In this note I cover some of the best European retirement visas for people from non-EEA countries. These visas allow people from outside of the EEA to move to EEA countries. If you’re from an EEA country, then there are alternate, typically visa-free, ways to retire in other EEA countries. The countries we cover, except Ireland and Cyprus, are in the Schengen area, so getting a retirement visa for these countries allows you visa-free travel across much of Europe.
Most retirement visas require you to be financially self-sufficient, so that you won’t need to rely on the social security and welfare of the country you are retiring to. Many countries state a precise income/wealth needed to retire there as a foreigner. However, some countries don’t set a precise legal minimum, and so the minimum income required can vary from case to case. Moreover, in many countries, the required minimum income is adjusted each year. Hence, it is always advisable to check with the relevant embassy. Additionally, in many countries you are more likely to be granted the visa the greater the income you can demonstrate. Finally, where countries do have a minimum requirement, this is only a legal minimum requirement, and may not be sufficient to support your desired standard of living in the country you hope to retire to – hence, it is worth researching the cost of living in your target country.
In this note I focus on visas that require a minimum income rather than an investment in the country. There are other routes to get permanent residence and citizenship in European countries by investment.
Countries typically don’t use the term ‘retirement visas’, for instance, Spain has the ‘non-lucrative visa’ while Italy has the ‘elective residence visa’. What we mean by retirement visas are visas that allow you to move to a country without having a job there – that is, the type of visa you can move to a country with and be retired there. However, typically for such visas you don’t actually have to be retired – there’s normally no minimum age requirement (although there is for Latvia) or requirement that you are receiving a pension. Nevertheless, one of the features of many retirement visas is that you can’t get a job in the new country. This isn’t always the case though – you can work in Portugal on the D7 ‘retirement’ visa, and in Malta you can get a work permit that allows you to work if you wish to. Moreover, for many countries you are allowed to work remotely in countries other than the one you are retiring in, and also to invest in your adopted country so as to keep earning.
Retirement visas are often excellent routes to permanent residence, that is, the right to indefinitely remain in a country to live and work and travel. Permanent residence means you no longer need to keep renewing the retirement visa. Typically, to get permanent residence you have to have lived in the country for a certain number of years (often, in Europe, five years, though it can be lower and higher), and sometimes you need to prove language skills and knowledge of the country. After permanent residence, you may be able to acquire citizenship of the country you retired in if you live there long enough (in fact – for Portugal you become eligible for both permanent residence and citizenship after five years!). However, for some countries, time spent on a retirement visa doesn’t count towards permanent residence or citizenship – for instance, the Irish Stamp 0 Visa is not a route to permanent residence and citizenship.
|EU country||Name of visa||Minimum income required (per year, in euros)||Timeline to permanent residence||Timeline to citizenship||Is dual citizenship allowed?||Which family members can you bring?||Can you work on the visa?|
|Latvia||No specific name||8,160||Year 5||Year 10||Depends on your country of origin||Partner and dependent children||No (but can work abroad)|
|Portugal||D7 visa||7,620||Year 5||Year 5||Yes||Partner and dependent children||Yes|
|Ireland||Stamp 0||50,000||This is not a route to PR or citizenship||This is not a route to PR or citizenship||This is not a route to PR or citizenship||None||No (but can work abroad)|
|Spain||Non-lucrative visa||25,816.12||Year 5||Year 10||Depends on your country of origin (but typically no)||Partner and dependent children||No (but can work abroad)|
|Italy||Elective Residence visa||31,000||Year 5||Year 10||Yes||Partner and dependent children||No|
|Greece||Residence permit for financially independent persons||24,000||Year 5||Year 7||Yes||Partner and dependent children||No (but can work abroad)|
|Austria||Gainful employment excepted visa||23,199.60||Year 5||Year 10||No||Partner and dependent children||No (but can work abroad)|
|Cyprus||Category F||9,568||Year 5||Year 7||Yes||Partner and dependent children (you can bring parents and parents in laws if you buy a property worth over 300,000 euros)||No (but can work abroad)|
|Malta||Global Residence Programme||To receive this visa you need to buy or rent a property in Malta. The minimum value of the property you need to buy/rent for the visa depends on where in Malta it is. For South Malta, the minimum property value is 220,000 euros, or 8,750 rent per year, for the rest of the island of Malta the value is 275,000 euros, or 9,600 rent. For the island of Gozo, the value is 250,000 euros, or 8,750 rent.||Year 5||Year 7||Yes||Partner, children, dependent parents and other relatives. You can also bring household staff.||Not on the Global Residency Programme alone, but you can get an additional work permit|
Portugal D7 Visa
The Portuguese D7 visa is an excellent European retirement visa. You can bring your partner and your dependent children to live with you on the Portuguese D7 visa (you can also bring you parents and your partners’ parents, if those parents are dependent on you and your partner).
