Categorized | First Things First, Visas

Getting Legal – The Non-Lucrative Residency Visa

Posted on 01 May 2015 by American expat!


A few posts ago, we explored getting a long term student visa via a language school. If you don’t need to learn Spanish, there is another straightforward  residency visa you can apply for in Spain: The Non-Lucrative Residency Visa.

This is an option you may not have considered yet, especially if you aren’t familiar with business and work life in general over here. If you are quite entrepreneurial and not a worrier, then you’ll probably be just fine coming on over and figuring things out as you go (as I did). However, if you are uncomfortable with moving overseas with no work lined up, no visa and aren’t OK with just winging it, you might consider finding a position (or creating one) in the North America that will allow you to work remotely, so that your income is in dollars and paid into an American bank account.

In this scenario, you are eligible for a Non-Lucrative Residency visa that will allow you to stay long term as long as you are earning your money outside of Spain, can prove this income, can show that it is sufficient  to support yourself during your stay, and can fulfill all the other visa requirements. You can also apply for this visa if you have enough accessible in a savings account (I did this to obtain a long term visa in Australia years ago).

If you go for the remote job route, here are the advantages:

  • US and Canadian salaries are about 3x higher than what any Spanish company will pay you, so you’ll be making a lot more than you would working here, even in a part time situation
  • Spanish companies are extremely slow to hire and you cannot obtain a work visa while you are here anyway
  • The cost of living is lower here even though taxes are much higher, mainly due to lifestyle and standards
  • You will have a DNI immediately, which is a totally necessary item to do just about anything here
  • You won’t be illegal
  • You won’t have to leave every three months if you are worried about being illegal

The possible disadvantages are:

  • You might have to match office hours in the part of North America the office is located, so you won’t have the same schedule as other workers here, which can be an issue for some (though for me it is perfect – My mornings are free and I work in the evenings and at night, which is my preference).
  • You may have to be onsite occasionally for project kickoffs or meetings, which means expensive travel back to the US
  • You won’t have the same holiday schedule as Spain, so when 4 and 5 day weekends come and everyone wants to leave, you might have to stay home and work (this will happen a lot because there are like 25 holidays a year here or something)
  • You’ll need a decent home office with a good internet connection for meetings (trust me, this seems like it is an easy step but it isn’t) or you will have to rent a desk from a coworking space.

Along with you application form, photos, passport, application fee (which is $140 dollars at the time of writing), a medical certificate (which is only valid for 3 months), and:

Proof of Accommodation: You are required to submit the address of where you will live in Spain and the rental agreement or contract agreement if you are subletting a room. Obviously, this is tough to do when you are not yet in Spain, especially since any decent housing here goes quick and if you want to rent a room, you’d like as much information as possible. So other than renting through Air BnB, which is getting rather expensive though there are still deals to be found, you’ll want to find a place through sites that have verified rooms, apartments, and walk through videos if at all possible so you know what you are getting into! You can search for places via the map page of long term rentals in Barcelona.

Health Insurance: You’ll need to show proof of health/travel insurance for the duration of your stay. International or travel insurance should cover this just fine. You can get a quote from Travel Ex or find other international insurance companies and purchase for the correct length of time. I purchased World Nomads global insurance for one year, and it was accepted by the Los Angeles consulate when applying for a student visa. Some other long term international insurance options you can check out are: and

Proof of Sufficient Funds: If you are working for a US company, you just need to show that you earn enough to support yourself. This can be subjective but several consulate pages cite €2,130 a month as the required amount. You have to show three months of statements for this. If you are applying with savings, clearly you have to have enough to cover that amount for the number of months of visa you are applying for (e.g. €25,560 for a year visa).

FBI check: Yep, you need an FBI criminal record check, or a state criminal record check depending on your state. I had to do the FBI check coming from California. This is a huge pain in the ass as you have request your criminal record history from the FBI and then get fingerprinted and send everything along to the FBI for processing, which can take 30-60 days. You then need to get an Apostille stamp from a US Federal office.

While many of these steps are also needed for a student visa, you can see this option is a lot more expensive. But if you have the funds in the bank, a full time job at the time of application where you can work remotely, are a freelancer or own your own business and can work from anywhere, this is the easiest visa for you. Of course if you want to learn Spanish while you are here, a student visa is the way to go as it is cheaper and the schools will usually assist in the visa arrangements.


21 Comments For This Post

  1. David Greenly Says:

    I lived in Rome for 4 years going in and out now and then and nobody seemed to care. Even my moto plates were expired. Does anybody care? I am financially secure.
    Thanks for your help.

