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What are the pros and cons of Spain’s digital nomad visa?

The Local Spain
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What are the pros and cons of Spain’s digital nomad visa?
What are the pros and cons of Spain's digital nomad visa? Photo: Matheus de Souza / Unsplash

Since Spain's digital nomad visa or DNV launched earlier this year, it's already proved to be very popular. There are however, several factors you need to keep in mind before applying. Here are the pros and cons you should be aware of.

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Spain's digital nomad visa has been available for the past few months and is part of the country's new Startups Law, aiming to attract new talent and investment.  

The application process, however, is not a straightforward one. It can be tricky to get your head around all the implications, particularly the financial ones, so it's important to know all the pros and cons of the DNV before making a final decision. 

Pros

It provides non-EU citizens with a new way of moving to Spain
Since launching earlier this year, the DNV has offered non-EU citizens another way of being able to move to Spain. Up until this year, the main options were the non-Lucrative visa, which didn’t allow you to work or the Golden Visa, which means you had to have at least €500,000 to invest in a property. Getting a work visa also proved problematic as many companies were unwilling or unable to sponsor a non-EU citizen for a visa. The new DNV means that you now have the option of moving to Spain and being able to work remotely at the same time. 

You can apply for the visa while you’re in Spain
You can apply for the visa through the Spanish embassy or consulate in your home country, but you also have the option of applying for it if you’re already in Spain. This means that you can come to Spain on holiday and check out different regions before making a decision and then apply for the DNV while you're here. Be aware, the application process can be lengthy and you may come up against various issues along the way, so you need to factor that into your time. 

It enables you to live in Spain for five years
If you apply for the DNV from your home country and are successful you will initially be granted a one-year visa. Then, when you are legally in Spain you are able to obtain a 3-year residency permit. This can be renewed for a further two years, enabling you to live here for up to five years, if you choose. 

It can be used as a pathway to permanent residency and citizenship
If your ultimate aim is to give up the nomad lifestyle and stay in Spain permanently, becoming a Spanish citizen, then the DNV can be a good way to achieve it. After you have five year’s residency in Spain as described above, you can then renew it again and apply for permanent residency. Once you have lived in Spain for 10 years or more, you are eligible to apply for citizenship. Citizens from certain places such as the Philippines or many Latin American countries only have to have residency for two years before they can apply for Spanish citizenship. 

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You can bring family members on the visa
Your spouse or civil partner and any dependent children are allowed to be included on your visa application, either jointly with you or simultaneously. In order to add a family member, you must prove that you have an extra 75 percent of the SMI or minimum wage. This currently equates to an extra €945 per month. For each additional family member after this, such as children, you will have to prove you have an extra 25 percent of the SMI, which is €315 per month. 

Your partner is allowed to work in Spain
If you have included your spouse or civil partner on your application, according to the UGE, the government organisation in charge of granting the visas, Law 14/2013 establishes that the residence permit authorises them to reside and work as either self-employed or employed.

You will be able to travel around the EU 
Once you have your visa and you're in Spain, you will be able to apply for a residency card such as the TIE. This will allow you to travel throughout the EU during the time that you're living in Spain. Keep in mind though, it won't give you the right to work or live in other EU countries, but you will be able to go for short breaks and travel around when you're not working. 

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Cons

It can be difficult to apply for
The application process is not an easy one and as it's still in its initial stages, it has also experienced lots of teething problems. Applicants complain of long wait times for responses, the need for countless documents to be translated and apostilled, and a lot more proof than was initially stated. 

READ ALSO - 'It seems impossible': The problems Spain's digital nomad visa applicants face

You may need to spend a lot on lawyer fees
As the application process is so tricky and there are so many different documents needed, many people find that they need a lawyer to help them through the process. In fact, The Local interviewed several people in the process of applying and all of them were using legal help. Most people have spent between €1,200 and €3,000 on lawyer fees, but some have spent much more. This means that as well as having to prove your financial income, you'll need to budget enough for the application process too. 

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If you work for a foreign employer you may find it's almost impossible
Citizens from certain countries, primarily the US, are having difficulty applying for the DNV if they work remotely as an employee. This is because the applicant must provide a certificate of social security coverage from their country of origin and, according to several applicants and lawyers, the US is not currently issuing these certificates because the authorities there do believe it’s appropriate for this type of visa. Getting a social security certificate from the UK is also proving difficult in many cases.

READ ALSO - INTERVIEW: 'No lawyer can guarantee you get Spain's digital nomad visa'

You may have to get your employer to agree to pay social security on your behalf
If you’re an employee of a company and your country does not have a social security agreement with Spain, your company will need to register with the Spanish social security system to obtain a contribution code and start paying it for you. This again could be a roadblock to your application being successful, because most companies will not agree to pay your social security coverage in a different country, especially if it’s not really necessary that you work from Spain.

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If you’re self-employed you will have to sign up to be autónomo
The good news is that if you’re self-employed, you should find the application process a lot easier than those who are remote workers and employees. This is because you don’t have to get permission from your company to work abroad and you will be liable for paying your own social security, so will bypass the problems above. The bad news is, however, is that you will have to sign up to be what is called an autónomo or self-employed in Spain and be liable to pay your own social security (it's a catch-22 situation). Social security payments for the self-employed are one of the most expensive in Europe and anyone earning enough to qualify for the visa will have to pay out more than €300 per month in fees, on top of taxes. There are a few small silver linings to this though. If you pay into the social security system, you will have free public healthcare, be able to get maternity or paternity pay and be contributing towards your Spanish pension (if you stay long enough).

READ ALSO: How many years do I have to work in Spain to get a pension?

You will not be eligible for the visa if the majority of your income comes from Spain
Unfortunately, if you work with lots of Spanish clients, you will not be eligible for the visa because in order for the visa to be granted, you cannot earn more than 20 percent of your income from Spain. This means that those thinking of moving to Spain and building up their client list here will not be able to do so. You must rely on your existing clients or new ones from abroad. 

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You have to prove you have consistent income and earn over a certain amount
Not everyone will be able to apply for the DNV, it will depend on how much you earn. You must prove that you have an income of at least €2,520 per month or €30,240 per year. Remember that you will also need to pay for any extra family members, possible social security, taxes, lawyer fees and possible private health insurance on top of your cost of living. If you're autónomo, you will also have to factor in paying an accountant or gestor in order to file your taxes, which you must do five times a year. This can work out to at least another €100 or more per month. 

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