As a retirement visa, you need an independent passive income to support you while you live in Portugal. However, the minimum income requirement for Portugal is much lower than other European countries. The minimum amount required depends on the minimum monthly salary in Portugal that year.
For a single person, in 2020, you are required to have a minimum passive monthly income of 635 euros per month (the minimum monthly salary), and so 7,620 euros per year.
For the second adult (i.e. the partner or spouse), you are only required to have an additional 50% of the current minimum wage, and so an additional 317.50 euros per month, or 3,810 euros per year.
For children (those under the age of 18 and dependent) children over the age of 18, an additional 30% of the minimum monthly salary is required per child, so an additional 190.50 euros per month per child (2,286 euros per year).
You will have to provide documents to show you have the required minimum income.
While you need to have a passive income (e.g. a pension) which meets the minimum income requirements, one of the unusual advantages of the Portuguese D7 visa is you can work in Portugal as freelancer or as an employee while on the visa.
The permit is initially valid for one year, and can then be renewed for two years at a time. After five years, you can apply for permanent residence, and so gain the right to freely live and work in Portugal. Alternatively, after five years you can apply for Portuguese citizenship by naturalization, and so in only five years you can gain the full rights of a Portugueuse citizen (this is one of the shortest routes to citizenship in Europe). This is particularly useful, as Portugal allows dual citizenship.
For more information on the Portugueuse retirement visa, [see here].
Spain Non-Lucrative Visa
Spain also has an excellent retirement visa, called the “Non-Lucrative Visa”. Like other retirement visas you can include your partner and dependent children on your application. You cannot work in Spain while on the visa, however, you can work in Spain remotely with your own business or with an employer or with clients who are not based in Spain. You are free to make money by investing on the visa, and can enroll in universities if you want. Like other Schengen area retirement visas, you are free to travel to the Schengen area on the Spanish Non-Lucrative Visa.
To be eligible for the Spanish non-lucrative visa, you must have sufficient income from either investments, retirement income or income from work conducted in other countries. As you can’t work while living in Spain with the non-lucrative visa, you need to prove you can support yourself. The minimum amount you must show you have is four times the current year’s IPREM, or Indicador Público de Renta de Efectos Múltiples. Though the IPREM is adjusted year on year, the level has stayed the same for the past three years. For 2020 an individual had to show they had €25,816.12 (or around $31,000) for the year. There are numerous documents that are accepted as proof of sufficient income such as: government social security documents, private pension documents, bank and or investment documents that give you access to sufficient cash in any combination to reach the minimum requirement.
To bring your family with you need to demonstrate that you have sufficient funds to support them. For each additional member of the family you must have an additional 100% of the IPREM, which this year would be €6,454.03. So if you bought your partner and one child, you’d need to demonstrate an additional €12,908.06, on top of the €25,816.12 for yourself.
You need to have full private health insurance coverage to get the visa. You also need to show you have somewhere to live in Spain. This will typically be a deed or rental contract, but can be a notarized invitation letter from a family or friend who you intend to live with.
Once you arrive in Spain you need to get your Tarjeta de Identidad de Extranjeros (TIE), also known as Permiso de Residencia (residency card) from the Spanish government. You need to start this process within 30 days of your arrival in Spain. The TIE is akin to any government photo ID that has your Numero Identificacion de Extranjero (NIE) (which is assigned to you on your visa).
