How Can I Legally Stay in Spain Long Term? *HINT* It’s Easier Than You Think


Spain Retirement Visa Key Summary:

The Non-Lucrative Residence Visa is often called a retirement visa, as the visa does not allow you to work or conduct any economic activity. But, the Non-Lucrative Visa is a long-term stay visa that allows you to retire in Spain without an age limitation. If you meet the minimum passive income requirement of €25,560 annually, you have a path to legally stay in Europe long-term.

LIVING IN SPAIN: QUICK FACTS <click to expand>

Living in Spain: Quick Facts

Currency: Euro

Languages: Spanish, Catalan, Galician, Occitan

Capital: Madrid

Cost of Living

Total living expenses including rent are ~46% LESS than the Cost of Living in the US. While Madrid and Barcelona, ranked in the Top 100 most expensive cities in the world, the smaller towns, even on the desirable Mediterranean coast are surprisingly affordable.

Health Care

Spain ranks 10th in the World, when comparing overall quality of the health care system: equipment, staff, doctors, cost, etc. The US ranks 29th.

English Score

Only 22% of the country's population speaks English as a second language. However, the ones that speak English, speak well. 

Quality of Life

An extremely high Quality of Life driven by low cost of living, affordable rents, low crime, and sunny moderate temperatures.

Are you ready to Retire Early? Ready to dip your toes in the warm water of the Mediterranean? Or sip refreshingly boozy sangrias in a cosmopolitan European city? What about enjoying a mid-day siesta in a charming Old World villa? Spain offers warm sunny beaches with the ease of developed European infrastructure and a surprisingly Low Cost of Living. The entire region is a dream destination for early retirement and Spain's Non Lucrative Visa is how to make it happen.

The 2nd largest country in Southern Europe, Spain has a vast changing landscape. There is the natural beauty of the Mediterranean beaches, Sierra Nevada mountains, and the Northern vineyards along with the rich culture, arts, and social nightlife you would expect from major European cities. High-speed train and bus routes crisscross Spain to allow for easy exploring and intra-country travel. From Madrid, you can swim on the southern coast in four hours or enjoy tapas in Barcelona in three hours. Madrid and Barcelona are the main airports connecting Spain with the rest of Europe and the World.

Live in Spain for beautiful sunsets in Barcelona

What Visa Does an American Need To Visit Spain?

If you are from the United States and Canada, you can enter Spain Visa Free. Spain is part of the Schengen Agreement allowing short-term stays for up to 90 days out of every 180 days. That is 90 days for ALL the 26 European countries that comprise the Schengen Area. There are no renewals or extensions allowed. You can stay for 90 days, but then you must leave the entire Schengen area for 90 days before you can return.

How Can A US Citizen Legally Stay Long Term in Spain?

This short-term visa works if you want to travel through the cities and get an idea of where you’d like to live long-term. Once you chose a city right for you, you must obtain the Non Lucrative visa from the Spanish embassy of your HOME country. You cannot apply for a Spanish Retirement Visa while you are in the country. 

For people working toward Financial Independence and Early Retirement, residing in Spain can help accelerate those goals. If you have passive income sufficient to support yourself and your dependents, you may apply for a Non Lucrative Residence Visa. As this visa does not allow you to work in Spain, your income must come from passive sources: investments, rental income, annuities, pensions, etc.

Can A Brit Retire To Spain After Brexit?

Yes, citizens of the UK can apply for a Non-Lucrative Visa and retire in Spain. The rules that changed after Brexit only meant you lost the special privileges EU citizens enjoyed.

Post-Brexit, British expats now have the same rights as other 3rd country nationals: US, Canada, etc. UK citizens can follow the same retirement visa and residency process detailed below like other non-EU nationals.

What Long Does It Take To Process the Visa Application?

Your visa can take between 3-weeks to 3-months or more to process. Three key factors determine the processing time.

  1. Is your application missing any requirements? This is the biggest delay. If you are missing any documentation, the Consulate will request additional information. More information means hunting for the requested info, getting another apostille, and certified translation. You must submit all documents in person, which means making another appointment. Meanwhile, your application sits there in limbo.
  2. Is the local Spanish Embassy or Consulate you are assigned a popular one? If the Consulate has a backlog of applications, your visa application is another one in the pile.
  3. What mood your Visa Administrator is? Your contact at the Consulate has the power to make the application process a nightmare. The burden of proof is on the applicant to show they meet the requirements. If your administrator is skeptical of anything in your application, the process drags.

The last two points are out of your control. But, the first, and also the biggest potential delay is the is 100% under your control. The visa application process is a beast of paperwork. Use this document organizer to ensure you don't miss an essential forms. 

What Does It Cost to Retire in Spain?

