And so the process begins!! There is so much information about all the different Visas etc., and I thought I'd compile what I have seen, heard from my immigration lawyer, and obsessively googled. Before we get to the visa descriptions, there are a few steps that I would recommend at this point in your journey.
Now is the time to start learning Spanish! Or brushing up as I did on my 4 years of Spanish I was forced to take in school. I guess it did come in handy! I use Duolingo and Rosetta Stone. I think Rosetta Stone is better when you know nothing because it will start you on the fundamentals. Duolingo is fun if you have a basic understanding, so for instance, now that I'm learning past my base knowledge, it's confusing, so I'm going to use Rosetta Stone for a while. My husband, who is just starting out learning, went straight to Rosetta Stone. Also, make sure to learn Spanish from Spain, not Mexico; there is a difference, and you can choose either option. Check the country flag to know the difference.
We decided to hire an immigration officer, not so much for the paperwork but a few other reasons. A) It's tough to get denied a Visa if they know you have a law firm backing you. B) They will help us once we get to Spain in getting the NIE and help us locate housing (I will explain that later). The immigration firm we have been using is https://carbray.es/.They has locations in the U.S. and Spain. Our Lawyer Fiona has been attentive and quickly gets back to us when taking the time change into account. Here is when investing in your move starts. We paid about $2200 upfront for the three of us and will pay $2200 upon obtaining all our services. Kind of pricey, but it really helps with the peace of mind. I'm usually a do-it-all-yourself person, but this was too daunting even for me.
Set up a special folder in your email. We titled ours "Spain Trip" (creative) to help stay organized. Also, buying file folders, labels, etc., is super helpful and was kind of the best part about going to school, right? It gives you an excuse to get your colorful pens again! You will be emailing like crazy, and there are so many details; having a place for everything helps!
Ok, now on to the meat and potatoes! There are like 20+ visas you can get, but I'll put the main ones up and which I was told are the easiest to get. So our main Visas are Non-Lucrative, Student Visa, Free-lance Visa, and Employment Visa. There are some crazy ones where you have to invest like 500,000, which if you had that kind of money probably would pay someone to do that for you and wouldn't be reading this, so we're skipping that. I put these in order of how likely you are to get approved for it.
The top 2 are pretty interchangeable; it's just which works for your lifestyle more. Also, all Visas last for a year for the 1st renewal, and then after that, you don't have to renew until 2 years have passed (except student visa). Once you hit 5 years, you can apply for permanent residency, and after 10 years citizenship! The main thing is to check the Spanish Consulate close to your home because they all have slightly different rules. I used the Los Angeles consulate., and they are big sticklers on following the rules!
Non-lucrative Visa: This is the Visa we decided to go for. From what I have been told, they are the easiest to get. There are a few catches. This Visa is stating that you will not work in Spain for 1 year, and to do that, you must have enough savings. Currently, that is $32,000 for the first applicant and each additional applicant $8,000. For our family of three, we need to have roughly $48,000 in our bank account. Now I don't have that much money laying around, so we are doing the crazy, pot committed thing and getting these funds from the sale of our house! LA consulate doesn't want you to own property unless you are renting it for income as they feel it means that you may not stay in Spain long enough; again, check your consulate! I also have an article in the blog checklist that breaks down each consulate and its differences.
The super important part everyone wants to know is if you can work remotely on a non-lucrative visa. The answer I received for the Los Angeles consulate is a big fat no! On their website, under frequently asked questions, it says you will be denied if you state you are working tele-remotely. So here's the deal. This rule is there to prevent people from coming in and stealing Spanish jobs. If I'm working remotely for another country, then technically, I'm not doing that, right?. The problem is, Spain has not caught up with the technological advances and takes it very literally. They have not modified the law yet. Now, like me, I'm sure you're like, "well, I'm not rolling in it. I may have the funds to live for a year, but if I want to live there long-term, I have to work." If you receive a pension, you're set, but I'm not close to retirement age.
So you have 2 options. You literally don't work and live off your savings. After the first year, when you renew your visa, you can switch it to a freelance visa or employment visa very easily and from within Spain. Option 2, on the other hand, is what I have read some people are doing is the "what they don't know won't hurt them." Is that technically illegal? Yes, however, the consensus I've gotten is that as long as you're not flaunting it, they aren't trying to throw you in jail for spending money. It's regarded as more of a bureaucratic rule that they will get to changing eventually. I have heard that the consulate in Florida is more lenient than LA, but you are taking a risk if you get caught, including fines and expulsion from the country. ***I'm not promoting the illegal route. I just wanted to clarify the options, which was a hard answer for me to find online.
Now on a non-lucrative visa, you are not working in Spain, so also not paying Spanish taxes; thus, you cannot get public assistance until you reapply with a different visa. I have read that you may still be considered a taxable resident at the end of the fiscal year, but I will do more research and add info as I get it. You will have to pay for private insurance, which is like $2700 for my family of 3 for a year, which is way less than the $1000 I was paying per month! And they let your kids attend public school for free (yay!!), even if you are gaining an income for there or have citizenship. Once the first year is up, you can apply to change your visa to a freelance visa, and you can live on the up and up ( but you already were, right?).
2. Student Visa: Sign up for classes from an approved school, and you can stay as long as you are signed up for. You are also able to work a maximum of 20 hours a week. So if the above doesn't work for you, pay for classes and find a job to support you. Again after a year, you can switch your visa and start paying taxes and get the benefits of Spain.
Now I get what you're thinking, why not just apply for an employment visa or freelance visa from the beginning? Well, I'll tell you why!
Employment Visa: This is a great option if you can find someone in Spain to hire you and help you get your visa. The problem is with a 40% unemployment rate, good luck, and if you are not fluent in Spanish or healthcare, that's probably not happening either. As a rule, they try to give the Spanish jobs to their citizens.
Freelance Visa: Now, this is what I originally wanted to apply for. It allows you to either start a business in Spain or do your telecommunication, blogging, etc. The catch is they only let in a tiny percent of applicants, and you can only apply for a visa for 2 months out of the year. I think it was between October-November. You also have to create an entire business plan etc.
So obviously, the non-lucrative visa takes some thinking about what you feel comfortable with, from where you may be applying for the visa, and if you're retired or not. You can go for the other options, but it will likely take more time to get there unless you go with a student visa. A big reason we went with an immigration company, with lawyers to help us get approved, was due to the complications of the non-lucrative visa. For the most part, the paperwork is all the same, and that's what we will be getting into in my next post. Buckle up; it has been a bumpy ride for us!
Please leave a comment so I can see what you like and what I can improve!