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VISAS

How long does it take to get a non-lucrative visa for Spain?

Spain's non-lucrative visa is one of the most popular residency options for non-EU citizens to be able to live in Spain, but how long does the application take to be processed before you can move here?

How long does it take to get a non-lucrative visa for Spain?
Applying for Spain's non-lucrative visa. Photo: Global Residence Index / Unsplash

The non-lucrative visa, or NLV as it is often referred to, is an authorisation that allows non-EU foreigners to live in Spain without working or carrying out economic activities, by demonstrating that they have sufficient financial means for themselves and, if applicable, their families.

In Spanish it’s called a ‘visado de residencia no lucrativa‘ and is often referred to as a retirement visa, as this is the best option for retirees from non-EU countries who want to spend their golden years in Spain.

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

However, those of any age can apply for the visa, as long as they meet the requirements such as having the correct amount of savings or passive income, having private health insurance, and not working while you’re in Spain. 

It may take a while to get proof of all of this and get all your documents together, but how long will it take for your application to be processed and receive a response to say if you’ve been successful or not?

When they apply, many people may have already given up or are about to give up their job back home or made plans to rent or sell their house and are anxious about how long the application will take, wanting to begin their new adventure in Spain as soon as possible.

READ ALSO: What you need to know about applying for Spain’s non-lucrative visa

In theory it takes one month

According to article 48.4 of the Immigration Regulations,the Government Delegation or Subdelegation must decide within a maximum period of 1 month from receipt of the request”.

This same law is echoed by several law firms in Spain when talking about the application time for non-lucrative visas, including Balcells Group in Barcelona, DEABOGA in Madrid and Sigma Seis Abogados in Valencia. 

In reality, it can take longer

In reality, however, many applicants are finding that they’re having to wait a lot longer than one month in order to receive a response.

Backlogs are being blamed on the Covid-19 pandemic and strikes among staff at Spanish embassies and consulates, among others, but sometimes applications are just taking a lot longer because of the number of people applying and the number of staff available. 

The amount of time you need to wait for your application to be processed seems to primarily depend on where you apply.

Waiting times for applying from the US

Those in certain US states seem to be waiting a particularly long time for their visas at the moment. 

On the Facebook Group Spanish NLV one member said: “I applied April in San Francisco and they requested our passports 5 weeks ago. I went there in person yesterday and no visa. They didn’t even have time to see the documents or open the envelopes with our passports. They apologised and said that may take 6 more weeks”. 

Another member also applying in San Francisco confirmed that they had been waiting five months for the consulate to process their visa. 

While in Florida, another member said: “We are coming up on our 6-week mark since sending our NLV applications to the Miami consulate”. 

But, as we said above, it seems to entirely depend on where you apply because some consulates are managing to process applications within the required time.

A member of the Facebook group who contacted the Chicago consulate said staff confirmed that the whole process would take exactly four weeks, while one in New York said that they had theirs processed in 2-3 weeks. 

Waiting times applying from the UK

While processing times for Brits seem to be marginally quicker than those applying from the US, it seems that they are still having to wait more than a month. 

One member of the NLV group said: “We are hoping to use Manchester and were told that the waiting time is 2 months roughly at the moment”. 

While another applying through the London consulate explained: Just had our appointment today they said it could be up to 3 months as there is a backlog in Madrid”. 

READ ALSO: How much money do Britons need to move to Spain in 2022?

Those applying from Scotland may also have to wait longer, as another member confirmed: “My partner had his appointment June 6th (has a very healthy bank balance) and STILL no visa, 12 weeks on Monday. I don’t know why it’s taking so long, you see people applying after you and they have their visas within 4 to 5 weeks”.

Our advice is to contact the consulate in your city or area of the country first to find out how long the processing might take, so you have an idea before you apply. 

Waiting to get an appointment is also causing a delay

It’s not just the processing time, which is making the whole NLV application take longer, it can sometimes can a long time just to get an appointment to go to the consulate in the first place. 

An applicant wrote on social media: “Shaking, finally got an appointment at the London Consulate for September 20th, been trying since August 16th”. 

While another confirmed: “We got our appointments for the same date and have been trying since the end of July!” 

This could add another two weeks or more to the process. But, it’s important to point out that some people get their appointments very quickly. 

One reader said that they received their appointment at the Manchester consulate after only one week, while another said they got a response in just 24 hours, offering them an appointment for the following week. 

The delay might be down to you 

A delay, however, may not only be down to the staff at the consulate, it could also be down to you.

If you haven’t provided all the necessary documentation or sorted out everything you need to such as bank statements and proof of private medical insurance, then the consulate will need to come back to you, asking for more information and creating a setback. 

It may also depend on the time of year you decide to apply for your NLV. If you apply in August for example, many staff may be on holiday. You may decide to apply in January because your new year’s resolution is to live in Spain for a year, but if many others have decided to do this at the same time, the processing time will take longer.

The best solution is to contact your local Spanish consulate several months ahead of time and ask them when the best time of year is to apply and when they receive the least amount of applications. 

One reader pointed out that consulates are processing student visas throughout the summer, up until September, so those applying for the NLV, should try after that time instead. 

Member comments

  1. I have a NLV and applied in New Zealand.
    There was no need to visit the Embassy until all the paperwork was in order which took over 2 months
    Police reports, proof of funds and long term income (pensión).
    Once deposited my visa was ready in about 5 weeks.

    I had no Contact with the Embassy staff except to pass the documents through a grill and take my passport when picking Up the visa.

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For members

RESIDENCY PERMITS

Spain vs Portugal: Which Golden Visa is better for you?

