Applying for residency visas to all EU countries remains a notoriously convoluted and expensive process. Spain, particularly so. Byzantine rules govern the proceedings, requiring reams of paperwork (much of which must be translated), two in-person embassy interviews and the ability to get all of this done and be ready to move abroad in a rolling three-month window. Furthermore, online instructions for one embassy may contradict another’s — and I’m talking about for the same damn country! — which leads to a profusion of confusion. Just figuring out where to start can be intimidating.
Therefore, I put together this handy guide on how to apply for a Spain Residency Visa – Non Lucrative. This visa allows you to live in Spain for a year, provided you don’t seek work opportunities. This visa is meant for people who can afford — either through savings or through remote work — to live in Spain for a year without a local job. Below, you’ll find an outline of the (roughly!) 21-step application process as well as an overview of the (roughly!) 13 documents you’ll need to complete to even be considered for Spain’s Non Lucrative Residence Visa.
Application Steps for a Spain Residency Visa (Non Lucrative)
- Find appropriate embassy. Start here.
- Review your embassy’s visa requirements, which can vary. Start here (LA).
- Locate an available translator. Start here.
- Organize passport, passport copies and 2x extra passport photos per person.
- Complete visa application form. Available here.
- Complete residence form EX-01. Available here.
- Complete 790-52 form. Available here.
- Secure an interview appointment time online.
- Gather and organize all forms and passports.
- Request criminal background check.
- Obtain medical certificate.
- Purchase approved health insurance. Start here.
- Gather proof of sufficient funds (bank statements, pay stubs, tax returns, letter from employer).
- Obtain marriage and birth certificates stamped with the Apostille of The Hague (if applicable). Start here.
- Secure accommodation information.
- Translate and notarize all documents not in Spanish. (My translator walked me through exactly what I’d need translated, which may vary for you.)
- Ready exact cash or money order for visa fees. Cards and checks are not accepted and change is not given.
- Go to embassy for interview and submit ALL required documentation, including passports, and payment.
- Wait. Nervously. In the meantime, may I suggest finding a full-bodied tempranillo to ease the nerves?
- Return to embassy for a decision on visa, retrieve documentation and passports.
- Move within 30 days of visa issuance date, or visa becomes invalid.
Application Requirements for a Spain Residency Visa
- In-person Appointment: Request your visa appointment online at the appropriate consulate. You cannot apply more than 90 days before your intended departure date. Interview slots fill very quickly.
- Application Form: Fill out the Spain visa application form linked to above for each person, including any dependents. This must be downloaded, printed and translated if your Spanish is shaky or nonexistent.
- Passport Photos: Easy! Provide two passport photos per person.
- Passport and Driver License: You will leave passports at the embassy upon commencement of your interview. Passports must remain valid for at least four months after you plan to leave Spain. In other words, they should be valid for two more years once you start this whole rigamarole. Though it’s not explicitly stated on the LA embassy’s website, I was advised to also bring my driver license, which they’ll photocopy.
- Residence Form: This is the EX-01 form (“Solicitud de autorización de estancia y prórrogas”) linked to above, which is essentially the application for the Spain residence permit.
- Medical Certificate: You must obtain a medical certificate from a doctor stating you are in good health and don’t suffer from any infectious diseases that would constitute a public health threat. And this must be done no more than 90 days before your intended leave date.
- Criminal Background Check: This might be the most complicated dance in Spain’s visa ballet. The visa process requires a stamped Criminal Record History from either your state or the FBI. The FBI requires fingerprints to be taken on a special form and then mailed along with the application. The FBI can take 30-60 days to complete this process. Once you receive the background check from either your state or the FBI, you will then need to get the document legalized by obtaining the stamp of the Apostille of The Hague, which eats up another 1-2 weeks. Furthermore, the final document then has to be translated into Spanish by your verified translator. So trying to get all this documentation completed before your visa appointment is difficult because the process itself can take 2-3 months. Yet, you can’t do it too early because the background check expires after 90 days. Yeesh.
- Health Insurance: As a visa-carrying resident, you’ll have access to Spain’s nationalized health care system IF you obtain qualifying insurance. This generally means medical and repatriation services of at least €30,000 per person. The Spanish government publishes a list of qualifying vendors linked to above.
- Proof of Sufficient Funds: Since this is a “Non Lucrative” visa, you have to prove you can survive without a local job. Basically, you’ll need to show monthly income and/or savings in excess of €2,130 per month, plus another €532 extra per spouse and dependent. This came to about $4,000/month for my family. If you’re working for a US-based employer, get a letter from your boss stating that you will remain employed at your current salary level while living in Spain, in addition to supporting bank statements and pay stubs. Note: These funds must be “liquid.”
- Proof of Accommodation: You need to also submit proof of where you will live while in Spain, and this is where it gets incredibly vague with embassy websites contradicting each other. You can either 1) Secure a long-term lease online through Airbnb, VRBO, etc. 2) Have a Spanish resident vouch for you by providing a letter from them and their address (even if you don’t plan to stay there for the visa’s full duration). 3) Secure a lease online through a Spanish-based real-estate agent. 4) Provide a “letter explaining the reason why you have chosen that city in particular.” We were well on our way with option #3 using an agent recommended to us through a friend.
- Visa Fee: You also have to pay the $140 visa application fee per person with a money order or exact cash.
- Marriage Certificate with Apostille of The Hague Stamp: Married couples, even though everyone individually completes all required documentation, must also provide a marriage certificate with Apostille of The Hague stamp.
- Birth Certificate with Apostille of The Hague Stamp: In addition to all of the documents above, you must also bring a birth certificate with Apostille of The Hague Stamp for any children.
Phew! Well, I’m exhausted just rehashing all that. How about you — ready to move to Spain?