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After the surprising amount of interest over the article “How to Stay in Europe for More than 90 Days,” I was inspired to find a way for people who are American to do it as well. Or over the age of 35.
Fortunately, as it often does, our intrepid readers pointed me towards the blog Bucking The Trend, where fellow traveller Jed did exactly that. So I thought I’d ask him how he did it.
Jed, welcome, and thanks for talking to us about this.
First question. What is a Spanish non-lucrative visa? What does non-lucrative mean?
Thanks for the opportunity! The non-lucrative visa basically means the Spanish government will give you long-term residency with open arms knowing that you’ll be spending a bunch of your money on rent, tapas, and vino all while not occupying (or stealing?) a Spaniard’s job. The “non-lucrative” part of the visa means you are not allowed to work for a Spanish entity. It also allows your kids to enroll in public school in Spain.
And this is available for US citizens?
Yes, definitely for US and Canadian citizens. And I imagine it’s also available to just about every other country as well (outside of the E.U.). I just have never seen a complete list of eligible countries. I’d guess that if your country has a Spanish consulate, that this visa would be available for you, too. But of course this is Spanish bureaucracy we’re talking about here, so your mileage may vary.
How did you find out about this visa?
Hmmm. Good question. I don’t recall there being clear-cut blog posts about this back in 2014 when I first started looking but I do remember scouring expat forums and the like and hearing about it that way. Later, on a business trip to Chicago, my wife stopped by our nearest consulate to ask for more details. It was from there that we had our initial checklist of requirements and started down the application path.
How much money do you need to have to qualify?
As an individual, you need to prove €2,130 ($2,600) per month and an additional €532 ($650) for a spouse and each additional child. This means €3,726 (about $4,540) per month for a family of four.
Anecdotally, I’ve heard you can prove this amount by showing a recurring paycheck (from employment outside of Spain, obviously), straight lump sum savings, pension, and/or social security.
I applied for a German Working Holiday Visa, and that was a TON of paperwork. How much paperwork was involved with yours?
Haha. Having read your blog post about that, I would have to classify it as a TON SQUARED! We had to round up a similar list as you and then some.
Here is a quick rundown:
- Passport photos
- Background check (certified with Apostille)
- Medical Certificate from your doctor basically saying you are of sound body and mind
- Proof of financial means
- Proof of accommodation in Spain
- Proof of health insurance coverage in Spain
- Marriage License (if applying with spouse)
- Birth Certificates (for each dependent)
- Letter of Intent
- And a handful of application forms
Oh, and everything needs to have official translations to Spanish. Essentially you need to prove you aren’t a deranged, diseased, insurance-less axe murderer on welfare who is going to be a drain on their public services.
For all the gory details, see this starting post where I documented all we went through as we went through it.
What the Hell is Apostille?
An Apostille is an internationally recognized stamp that makes important documents certified and legal. Here’s the Wikipedia article for more info.
And how much did it cost?
For our family of four, application fees cost us $616 ($154/person) but that doesn’t include any expenses associated with obtaining the necessary papers, having them certified, translation services, or transportation costs to/from the consulate (which for some US citizens can be several states away). You can pretty much plan on at least doubling that amount to be on the conservative side once you factor in those things.
How long does the visa allow you to stay in Spain? And can you renew?
The initial visa application is good for one (1) year. Subsequent renewals are good for two (2) years.
How many trips to the embassy did it take to finally push your application through? I think for us it was 4 in total.
Two trips to the consulate. One to submit our paperwork and another to pick up our passports with the visa included.
Whoa, that is impressive. What was the renewal process like? Was it harder or easier than getting the initial visa?
Muuuuuch easier, faster, and cheaper. Again, for the exact details around renewing, see this post. In a nutshell, they primarily want to make sure that during your first year of residency in Spain that you actually resided more than half your time in the country (at least 183 days to be exact) and that you still have money to support yourself going forward.
So how long have you been in Spain on this visa?
A little over 2 years.
Tell us about your experience living there.
Estupendo! It’s great. I always say Spain is my favorite country in Western Europe because it ticks all of my boxes when it comes to evaluating a place to visit or live. You just can’t beat its combination of weather, sights, people, food, cost and overall culture. (Although Portugal comes close – I just wish I knew the language!)
What about health care? How is the health care situation in Spain?
Satisfactory and inexpensive. Well, in comparison to US health care and insurance premiums, it’s cheap.
