This is the story of how Kurt got the retirement visa for Spain, the so-called ‘non-lucrative’ visa. In this article, Kurt explains the process and the income requirements for the retirement visa for Spain.
The Spanish non-lucrative visa is an ideal option if you are retired and do not intend to work (indeed, the visa is also sometimes called the “Spanish retirement 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. I would suggest carrying out your financial transactions in your home country. You can also invest as you wish. While in Spain on your non-lucrative visa, you can travel to other nations on your passport with whatever restrictions apply but additionally travel throughout the Schengen area with no restrictions. You are also able to enroll in universities if you are interested.
All foreigners who wish to reside in Spain for longer than three months need a long-term visa, unless they are citizens of the European Union, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway or Switzerland. The Spanish “non-lucrative” visa, issued by the Interior Department of Spain, is one visa route to live in Spain temporarily or permanently. The visa is called the retirement visa or “non-lucrative” visa because you cannot work for a Spanish employer while on the visa (unlike, for instance, a student visa or a work visa). However, you don’t need to invest in Spain to get the visa.
The process for obtaining the non-lucrative visa is very manageable but it takes significant planning, preparation and patience to navigate both your home country and the Spanish bureaucracy. In this article, I provide below advice and guidance for the process.
Income requirements for the retirement visa for Spain
To be eligible for the Spanish retirement or ‘non-lucrative’ visa, you must have sufficient income from either investments, retirement income or income from work conducted in other countries. As you cannot work while living in Spain with the retirement visa, you need to prove you can support yourself. The public policy is clear with this as with many of the other requirements – you as a non-citizen resident of the country should not be a burden on the Spanish society, just an asset. The minimum amount you must show you have is four times the current year’s IPREM, or Indicador Público de Renta de Efectos Múltiples. In 2018, that meant I had to prove that I had at least €25,816.12 in the bank to apply for my yearlong non-lucrative visa. Though the IPREM is adjusted year on year, the level has stayed the same for the past three years. So for 2020 an individual had to again show they had €25,816.12 (or around $31,000). 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.
The next crucial requirement is that you must register and make arrangements to pay for private Spanish health insurance. This is to prove that you won’t be a burden on the Spanish health care system. For Barcelona in the Autonomous Region of Catalonia where I moved to, the insurance one purchases must have the equivalent coverage for services as the CatSalud public health system for Catalonia and include no co-pays except for medications. The cost of this insurance does vary depending on the insurance provider but can run between €150 and €200 per month.
The specific steps and documentation required is clearly outlined on the websites for the Spanish embassy and consulate(s) in your country, which are assigned by region in your county based on your home residence. There can be some small variation in requirements from consulate to consulate such as number of copies needed or which documents require official translation but below there is an outline of the generic requirements adapted from the US Spanish Consulates:
- Two National Visa Application forms completed and signed.
- Two recent pictures, passport size pictures (white background) glued to the application forms.
- Passport with a validity superior of one year and at least two empty pages (copy of all pages).
- Permit to return to the home country in the form of: a resident card, or a student/work visa that is stamped on the passport and is valid for a period of three months beyond the expected duration of stay in the Schengen area, or the period of validity of the visa, whichever is longer. (N/A TO US CITIZEN).
- Driver License or Government photo I.D. with current address.
- Original certificate of good conduct (police clearance). In the U.S. issued by the U.S. Department of Justice – Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) or by your state of residence criminal background check. Contact FBI at (304) 625-3878 or at http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/cjis/background-checks/background_checks This document, either the FBI one or the Department of Law Enforcement one, has to be translated into Spanish and legalized with the Apostille Certification where police clearance letter was issued.
If the applicant has spent six month or more during the last five years in another country, he/she must submit the police record from that country, legalized with the Apostille Certification and translated into Spanish. If the country is not part of the Hague Convention the document must be legalized by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and then by the Spanish Consulate of that country.
This certificate cannot be older than 3 months from the application date. Note: Local municipality police reports or on-line reports are not acceptable.
- Local Health Certificate with letterhead, stamp, and signature of the doctor translated into Spanish. Health certificates submitted to this office must verify that applicant/patient is free of any illnesses that could have serious repercussions to public health and that could easily spread internationally. The first list includes smallpox, poliomyelitis by wild poliovirus, the human influenza caused by a new subtype of virus and the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS). The second list includes cholera, pneumonic plague, yellow fever, viral haemorrhagic fevers (e.g.: Ebola, Lassa, Marburg), West Nile Virus and other illnesses of special importance nationally or regionally (e.g.: Dengue Fever, Rift Valley Fever and meningococcal disease). There may be new Covid-19 requirements. For this reason, the mandatory health certificate that should be submitted must verify the information listed above in a manner similar to the following:
“This health certificate verifies that Mr. /Mrs. /Ms (…) does not suffer from any illnesses that could cause serious repercussions to public health according to the specifications of the international sanitary regulation of 2005.”
