Moving to Spain after Brexit – all about visas

Moving to Spain after Brexit

Moving to Spain has always been high on the bucket list for thousands of Brits, but with the UK having left the European Union, things have changed. The loss of Freedom of Movement means it’s no longer possible to simply sell everything, rock up in Spain and live happily ever after.

What has changed?
From 1st January 2021, UK passport holders became “third country nationals” (TCNs) which means that you must apply for a visa in the UK before being able to live the dream (with one notable exception – see below). 

Effectively, you need to ask for permission to move to Spain, rather than it being a right – this is an important difference.

Is a visa right for you? Tax considerations
If it’s your intention to come to live in Spain forever, then yes, absolutely you should apply for a visa. However, if you just want to circumvent the Schengen 90 days in 180 days time limit, you need to have a serious think about whether a visa is the best thing for you.

Except for the Golden Visa, a visa means becoming tax resident in Spain – there’s no way round this – and although the Spanish tax regime is nowhere near as punitive as it’s often painted, you are liable for tax on your worldwide income. Take specialist tax advice before you make any final decisions.

Which visa do you need to apply for?
The answer to that question is basically do you need to work or can you retire on passive income and savings/pension.
This page on the Spanish Consulate in London’s website has a list of all available visas and here’s a brief summary of the ones we are asked about the most:

Retirement – non-lucrative visa (NLV)
This is the visa that most UK passport holders will come across first. With this visa, you can live in Spain for 12 months, but it forbids any working for income, whatever anyone might tell you. It’s then renewable for another 2 years, then a further 2 years, then after those 5 years you are eligible for permanent residency in Spain.

Investor Visa – also known as the Golden Visa
If you have a spare €500,000 cash lying around, you can purchase real estate in Spain and apply for a Golden Visa (the only visa you can apply for in Spain).  You don’t have to become a tax resident, you can spend as much or as little time in Spain as you like and your family can come with you and work if they want. What it doesn’t do is give you unlimited access to the whole Schengen area, the 90/180 days still applies, but time in Spain is not counted towards the total.

Self-Employed Visa
Sounds good to start off with BUT this visa is intended for business development, with the potential to offer jobs to Spaniards – it’s not applicable to one-man-band type self-employment. You’ll need significant resources, a detailed and innovative business plan (think Dragon’s Den!) and this needs to be approved by one of the self-employment associations in Spain before you can present it with your visa application.

Work permit visa
Theoretically possible but you’ll need a Spanish employer to sponsor you and apply on your behalf to the Ministry of Labour in Spain. They have to show that they can’t find either a Spaniard or an EU citizen to fill the role. The whole process can easily take 6 to 8 months and is not a popular route in Spain because it’s expensive and time-consuming for the employer.

Digital nomad visa
This visa was signed into law on 21st December 2022 as the “Visado de Teletrabajadores de carácter internacional” international teleworker visa. This is not a visa Upsticks offer.

Chosen your visa? Time for the paperwork
Now you know which visa you’d like to apply for, you need to get your head round the documents you’ll need to present. The requirements vary slightly, but the ones for a non-lucrative visa are a good starting point:

Proof of income
Demonstrate you won’t be a burden on the Spanish health or benefits system. 

Criminal Records check
If you have an active criminal record, it’s highly unlikely you will be accepted for any visa.

Medical Certificate
Show you don’t have any diseases that could be a threat to public health.

Private Health insurance
If you manage to get a work permit visa or a self-employed visa then you won’t need private health insurance. But all other visas will need this, unless you’re eligible for an S1.

Personal Identification documents – passport, marriage/birth certificate etc
Your passport will need to have at least 12 months left on it before it expires, and you’ll need to take the original plus a copy of ALL PAGES to the appointment.

For Marriage Certificates and Birth Certificates, even if you have the original document, you’ll need to get certified copies dated within 90 days of your visa application appointment. However, Birth Certificates are only needed if children aged under 18 are included on the visa application. Just one of the idiosyncrasies of Spanish public administration.

Apostille Stamp
Because the UK is no longer in the EU, any official documents need to be “certified” by the application of a Hague Apostille stamp. It’s worth noting that if you got married in the USA for example, you’ll need an Apostille as well.
If your documents are issued in the EU, you don’t need one.

ANY documents not in Spanish must each be translated by an Official Translator registered with the Spanish Embassy in your home country. If they aren’t registered, then your application could be rejected.

Good to know
Having a specialist at your side throughout is literally worth it’s weight in gold.

The application fee for a non-lucrative visa for a UK passport holder is over £500 per applicant, a serious chunk of change to lose if you don’t get everything organised correctly.

Upsticks are proud to have many successful visa applications under our belt, for clients across all three Consulates in the UK and other countries too.

Click on this Book a Call link to schedule a free consultation call and we’ll be happy to answer any questions you have about the visa application process.

The information in this article was current on the date published.
Article last updated 15.03.2024

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