Your visa is initially valid for one year, and then can be renewed for two years at a time. After five years of living continuously and legally in Spain on the non-lucrative visa, you may be able to apply for permanent residency. The permanent residency card is valid for five years and can be renewed. Permanent residence allows you to live and work in Spain, both as self-employed or as an employee.
You can also become a Spanish citizen by naturalization if you’ve lived in Spain for ten years. Spain typically does not allow dual citizenship, though there are certain countries whose citizens can have dual citizenship with Spain. Persons coming from Ibero-American countries, Andorra, the Philippines, Equatorial Guinea, Portugal or who are Sephardi Jews are allowed to have dual citizenship with Spain.
Italy’s Elective Residence Visa
For permanent residence see here.
For citizenship see here.
Italy’s Elective Residence Visa is for people who wish to live in Italy and who have sufficient income and wealth to do so. You are not allowed to work on the visa, and so it is aimed chiefly at retirees. You can bring your spouse and dependent children (normally those under 18) with you on the visa. The Italian Consulate in Los Angeles describes the Elective Residence Visa as:
“for foreigners – retired persons, persons with high self-sustaining incomes and financial assets – who have chosen Italy as the country of permanent residence and who are able to support themselves autonomously, without having to rely on employment while in Italy, whether as dependent employees, as self-employed employees or employees working remotely online. You cannot finance your residence in Italy through any type of work.”
There is no exact minimum legal income requirement given for the visa. However, it is generally accepted that applicants should have at least 31,000 euros per year available. For instance, the Los Angeles’ Italian Consulate states that a single applicant must have a minimum monthly income of 2,596.60 euros. Greater funds will be required for your spouse (typically over 38,000 euros for the couple) and for any dependent children. Note that different Consulates may have different financial requirements.
To get the visa you must prove you have the required funds, and so must provide documents such as:
- Letters from banking institutions stating current available funds. The type of account, the account balance and monthly earnings.
- Documents from other sources that will provide you with additional financial revenues. Such as Social Security pension or other types of pension, property ownership and lease agreements, business ownership and related documentation. These can include stocks and bonds.
As above – you cannot work in Italy on the Elective Residency Visa, so you need to have enough money to support yourself without working.
You also need to provide documents showing where you intend to live in Italy. Typically, this should be either a document showing you own a property in Italy, or a signed rental agreement. Hence, you need to find somewhere to live in Italy before you apply for the visa.
The visa is initially valid for one year, at which point it can be renewed. When you arrive in Italy you must apply within eight days for your Permesso di Soggiorno (Declaration of Stay) at your local Police Department (Questura). It is your Permesso di Soggiorno which legitimises your stay in Italy and effectively takes the place of your visa.
After five years of living on the visa, you can apply for permanent residence in Italy. With permanent residence you can freely live and work in Italy, and travel through the Schengen area. After ten years you would become eligible to apply for Italian citizenship by naturalization, and so if you wanted to you could so gain all the rights of an Italian citizen. Italy also allows dual citizenship.[Source]
Greece Residence Permit for Financially Independent Persons
Permanent residence – Articles 89-91
Greece also has a retirement visa, called the residence permit for Financially Independent Persons (it’s a type D Greek visa). Like other retirement visas you can bring your family with you on this visa. To get the Greek retirement visa you must have sufficient funds to live in Greece without working.
The Greek retirement visa has a lower financial requirement than the Italian visa. The main applicant must have an income of 2,000 euros a month, or 24,000 euros a year. This increases by 20% for the spouse (so 2,400 euros a month for a couple) and an additional 15% for each child (so an 300 euros per month). You also need proof that you have full medical and hospitalization coverage during your stay in Greece (i.e a private insurance contract ) or a certificate stating that you have filed an application with an insurance institution.
As this is a retirement visa, you can’t work in Greece on the Financially Independent Persons visa. And you must have a sufficient passive income to support yourself and your family. However, you can work remotely for an employer or for yourself in your home country (or anywhere else you have the right to work).
The Greek retirement visa is initially issued for a period of two years, and can then be renewed for three years at a time.
After five years of living on Greek on the permit for Financially Independent Persons, you can apply for Greek permanent residence, which allows you to freely live and work in Greece, and travel through the Schengen area. After seven years of living in Greece, you may be eligible to apply for Greek citizenship. Greece allows dual citizenship.
