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SECOND HOMES

Reader question: Can second-home owners get a residence permit in Spain?

Does owning a property in Spain automatically give you the right to Spanish residency? Or is the process at least made easier? Here's what foreign second-home owners in Spain need to know.

two retirees jog on a beach in the morning
Does having a property in Spain make it easier in terms of getting residency? Photo: Arek Socha/Pixabay

In a nutshell, does Spanish property grant Spanish residency?

No, not automatically.

There are different factors to consider, such as nationality, the type of permit, or the value of the property, but owning a Spanish home in itself doesn’t immediately give a second home owner the right to Spanish residency.

EU or non-EU: Why nationality matters

EU/EEA and Switzerland

Spain’s Interior Ministry makes no mention of property ownership being a justifiable reason for EU nationals to gain residency in the country. 

But EU/EEA and Swiss nationals can apply for residency in Spain irrespective of whether they own a property in the country or not. 

Most enjoy the benefits of free movement and therefore don’t have to abide by the 90 out of 180 days rule within the Schengen Area. 

Technically after three months in Spain, EU second home owners are supposed to apply for Spanish residency, but this is not monitored in the same way as it is for non-EU nationals. 

They have the right to residence in Spain if they have a job or are self-employed here, they’re students, their partners are Spanish nationals or residents, or they have enough financial means/private medical cover to support themselves and their families in Spain. 

Other conditions are lenient, such as the fact that even if EU/EEA nationals lose their jobs in Spain, they can hold on to residency in most cases.

In any case, they are expected to go to their local Extranjería (migration) office before that first 90-day period in Spain has elapsed to register their details and provide proof of their status and address.

If they provide the necessary proof and documents, they will be “immediately” issued with a Certificado de Registro de Ciudadano de la Unión, (the green residency document that Britons also used to get) which indicates that not much scrutiny is involved.

In fact, in accordance with art. 15 of Spain’s Royal Decree 240/2007, “the residence, entry or permanence of a citizen of the European Union in Spain may only be denied when there are reasons of public safety, public order or public health”.

So although EU nationals should register as residents and do have to provide some documentation if they intend to stay, in many ways it seems to be just a formality by Spanish authorities to have a record of EU nationals living in their country. 

Non-EU

Non-EU/EEA/Swiss nationals second home owners in Spain can also apply for residency, but the requirements are generally much stricter and painstaking.

If they want to apply for a residency permit through a job, they should keep in mind that Spanish employers have to first prove there were no suitable EU candidates available for the position.

If they want to apply for residency through a self-employment visa, they’ll have to present a detailed business plan which is assessed by a panel of experts, set up a business which creates jobs and more. 

If they want to apply by harnessing their financial means, the non-lucrative visa is the best option for them, although a non-EU couple would have to show they had an annual income of €33,894, more than three times EU/EEA/Swiss nationals have to show to gain residency – €10,167. 

Spain’s non-lucrative visa also doesn’t allow holders to work, and they’ll have to take out comprehensive private medical insurance with no co-payments.

READ ALSO:

Can owning a property in Spain help non-EU nationals with residency?

Yes it can, but the value of the property, or the added sum of several Spanish properties, has to be above €500,000. 

If non-resident second home owners wished to apply for residency by harnessing their Spanish property/ies, they’d have to do so through Spain’s golden visa. 

houses in the asturias town of potes
Buying property in Spain worth €500,000+ is the one way second home owners can harness their Spanish home to get residency. Photo: The Asturian town of Potes in northern Spain (Enrique/Pixabay)
 

There are other options through this visa, such as investing €2 million in public debt, buying Spanish shares worth €1million or depositing €1 million in a Spanish bank, but logically the property option is the most popular.

The scheme applies retroactively in many cases, so if second home owners bought the property/ies after September 2013, they can apply in 2021 or later.

Likewise, if a non-EU property buyer purchases a second home in Spain years later and thus holds more than €500K worth in Spanish real estate, they would be able to apply for the visa.

