Throughout 2022, we kept hearing rumours of Spain’s new digital nomad visa. But what is it, who is it for, and how should you apply for it?
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What are digital nomad visas anyway?
Digital Nomad Visas have been reshaping the world of location independent work for the past year. Across the world, countries seek to benefit from increased flexibility and mobility following the pandemic era work from home mandates.
Many tourism incomes suffered during covid. So countries began to recognise that opening up their immigration systems to longer stay guests would be smart. Especially when those visitors bring work and income with them! Countries with lower GDP, yet rich in natural resources, are highly attractive to post-lockdown knowledge-based workers.
Many of these workers do not fit historical stereotypes of digital nomads. They are often older, sometimes with families, and increasingly with more stable income and employment. That’s a win-win for the nomads and their chosen communities alike.
Digital nomads need new visa solutions
The problem for digital nomads, which has often made it difficult to stay anywhere for long, is the visa situation. Often with no clear legal right to do business from wherever they pitch up, many spent years winging it on tourist visas. A laptop carefully tucked away in their luggage around immigration control is not a stable way to live and work.
But tourist visas are frequently very short in duration, and all the time global tax treaties and data sharing has made life more uncertain for these people. Grown-up remote workers are also more likely to settle for longer, and need access to schools and healthcare, etc. Previously, to do this while working legally was frequently expensive, or practically impossible, even with the privilege of a ‘strong’ passport.
Hence, the new wave of solutions as the world unlocked, starting with Estonia’s digital nomad visa in July 2020. This offered the opportunity to stay for 12 months (and access 90 days of travel within the European Schengen zone.) A new world beckoned, as the old one unlocked. And knowledge workers had proven to their managers that they could work effectively, wherever they were.
A new world of legal remote working
Other countries followed fast, each offering slightly different terms and conditions and costs. A new competitive edge emerged, to attract different kinds of global citizens to spend time in their places. Typically, all the visa schemes have elements in common: A minimum income threshold, an application cost, and requirements such as a clean criminal record. Some are a pathway to long-term residency and even citizenship, others are strictly temporary. And of course, they’re changing all the time
Taxes and income terms for digital nomad visas
The taxes you have to pay also vary very widely as well, and require careful investigation.
Some countries who have introduced these programmes have not used the phrase digital nomad visa. So, you can get the Barbados Welcome Stamp for example, at a cost of $2000, and provided you bring an overseas income of $50,000 for the year you spend living by the Caribbean beaches. Or why not check out the Cayman Islands’ Global Citizen Concierge Programme? With over 50 countries to choose from, the world is open for remote work like never before. You decide whether you want to optimise your life for climate, tax, transport, or the colour of the sand between your toes…
In Europe, there are now a growing number of digital nomad visa programmes, some of which are more like remote work visas than true digital nomad visas, but they vary. Clearly this is highly attractive to many, including post-Brexit Brits deprived of freedom of movement and residence.
And finally, that long-term British favourite, Spain, is going to take its place among them!
Spain’s long-awaited digital nomad visa
On 21st December 2022, Ley 28/2022 was approved as part of the recent Startup Law. You can read the original state bulletin here – or, you can let us and our partners keep you informed.
This act amends several articles of the “Golden Visa” law, Ley 14/2013, designed to attract wealthy immigrants from non EU countries to Spain following the last financial crisis (yes, it’s so hard to keep up with all of them…)
The particular change we are interested in is the one that specifies that people that can come to work and live in Spain now includes international remote workers (teletrabajadores internacionales), as well as those hired as skilled specialists by Spanish enterprises.
Qualifications for Spain’s digital nomad visa
The visa will initially be valid for 1 year (assuming conditions are met including the length of any qualifying employment contract). Indications are that it might be possible to extend it for 2 more years, then apply for permanent residencia.
The terms as we understand them presently are:
- If working for an overseas company, you must have been employed by them for at least 3 months already
- The business in question must have already been trading for at least one year
- They must explicitly agree that the work can be done remotely
- You must prove some professional competence for the role in question, such as a relevant university degree or more than 3 years professional experience
- For entrepreneurs/freelancers, at least 80% of your income must come from non-Spanish clients (as the idea is to attract wealth into the country, not displace local earning potential.)
As with almost all digital nomad visas there will be a minimum income requirement. This is unconfirmed, but expected to be 4x the minimum wage in Spain, i.e. €2400/month. This will doubtless require proof, either from an employment contract or audited accounts in the case of self-employed applicants.
So, what happens now, about Spain’s digital nomad visa?
Applications will be dealt with by the Unidad de Grandes Empresas in Madrid. You can apply from Spain or from your home country. It may be possible to apply for the visa if you already live in Spain, for example under the NLV. However, if you are already tax resident in Spain and working as an employee or autónomo, you will NOT be eligible for the new visa. It is a pathway to residency, not a route to reducing personal tax.
The requirements to apply for the new visa appear to be very similar to the ones to apply as a highly qualified employee (the so-called Beckham’s law.) In other words, highly qualified is actually synonymous with highly paid!) That means favourable non-resident tax status, while living and working in Spain.
With most of the requirements now known, it is possible to start planning and preparing your application. You can plan ahead how best to comply with the various elements and submissions. Our partners at Entre Trámites are booking in free initial consultations with their immigration specialist, to answer your questions, and review your individual eligibility for the scheme.
Book this appointment early will put your application to be a digital nomad in Spain at the front of the queue. As soon as all requirements are clear, you’ll be packing your bags.
Fact checked by Entre Trámites, 05-01-2023