This certificate cannot be older than 3 months from the application date.
- Original certificate of a public or private institution certifying that you receive a retirement settlement, specifying its monthly amount, translated into Spanish.
- Proof of any other type of income in Spain or USA (bank statements of the last year and investments).
- Proof of accommodation in the city where you want to live as follows:
- Notarized invitation letter from a family or friend where he/she assumes responsibility for lodging, or
- Lease, or
- Deed of the property or
- Letter explaining the reason why you have chosen that city in particular.
It is a bit tricky demonstrating where you will be living in Spain. You need to prove you have a valid lease or rental contract or show ownership of property where you will reside. To get a lease however, you need to have your NIE (National Identitad de Extranjeros number) that you only get with your approved visa and a Spanish bank account. This was a daunting task months before I was prepared to move so I had my name added to my son’s rental contract until I could get established in Spain. You may initially or permanently be living with a friend or relative and can prove that by having your name on the contract that may require a processing fee be paid. If you are moving in with someone who owns their property you may need them to write an affidavit that attests to that and have it validated with a notary.
- Proof of private health insurance with full coverage in Spain.
- Authorization of residence application EX-01
- Authorization of initial residence Fee. Tax form 790-052
- Visa Fee ($152), payable with money order to the order of “CONSULATE GENERAL OF SPAIN”.
- Some consulates require a personal statement that explains why it is that you want to move to Spain with a non-lucrative visa.
Timing of the Spanish retirement visa
You need to apply for the Spanish non-lucrative visa at least three months before you would like to leave for Spain at your local embassy or consulate. You’ll need to book an appointment at which you submit your documentation and make the application. (Note that appointments can often be for many weeks or months away and your visa application can take up to two months to be processed and approved, so it’s wise to plan ahead and book early.) Some consulates do not require making appointments in advance but take people first come first served within certain hours and days of the week.
All the documents listed above must be brought (some times with copies) to your appointment. The documentation you bring to the appointment must meet all the specific guidelines as to how recently they were completed. Your health certificate and police records (which often take a few weeks to process and be apostilled as well) must be dated no more than three months prior to your appointment date. It can take up to two months for your visa application to be processed and approved. My recommendation is to set the appointment date and start the clock back from there to figure out when to complete your paperwork for the appointment. As an example you need to schedule a doctor’s appointment to get your medical certificate that is required. And, you need to schedule that with enough time to get a certified translation into Spanish. I created a calendar with the key dates to help me navigate the various deadlines.
At your appointment at the consulate, the consulate staff will review your documentation primarily for its completeness, legibility, properly apostilled when required and translated when required, with the copies if required. If there is anything lacking in your application you will be asked to supply it before they accept your application as completed. From that point, the processing of the application generally takes from 4 to 8 weeks but it can take longer. You will need to go back to the consulate to pick up your visa. Therefore, it is reasonable to think the process altogether might take 6 months from beginning to your ticket to Spain.
Translations of documents for your Spanish retirement visa
It is very important to remember that some of the documents required for the application need to be translated into Spanish. These documents need to be translated by a translation service that’s recognized by Spain’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which will put an official stamp on your translations. Translations are done by a translator in possession of the certification of sworn translator-interpreter granted by the Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, European Union and Cooperation. (Most consulates will allow you to submit PDFs of the stamped, translated documents.)
The documents that need translation are:
- police records and apostille
- health certificate (content specified in the requirements list above)
- personal statement (no specified format suggested)
- your financial documentation of sufficient income for the year
- and medical insurance (policy summary with start date)
It’s sensible to make arrangements with a translation service well in advance and get a good idea about the turn-around time and price, which can be as much as €140. There is a list of official translation services on the consulate website as well as many found simply through a Google search. Many services can conduct the whole translation process online.
Traveling to Spain on the retirement visa
You have to temporarily hand over your passport to the embassy or consulate at your visa application appointment in order for them to process the visa and put it into your passport. However, they won’t finalize your visa unless you’ve booked your travel to Spain, as this becomes your visa start date. (Remember this date because it’s when the 90-day window begins to get your residence card in Spain, that means you need to travel to Spain within 3 months of getting your visa – on which, more below.)
Therefore, it’s best to book your travel after you have been notified of your approval but before you go back to the embassy or consulate to pick up your visa. If you need to travel while your passport is held by the Spanish embassy or consulate while processing your visa application, you can apply for a second passport that can be issued for situations like this. Alternatively, you can see if the embassy or consulate will choose to not take your passport while processing the visa.
