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Visa Options For Non-EU Citizens To Live, Work Or Retire In Spain

visa options
Visa options: non-EU citizens, which from 2021 includes British citizens, must have an appropriate visa if they are to live in Spain.  Professional advice is advisable to ensure you obtain the visa that best meets your circumstances and gives you the best benefits.  Here we set out a summary of the main visa options.

There are a range of visa options for Non-EU citizens which will allow you to be resident depending on your circumstances:


Work Permit/Visa

Citizens of the EU/EEA or Switzerland, can live and work in Spain without restriction, but most non-EU citizens will need to obtain a work permit unless they fall under one of the exceptions.

You cannot apply for a work permit as your employer must request a work permit for you to legally work in Spain.  Provided the job is listed as a difficult to cover occupation or if the vacancy has been advertised and no suitable candidates from Spain or the EU have been identified, the permit is likely to be granted. Once the work authorization has been granted you can apply for a visa.

Your employer will submit an application for a work permit to the provincial office of the Ministry of Labour (Delegación Provincial del Ministerio de Trabajo e Inmigración) on your behalf.

You will be sent a copy of the application while this is being processed with the file number and stamped by that office so that you can use it to apply for a work or residence visa at your Spanish embassy or consulate.  The embassy will advise the regional labour office that it has your application so that the labour office can start processing your application.

Processing a work permit is not always rapid and it can take up to eight months to process. Once the labour office has approved the work permit, the embassy or consulate will issue your work and residence visa.



A work permit is valid for one year and is renewable provided you still meet the conditions of its issue.  After five years you can apply for permanent residence.  You can generally change jobs provided it is still in the same sector as work permits are granted for specific sectors.

A work permit is not required in some cases including university professors, technicians and scientists, foreign journalists, clergy and trade union officials.  They may however still need to apply for a visa or residence permit to come to Spain.



Highly Skilled Professionals Visa

If you have a job offer as a highly skilled worker or you are a graduate/postgraduate from a university or prestigious business school you may qualify for a Highly Skilled Professional Visa.



  • You should have completed a masters or PhD
  • The employing company should be a large business or corporate group, a Small or Medium Enterprise operating in a strategic sector for Spain, or the project that the company develops must be aligned with the socio-economic interest of Spain.
  • Your role should be regarded as skilled or highly qualified, meaning that you will hold a managerial or technical position.
  • Managers/Directors must earn over €54,000 and scientific or intellectual professionals €40,000. This can be reduced by 25% if the applicant is under 30 or the employing company is an SME.



The visa allows you to be resident in Spain for two years initially and can be renewed for additional two-year periods.  Family members may also join the visa holder in Spain.

As well as living in Spain the holder will have freedom of movement within the Shengen area.


Documents Required

  • Job Contract as a skilled staff member
  • Job Description
  • CV
  • Copy of your Passport
  • University Degree
  • Legal Documents of the Employer
  • Criminal Records



EU Blue Card

The EU Blue Card is a special work and residence permit that allows non-EU migrants who plan to carry out an activity that requires a higher education qualification to obtain a temporary residence and work permit.


To apply for a Blue Card, the applicant must:

  • have a valid work contract or binding job offer for highly qualified employment with a duration of at least 1 year
  • meet the minimum earnings threshold (€55,200 pa in Spain in 2021)
  • provide documents proving that the requirements are met for regulated professions or that the relevant higher professional qualifications are met for unregulated professions
  • present a valid travel document, an application for a visa or a visa (if necessary), and a valid residence permit or a national long-term visa (if appropriate);
  • proof of health insurance

You must also have a job offer for a job with a salary at least 1.5 times the average wage in Spain (or 1.2 times for high demand jobs).

The employer will submit the application along with details of the job, evidence that no Spaniard or EU citizen was available to fill the position and information about your qualifications, passport and health insurance.

Once the EU Blue Card work permit is granted, you must apply to the Spanish consulate or embassy in your home country for a visa. You will need your passport, medical certificate, certificate of no criminal record and a copy of the job contract. Once you have received the visa you need to enter Spain within three months.

The Blue Card is valid for a year and is renewable for as long as you still meet the conditions.

Once you have an EU Blue Card, you can travel to other EU states for up to three months within a six-month period. After 18 months, you can move to another EU State but you will have to apply for an EU Card in that country.



Golden Visa or Migrant Investor Scheme


Minimum investment requirements are as follows:

  • €500,000 in property
  • €2 million in public debt
  • €1 million in shares or bank deposits

To qualify you must be a non-EU citizen over 18 years of age, with no criminal record.  You must have private health insurance and must demonstrate that you have sufficient funds to support yourself and your family in Spain.

Processing is rapid with reports of between one and two months.



The Golden Visa allows you to gain Spanish residency for you, your spouse/partner and your family (children of minor age and those of legal age but financially dependent plus parents in the holder’s charge.  You and family members may also work in Spain.

