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Hi. My name's Jonathan Eshkeri. I'm a director of E&G Solicitors in Spain.
It's late September 2021 and the Brexit transition period ended almost nine months ago. UK nationals have gone from being able to live and work anywhere in the EU, to having to apply for visas to move around the EU for the first time since the mid 1970s. It's been a traumatic experience for many. As you can imagine, there are a great many people who continue to want to swap the British Isles for the warmer and sunnier climes of Spain's mainland and islands. Since the beginning of this year we've received a never ending stream of enquiries about the various ways in which it's possible for UK nationals to live in Spain, and we've had the opportunity to make lots of successful applications of different types, for people with varying goals and requirements, from single people seeking to retire in Spain, to families seeking to build a business here.
In this video I'll speak about a few of the different types of visas and residence permits that can be applied for, and some of the ins and outs of those applications.
Non-lucrative residence permit
By far the most popular application is the application for what's called a non-lucrative residence permit. As the name suggests, the idea is that no money making activity is carried out in Spain. People who obtain a non-lucrative residence permit are often retirees. That doesn't mean that they might not have an income. In fact, in order to make a successful application you need to show that you have a minimum amount of money to support you and anyone dependent on you. That money can be in the form of pension income, or income generated from the ownership of assets in the UK, or anywhere else, such as rental income from properties owned in the UK or abroad. Alternatively, the money can be funds in a bank account held in your name, being sufficient to cover the amount that you'd need to earn to maintain yourself and your dependants. The amount that one person needs to show is at least four times the Multiplier for the Public Income Index, or IPREM, for a year. The IPREM in 2021 is €564.90 per month, so four times that amount is €2,259.60. If you have one dependant then you need to show a further €564.90 per month for one year, that is the IPREM multiplied by one. Hence, for a couple to make a successful application for a non-lucrative residence permit they need to show either annual income of at least €33,894, or funds in a bank account amounting to at least that amount. Of course, you're moving to a new country, so it's highly recommended that you have more than €33,894 in your bank accounts. That said, not everyone is in that position.
The first part of your application will be at the Spanish Consulate General in the area in which you live. For example, those living in the south of England need to attend the Spanish Consulate General in London and those living in the north of England need to attend the Spanish Consulate General in Manchester. If you live in the United States, for example, then you'll be able to determine which is the Spanish Consulate General closest to you. The staff of the visa section of the Spanish Consulate General are the people who received your documentation before any visa is granted. Hence, in real terms they're the people who decide what is and what's not acceptable in terms of evidence of the funds available to you. You'll also need to show the Consular staff a medical certificate evidencing that you're not suffering from any serious diseases, a criminal records certificate which would show any convictions for criminal offences other than road traffic offences, and a medical insurance policy showing comprehensive medical insurance cover in Spain. The first step is to obtain an appointment to submit your documentation, which must be in person at the Consulate. Appointments can be difficult to obtain at the moment at Spanish Consulates in the UK, so patience is important here. Once you've attended an appointment at the Consulate you should receive a response with the Consulate's decision within two to three weeks on average, although unfortunately it can be longer. The Consulate will inform you that you can collect the visa. You'll have one month to collect it. You'll then have three months to travel to Spain on your visa. Once you arrive in Spain you'll have one month to attend a police station to have your fingerprints taken and then you'll be given an appointment to attend at the same police station to collect your foreigner's identity card, or TIE. The total time from beginning the process to receiving your visa tends to take between three to four months, but of course this may vary depending on where and when you apply. The key is to have sufficient funds to support your application.
It's also important to remember that a condition of the non-lucrative residence permit is that you don't work in Spain and that you do live in Spain habitually, meaning that you're there for more than six months of each year. That means that if you live in Spain on a non-lucrative residence permit you will necessarily become liable to Spanish tax as a Spanish tax resident. Once you've been in Spain for a year you can apply within Spain to extend your stay for a further two years. After that two year period you can extend for a further two years. After five years of continuous residence in Spain you can apply for a long term residence permit, which won't have such onerous income requirements. Once you've lived in Spain continuously for ten years and provided you can speak Spanish at a passable level and know something about Spanish society, history and culture, on which you'll be tested, you can apply for Spanish nationality and obtain a Spanish passport.