An alternative way to get permanent residence in Greece is to purchase a property worth 250,000 euros or greater. In this case the visa is granted for five years, and is renewable for five years at a time.[Source 1] [Source 2] – Article 20
Austrian Gainful Employment Excepted Visa
Austria is also a potentially great place to retire. Austria has the “gainful employment excepted” settlement permit which may be appropriate for retirees. As with the other retirement visas, you can bring your spouse and dependent children with you on the visa.
You cannot work in Austria while on the visa – that’s why it’s called “gainful employment excepted”. Hence, you must have a regular monthly income (e.g. Austrian or foreign pensions, profits from enterprises abroad, income from assets, savings or company shares) equaling twice the amount of the standard rates of the General Social Insurance Act (ASVG). This means for a single person in 2020 you need 1,933.30 euros per month (roughly the same as for Greece), and so 23,199.60 euros per year. For married couples or partnerships you need 3,049.98 euros per month. For each child you need an additional 298,30 euros per month. You need to provide documents to show you have this income.
Although you can’t work in Austria on this visa, there is nothing to prevent you from working in another country, for instance remotely. However, any income from employment cannot count to meeting the minimum income requirement.
You also need to have full health insurance coverage to obtain the visa. As with Italy, you also must be able show you have accommodation in Austria by showing a legal title to a property considered adequate for your family by local standards – typically, this will either be an ownership deed or a rental contract.
One of the extra hurdles for Austria is the fact that that you must provide evidence of German language skills at A1 level according to the Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR) for Languages, when first applying for the gainful employment excepted settlement (A1 Level is the lowest level of German in the CEFR). However, children under 14 do not need to show evidence of language skills.
The retirement visa is initially granted for one year and can be renewed. After five years you can apply for permanent residence (typically, to get permanent residence, you will have to prove you can speak German at B1 level ). After ten years you can apply for Austrian citizenship and gain all the rights of an Austrian citizen. However, Austria does not typically allow dual citizenship, so you will have to renounce your previous citizenship to receive the visa.[Source 1] [Source 2] – Permanent residence [Source 3] – Citizenship
Cyprus Category F visa
Cyprus has a couple of routes for retirees wanting to live there. Of particular interest is the Category F visa, which could be an excellent retirement visa. As with other retirement visas, you can bring your partner and dependent children with you on the visa.
The Cyprus retirement visa has a relatively low income requirement. You must have a yearly passive income of at least 9,568 euros for the main applicant plus an additional 4,613 euros for each dependent person. This income must be from abroad and can be from salaries, pensions, stock shares, rents.
You are not allowed to work in Cyprus on the visa. However, you can be a shareholder in a Cypriot company, which can do business in Cyprus or abroad, and receive dividend income from this company
There are no limitations on how long you can stay on the visa, however you must visit Cyprus once every two years or the visa will be cancelled. Cyprus is not in the Schengen area, and so this visa does not give visa free travel to Cyprus.
After five years you can apply for Cyprian permanent residence. After living in Cyprus for seven years, you can apply for Cyprian citizenship by naturalization. Cyprus allows dual citizenship.
Another route to retirement and permanent residency in Cyprus is by purchasing a property. On this route you must buy a property worth more than 300,000 euros. To get permanent residence by this route you must prove an income from abroad of minimum 30,000 euros (much greater than the Category F route). The annual income requirement is increased 5,000 euros for every dependent person of his/her family (spouse and children) and by 8,000 euros for every dependent parent or parent-in-law
One of the great advantages of this route is you can bring your parents and parents-in-law with you (which is very rare for retirement visas), without needing to buy additional property. The income requirement is increased by 8,000 euros for each dependent parent or parent-in-law and provided this is satisfied they can also apply and get the permanent residence permit.
Another advantage of this route is that your children keep Cyprus permanent residence even after they are no longer dependents. As with the Category F visa, after 7 years you will become eligible for citizenship.[Source 1] – Government [Source 2] – Permanent residence [Source 3] – Citizenship
Ireland Stamp 0
The Ireland Stamp 0 permission to remain for persons of independent means is a potential retirement visa for people looking to retire in Ireland, and if often referred to as a retirement visa.
