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Pros and cons: What foreigners should be aware of before applying for Spain’s golden visa

Spain’s golden visa offers non-EU citizens the possibility to live in Spain. However, if you're thinking about applying and investing a sizeable amount, there are some key points to consider before deciding if it’s right for you.

Pros and cons: What foreigners should be aware of before applying for Spain's golden visa
Pros and cons for Spain's golden visa. Image: falco / Pixabay

Spain’s golden visa, sometimes referred to as an investor visa, allows non-EU citizens the right to live in Spain if they meet several requirements.

These include buying a property worth over €500,000, investing €1 million in a Spanish company or having €1 million in a Spanish bank account.

Since the scheme was launched in 2013, the number of third country nationals applying has risen every year.

In 2019, Spain issued this visa to a record 8,000 non-EU nationals, with Chinese, Russian, Indian and American investors making up the majority of applications.  

Due to Brexit, the golden visa is also one of the easiest ways that British citizens can now legally move to Spain from 2021 onwards, providing they have a lot of cash to be able to do so. 

It’s a sizeable investment for even those earning six figures every year, so before you decide whether this is the best visa or residency option for you, here is an important list of advantages and disadvantages that come with Spain’s visado dorado (golden visa). 

Pros:

  • Your family can be included on the visa
    Your spouse/partner, any children under 18 and dependent parents can also be beneficiaries of the visa and will be allowed to live in Spain with you.
  • The golden visa can be a pathway to citizenship if you live in Spain for 10 years
    The golden visa is issued for an initial period of one year, but once you’re in Spain you can apply for a residency permit for a further two years. Once this time is up, you can apply to stay for another five years. After five years, you will be eligible for permanent residency and after 10 years of residing in Spain, you will be able to apply for Spanish citizenship.
  • You and your family will be allowed to work in Spain
    The golden visa allows you and your dependents (if of legal age) to be able to get a job and work in Spain, providing local requirements are met.
  • You don’t need to live in Spain or be a tax resident here
    Getting the golden visa doesn’t mean you have to reside in Spain or spend a certain amount of time here in order to renew it. This means that you don’t have become a tax resident. The only requirement is to visit once a year to renew your permit.
  • It enables you to have freedom of movement throughout the Schengen zone
    The golden visa will allow you and your family visa-free travel throughout the Schengen area’s 26 countries.  
  • You don’t have to be physically in Spain to apply for it, but can be if you want
    You don’t have to travel to Spain to apply for the golden visa – everything can be done online or through immigration lawyers here in Spain. If you are in Spain at the time and want to apply for it, the good news is that you won’t have to leave the country before doing so. The whole process is relatively quick too. According to the Spanish government website, it will be processed within 20 working days.
  • You can buy several properties which add up to €500,000
    One option for the visa is to buy a property for €500,000 or more, but you are not required to spend it all on one property. You will still be eligible for the visa if you buy multiple properties, as long as the total amount adds up to more than €500,000.
  • The golden visa is retroactive
    This means that if you already bought a property in Spain worth over €500,000 after 2014, but didn’t apply for a golden visa at the time, it’s still possible to do it now.
  • The property can be sold once you have obtained permanent residency
    Once you have lived in Spain for more than five years and have obtained permanent residency, you are able to sell the property without forfeiting your right to reside in Spain.

Cons:

  • You need to have a lot of money and cannot use a mortgage loan or financing for your investments
    As mentioned above, to apply for the golden visa, you must have a fair amount of savings. This means investing at least €500,000 in real estate, buying shares in a Spanish company worth €1 million or having €1 million in a Spanish bank account. This cannot be done through a mortgage company or a loan, and must be from your own pocket.
  • There are cheaper golden visas in Europe
    To apply for Greece’s golden visa, you need to spend €250,000 on a property, for Malta it’s €270,000 and for Portugal it’s currently €280,000 (all of which are subject to their own conditions and regular changes).

  • You are not automatically eligible for Spain’s public health care system
    In order to apply for the golden visa, the Spanish government requires you to have private health insurance. This means that you will not automatically be eligible for the free public health care system. You may be able to benefit from this later if you get a job or become self-employed and start paying into the social security system.

  • The property has to be in one person’s name 
    If you bought a property worth €500,000, but it has you and your spouse’s name on the deeds as joint owners, then you will not be able to apply for the golden visa because you will only have €250,000 in your name. All €500,000 or more must be in one person’s name. 