Income requirements for a Non Lucrative Visa are a relatively low ~$30,453/€25,816 annually, plus ~$7,613/€6,454 per each additional family member. Assuming a 4% Safe Withdrawal Rate (SWR), you can move to Spain with a retirement nest egg of roughly $722,125.  

*US Dollar amounts using estimated exchange rate of 1 EUR to 1.18 USD.

Get A Free Tax Consultation and $25 off your US Expat Tax return

Even if you become a Spanish resident, Americans abroad must file a personal income tax return every year with the IRS. 

Spain has a double taxation treaty with the US. To understand how to minimize your expat tax liability, speak with a tax accountant for details. Nomadic FIRE has partnered with Expat Tax Specialists offering a FREE 30-minute consultation.  

Full Disclosure, this is an affiliate link. If you use the link, I earn a commission from the company at no additional cost to you. You get the benefit of $25 off your return and a FREE 30-minute consultation with a Tax Advisor.  

How Long Can I Live in Spain on a Non Lucrative Visa?

The Non Lucrative Residence Visa is a temporary residence permit valid for two years but is renewable, provided you still meet the financial requirements and you have lived at least 183 days in Spain each year. After five years of holding the temporary residence permit, you will be eligible for permanent residency, allowing you to live and work in Spain indefinitely. After ten years of continuous residency (five years temporary residency and five years permanent residency), you may be eligible for Spanish Citizenship. 

*INSIDER TIP*: Spanish Territory Citizenship- People born in the Philippines, Andorra, Spanish-American countries (like Colombia), Equatorial Guinea, Portugal, as well as individuals with Jewish Sephardic origin, are eligible for Spain citizenship after two years.

A view of Santiago Del Teide in Spain

What Are the Requirements for a Spain Retirement Visa?

  • Must apply in person in the Spanish Consulate of your home country.
  • Be over 18 years old.
  • Documented proof that you have sufficient financial means to support yourself, and any accompanying family, to live in Spain without working. 
  • Medical insurance accepted in Spain, valid for the entire duration of your stay.
  • Personal Statement of Purpose: A letter explaining why your are requesting the visa, the purpose, where you plan to stay, and length of your stay in Spain. The document must be notarized with a certified translation into Spanish. See notes below on certified translations. Sample from my Personal Statement of Purpose.
  • Clean criminal record documented by the police in every country you have resided in the last five years. Apostille certification is required. See Apostille explanation below. 
  • Your Spain immigration records cannot have any irregularities (overstays, deportations, etc.).
  • Spain residency applicants cannot have loans or mortgages in the United States.

What Documents Do I Need To Apply for A Non Lucrative Visa?

Documents, Documents, Documents. The application process to retire in Spain is a beast of paperwork. We created this FREE Document Organizer to ensure you don't miss any of the 22 REQUIRED forms. 

Spanish Retirement Visa Application Forms

  • Official Spanish visa application form and 2 photocopies
  •  EX 01 Form and 2 photocopies
  • 790-52 Form and 2 photocopies

Home Country (US) Official Documents

Pretty much every document you submit to the Spanish consulate for your application will need a "certified translation" and an Apostille. 

What is an Apostille?

An apostille is a certification that a document is “legal” or “authentic” by a Federal or State agency. Basically, it's one government (the US) certifying that the document you are sending to another government (Spain) is legitimate. After your document is apostilled, the document will be attached with an official seal.  DO NOT attempt to separate the document from the seal.  

For Federal documents (FBI Background Check), your document will need to be apostilled by the State Department in Washington, DC. For state level documents (state police background checks, marriage licenses, birth certificates, etc.), you must get these documents apostilled in the state they were issued. If you lived in several states in the last five years, you will need documents AND separate apostilles from each state. 

What is a certified translation?

Spain is very particular about this. Any documents that are submitted in English MUST be translated into Spanish by a Sworn Spanish translator certified by the Government of Spain. The latest list of official translators can be found at the Ministry for Foreign Affairs website. Be prepared to pay between $35 to $50 per page for certified translations. This was easily the biggest expense for my application. 

Note that Apostilles must also be translated, but translations DO NOT need to be apostilled. Get your documents Apostilled first, then send everything over to the translator. 

  • Recent Federal (FBI) or state police Criminal Background Check. Local police certificates are not good enough. These background checks require police fingerprinting, which can be done at most police stations. Online background checks are NOT valid. Only background checks from the FBI or State Police will be accepted.
  • Apostille of the Criminal Background Check
  • Certified Translation of the Criminal Background Check

Passports and Photos

  • Original and photocopy of passport
  • Two Passport sized photographs

Optional For Non-US citizens residing in the US: Alien Residence Card (Green-Card) or residence visa valid in the USA. Original and photocopy. Please note, B-1 and B-2 Visa holders cannot apply in the United States. You will need to apply in your home country.

