There are several options to obtain a long-term visa for Spain, one of them is the non-lucrative visa option which I am pursuing. Though this doesn’t relate to most of my readers, I think it’s prudent to explore options of living outside of the US.
Looking back in history, those who were able to get up and go quickly and efficiently during political or financial turmoil were the least likely to be adversely affected.
Those with a lot of wealth can simply buy their visas to other countries – yeap, straight up pay fat cash and get a residency in another country. That’s what the Nomad Capitalist guy and many others specialize in.
For the rest of us there are less costly, though slightly more time-intensive, options available.
Visa Options For Spain
Below I’ll list the most common Spanish visas that you can apply for if you don’t want to use the non-lucrative visa option.
The purpose of a visa is to either be able to stay in another country for more than 90 days or to eventually gain permanent residency and/or citizenship.
90 day tourist visa
Of note, you are granted a 90-day stay but have to leave the Schengen area for another 90 days before returning.
For the digital nomad types, you can live in the Schengen area for 90 days, then travel to the UK for 90 days, and return back to your country of choice. This is one way to skip the whole visa process all together.
The months spent in Spain with a tourist visa will not count towards permanent residency or citizenship.
Language schools are the easiest way to get a student visa. But you can also apply to a university or any other structured education program that your consulate will accept.
There are older retirees living in various countries for a year at a time by enrolling in language schools.
To obtain a work visa you will need a sponsoring organization. This will then allow you to reside in spain for up to a year and work.
It’s much easier to do when you are in the service industry and much tougher when you have a medical degree that’s accepted by few countries in the world.
I grouped all the random visas here. For example, the Spanish consulate may grant you a visa if you are a guest speaker, professional athlete, a religious figure, or have any other reason to be in Spain that will benefit Spain.
This visa is either called a Golden Visa or a Property Visa. If you purchase a home in Spain for at least €500k then you could qualify for a 1-year visa which you can then renew.
I believe there is an age restriction for the retirement visa, so those of us who consider ourselves early retirees won’t qualify.
If you have a pension from retirement accounts, social security, or annuities that meet the monthly minimum requirement then you can qualify for this retirement visa for Spain.
If you are open to investing money in the country to start a business then you have the option of applying for a visa. Sometimes referred to as self-employment visa, these have minimum investment and employment criteria.
The idea is that Spain would welcome this because you would offer jobs for its citizens.
Non-Lucrative Visa For Spain
The last option is the non-lucrative visa option for Spain which allows a person to stay in Spain over 90 days without needing to work or engage in other professional activities.
This non-lucrative visa permits you a 1-year temporary residency which can be renewed every 1-2 years for a duration of 5 years. After that, if you are still interested in staying in Spain, you can apply for a permanent residency status which is granted for up to 5 years.
After those 10 years are up, you have the option of applying for a Spanish citizenship. Though there are expedited processes for those from Latin countries, the Philippines, and those who marry Spanish citizens.
Criteria for Non-Lucrative Visa
In order to qualify for a non-lucrative visa you need to demonstrate that you are able to support yourself for 1 year at a time while living in Spain.
You can prove this by showing your investment income, your rental property income, your online income, or by showing that you have enough cash stashed away to cover your expenses for that year (~$30k/year).
In the next few sections I’ll outline the non-lucrative visa application process. But first, why is it called a “non-lucrative” visa?
It’s non-lucrative because it’s not a wealth visa where you invest a sizable wealth in Spain. It’s non-lucrative because you won’t be engaging in any income-generating work in Spain.
The caveat to the non-lucrative aspect is that you will qualify with and are allowed to:
- earn income from a business outside of Spain
- earn income from a pension
- earn investment income
- generate income from work you do online
- live off of cash savings
Non-Lucrative Visa Process
I have decided to hire an immigration attorney who has experience with Spain’s non-lucrative visa application process and who also speaks Spanish.
I will pay a flat fee of $500 to have unlimited access to the lawyer. All other costs are on me, such as translating documents and paying for each application involved.
There are 9 major steps involved which I’ll outline below.
Step 1: Appointment
You need to get an in-person appointment in your respective Spanish consulate. You can make the appointment online and it’s important that you make it with the right consulate which services your particular state.
I live in Oregon and therefore I made my appointment 3 months from the day I started the application process in the San Francisco consulate.
It’s recommended that you give yourself 2-3 months to collect all the respective documents. And it shouldn’t be more than 3 months since most documents need to be no older than 90 days.
Step 2: Passport
You should renew your passport if it’s coming up on less than a couple of years.
This process is easy and most of us in the US know how to go about this. The application fee for this is $110 in my case. This doesn’t include shipping costs and printing the application at a local Kinko’s.
Step 3: Letter of Intent
Draft a letter explaining why you want to go to Spain, what your purpose is, where you are hoping to settle down and what you will be doing with your time.
Step 4: Visa Application
There are 2 forms to complete: form EX-01 and M790.
They are both short and similar. Both ask for you name, your passport information, etc. Basic stuff.
They need to be filled out in Spanish.
Step 5: Passport Photos
I already have these and there are instructions how to take your own if you are too cheap to go to a passport center. Spanish size means 40mm x 30mm.
It cost me $15 to get these. It’s a good idea to write your name on the back of the photos before submitting them.
Step 6: Medical Letter
Your specific consulate will tell you what the phrasing of the letter should be. I would forward this to your MD or DO in order to have this signed on your behalf.
Ideally the letters should have a stamp on them, be on a letterhead, and be signed.
NP or PA letters aren’t accepted by the Spanish consulate.
Step 7: Medical insurance
Purchasing medical insurance is easier than you think – it’s not for the US after all.
I pay $274/month for my bare-bones plan with Kaiser in the US – how sad.
Step 8: Background Clearance
This is the most complicated part in my opinion. You can get one from the FBI or from your State Department of Justice but unfortunately they have a massive backlog right now.
Alternatively, you can get from the State Justice Department. If you have lived in your state for less than 5 years then you have to get one from each state you have lived which means you have to do it in person – ugh.
The background checks are done through fingerprinting.
Step 9: Proof of Income
This will be unique to each individual as you will need to demonstrate that you have enough money to live off of during your stay in Spain.
As of 2018, the annual income that you will need to show is €25,560 or $30,746/year of income (~$2,600 per month).
From my understanding, I can demonstrate this by either having this sum in cash, or show that I can earn this from my investments, or show proof of online income as long as I am not earning this income from European clients – US clients would be okay.
A Second Passport
Having a second passport is like having a side-income. It adds diversity to your life and often allows you more options. It’s not for everyone and if the process is daunting to you then I think it’s just as easily done by establishing a ‘residency’ in another state in the US.
I would like to take it a step further and have the ability to practice medicine outside of the US. My medical degree is accepted in Canada, NZ, and Australia. There are a few other locations that might accept it but these would be the easiest options.
For now I have decided on Europe as my second base and we’ll see if that will change in the future. A close second option would be Australia.
For the adventurous healthcare professional, being able to earn your money online in US dollars and spend it in a far less expensive economy might be a good way to stretch your dollars out longer.