills, the areas of Asturias and Galicia have you covered. The Pyrenees mountains along the border of Spain offer countless alpine options. It really is a country that offers everything.
In smaller towns and in some companies based in larger cities, the siesta is still honoured, which results in long lunch breaks. Many retirees from around the world have moved to Spain for a better life. They can often be found in smaller towns that line the stunning Mediterranean coastline.
Cost of Living
Spain has a much lower cost of living than many other first world countries and definitely one of the cheapest in Western Europe. Fresh food, restaurants, and home help are all very affordable. Buying and renting property does vary hugely between premium and other areas. Outside of Madrid, Barcelona, and some premium coastal towns, these costs are also very reasonable. Areally rough guide is the US State Department per diem rate. This is the amount the State Department pays its employees to cover their basic daily expenses while aborad. The average for Spain is 75% of the United Kingdom and 55% of Switzerland. That means your money will go much further.
Stability and Safety
Spain moved out of the Franco dictatorship in 1978. Since then, it has been a functional democracy in good standing with the world. While local politics can be tumultuous, there has been a focus on moving beyond the problems of the past. There are still significant issues to be addressed. Catalonian independence is a problematic issue. Levels of youth unemployment, while falling, continue to be higher than desirable. Spain now has a functioning government to address these issues after some political deadlock.
The Legatum Prosperity Index ranks Spain 32nd in the world for Safety and Security. Security has improved markedly over the last decade and continues an upward trajectory. Outside of petty crime in the large cities and tourist hotspots, living in Spain is very secure.
Financial and Business
The financial crisis hit Spain hard, but employment numbers have recently gone up, and the economy is growing. The same improvement also applies to salaries in Spain, which are steadily increasing. Combined, this means now is the time to grab an opportunity in Spain. The recovery has been broad, and most sectors have shown strong growth in the last few years.
Red tape and bureaucracy can be a problem. Setting up a business can be frustrating without support. Officials are almost unfailing polite, but the system can be very inflexible.
Property prices across Spain have stabilised and been climbing steadily, but there is still excellent value to be had in some areas.
Most immigrants can be found in Madrid and Barcelona, which are the biggest cities in the country and offer the most career opportunities
Short Stay Tourist Visas for Spain
Spain is a part of the SCHENGEN agreement. A SCHENGEN visa will allow you to visit Spain for a range of reason. You are not allowed to work. The visa is valid for 90 days in a 180 day period. There are some countries that don’t need a short-stay visa to visit, including Australia and Canada. Please use the VisaHQ tool on the right to see what your particular requirements are for a short term visa to visit Spain.
Spanish Long Term residence visas and permits
Are you moving to Spain? It can be challenging to understand precisely which visa or residence permit is best for you. This is because there are many Spanish visa and residence permit options available. Moreover, the application process is time-consuming and complicated.
We outline all the visa options available and who is eligible for applying. If you want complete clarity on your situation however and an action plan, book in for a consultation with our immigration partners in Spain.
Spain is a member of the European Union (EU). Citizens of the European Economic Area (EEA) do not require a visa or permit for moving, living and working in Spain. When you arrive as an EEA citizen, there are some formalities to complete. These include getting an NIE (Foreigners Identity Number), registering in the local town hall, and showing proof of your medical insurance.
There is still uncertainty around BREXIT and how it will impact British nationals who are living in Spain as Expats. We’ll be producing a set of blogs on this topic, please sign up to our newsletter here if this is of interest to you.
For all Non-EU citizens, keep reading and we’ll outline your visa and residence permit options.
Spain Non-Lucrative Visa
The Spanish Non-Lucrative Visa is an income-based visa which allows you to live in Spain. However, you cannot do work that produces Spanish income.
If you are a freelancer, you can work for clients outside of Spain. The initial permit allows you to live in Spain for a year and then it is renewable every two years until you get permanent residency after 5 years.
Who are the ideal candidates?
- Those who are financially independent
- Those who work for companies outside of Spain
- Those want to come to Spain for a year without working. Another advantage of this visa is that you can convert it to a work visa at a later stage if required.
What are the criteria to be eligible for the Non-Lucrative Visa?
- You need to prove an annual income of approx €26,000 as well as a €6,390 for each dependent family member
- You need private health insurance
You first need to apply in your country of citizenship or residency. Our lawyers can give you full guidance on where and how to apply.
Spain Retirement Visa
Those wishing to retire in Spain need to apply for a non-lucrative visa. See above.
The requirements are slightly different for retirees. You need to show that you have at least €30,000 in your bank account plus €6,480 for each dependent.
Click here for the official government website on this visa.
Also, see our blog, The Pros and Cons of Retiring Abroad.
A Student Visa is available to enable you to study at schools, universities and colleges around the country. You can also study Spanish and get a student visa.
To be eligible you need:
- to be enrolled in the course for a minimum of 20 hours per week.
- Private health insurance
- Proof of funds to support yourself
- A criminal background check.
