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

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

The Spain Retirement Visa allows you to live in Spain legally long-term_title. A Non-Lucrative Visa is one of the best and easiest European Retirement Visas. minutes


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About the author

Hi, I'm Marco Sison. I worked in finance for Fortune 50 companies before retiring early at 41 years old. I have been an expat for over 10 years, living in over 50 countries to show you the best ways to save, invest, and live in amazing countries outside the USA. I am a trusted resource on personal finance and overseas retirement for US News & World Reports, HuffPost, MSN Money, USA Today, ABC Network, Yahoo Finance, Best Life, Association of MBAs, and the iTunes documentary Seeking FIRE.

Listen To The Audio Summary On Retiring In Spain

QUICK SUMMARY ON retirement in spain

  • Affordable prices, a quality public healthcare system, beautiful beaches, and exciting city life lead to an enjoyable high standard of living.
  • Monthly cost of living can be 30% lower than a medium-cost city in the US
  • Retired expats have a financial requirement to show passive monthly income or savings = ~$2,550 per month 
  • Spain's Non-Lucrative visa is ideal for expats retiring to Spain with no minimum retirement age or language requirements.

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 live 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.

This post may contain affiliate links. I may get a commission if you purchase something using my link. Please note, there is NO ADDITIONAL COST to you. For more information, please see my disclosure.

Quick Facts On Retiring To Spain

Watch Out For Foreign Exchange Fees. The best way to save money in Spain is by using Wise to transfer money and make payments in Euro. Wise offers you the best exchange rates and lowest bank fees.

Do Get Travel Health Insurance. Your home insurance will not cover emergency healthcare overseas, but you can find affordable travel insurance for less than $50 that will cover your medical bills in Spain.

Do learn some basic Spanish phases. 22% of Spanish people speak English. Learning some basic Spanish language helps. Get a FREE Language Lesson using the same learning technique used by the US State Department, FBI, and overseas military.

Be Careful With Expat Taxes.  Spanish authorities may consider you a tax resident after 183 days in Spain. Get a FREE consult with an expat tax specialist to understand how taxes in Spain can impact you.


Retiring 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.

Other Guides On Expat Life In The Spain

Cost of Living On The Canary Islands- $1300 in Las Palmas, Gran Canaria
Cost of Living in Granada Spain- $1100 Expat Life In A Stunning UNESCO City
The Ultimate Guide To Living In Spain For Expats, Retirees, and Digital Nomads
Unmarried Partner Visa, Spain’s Secret Long-Term Residence Permit (2021)

The 2nd largest country in Southern Europe, Spain has a vast changing landscape. There is the natural beauty of the Costa Del Sol 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.

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.

Do I Need A Tourist Visa To Enter Spain?

Spain is part of the Schengen Agreement allowing citizens of 63 countries visa-exempt travel to any of the 26 European Union countries in the "Schengen Area." 

The USA and the UK are 2 of the 63 countries that can enter Spain without a visa for up to 90 days out of every 180 day period. No renewals or extensions of the visa are allowed.

Citizens of countries requiring a Schengen tourist visa, will need to apply at the Spanish Consulate in your country of origin.  You can locate the Immigrant visa requirements on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs website. 

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 a long-stay 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, retirement pension, etc.

Another way to stay in Spain is if your partner is an EU citizen, then a partnership visa  might be your ideal solution. I have a detailed article on the Unmarried Partnership Visa for Spain here.   


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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 citizens.

Live in Spain for beautiful sunsets in Barcelona

How 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. These minimum income requirements covert to roughly $2,550 per month for a single person or $3,150 per month for a couple.

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.

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 Spanish 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 of Spanish residency. 


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Do Americans Retiring To Spain Still Pay US Taxes?

Maybe. Even after acquiring Spanish residency or citizenship, Americans abroad must file a personal income tax return every year with the IRS. 

However, Spain has a double taxation treaty with the US. To understand how to minimize your expat tax liability, speak with a tax specialist for details. 

A view of Santiago Del Teide in Spain

What Are the Requirements for a Spain Retirement Visa?

  • Spain residency applicants cannot have loans or mortgages in the United States.
  • Your Spain immigration records cannot have any irregularities (overstays, deportations, etc.).
  • 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, while living in Spain without working. 
  • Personal Statement of Purpose: A letter explaining why you are requesting the visa, where you plan to stay, and the 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. 
  • Medical insurance accepted in Spain, valid for the entire duration of your stay.

Health Insurance Requirements

You will need public or private health insurance either with a health insurance company in Spain or another medical insurance equivalent to Spain's National Health System that explicitly covers you while you are a Spanish resident.  

Will My Home Country Health Insurance Cover Me?

Most likely no. Most health insurance will not cover you for any injuries sustained outside your home country. You will either need to get Spanish medical insurance or Expat Medical Insurance.

If you retire abroad, expat health insurance is a more complete option. Expat Medical Insurance is the "normal" insurance you are familiar with to from home. Coverage is built for expats outside the US and insurance premiums are much cheaper than in the US. 

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, retirement 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, state pension, 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