Real Estate Investment
Visa Free Travel
When Spain was left with a surplus of housing after the 2008 collapse of its real estate market, it got creative. The result is a residency-by-investment program that aims to attract foreign buyers for those homes, many in coastal tourist areas, which are largely owned by the banks.
But since the country’s unemployment rate remained high, especially among youths, the program is geared toward those who can create jobs or at least not take any away from Spain’s citizens. Especially targeted are investors and entrepreneurs as well as those who pack with them enough savings or income to support themselves and contribute to the local economy.
But that income, even if it originates elsewhere, is subject to tax in Spain. A Spanish permanent residency visa assumes you will spend at least six months out of each year in the country, the same amount of time that allows Spain to tax your worldwide income.
You don’t actually have to reside in Spain but can travel throughout the rest of Europe’s 26-nation Schengen Area with your residency visa, though not work there. Should you choose to live in Spain continuously for 10 years, you may apply for Spanish citizenship, which requires renouncing your previous nationality, demonstrating you are financially stable with no criminal record, and proving you have integrated sufficiently into Spanish society.
The price tag for residency can run from a few thousand to 2 million euros. Processing typically takes one to three months, depending on the visa applied for. Foreigners approved for residency may bring a spouse or domestic partner, children under 18 and adult dependents enrolled in school.
Anyone visiting Spain for more than three months must obtain a residence visa through the Spanish embassy in their home country before departing. This is different from a Schengen visa, which does not allow application for residency.
After you have lived in Spain for five uninterrupted years, non-EU nationals can apply for an EU long-term residence permit. That time period can include periods of uninterrupted residence in other EU nations.
You can stay in Spain indefinitely, working or not, with the same access to social services and benefits as citizens enjoy. Applicants must demonstrate sufficient financial resources to support them and any family members, such as a pension or salary – and proof of health insurance with a company authorized to operate in Spain.
Along with the visa application, you may also be requested to submit the following documents: a valid passport; proof of legal residence in Spain, such as a long-term rental contract or receipts for rent; criminal record certificate issued by the authorities in your home country; medical certificate; marriage or divorce certificate or other papers relating to marital status; documents proving investment.
Documents must be translated into Spanish and authenticated through the apostille process.
Spain charges a non-refundable fee of about 60 euros to process the permanent residency application.
The application process takes about a month for all visas except the non-lucrative residency visa, which takes about three months. Since various embassies or consulates process the paperwork, however, the process can take longer. The consulate of Spain in Miami website says the processing of a residency visa for investors/self-employed will take roughly six months, for example.
The applicant must pick up the visa in person at the closest Spanish embassy or consulate.
After 10 years you can apply for Spanish nationality. Exceptions allow refugees to apply in five years and nationals from Spanish-American countries, Andorra, the Philippines, Equatorial Guinea and Portugal, and those of Sephardic origin, to apply in two years. Except for Sephardic Jews and their descendants, dual citizenship is not allowed. Citizenship applications can take as long as eight months to process.
A Spanish visa will allow you to theoretically spend as much time as you want in the rest of Europe’s Schengen area, meaning you don’t really have to live in Spain.
Successful applicants initially receive a one-year visa that can be converted into a residency permit. The permit has an initial duration of two years and is renewable for periods of five years as long as any required investment is maintained.
After five years, recipients may apply for permanent residency, which will require them to live in Spain for at least 183 days per year.
Applicants may apply for citizenship following 10 years of continued effective residence in Spain (more than 183 days per year for the full 10-year period).
In exchange for the high taxes and the long wait for citizenship, Spain offers foreigners one of the best climates in Europe, with the southeastern coast enjoying an average of 320 sunny days a year and little rainfall.
The country is second in the world in UNESCO World Heritage Sites. It has famous beaches and excellent skiing, as well as food and wine revered throughout the world.
Property and living expenses tend to be noticeably less costly in Spain than in its European neighbors. The country is recognized for some of the best international schools on the continent as well as excellent health services – both open to expatriates.
The nation boasts several international airports, well-maintained roads and efficient rail systems, including the high-speed AVE trains.
Spain’s economy ranked sixth largest in Europe in 2017, with exports and tourism leading the way out of recession. Spain’s property market has been recovering since prices bottomed out in mid-2014, though prices continue to be 30 percent to 40 percent below those in the UK, for example.
Investors or self-employment
Set up a business in Spain or work in a company in which you have invested at least 60,000 euros, and you can receive an investor/self-employed visa.
There is no minimum investment or number of jobs to create. The applications are evaluated on a case-by-case basis. Immigration authorities will look at your potential to create jobs, develop new technologies and improve production conditions. You must provide a detailed business plan including projected profit and, in some cases, demonstrate the professional capability to carry out the project, such as academic title or training.
The cost to set up a service business runs about 4,000 to 8,000 euros. Spanish companies are taxed at 28 percent, but reduced rates apply to new businesses; there are tax credits for developing innovative technology. The government’s ICEX-Invest in Spain website provides details.
You must also show a clean medical and police certificate.
If the application is approved, you have one month to collect the visa in person at the consulate and three months to travel to Spain and validate the visa by entry. Once in Spain, you have three months to set up the business.
Done with working and have the financial means to support yourself? Then apply for a residency visa for non-lucrative purposes.
This requires showing you have the financial means to support yourself and any dependents without working. The minimum income will depend on where in Spain you plan to live. Spanish Immigration will determine this, but count on at least 2,500 euros monthly or 30,000 annually for an individual and about one-fourth of that for each family member.
A trust fund, investments, pension, social security or annuities will meet the requirement, as will a document proving you have a high enough average balance in your bank account for at least 12 months. A salary or interest from a bank or mutual fund will not count. The point is to show you will not need to take a local job or burden the welfare system.
Another route to residency is to invest at least 2 million euros in Spanish government bonds or at least 1 million euros in shares of Spanish companies or to deposit at least 1 million euros in a Spanish bank.
Real estate buyers
Purchase real estate in Spain worth at least 500,000 euros, without financing, and you can receive a residency permit. With the still-recovering real estate market, that should get you a good-size residence or plot of land in some parts of the country. And there’s no need to stay in Spain to renew the visa.
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