- Health assessment
Once you have been accepted at the college of your choice you need to apply for the student visa at a Spanish consulate in your home country or country of residence.
While you are studying, you can also get a special permit which allows you to work up to 20 hours per week. Just be aware, the maximum time of studying and working can be no longer than 40 hours per week. The Spanish government also made a fantastic change in 2018. The policy allows students who have finished a degree to stay in Spain for a year to find a job.
The process for the Spain Start-Up Visa depends on your current location.If you do not have a valid residence permit for Spain, you can apply for a one-year residence permit. If you are already legally living in Spain, you can apply for a two-year residence permit. At the end of the period, your residence permit can be repeatedly renewed for two year periods.
There are neither minimum capital requirements nor a minimum number of jobs to create. The Spanish system is based on a case by case analysis. For this reason, business plans are required to establish if the activity has an economic benefit for Spain or not.
If you are a founder looking for a great home for your start-up, see our blog Start-up Visas: 10 countries that will support your new venture.
Youth Mobility Visa
Spain offers a Working Holiday residence permit for young people from certain countries. If you from Australian, New Zealand or Japan you must be between the ages of 18-30 years old. If you are from Canada, you must be between the ages of 18-35 years.
To see other opportunities for Working Holiday visas around the world, see our article here.
Work and Business Visas
Highly Qualified Professionals
You can qualify for an EU Blue Card through this residence permit program. You must have a recognised university degree or professional experience as well as a work contract or binding job offer. The Blue Card is a four-year temporary work and residence permit. The Blue Card also gives you free movement within the Schengen area and enables your family to join you.
You can still take advantage of this residence permit program if you do not have a work contract or job offer. To do this, you can register on the EU Blue Card Network. Here, European employers can view your details and connect with you around job opportunities. The website is also where you apply for the EU Blue Card.
If you have a job offer or are relocating with your company (TTI Visa)
If you’re going to work for a company in Spain, your employer will need to apply for your work permit. Once it has been granted, you can apply for residency. Before you move, check if your qualifications are recognised in Spain and make sure to translate references to Spanish.
For Training or Research (RIN)
You can get a Spanish residency visa if you are going to perform activities related to training, research, development and innovation.
Entrepreneurs and Business Activities (REM) visa
You will be required to produce a business plan. The plan must outline how you meet the REM visa program requirements. Your business must deliver an activity of interest in the area where you are applying or be innovative in nature. You should also be making a significant investment in the company or entrepreneurial activity.
See here for the official government website.
Permanent residency in Spain
After living in Spain for five uninterrupted years, you can apply for permanent residency. This allows you to live in Spain under the same condition as Spanish citizens. After 10 years of residency, you can apply for Spanish nationality, citizenship and a passport.
Keep updated on the latest Spanish visa and residency permit news
To keep updated on any changes to Spain’s residence permit and visa programs, please sign up to our newsletter here.
Applying for a student visa could be the best personal, academic and professional decision you can ever make. Challenging yourself to live in a differ
Sometimes a weeks vacation just doesn’t cut it. But without a stash of cash how do you really experience a culture? Well, a working holiday visa
Why would you want a residency visa to a country in the EU? From sun-soaked beaches to frosty mountain tops and bustling cities, Europe offers a truly
How can you get residency in Spain to achieve your dream of settling in Spain? Spain holds many attractions for potential tourists and Expats. A
The governments of Spain and Portugal accelerated Sephardic citizenship applications through laws passed early in the last decade. This process allows
Digital Nomads are a large and growing group of geographically flexible, self-employed or freelance workers. Are you are one of this fortunate group f
Spanish citizenship is heritable. Generally, it is based on the principle of ‘Jus Sanguinis’ or the right of blood. ‘Jus Sanguinis’ means that you inherit citizenship from your parents. There are limited cases where ‘Jus Soli’ (right of soil) applies. ‘Jus Soli’ says there are some circumstances in which being born in Spain to non-Spanish parents is a pathway to citizenship.
Spain is a member of the European Union (EU). This membership allows you the freedom to travel, live, and work, anywhere in any of the member states. Additionally, Spain is a signatory to the SCHENGEN treaty. You are entitled to the full rights and benefits of this membership.
Spain only allows you to hold dual and multiple citizenships and passports in some circumstances. This ability also depends on your country of origin. It’s best to discuss your case with a trusted immigration lawyer to ensure clarity for your circumstances.
In all cases, you’ll have to prove you are a person of good standing. You’ll need to show you have no criminal record. You’ll need to show sufficient integration into Spanish society. At a minimum, this means passing some level of Spanish certification. The requirement is generally the DELE level 2 A Spanish. This does not apply if Spanish is your native language. Additionally, there is a test of your knowledge of Spanish civil society, the CCSE.
Advantages of Spanish Citizenship
As a Spanish citizen, you are entitled to a Spanish passport. The Spanish passport allows you to visit more than 170 countries without a visa. This ranks it at number 2 in the passport index that rates passport power.