The financial requirements for the Irish Stamp 0 are higher than for many other countries: you are required to have an individual income of 50,000 euros per year. On top of this you must also have access to a lump sum of money to cover any sudden major expenses. The exact amount that this lump sum must be is not stated, but the government website does state that, for example, it should be equal to the price of a house in Ireland, and around 100,000 euros is often estimated as the recommended size of the lump sum.
You also are required to have fully comprehensive health insurance to receive the visa.
You cannot work in Ireland on the Stamp 0 visa, though there is nothing to prevent you working abroad on the visa.
The Stamp 0 is valid for one year and can be renewed for one year at a time, with no limit on how many times it can be renewed.
One drawback of the Stamp 0 visa is that it is not a route to permanent residence or citizenship. Time spent on Stamp 0 does not count towards permanent residence or citizenship.
Another drawback of the Stamp 0 Visa is that you also cannot include your family on a single Stamp 0 visa, and each family member must apply for the visa in their own right. However, there is a different Stamp 0 route for elderly parents. High-income individuals who live and work in Ireland can bring their dependent parents to join them in Ireland on a Stamp 0 visa, without the dependent parents needing to have an independent income. In such cases, the child (known as the sponsor) of an elderly dependent relative will be required to have earned in Ireland each of the 3 years preceding the application an income after tax and deductions of not less than €60K in the case of one parent and €75k where 2 parents are involved.
Malta’s Global Residence Programme
Malta is another Schengen area country which could be an excellent option for retirees, in particular through the Maltese Global Residence Programme.
To receive this retirement visa, you need to be financially self-sufficient, though an exact minimum income requirement is not set. However, you also need to either rent or buy a property in Malta to receive the visa.
The minimum value of the property you need to buy for the visa depends on where in Malta you’re buying. For South Malta, the minimum property value is 220,000 euros, for the rest of the island of Malta the value is 275,000 euros, for the island of Gozo, the value is 250,000 euros.
Alternatively, you can rent a property in Malta, which then requires less of an upfront financial commitment. If you rent in South Malta, you must pay at least 8,750 euros per year, for the rest of the island of Malta, you must pay at least 9,600 euros per year, and for the island of Gozo, you must pay at least 8,750 euros per year.
You need comprehensive health insurance for you and all your dependents to receive the visa.
The Maltese Global Residency Programme is also generous on who you can bring with you on the visa. As with other visas, you can bring your spouse and dependent children (typically those under 25). However, you can also bring financially dependent parents with you on the visa, and other dependent relatives. Moreover, you can bring non-family members of the household with you, such as household staff.
The Global Residency Programme does not entitle you to work in Malta (though, of course, it does allow members of your household staff to work for you), however, you can obtain an additional work permit while in Malta which allows you to work.
As Malta is in the Schengen area, the Maltese retirement visa is a route to visa free travel in Europe. After five years of living in Malta you can apply for permanent residence (which is called “long-term residence”).
To get Maltese citizenship, you typically needed to have lived in Malta for seven years. Though you do not need to have been in Malta for all of that time. Malta also runs a citizenship by investment programme, that allows you to acquire citizenship without the residency requirement. Malta allows dual citizenship[Source 1] [Source 2] – Citizenship
Latvia is another Schengen area country with a route for retirees. Though there are other routes to Latvia that might be appropriate for retirees, the one we focus on really is targeted at retirees: to receive the Latvian retirement you need to be pensionable age in Latvia, which is currently 65.
To receive this visa you need a passive income of at least 680 euros per month, or 8,160 euros per year, meaning that the Latvian retirement visa has one of the lowest income requirements in Europe.
The visa is initially granted for a period of up to five years. After living in Latvia for five years you can apply for permanent residence.
After five years of living in Latvia as a permanent resident, you will become eligible for Latvian citizenship. Whether you can have dual citizenship depends on your country of origin – Latvia allows dual citizenship for many nationalities, but not all.
Alongside the retirement visa, there are other routes to residency in Latvia by investing in Latvian companies or purchasing property in Latvia.[Source 1] [Source 2] [Source 3] – Citizenship