Medical Documents

  • Proof of Spanish Health Insurance
  • Medical Clearance Certificate by a doctor showing good physical and mental health
  • Apostille of the Medical Clearance Certificate
  • Certified Translation of the Medical Clearance Certificate- Download Translated Medical Clearance Template

Additional Documentation

  • Notarized Personal Statement regarding the purpose of your stay *see details above.
  • Certified translation of Personal Statement
  • Proof of Accommodation in Spain
  • Proof of income (annuities, social security checks, pension statements, etc.) showing a €2,151.36 per month income, and an additional amount of €537.84 per month for every dependent family member. See notes below.
  • Certified translation of Proof of Income. See notes below.
  • Proof of Economic Means
  • Certified translation of Proof of Economic Means
  • Copy of Most Recent Tax Return
  • Signed Consulate Disclaimer
  • ID Card proving you are a resident in the state this Consulate is responsible for. Valid U.S. Driver license, State I.D. card, Voter’s Registration Card, current Student I.D. are accepted. 
  • Signed and notarized acknowledgement of Consulate Disclaimer policy stating they are not responsible for loss or damage of your documents. 
  • A $152 Money Order or exact amount of cash to pay for visa fees ($140) and taxes ($12). 

Required Documents for Spouse and Dependent Children of Primary Applicant

  • Official Marriage Certificate
  • Apostille of the Official Marriage Certificate
  • Certified Translation of the Official Marriage Certificate
  • Official Birth Certificate
  • Apostille of the Official Birth Certificate
  • Certified Translation of the Official Birth Certificate

In addition to the documents above, your spouse will need a lot of the same documents you need. The easiest way to keep track of everything is using our FREE Document Organizer. 

What Is Proof of Income vs Proof of Funds?

Ideally, you will have verifiable Proof of Income equal to or greater than €2,152 per month. Proving your income is straightforward if you have easily documented income: annuities, social security, pensions, etc. If you are are like me (and most early retirees), your ability to fund early retirement is through assets: stocks, ETFs, and/or real estate. You will need Proof of Funds to convince the consulate you have enough savings to support yourself. 

This is where it gets tricky. The Consulate gets to decide how they want you to prove you have sufficient savings. The Visa Administrators can request more documents at their discretion, until you can prove to them that you can meet the income requirements. 

I've known some people who had to show 6 months of bank statements, while I was asked to only show my most recent. I've known a husband and wife who showed a net worth of less than $700,000 and was approved. As a single person, I showed over $1,000,000 in net worth AND $1500 in monthly rental income and my Visa Administrator was still skeptical. 

Can I work doing Digital Nomad, Remote, or Location Independent work while on a Spanish Non Lucrative Visa?

Short Answer, No. Non Lucrative means no money. Long Answer, Maybe? This is another topic that is up to the discretion of the Visa Administrator. I have read about people who successfully argued that all their income came from outside of Spain, that none of their clients were Spanish, and that they had to plans to attract new clients in Spain. 

I have also read Immigration Attorneys suggesting that Spanish Consulates are no longer allowing remote work on Non Lucrative Visas. The safe answer is do not count on working and prepare to show sufficient Proof of Funds.   

Benefits of Retiring To Spain

Live Legally in Europe Long-Term with a Spanish Retirement Visa


  • Land Ownership Is Allowed  
  • Relatively low €25,560 minimum income requirement
  • Language Exam Not Required
  • Personal Interviews Are Not Required
  • No Minimum Age Requirement
  • Visa valid for 2 years
  • 5 Years to Permanent Residency Eligibility


  • No Dual Citizenship Available 
  • Showing enough assets to meet the €25,560 minimum income can be a hassle
  • Private Spanish Health Insurance Required. International Travel Insurance is NOT allowed.
  • No Working Allowed
  • Visa must be renewed
  • 10 Years to Citizenship Eligibility

Conclusions:  Retiring To Spain

With no minimum age requirements, a reasonable income requirement, first-class infrastructure and health care, a low Cost of Living, and a High Quality of Life, Spain should be on the top of the list of anyone looking to Retire Early in Europe. 

The city skyline of Barcelona Spain

Retiring To Spain Key Takeaway:

Warm climate, European charm, and Low Cost of Living make Spain an ideal Early Retirement destination.

If Early Retirement is in your future, you can enjoy a European lifestyle, First Class infrastructure, and some of the best food and wine around for about 50% less than the US. In Spain, you really can have it all: sunny beaches, scenic mountains, sprawling vineyards, and sophisticated cities. And, even better, living here is a fraction of the cost of the US, Canada, or the UK. Spain has one of the lowest costs of living across all of the EU. If you’ve ever dreamed of an affordable European retirement, it's time to check out Spain.