Private Medical Insurance in Spain
If you’re willing to spend a lot of money, you can get an international plan from an international health insurance provider. However, if you plan to be primarily in Spain this is really not necessary because there are numerous private health insurance companies that you can select from. Additionally, it is required that the plan you purchase be one with no deductibles or co-pays.
One thing to watch out for is that you can be disqualified for pre-existing conditions, or pre-existing conditions will be exempted from the coverage. It is advised that you comparison-shop early for price, covered services and whether or not you qualify or have exemptions. Allow yourself enough time to wade through all the policy information, applications and the wait to see if you qualify.
Before your visa appointment, check, check, check and quadruple check that you have all the paperwork you need (both originals and multiple copies) and everything is completely filled out. If you don’t (OMG!) you are sent to the end of the line for a new appointment, which often takes weeks to secure and might put some of your documents out of date, not to mention your desired departure date.
Bringing dependents on the Spanish retirement visas
One of the advantages of the retirement or non-lucrative visa is you can bring your spouse and children with you, by including them on your visa application. 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. Marriage and birth certificates are required for those applying as dependents, and these certificates must be translated and apostilled.
Once you have your visa…
Congrats! You’ve been approved, booked your flights and picked up your visa and passport… but if you look carefully at your visa, you’ll see that it’s good for only 90 days.
You now 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. This residency card will be valid for your first year. 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).
Getting the TIE
Soon after you arrive in Spain, you need to book appointments (often made on line) at two agencies, the municipality where you are living in Spain and the Spanish National Police that may take some time.
At your municipality you will need to register your domicile and take with you your NIE visa and passport, your stamped Modelo 790-012 tax form (you can get the tax form stamped at any bank where you pay the tax) and the original of your lease or whatever document you used to prove your accommodation for your visa.
Now, to get your plastic ID card (Tarjeta de Identidad de Extranjeros or TIE) you have to submit your documents to the National Police in person. (Don’t be alarmed if you have to make several attempts on-line before you are able to secure an appointment.)
When you have successfully made an appointment you will receive an email with your confirmation document attached. You will need to print it out and bring it to your appointment along with the following documentation:
- Three recent passport-sized photos
- Your passport, and a copy of the main page
- Your resolution letter from the Spanish government (which is the visa)
- Fee Form Modelo 790-012 (paid and stamped)
- Solicitud de la Tarjeta de Identidad de Extranjero (EX-17)
At the appointment you will be fingerprinted and given a temporary residency document and a date when your card will be available. It is usually about a month before you can pick up your card, though timing may vary depending on where you file. You will notice this card will expire on the one-year anniversary of the start of your non-lucrative visa.
And there you have it! But if you plan to spend more than one year in Spain, it will be important to start working on the renewal process 60 days before your Permiso de Residencia (or TIE) expires.
To renew your visa…
If you plan to continue living in Spain past one year you must renew your visa and TIE. After that, you can then renew your non-lucrative visa for two years at a time. The required paperwork is somewhat less complicated than your original visa. After five years, if you have not spent more than 10 months outside of Spain in the five years, you may apply for permanent residency.
- Your current TIE (Tarjeta de Identidad de Extranjeros)
- Two copies of the application form EX-01*
- Paid/stamped tax form Modelo 790-052
- Your passport, with expiration date at least one year from expiring
- Copies of all the pages of your passport as they want to assure you have spent 6 months in Spain
- Financial documentation of sufficient annual income (again, more than four times the current year’s IPREM)
- Proof of private medical insurance
- A copy of your address registration in Spain, no more than three months old
All documents must be officially translated into Spanish and duplicated and submitted to the Oficina de Extranjeria.
Once you have approval from the immigration office—your letter of resolution—you have 30 days to apply for a new TIE following the exact same procedure outlined above.
*On the EX-01 form there is a check box that states: Solicito/Consiento que las communicationes y notificaciones se realicen por medios electronicos. Do not check this box unless you have applied for and been accepted into the electronic notification system which is an entirely different process.
How to get permanent residency in Spain
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.
Si, si , si! All of this is a bit daunting. Yes, but my experience was generally positive keeping in mind the need for patience. The most anxiety producing issue was getting the appointment with the National Police because it took multiple attempts on-line to get an appointment.
I came to Barcelona, Spain to be near my son and his family who have lived there for years. For that reason alone it has been good. But, there is so much Barcelona and all of Spain have to offer from the Mediterranean life to beautiful architecture, incredibly rich culture, tapas, Spanish guitar, ancient cities and amazing countryside. The people are warm and friendly and willing to be helpful to foreigners. Having a working knowledge of Spanish (not fluent) takes you a long way too, but many people speak English and love to practice with you. Finally, living in a foreign country inevitably opens you up to the wonderful different ways of doing things and experiencing life.