Iberian neighbours Spain and Portugal both offer the highly sought-after 'golden visa' for non-EU nationals who want to move to Europe. But what are the differences between them and which one is best suited to you?

Spain vs Portugal: Which Golden Visa is better for you?

Getting a visa or residency in a European country can feel near impossible if you’re a third-party national.

The EU’s ‘golden visa’ – sometimes known as as an investor visa – gives non-EU citizens the right to live in Europe, enjoy borderless travel within the Schengen zone, and even begin the process to gaining European citizenship if they meet several criteria.

This special visa is of particular interest to Britons searching for a way to move to the EU in the aftermath of Brexit, and has also proven popular with Americans, Russians, Chinese and Indian citizens who can afford it.

READ MORE: What foreigners should be aware of before applying for Spain’s Golden Visa 

What is a ‘Golden Visa?’

The golden visa is an EU immigration programme that awards residence permits in foreign countries in return for investment. It varies between countries (not all EU nations offer it), but often it involves purchasing a property of a certain value, creating a company or job opportunities, or in some instances contributing to a national development fund or investing in stocks and shares.

Two of the most popular European countries for golden visas (and for tourists and retirees in general) are Spain and Portugal. 

Since the scheme was launched back 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.

Both countries are famed for their temperate climate, beaches, culture and relaxed lifestyle, but which of the golden visas is better: Spain’s or Portugal’s?

See below for the minimum investment needed; the type of investments you can make; how long it takes to get citizenship; whether the golden visa gives you free travel around the Schengen area; how long the application takes; the rules on residency, and how long you must spend in the country; and whether family members are included.

The facts

  Spain Portugal
Minimum investment required €500,000 €250,000
Type of investment Property over €500,000; €1 million in a Spanish company; €1 million in a Spanish bank account; at least €2 million in Spanish public debt securities. Property over €500,000 or urban renovation of €350,000; business startup creating at least 10 jobs; capital transfer of €1.5 million; research and development investment of €500,000; €250,000 contribution in the arts. 
Citizenship timeline 10 years 5 years
Schengen Travel? Yes Yes
Application time 20 business days processing once documentation is received; 2/3 months in total. 3-6 months
Residency rules Must visit Spain once a year. 1 week for the first year; 14 days every 2 years after.
Family included? Partner, dependents and children (under 18). Partner, dependents, children, parents of the main applicant if over the age of 65 years old (under 18 or dependent and unmarried children who are under 26 and in full-time education).

Changes to Portuguese Golden Visa

New visa rules came into effect in Portugal from January 1st 2022. These have mainly increased some of the minimum investment thresholds (but not the arts investment, which at €250,000 remains the cheapest route to a golden visa for either Portugal or Spain) and have changed some of the geographic requirements for property investment.

Keen to stimulate investment in the less touristy parts of Portugal, buying a residential property in big urban centres such as Lisbon or Porto or in the popular coastal regions such as the Algarve are no longer sufficient to qualify for a golden visa.

As of 2022, property investments must be in Madeira, Azores, or Portuguese inland regions and rural or low-density areas. In such areas, a 20 percent discount on the investment is offered.

You can find the full geographical breakdown of investment areas here, although be warned the text is in Portuguese. 

In Spain 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 extra costs

Besides parting ways with half a million Euros to get a visa, both Spain and Portugal require some hefty application fees for the scheme.

Fee Spain Portugal
Application €70 per applicant €80 per applicant
Approval €5,000 per applicant €5,857 per applicant
Renewals €3,000 per visa holder €3,195 per visa holder
     

Tax benefits

One advantage of the Portuguese Golden Visa scheme is its tax rules.

Portugal’s Golden Visa program offers the ultimate tax advantage. Golden Visa holders are eligible for Portugal’s NHR Tax Scheme, a system that grants tax-exemptions for up to ten years.

Exemptions include income obtained from pensions, capital, income from property and capital gains, intellectual property and industrial property. The property tax transfer system means that Golden Visa holders pay the same rates as local residents.

In Spain, all foreign residents are taxed on their ‘worldwide income’ if they are in Spain for more than 183 days a year. For non-residents, tax is charged at 24.75 percent on income earned in Spain.

Getting the golden visa, however, 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.

READ MORE: Property in Spain: Is now a good time to buy a home? 

The golden visa is retroactive in Spain

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 in Spain. 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.

You cannot, however, use a mortgage loan or financing for your investments. This cannot be done through a mortgage company or a loan, and must be from your own pocket.

Conclusion

Portugal and Spain’s golden visa schemes offer fantastic opportunities to relocate to an EU member state.

Both offer you the chance to enjoy borderless travel in EU member states, but they both also require you to have a significant amount of money saved up in order to invest it in property, renovation, shares, capital transfers, or debit securities.

If you’re concerned about taxes, perhaps the benefits of the Portuguese visa might entice you. It is worth remembering, though, that the recent changes to the Portuguese system now mean there are geographical limits on property investments meaning you can’t buy in popular areas. 

If you’re overly concerned about location, the Spanish golden visa gives you more freedom to choose where you live.

The sums for property investment are broadly similar, sitting at €500,000 in both countries, although in Portugal there are discounts for taking on renovation projects and purchasing property in sparsely populated areas which could reduce the amount of your investment quite significantly.

In Spain, the property threshold, regardless of where it is or what type of property it is, is a flat €500,000.

Both golden visas have very little in terms of residency requirements, although in Portugal the time to gaining citizenship is just 5 years, half of Spain’s 10-year wait. With the golden visa, in Spain you can obtain permanent residency after five years.

If you’re still undecided, the article below may help you pick between Portugal and Spain.

READ MORE: Portugal vs Spain – Which country is better to move to?

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