Archive | 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.


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Getting Legal – The Student Visa

Posted on 16 February 2015 by American expat!

The second most common question I receive after the where should I live question is the “How Can I Stay Legally as an American?” question.

There are several ways to get residency in Spain–either for the short or long term. I have a long overdue interview I need to publish on this from someone who is taking a different route than what I am going to present here, but meanwhile, I want to share a relatively simple solution with my readers (Key word relatively. there are no simple solutions in reality)

Student Visa for Spain

Many Americans don’t know that you can get a student visa from language school. It’s true, you don’t need to attend a University to get a student visa. You just need an accredited language school where you attend classes for 20 hours a week or more. Now, there are a lot of language schools in Barcelona–I should know, I’ve attended no fewer than six seven of them–and each have their varying levels of cooperativeness in arranging the Spanish paperwork for a visa. I actually applied for a student visa in 2011 and received all the paperwork I needed from a school very quickly. Despite my level Spanish level being advanced intermediate at the time (B2 that would be called here), they enrolled me for a full year course, starting with the very beginning level and adding in study time for their level tests, in order to extend the length of the visa. Very helpful! I didn’t actually have to attend the beginning classes, and jumped into the program later at the advanced intermediate level, which I repeated, and then repeated the advanced level too.

Schools should work with you to arrange a 6 month, 9 month and 12 month visa if their class schedules coincide with those lengths – smart schools will have that figured out. (Some schools are better than others at this!) I would suggest a 9 month course, because that ensures that you get a visa that is over 180 days in length. Here is why you want a visa that is 180+ days: Because once it is up, you can renew it from Spain. No traveling back to the US and waiting around for another application to be processed.

You only need to be prepared to pay tuition up front, (and then of course fulfill the paperwork on the US side of the visa). Some schools are much more expensive than others, but all of them are a lot cheaper than a student visa from a University.

So if you looking for a way to extend your stay beyond the 30 day tourist visa, and are planning to learn Spanish while you are here anyway, a student visa could be a good solution for you. (If you would like to know my recommendation on the cheapest–and best–school for studying Spanish in Barcelona, feel free to contact me.)

Check the student visa requirements page for a detailed list of everything required (it’s long, but thorough).

Note: Apply for a student visa early. Getting all of the medical checks, FBI background check, paperwork and of course processing time can take up to three months!

EDIT: After many, many emails and messages, I will just post my top recommendation here rather than emailing everyone individually. My first recommendation–especially if you need a long term student visa–is Speakeasy BCN near Plaça Universitat. I went there on and off for two years. They also arranged a year long student visa for me (which I ended up not needing after all). They are affordable, flexible and the classes are very good.
If you want to find out more about the schedule and the prices, email the student coordinator Gabriel at:
I just ask that you please mention my name if you do.
Other recommendations would be:
  • Kingsbrook – not the cheapest but probably the best classes in my opinion
  • Escuela Medeterraneo– again not the cheapest option very qualified teachers and small classes.
  • Version Original – Loved these teachers and would have stayed here until they brought in some Argentinian woman for the conversation classes who was a total waste of time. They also merged levels because they did not have enough instructors for separate classes which was very frustrating for the lower levels. We just got lost and learned nothing.
  • International House – A big school with lots of resources (and many languages taught) which means I imagine they deal with student visas regularly. You can find special cheeeaaap classes here with teachers in training, but remember, you get what you pay for….though the regular priced classes could have adequate and experienced instructors.

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