Spanish Residency Permits for non-EU citizens

Last updated on 14 Mar 2023

So, you love Spain, and you wish to be able to stay living in Spain as long as you like, or in other words – choose Spain as your main place of residence! Great if you are an EU citizen (or married to one) and therefore can enjoy all those benefits of freedom of movement, as well as the right to work and reside in any EU country with no limitations. But things get more complicated if you are a non-EU citizen, as then you need to jump through many more hoops and loops to obtain your residency permit in Spain. So, let’s look at the options available to you. 

Of course, a lot depends on your situation and your plans for living in Spain. Are you young and looking to study and maybe find a job in the future? Or are you looking to spend your retirement in Spain? Or maybe you are in this lucky position with lots of savings and/or passive income which allows you to live comfortably with no need to work? Or maybe you wish to move your business to Spain and/or find a job to support yourself and your family? Well, the latter one is the most difficult situation as, frankly, obtaining a work permit as non-EU citizen is a very lengthy and complex procedure, requiring substantial documentation, convincing business plans, proof of required qualifications and uniqueness of position (in case of being employed) and of course substantial funding…so let’s look at more affordable and less complex routes to obtain your residency permit in Spain. 

- Student visa which allows to stay in Spain for a period longer than 90 days for the purpose of studies. The applicant must be enrolled into an officially accredited educational centre for a full-time educational program which leads to receiving a title or certificate of studies. The length of this permit is limited by the duration of the educational program and can’t exceed 1 year (or 2 years in case of authorised establishments of higher education). The application can be initiated either through a Spanish Consulate in the country of current residency, or directly from Spain within the first 60 days of the allowed 90 days stay. The applicant may also apply for a work permit; however, it has its limitations and can only be compatible with the studies. Spanish student visa could be a good option for younger people who wish to continue their studies while exploring Spain and deciding on future options. There is a possibility to convert student visa authorisation into a work residency at a later stage.

- Non-lucrative visa/residency which is a residency permit allowing to reside in Spain with no right to work. The main requirement is availability of sufficient funds or passive income with NO NEED TO WORK in Spain or elsewhere. This type of Spanish residency permit is ideal for retirees or those who have sufficient passive income (investments or similar) or savings. We have covered in more details the Spanish NLV residency in another article. The application needs to be initiated from OUTSIDE of Spain, in a Spanish Consulate in the current country of residency of the applicant. Being one of the easiest to get, the Spanish NLV is also often used as a” starting residency” with intention of converting it to a work residency after the 1st year, however it is important to know that switching to a work residency in Spain is not that easy as many may think, so having a “back-up” plan is a must.

- Golden visa which is also called Spanish Investor residency is ideal for all those willing to make a significant investment in Spain and in return get a residency permit which gives them full right to reside and work in Spain equal to those of EU citizens. The investment can be into real estate (a minimum of 500,000 euros) or Spanish companies and bank deposits (a minimum of 1 million euros) or public debt (2 million euros), or in a form of bringing to Spain a unique and innovative entrepreneurial project beneficial for the country. We addressed this type of Spanish residency permit in one of our earlier articles. The application for Golden visa is initiated from outside of Spain, while the Spanish Investor residency can be applied for while being in the country. 

There are other types of Spanish visas and residency permits available for non-EU citizens, but the above are the most common ones. Just recently Spain has approved a new Digital Nomad Visa, the requirements and procedure for which is currently being refined, and we have summarised information about it here

Remember, if you are married to an EU citizen, you can benefit from the same rights and freedoms, but you still need to apply for your residency permit in Spain following a set of rules and procedures, so don’t waste time once you have arrived with your EU spouse to Spain and initiate the residency application as soon as you can.

Finally, each personal situation is different and may require an individual approach, so if you are in doubt which route to take and which Spanish residency would suit you and your family best, do get in touch for a professional advice. We at Malaga Expat Consulting will be happy to analyse your personal situation and consult you on the most suitable approach. 

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