For second home owners who are lucky enough to be able to apply, there are plenty of perks such as securing residency  for family members, being able to work in Spain and not having to live in the country without really risking losing residency (one visit a year). 

It’s also worth noting that if second home owners spend 183+ days in Spain, they are then consider tax residents. 

You should also remember that you still need to apply for a Spanish residency card – the TIE – after getting your visa, a relatively straightforward process as you’ve already met Spain’s requirements through the approved visa.

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For members

MOVING TO SPAIN

Six hard facts Americans should be aware of before moving to Spain 

There are 40,000 US nationals living in Spain but the road to residency and integration isn’t always straightforward for them. Here are six practical points Americans should factor in before embarking on a move to 'España', from work, to tax and healthcare.

Six hard facts Americans should be aware of before moving to Spain 

If you’re a US national who is considering making a move to Spain, you’ve no doubt already been captivated by all the country has to offer: the food, the people, the rhythm of life, the culture, the wine (of course), the scenery, the festivals, and so on. 

There’s a long list of quality-of-life positives that come with a move to Spain which could indeed make you happier than you are in the US. 

But before you start considering a permanent or long-term move to the country of your dreams, you should first think of the practicalities and potential downsides of such a big life change. 

MAP: Where in Spain do all the Americans live?

Above all is the fact that despite the United States’s reputation as a world leader in many regards, for the Spanish government you’re a third-country national with the same rights (or lack thereof) as any other non-EU national, from a Chinese person, to an Australian or an Indian citizen.

This is the crux of the matter, and a factor which will influence most of the important points to be aware of that we will now list.

Finding work or building a career isn’t easy

You’ll no doubt already know that Spain is renowned for its high unemployment rate, unstable work market and relatively low wages, but as a non-EU national there is an added set of obstacles to consider.

Firstly, applying for residency through a contract job is near impossible. Spanish employers would have to first demonstrate that they have been unable to find a suitable EU candidate for the position before being able to sponsor/hire you. 

Alternatively, you’d have to have the skills and experience which are included in Spain’s shortage occupation list, but this is made up almost entirely of jobs in the maritime and shipping industry.

It is true that Spain is set to make it easier to recruit non-EU foreigners to cover some of its most pressing labour shortages, but these are mainly in the tourism, hospitality and agricultural sectors.

Then there’s the nightmare non-EU foreigners in regulated professions are currently enduring – think doctors, dentists, engineers, lawyers and so on – as the validation of their qualifications (known as homologación) is a pricy and convoluted process which takes at least three years. Others who need to have their qualifications verified for non-regulated professions (known as equivalencia) will have to wait two years on average.

With that in mind, setting up your own business might be one of the best bets to make a living for yourself and gain Spanish residency. This self-employed work visa is also a bit arduous as you’ll need proof of financial means and a business plan among other requirements, but on the whole it’s probably one of the most feasible residency options.

The Spanish government did announce an upcoming Startups Law and digital nomad visa in 2021, legislation which could indeed make it easier for Americans to remote work from Spain, but it isn’t clear yet when this will be approved.

A final option is that of becoming an English-language assistant at a Spanish school. It’s an easy way to get into Spain, it offers decent pay for the few hours you’re required to work and it can be a stepping stone to other work goals from within Spain.  

You need a lot of money to ‘buy’ Spanish residency

If you’re retired or don’t plan to work in Spain, then you’ll need to show you have the financial means to cover your costs. 

This can best be done through Spain’s non-lucrative visa or the so-called golden visa. 

As the name suggests, the non-lucrative visa (NLV) is a residency permit which doesn’t allow you to work in Spain or technically carry out professional activities you have abroad from Spain.

A US national wanting to apply for the NLV for the first time in 2022 will need to prove they have €27,792 ($31,390) for one year, an amount which rises if you include other family members. You’ll have to show proof of financial means when you renew the NLV again.