Knock on wood, we don’t have a lot of experience using the Spanish health care system. We opted to purchase catastrophic insurance which would only cover emergencies and elected to just pay out-of-pocket for regular doctor visits. A visit to the clinic the last time I went was €40 and prescriptions are very reasonable.
One fun tidbit: For the price of one month of health insurance for our family under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in the US, we can get a full year’s worth of coverage in Spain. It’s mind-boggling.
How’s your Spanish?
My Spanish is OK to Good I would say. My wife and I have enough to get around and operate on a daily basis with relative ease. Our bigger challenge remains when trying to have deeper conversations about politics, religion, etc when our vocabulary and nuance don’t always hold up. I also find trying to be (intentionally) funny in a foreign language difficult as well.
My boys’ ability, however, is on another level. I guess that is what being immersed in the local dialect for 6-8 hours per day at the public school will get you. I’m always hesitant to say they are fluent, but they are darn proficient.
Are you able to travel throughout the EU on this visa or are you limited to staying in Spain?
You can travel throughout the EU pretty much as if you were a Spanish citizen with this visa. No limitations whatsoever (that we experienced anyway).
So having lived in Spain that long, are you eligible for a permanent residency?
No. My understanding is that you need 10 years minimum to be considered for permanent residency. The typical routine goes something like this:
- Initial application approved for one year = Year 1
- First renewal approved for two years = Years 2-3
- Second renewal approved for two years = Years 4-5
- Third renewal approved for five years = Years 6-10
- After 10 years of “temporary” long-term residency, you are eligible for permanent residency
Or at least this is how I’ve heard it is done. I don’t know anyone yet on their third renewal or beyond.
What’s the best and worst thing about applying for this visa?
By far the worst part is gathering all the papers and trying to navigate the sea of red tape that surrounds the visa. I found the Spanish officials quite nice and accommodating considering they have to deal with frustrated foreigners who often don’t speak or understand the language. It’s like going to the DMV and trying to communicate what you need in Pig Latin – it’s tough for those on both sides of the desk. The hardest part is dealing with the inconsistencies that inevitably come about when dealing with “official papers” in Spain. Don’t be surprised if you receive conflicting, inconsistent, or incomplete direction (or maybe you just misunderstood the answer all together!)
You can guess the best part is getting that approval letter in the mail knowing you can formally move your life status from ‘pending’ to “We’re moving to Spain!”
What’s the best and worst thing about living in Spain?
The best part is living carless, in the heart of an old town or city, knowing you can operate your entire life by foot or bike with periodic jaunts on public transportation for further destinations.
One of the harder things we had to adjust to in the beginning was the pace of life in Spain. It’s not an ‘open 24 hours’, get a coffee to-go kind of culture and it takes some getting used to. After a couple of years, however, it has become something revered and aspired to in our lives.
What’s the best and worst thing about being an expat?
Familiarity (or lack thereof) is both the best and worst part of being an expat.
Pre-Spain, our lives had become set in a familiar routine. Neither good nor bad, mind you, but definitely comfortable. That’s when we elected to change things up. There is a great deal of satisfaction that comes from figuring out how to successfully navigate mundane tasks in a foreign environment. And that is where the most growth happens.
But at the same time, sometimes while living abroad you just want your Kellogg’s cereal with familiar 2% milk or some Oreos.
You run a blog called Bucking The Trend. Tell us about that.
When we quit our jobs to move to Spain, a lot of people asked how (and why) we could do such a thing so I wanted a place to point them where they could get more background at a pace they chose. As opposed to me overwhelming them since I can get pretty fired up talking about finances and travel.
Now it’s my online journal, of sorts, where I like to document interesting experiences that we’ve encountered while abroad. It’s also a place I like to put my amateur videos of our trips. It’s fun to look back at them as a family.
The website has been a great way to not only keep connected with friends and family, but has also given me a way to connect with other like-minded folks from around the world. I can’t tell you how many meals or beers I’ve shared with readers that have reached out to me through the blog.
Lastly, I still have lot of cool things planned in the future and need a place to document those.
Jed, thanks for talking to us about this.
Jed has written in extensive detail his process of applying for, and getting, his Spanish non-lucrative visa, so check that out if this sounds like something you’d like to consider. His blog Bucking The Trend is also a great resource for people who want to live abroad with their families, so definitely check that out as well.
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