  2. American expat! Says:

    No David, they really don’t. But to get the ubiquitous NIE (or DNI for foreigners) here in Spain there is no other choice but to legitimize yourself. It makes life that much easier if you are going to stay.

  3. Walter Says:

    Question for you guys real question:
    Australian citizen: can I apply for Non-Lucrative Residency visa while living in Spain 9 weeks before my 90 days tourist visa assuming that I have all the necessary paper work.

  4. American expat! Says:

    Pretty sure all visas need to be applied for in your own country, unless it is an extension of an existing visa.

  5. Walter Says:

    I was told otherwise by la senora abogada de el municipio that I can also change my status from tourist visa to no-lucrative visa providing that I have all the paperwork and meet the financials.
    Any takers please please…

  6. American expat! Says:

    Well if that’s what she told you, then go for it. So what was the question?

  7. Walter Says:

    I need a little help on finding the translation english to spanish per page and then per ten pages and per 20 pages, do not have to be accurate how ever has to be approved by spanish immigration.

    Gracias en adelante

  8. Karen Says:

    How long did it take you to get your visa from the Los Angeles consulate? I am trying to time it so we arrive in Spain on July 2 but not sure when to make appt. at the consulate. Any ideas?

  9. American expat! Says:

    I’d start the process around the beginning of May. That should give you plenty of time and some room just in case there is a delay, but not too long that everything expires.

  10. John Says:

    What kind of difficulty will I have, due to the fact I have a single, Non-violent, Misdemeanor charge (no Jail time) on my criminal record?

  11. bill Says:

    does this mean you don’t have to pay taxes in Spain? Only in US?

    Is it similar to an elective residency visa that some European countries offer?

  12. Marcos Says:

    Great site with very detailed info!

    Do you know if I can switch the visa type when in Spain? I mean, just in case I’m under the non-lucrative visa and want to start a business in Spain. I’m not sure if I can request and switch to a work permit visa such as the self-employed visa.

    Thank you!

  13. American expat! Says:

    Any type of visa change will require you return to your home country, because you have to turn in your passport for processing. The only exception to this is if a currently visa is being renewed or extended.

  14. air Says:

    Good day,

    Congratulation for the great website.

    I am an Italian/Canadian, residing in Canada. I would like to apply to the non-lucrative visa. Do you please know, what are the requirements for Europeans?

    Thank you.



  15. American expat! Says:

    If you are Italian, you don’t need this kind of Visa. You are part of the EU and can apply directly for residency status when you arrive and will be approved.

  16. air Says:

    Good day and thank you for your kind reply.

    At the beginning, I would prefer to come over for a few months a year, but keep the residency in Canada, where I have the core of my business. That is why I thought about applying to the NL Visa.


  17. Earlieo Says:

    My wife and I are retired (over 65) and currently living in Florida, but want to give Spain a try. We have been there twice on short visits (2 weeks each). We are coming to Barcelona-Valencia area in June/July for one more visit. Then we plan to come over for 6 months to a year in 2018. What kind of visa do we need to give us the longest time there (I thought it was 6 months without a 2-yr rental contract). Anyway, we are looking for option advice as it is confusing with our longer short-term plan!
    Appreciate any help from those who have gone before us.
    Thanks in advance!
    p.s. Just to add to the confusion, my wife has a British passport, though she has lived in the U.S. for a long time. Maybe we have EU options too!?!

  18. American expat! Says:

    You should have EU options, though you’d better hurry because of Brexit!! If you have enough regular income you can apply for a retirement visa from the US. Those will be 3-5 years long I believe, renewable after expiration.

  19. Eric Ritchie Says:

    Hi American Expat,

    I’m seeking some advice on residency permits/work permit process and time frame. My wife is a French citizen living and working in Barcelona. We were recently married in the US. I am a US citizen and I am planning to join her in September. Do you have any advice on what the process might potentially be like for me. I am grateful for any thoughts or advice you may be able to offer.


  20. American expat! Says:

    Your process is going to be long with many visits to various offices around Barcelona. It will take minimally 6 months to get a residency card. The process seems to be rather nebulous too, but you can begin by going to the Foreigners Office (Oficina de Extranjeros) or Police Station (Comisaría de Policía) closest to where you live in Barcelona.

  21. Brett Says:

    Can we apply for the non-lucrative visa when we arrive to Spain? If so, are the requirements different or will the requirements default to the state we are from? (every state has different visa requirements, we are coming from Texas)

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