If you're in a position to make a sizeable investment in Spanish property, to deposit a large amount of money in a Spanish bank account, or to purchase Spanish government bonds, then you may prefer to consider applying for an investor visa. You may have heard this referred to as the golden visa, although I'm not quite certain as to why it's considered to be golden.
The main advantage of the investor visa is that once obtained, you can choose whether or not to stay in Spain, but you'll continue to be considered a resident, meaning that there is no restriction on the number of days you can stay in Spain each year, in contrast to the requirement for tourists from outside of the EU that they do not spend more than 90 days in any 180 day period on holiday in Spain. The other upside is that you can work in Spain, as can your dependants. If you do not make Spain your centre of economic interest and do not spend more than six months in the country, you won't become a Spanish tax resident either, unless your partner and children are living in Spain. The downside to the investor visa is that the applicant must have invested at least €500,000 in Spanish property since the investor visa law came into effect at the end of 2013. Alternatively, depositing €1 million in a Spanish bank account or purchasing €2 million of Spanish government bonds will suffice, as if it were that simple. If you invest in property then the applicant needs to show equity of €500,000. You needn't buy just one property. You could buy a house for €300,000 and two flats for €100,000 each, without a mortgage. Alternatively, you could buy a house for €700,000 and borrow €200,000 from a bank to finance part of the purchase monies.
You can make the application at the Spanish Consulate General in the same way as you would apply for a non-lucrative visa. You'll still need to show the same income or available funds, but in contrast to the non-lucrative visa, you can be working in order to earn the money, so you can continue to work in your home country remotely, for example. As soon as you receive the visa you can travel to Spain and apply for your TIE, as with the non-lucrative visa. The initial permission is for two years and that can be extended for a further five years. When you renew you'll need to show the minimum investment, as I mentioned earlier. While some can afford the level of investment required for an investor visa, others can't, but would still like to work in Spain. If you're highly qualified in your chosen field, then it's possible for you to be employed by a Spanish employer, provided they can show that your skills are necessary for the role that they're trying to fill and that they can't find someone equally suitable already resident in Spain to fill the position. There are clear parameters as to whether a particular skill is one which is considered to be that of a highly qualified person for the purposes of this type of visa application. The employer does most of the work and the employee will need to attend at the Spanish Consulate General in the country of their residence in order to collect the visa. The next step is to travel to Spain, obtain a TIE and register with the Spanish social security system.
Opening a business in Spain
An alternative is to open your own business in Spain, or to buy and run an existing concern. You'll need to show significant investment for your business, as well as sufficient funds for you to live on while you're beginning to develop your business, even if you're taking over a going concern. The question of level of investment is a relative one. It may be that a business is being sold for €50,000, but that it'll produce profits of at least €30,000 each year from the outset. In that scenario €70,000 may be a sufficient investment, as some further investment in the business will almost certainly be necessary over and above the initial €50,000. In another scenario, for example, taking over a functioning hotel, a much higher investment may be appropriate. In addition, you'll need to show income to support yourself, which will be along the same lines as the income requirements for the non-lucrative visa or an investor visa.
Aside from the investment itself, the single most important document will be a business plan, which ought to be considered carefully by someone accustomed to crafting business plans to satisfy the requirements of the Spanish immigration authorities. Once again, the application will be made at the Spanish Consulate General, who'll communicate with the immigration authorities in the area in which you'll be running your business. In essence, it's the local immigration authorities who take the decision as to whether or not to issue you with a visa, but it's important to remember that the people with whom you'll communicate are the Consular staff. It's their decision that's final, in real terms. Whenever you make an application at a Spanish Consulate General there'll be a significant fee to pay to the Consulate. There'll also be a much smaller fee to pay when you obtain your TIE in Spain.
At E&G Solicitors we can guide you through the entire immigration process, advise you, and prepare the documentation for you to submit with your application. We're based in the UK and in Spain, so we're in an excellent position to provide you with all the support you need. Please be in touch with us for more information. You can contact us by email at email@example.com, by telephone on 020 3478 1420, or by completing our contact form.
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