Spain’s powerful passport, it’s economy, freedoms, and political stability are all positives in the Quality of Nationality Index. Spain ranks an impressive 10th in this ranking.
As a Spanish citizen, you have the right to vote in both Spanish and EU elections.
Spanish Citizenship by Descent
If either of your parents were citizens when you were born, then you are a Spanish citizen.
Additionally, a Sephardic ancestry law was introduced in 2015. This opened the doors for thousands of people across the globe to obtain Spanish nationality. You must be able to prove descent from the Sephardic Jewish community expelled from Spain in 1492. Have a read of our full article on this programme here. Please note, this programme was suspended in October 2019. All political parties have agreed on restarting this in future. It is a question of “when”, not “if”.
Spanish Citizenship by Marriage
To access Spanish nationality by marriage, you need to first apply for Spanish residency. After one year of residence in Spain, you can apply for Spanish citizenship by naturalisation. You’ll need to demonstrate you can speak Spanish and are of good character.
Spanish Citizenship by Birth
If you were born in Spain, you may apply for Spanish citizenship after a residence period of 1 year. Again, you’ll need to demonstrate you can speak Spanish and are of good character.
Spanish Citizenship by Adoption
If your adoptive parents are Spanish and you are under 18 years old, you can apply for Spanish citizenship.
Spanish Citizenship by Naturalisation
You can become a naturalised citizen through legal and continuous residency in Spain for between 2-10 years. The residency requirement depends on where you come from and your circumstances.
- If you are from an Ibero-American country (most Spanish colonies in South America), your residence requirement is just two years. These exceptions also include Andorra, the Philippines, Portugal, and Equatorial Guinea.
- If you were born in a Spanish overseas territory, then your residence requirement is only one year.
- If you have refugee status, then your residence requirement is five years.
It is best to discuss your situation with a trusted immigration partner.
You can find a link to Spain’s official government immigration website here for more information.
To keep updated on any changes to Spain’s Citizenship programs, please sign up to our newsletter here.
Spain Golden Visa
Spain launched its Golden Visa Residency by Investment programme in 2013. It has been an extremely popular choice for those wanting residency in Europe as well as investment in a growing economy.
What are the benefits of the Spain Golden Visa?
- Non-EU citizens can live and work freely in Spain.
- Easy travel within the EU
- Actual residence in Spain is not required. You only have to visit Spain once during the period of residence.
- If EU citizenship is what you are after, you are eligible after 10 years of residency in Spain and meeting other requirements such as language.
Investment requirements of the Spain Golden Visa:
- Purchase Real estate for €500,000 or more.
- Invest in shares or bank deposits from €1 million upwards
- Purchase government bonds to the value of €2 million or more.
- Approved Business projects
- Administration fees is approximately EUR 70 per person. A further EUR 76.36 needs to be paid per person for the renewal.
- Processing times typically take about 2 months
- The visa is renewed every 2 years
- After 5 years it is possible to gain permanent residency
- You may be authorized to maintain your tax residence outside Spain.
Ready to take the next step?
Speak to the Where Can I Live Trusted partner for Spain to plan the next steps. Why use our partner?
- We have handpicked our partner from many in Spain using an 8-step ongoing quality assessment process . This includes qualifications, client reviews and performance assessments.
- We have negotiated a reduced rate for your first consultation.
- You will speak to a qualified lawyer
- It will save you time, money and a huge amount of effort.
To keep updated on any changes to Spain’s Golden Visa program, please sign up to our newsletter here.
Melissa Parks from Intentional Expat has her PhD in Clinical and Health Psychology. She works as a mindfulness and resilience coach for glob
We talk to expat American, Jackie Baxa who writes honestly about her move with her family to Seville, Spain. Her website Familymoveabr
This is the story of how American Nina came to travel and teach English in Spain. You can follow Nina’s journey on her website A
This is a story about Camilla Quintana and her search how to be happy as an Expat and finding it where she least expected. C
Sable McCleery had an insatiable desire to travel and nothing major holding her back in the USA. She moved to Spain after packing her bags and leaving
Michal Volfin’s husband got a job with a Spanish company. He found himself spending half his time with his family in Israel and the other
We hear from Julia Diéguez, founder of Life In The Move, a company that helps Expats to settle into Madrid, Spain. Julia talks
Today we hear an honest and inspiring story from Ann Wilkings who has lived in many different parts of the world over the years, and now has her
When my husband’s job relocated our family to Spain I was both extremely excited about the new adventure but equally concerned about becoming an
I never dreamed I would end up teaching English abroad. My entire life was Massachusetts. I was born there, I went to school there, and after high sch
Moving overseas is a new beginning that gives you the chance to follow your dream and live an exciting and life-changing adventure. Thousands of peopl
If you have used our moving abroad checklist, you know there are numerous tasks to deal with when planning your move. And, one of the key tasks on the
Health is the number one prerequisite for every adventure you plan, and unfortunately, it can be very unpredictable. It is essential to do your resear
More information on visiting Spain, living in Spain, Spanish residence, and citizenship
Email: [email protected]