The visa allows you to enter and stay in Spain for a period of 1 year and can then be extended for additional periods of two years provided you can demonstrate that the investment is still in place.  After living in the country for five years you can apply for permanent residence.

You also obtain freedom of movement within the other 26 countries of the Schengen area

There is no minimum stay requirement, so the beneficiary can keep his tax address out of Spain


Documents Required

  • Passport valid for one year
  • Marriage certificate for accompanying spouse and birth certificate for accompanying children
  • Proof of financial security
  • Proof of health insurance coverage
  • Certified proof of clean criminal record
  • Two photographs
  • Proof of required investment:
    • Property investment – certification of domains and charges of the Land Registry, and the deed of sale of the purchased assets.
    • Investing in Spanish shares –
      • Unlisted shares a statement of investment filed with the Investments Register of the Directorate-General for International Trade
      • Listed shares and for certificate from the financial intermediary registered with the National Securities Market Commission (CNMV) for the purchase of shares.
    • Bank deposit – certificate from the financial institution



Entrepreneur’s Visa


You can obtain an Entrepreneur’s Visa if you are starting up an innovative business of particular economic interest to Spain.  There is no specific minimum capital requirements nor a specific number of jobs that should be created and each is assessed on an individual basis.

The factors taken into account when assessing the application are:

  • Professional profile – his or her training and professional experience as well as his or her involvement in the project.
  • Business plan:
    • Project description – the nature of the planned activity and its potential economic impact, location, date, legal structure, number and nature of jobs to be created, sales and marketing activity planned.
    • Detailed product or service description indicating innovative aspects.
    • Market analysis
    • Financing – outline of the investment requirement and sourcing.
    • Explanation of the added value for the Spanish economy.


The initial visa is for one year and can be renewed for additional periods of two years.  You can apply for permanent residence after five years.

The visa allows you to gain Spanish residency for you, your spouse/partner and your family (children of minor age and those of legal age but financially dependent plus parents in the holder’s charge.  You and family members may also work in Spain.


Documents Required

  • Passport valid for one year
  • Marriage certificate for accompanying spouse and birth certificate for accompanying children
  • Proof of financial security
  • Proof of health insurance coverage
  • Certified proof of clean criminal record
  • Two photographs
  • Business plan and report on entrepreneurial activity issued by the Spanish Economic and Commercial Office

Non EU nationals wishing to reside in Spain and to set up or acquire a company who do not qualify for the Entrepreneurs or Investors residence authorization of Entrepreneurs Law, must apply for a temporary residence permit and a work permit as a self-employed worker.


Non-Lucrative Visa

Spain’s Non-Lucrative Residence Visa is available to non-EU citizens who have the financial means to support themselves in the country without working and any accompanying family.

The visa does not allow you to carry out any type of economic or professional activity in Spain, but it does not require you to invest in the country to obtain a visa.  That does not mean that you cannot invest in Spain while there with this visa.  You are free to invest in any business and generate additional income.

Although you are not able to earn while staying under this visa, you can study and this includes a paid internship.  You can also work in another country and so can be a good option who want to spend time in Spain but continue working in another country.



The following requirements must be met in order to be eligible for the visa:

  • Demonstrating you have sufficient funds
    In the case of the non-lucrative visa,you must prove that you have 400% of the IPREM annually in your bank account.  The Public Indicator of Multiple Effects Income which is the benchmark in Spain for the allocation of aid and subsidies.   In 2020 this means that the main applicant for this visa must demonstrate he or she has at least 816,12€. This is, however, the minimum and a higher amount may be required.  For each dependent travelling with you will require that you have an additional amount equal to the IPREM (6.454,03€ annually).
    You will be required to provide a bank certificate or bank statements from the last six months.  The funds may be in multiple accounts.
  • Private health insurance
    Applicants must have a private health insurance policy with full coverage in Spain with no copayments provided by a Spanish insurance company for at least one year.


The application must be made in your country of origin or there where you are legally resident.  You are not able to apply in Spain having entered the country as a tourist.

The application should not be made more than 90 days before your intended travel date.  You will have to send all relevant documents to the Spanish Consulate:

  • National visa form.
  • Form Ex-01.
  • Private Health insurance policy from a Spanish Company
  • Bank certificate, demonstrating the possession of required funds per year.
  • Original Passport.
  • A medical certificate, demonstrating that you do not suffer from any restricted diseases.
  • Criminal record translated to Spanish.

Confirmation will be within one month and the visa will be stamped in your passport and you will then be free to travel to Spain.  The visa will also include your NIE Number.

Once you have your visa you must enter Spain freely within a maximum of 3 months.


The visa allows you to say in Spain for one year after entering the Spanish territory.  You must spend a minimum of 183 days in the country to be able to renew.  This also means that you will become tax resident and taxable on your worldwide income (subject to double tax treaties).

The visa can be renewed every 2 years until you get permanent residency, which is available after 5 years in the country.

The Non-Lucrative Visa entitles you to travel freely within the Schengen zone.