A view of the architecture in Salamanca Spain

photo credit: Miradortigre/Photopin

FAQs: Retiring To Spain

Do I need to speak Spanish to qualify for a Spain Retirement Visa?

There is NO Spanish language requirement.

Is there a minimum age for expats to retire in Spain?

Unlike many other countries' retirement visas, Spain allows anyone over the age of 18 years old to apply. The Spanish Non Lucrative Visa ideal for Early Retirees.

Can a Non Lucrative Visa lead to citizenship?

After residing in Spain for 10 continuous years, you qualify for Spanish Citizenship. However, dual citizenship is only available in LIMITED circumstances. Most US citizens would have to give up their US citizenship.

What are the requirements for a Spain Retirement Visa?

To start, you will need to show:

  1. Income sufficient to support yourself
  2. Proof of private Spanish medical insurance
  3. Police background checks from your country of residence

Complete visa requirements can be found here.

Can I apply for a Retirement Visa in Spain?

No. Spanish Long Term Visas must be applied for at the Spanish Consulate of your HOME country.

Next Steps: Find Out What Life is Like Living in Spain. View Our Guides For the Best Cities In Spain to Retire.

  • Retirement Living Guides for Barcelona, Sevilla, and Salamanca coming soon. Sign up in the box below for updates.
  • View our current Retirement Guides for Medellin, Colombia and Manila, Philippines.

Are you looking to retire to Spain? Be prepared for LOTS of paperwork. The easiest way to ensure you don't miss a form is to use our FREE Document Organizer with the 22 REQUIRED forms you need to retire to Spain

Looking for More Information About Living Abroad? Check Out These Articles

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About the author

Hi, That's me. I'm Marco Sison. I am a survivor of the corporate rat race. I started Nomad FIRE to show you an alternative to the stress and grind of 70-hour weeks to pay off a mortgage, student loans, and countless bills. After getting laid off in 2015, I said screw it all and retired early at 41 years old. I have traveled the last five years to over 40 countries to show you the best ways to save, invest, and live in amazing countries for 70% less cost than the US. I have been featured in: US News & World Reports, Huffington Post, MSN Money, USA Today, ABC Network, Yahoo Finance, Best Life, CW Network, Dr. Wealth, and others. [view press...]

Hi, That's me. I'm Marco Sison. I am a survivor of the corporate rat race. I started Nomad FIRE to show you an alternative to the stress and grind of 70-hour weeks to pay off a mortgage, student loans, and countless bills. After getting laid off in 2015, I said screw it all and retired early at 41 years old. I have traveled the last five years to over 40 countries to show you the best ways to save, invest, and live in amazing countries for 70% less cost than the US. I have been featured in: US News & World Reports, Huffington Post, MSN Money, USA Today, ABC Network, Yahoo Finance, Best Life, CW Network, Dr. Wealth, and others. [view press...]

  • Hi Marco,
    Reading your post made me seriously think of retiring in Spain/Portugal. How hard is it to get the retirement visa for an Indian citizen to either of those two countries? Would the process be the same? Any info would be appreciated.

    Thanks a lot

    • Marco Sison says:

      Hi Kavitha,

      Technically the process for a Non-Lucrative Visa (Spain) or D7 Vida (Portugal) is the same for Indian citizens as any other Third Country (non-EU/EEA) citizen.

  • Hello, I was wondering if the income requirement is on gross income? I am right at the $2200 mark with gross income but below after taxes. Thank you in advance.

    • Marco Sison says:

      Hi John,

      It’s technically gross, but the Visa processor at the Consulate is given a WIDE latitude of what they can request. If they are having a bad day or other parts of the application are soft, they can still reject you. I would do what I can to increase my documented passive income, even if it’s short-term (rent out a room with a signed lease, as an example).

  • Hi Marco,
    The goal here is to retire in the Canary Islands – I would imagine I would have to still go through the Spanish Consulate, would there be any specific hoops other than that?
    Many thanks, and kudos to the well thought-out site.

    • Marco Sison says:

      Hi Dave,

      Thanks for the shoutout. Always good to hear when someone finds something I write useful. I don’t know any specifics about the Canary Islands. However, even though they self-govern, they are still Spain. I’m guessing no different requirements than the rest of Spain. For a reference point, the US consulate in Las Palmas still says “US Embassy in Spain.” That gives a pretty strong hint.

      I haven’t had a chance to visit the Canaries yet. I was supposed to head over to Fuerteventura for a surf trip but ended up in Goa instead. Hopefully, all these travel restrictions will ease up soon.



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