  • Initially, the golden visa is only valid for one year
    When you first apply for the golden visa, you will not be granted the right to live in Spain permanently right away. You are able to exchange it for a residence permit, valid for a further two years once you’re in Spain though, and then get permanent residency after five years. 
    • You will be liable to pay property taxes on top of the €500,000
      If you are applying for the golden visa by investing in a property, you will also need to pay VAT, transfer tax and stamp duty (known as AJD in Spain) on top of the cost of the house.
    • You will be liable to pay non-resident tax on your property
      If you choose not to live in Spain, even if you don’t rent your property out, you will still be liable to pay non-resident tax on it. This will be roughly 24 percent.  
    • You may have to pay wealth tax
      Whether you decide to become a resident of Spain or not, if you get the golden visa or buy property here, you will be liable to pay wealth tax on all your worldwide assets, if they add up to more than €700.000. This includes being taxed on things such as life insurance plans, jewellery, yachts, art and antiquities. If you’re a resident in Spain, however, you will have a €300,000 tax allowance on your place of permanent residence. The percentage you are charged depends on whether you are a resident in Spain or not, but it’s typically between 2 and 2.5 percent.

    • You have to prove financial means as well

      Apart from the €500K investment in a Spanish property, you also have to prove you have sufficient financial means or income to cover your costs and your family’s. The standard financial requirement for golden visa applicants is 400 percent of the IPREM: €2,259 (£1,952) per month.

      So for a non-EU national wanting to apply for residency for himself alone through a golden visa, the amount they need to prove per year is €27,115. The permit generally lasts two years so that amounts to €54,230.

      For every family member included in the residency application it’s an extra 100 percent of the IPREM, so you need to prove you have €6,778 per year for each person, €13,556 for the two years the residency permit lasts.

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    For members

    VISAS

    Worker, retiree or investor: What type of Spanish visa do I need?

    If you’re from a non-EU country you will need a visa in order to stay in Spain for longer than 90 days, but knowing which type of permit is best for you can be tricky. Here's how to find the right one for you based on your circumstances.

    Worker, retiree or investor: What type of Spanish visa do I need?

    If you are a citizen of a non-EU country then you may benefit from the 90-day rule, allowing you to visit Spain for 90 days out of every 180 without needing a visa. Countries including the UK, USA, Canada and Australia all benefit from this rule.

    Citizens of certain countries require a visa even for a short trip – find the full list here.

    However, the tricky part comes when you want to move to Spain and spend longer than just those three months. What are your visa options, whether you want to move to Spain to retire, to work or even to set up your own business? 

    Retirees:

    The best option for retirees is to apply for the non-lucrative visa (NLV). This allows you to live in Spain for one year, but as the name suggests you are not allowed to work.

    In order to apply an applicant must show they have €27,792 at their disposal for one year (€34,740 if it’s a couple), as well as comprehensive health insurance.

    If you want to stay in Spain beyond this year, you can either renew it for a further two years (again proving you have the financial means) or change your visa for a work permit or a self-employed permit through the residence modification process.

    The NLV is also the best option for those who want to live abroad temporarily. Those who want to stay in Spain for more than three months, but are not planning on living here permanently. It’s ideal for those on a sabbatical for example who have savings or investments and who do not need to work in Spain while here, but want to stay here for a year. It’s also the best option for those who have the financial means to do so.

    READ ALSO: What are the pros and cons of Spain’s non-lucrative visa?

    retiree in Spain

    The NLV is the right visa for most non-EU retirees who want to live in Spain. Photo: pasja1000 / Pixabay

    Workers:

    If you plan on moving to Spain for work or in order to look for a job, then you will need a work permit. Unfortunately getting a work permit can be tricky because in most cases as a non-EU national, the position you apply for must be on Spain’s shortage occupation list.

    Your employer will also have to prove that there were no other suitable candidates within the EU to be able to fulfill the vacancy. This means that only highly skilled workers or those that work in industries that need workers are likely to be successful. These mostly include jobs in the maritime or fishing industries or sports coaches.

    If you are wanting to become self-employed, then the entrepreneur visa could be a good option, allowing you to live in Spain for one year in order to open up a business. Be aware however your business must be considered as anything of innovative character with special economic interest for Spain.

    You will have to prove you have the necessary qualifications to set up your business and will also have to submit your business plan to the authorities for it to be approved. The entrepreneur visa can be extended for a further two years after your initial one has been granted.

    READ ALSO: What you need to know about Spain’s visa for entrepreneurs

    Investors:

    If money is no object and you want to invest in a Spanish property then, you’ll want to apply for Spain’s golden visa. To be eligible, you must invest €500,000 before taxes in a property here. It won’t allow you to work, but it will allow you access to the entire Schengen area. This will also allow your spouse and any dependent children to move to Spain with you.

    Another option for investors is the entrepreneur visa as described above, if you want to use your investment to set up a business in Spain.

    Joining family members:

    If you happen to have a family member who is an EU citizen and lives in Spain or a non-EU relative that has residency in Spain, then you have another option. This is called the family reunification visa. However, in order to be eligible, you need to be a spouse or a dependent child and your relative must have the means to financially support you. 

    READ ALSO:

    Students:

    Enrolling on a course and applying for a student visa is one way for non-EU citizens of any age can live in Spain beyond the regular length of a tourist stay. 

    You will have to apply for a short-term or long-term student visa, depending on the length of their course. A student advantages can several advantages such as being able to work part-time or bringing over family members. 

    READ MORE: What are the pros and cons of Spain’s student visa?

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