You can find more in-detail information on the NLV’s financial requirements as well as a breakdown of the pros and cons in the articles linked directly below:

As for the other main option for those who won’t work in Spain – the golden visa – the main options are buying a property (or more) worth €500,000+ (the option most applicants choose) or investing €1 million in a Spanish company or having €1 million in a Spanish bank account.

READ MORE: What foreigners should be aware of before applying for Spain’s golden visa

So all in all, applying for Spanish residency as a US citizen who can’t or doesn’t want to work in Spain involves having a lot of money saved up.

Public healthcare is the standard in Spain, but access to it as an American is subject to conditions

As you hail from a country where healthcare is notoriously not available to all, you may have assumed that here in Spain, where the approach is starkly different, anyone can walk into a public hospital and receive treatment. 

And there would be nothing wrong in thinking that initially, but the truth is that access to Spain’s sanidad pública is based on social security contributions, which are paid through your taxes as a contract employee or self-employed worker.

What this means is that if you’re a US national residing in Spain you won’t automatically get access to Spain’s public healthcare system. 

In fact, if you’re applying for the NLV or golden visa, you will have to take out comprehensive private health insurance for your application to be accepted, something which can be difficult and costly if you have pre-existing conditions.

You should also keep in mind that there’s a scheme called the “convenio especial” (special agreement) which allows foreigners who have been registered as residents in Spain for a year to pay a monthly sum into the country’s public health system to have access to it.

Under 65s pay a fixed monthly fee of €60 per month and over 65s pay €157 per month to obtain full cover through Spain’s public health system.

You’ll have to resit your driving exam again

The US is for the most part a nation of drivers. In Spain, if you live in a town or city you will be able to move around easily on foot or by using the country’s efficient public transport network.

However, if your intention is to buy a car and continue driving in Spain, keep in mind that after six months of residency in the country you will need to resit your driving exam again in Spain and get a Spanish driving licence.

Unfortunately, Spain and the United States have no mutual licence exchange agreement or recognition scheme.

READ MORE: How much does it cost to get your driving licence in Spain?

It’s certainly frustrating to think that you will have to cough up a considerable amount of money for something that you already know how to do, but on the plus side you’ll get to understand Spanish roads and driving, and possibly learn how to use a stick (gearbox) as most cars are manual in Spain.

You have to commit to living in Spain

Keep in mind that when you obtain Spanish residency, it won’t necessarily entitle you to enter and leave the country for the rest of your life, especially if you spend extended periods of time outside of Spain. Permits have to be renewed and their conditions respected.

At first you will be given temporary residency (which lasts five years) and with this permit you risk losing residency when you leave Spain for more than six months in a period of one year.

In the case of sporadic absences from Spain, the sum of these periods outside of the country during those five years of temporary residence must not exceed ten months if you intend to apply for permanent residency. 

Permanent residency is valid for ten years (you can then renew it or apply for Spanish citizenship), but you can lose your residency if you’re outside of Spain for more than 12 months continuously, or for more than 30 months during the last five years.

Only the golden visa offers more lenient rules in terms of time spent outside of Spain. 

None of this means that you can’t spend several months at a time back home in the States – in fact extenuating circumstances such as caring for a sick family member, work or study allow for a bit more time outside Spain – just keep in mind that you have keep tabs on long absences outside of Spain as a non-EU citizen.

You have to pay taxes in Spain even if you’re not working here

As a Spanish resident (someone who spends more than 183 days in a calendar year in Spain), you have to pay taxes here.

Foreign residents in Spain pay tax on their worldwide income at personal tax rates which are progressive, from 19 percent to 45 percent.

Fortunately, there is a treaty between Spain and the US which helps determine which country to pay taxes to and the tax deadlines.

Equally, if you live in Spain and own assets abroad worth more than €50,000, you have to declare all this to the Spanish taxman, through the Modelo 720.

There are plenty more tax matters to keep in mind if you have assets and/or income sources on both sides of the Atlantic (it may be worth consulting a tax expert), so just keep in mind that if you move to Spain you will have to deal with all of this complex scenario.

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