Moving to Spain For Members

What digital nomads in Spain wish they'd known before applying

The Local Spain
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What digital nomads in Spain wish they'd known before applying
Spain's digital nomad visa is one of the most sought-after in the world currently, but how do internationals who were approved for it feel after a year in Spain? (Photo by Tolga Akmen / AFP)

It’s almost a year since Spain’s digital nomad visa was launched, so The Local has spoken to some of the early applicants to find out how their lives have been going here and what they wish they’d known before coming.


Spain’s digital nomad visa (DNV) allows the self-employed or those with a remote job from a non-EU country to come and live in Spain for between one and three years and then renew it for a further two. 

Some people are using it in the traditional nomad sense to spend a certain amount of time in Spain and then move on to somewhere else, while others are using it to try and stay here permanently and get long-term residency.

The DNV also allows for family members to join, including spouses and children, so it can be a way for the whole family to start and a new life in Spain or simply have an adventure for a few years. 

The Local spoke to three digital nomads who moved here on the DNV to see how they’ve been getting on and what they’ve learned about the process.

Learning to deal with Spanish bureaucracy

Heidi de Dios is from the Philippines and has been working remotely for 17 years. She originally considered applying for Portugal’s DNV, but when she found out Spain was launching one, she thought it would be a great chance for her to return to live in one of her favourite cities – Madrid.

“Madrid sometimes gets a bad rap for being boring, but we absolutely love the museums, parks, and the incredible food scene,” she explains.

On the other hand, she goes on to explain that living here can be a challenge. “For instance, it can take months to get a TIE appointment. And since we still don't have our TIE card, dealing with public and private institutions without it has been tricky”.

De Dios's bank even blocked her account on the same day she opened it, and required her to submit additional documents, which took them a week to approve.

“Of course, everything needs an appointment in advance, some of which take months to secure. So it can be hard to get documents processed urgently” she adds.

READ ALSO: What are the pros and cons of Spain's digital nomad visa?

Jenn Heinz Scrabeck is from the US but had been living and working remotely in Belgium. She started out here on a tourist visa and then along with her partner, applied for the DNV in April 2023. Three months later in July their visas were approved and they moved to Spain in August on a three-year residence visa.


They decided that Valencia would be their base and are generally enjoying their new lives, but have also found lots of challenges with the systems here. “We thought Belgium was bad for bureaucratic processes, but Spain gets the gold medal,” she said.

READ ALSO: Three cities in Spain voted world's best for foreign residents

To help her navigate them, she decided to hire a gestor to do everything for her, making them muy fácil as she describes.

De Dios also agrees that getting a gestor is the way to go. “I hired a gestor to handle my taxes because the process can be intimidating. I don't want to mess up and have the tax people knocking on my door,” she says.

digital nomad valencia Valencia has been ranked among the three best cities in the world for foreigners to live in. Photo: Themil/Pixabay


Getting to grasp with the taxes 

When it comes to bureaucratic processes like taxes, Nikki Martínez, who is also from the US and moved to Madrid six months ago with her partner and children, agrees that getting professional help is best. “I’m in conversation with a tax professional and still getting things sorted and figured out,” she explains.

“I feel like taxes are everyone’s big concern when they move here on the DNV,” she said. “When we came to Spain, we knew that taxes would look quite different than what we were used to and we were prepared for that to be a factor”.

Her biggest piece of advice for families wanting to come to Spain on the DNV is to “have more funds available than you think you will need.

"It’s very important to prepare for unexpected things. Because there WILL be unexpected things”.

READ MORE: Americans in Spain - Taxes, investing and cutting through the confusion

Six months into their new lives here, Nikki says that she and her family absolutely love living in Madrid, but concedes that “nothing is ever perfect, no matter where you live or where you go. There are always lessons, obstacles, new things, but so much fun to be had". 

Heinz Scrabeck meanwhile, said that her life as a digital nomad here is very easy on the self-employed front because she didn’t need to register as self-employed or have to pay social security.

“We were able to obtain a US social security certificate”, she said. “I think we got freakishly lucky as now the UGE will not accept them since there is no technical reciprocation for it.

Unfortunately, this is not normal and most digital nomads will be dealing with these issues when living here.

EXCLUSIVE: Spain clarifies which digital nomads will get lower tax rates


Finding a place to live 

Two other factors that many digital nomads have had issues with are finding accommodation and setting up the internet, two things that are essential for living and working remotely here.

“Finding an apartment without a nómina (salary) was a big hurdle,” De Dios says. “Landlords in Madrid are hesitant to rent to foreigners who don't have a Spanish work contract, which isn't possible for DNV holders like us. We had to ask a Spanish friend to be our guarantor to secure the apartment”.


Once that was sorted she also found that setting up an internet account was frustrating. “Our relocation agent had to put the account in her name since the internet company wouldn't allow us to sign up without a TIE. On the bright side, they only took two working days to install it in our apartment, which is much faster compared to my home country, where it usually takes a week or two,” she said.  

“Internet costs are quite reasonable, and the connection is pretty fast,” she adds.

Heinz Scrabeck got around the issue of accommodation by buying a boat in Barcelona and sailing it down to Valencia to use as her base. 


Dealing with the day-to-day

For Martinez, one of her biggest challenges was getting used to what bills and other costs look like and what days they come out of your account. “It’s a good idea to get really familiar with the electric bill companies and ensure you have an online account created so you know when automatic deductions will be made,” she advised. “It was new for us to have it all automatically deducted for electricity, water, gym membership etc,” she added.

“One of our first electric bills came out to over €400 and we had no idea what to expect. That amount threw us off so I texted our landlord and asked if it was typical. He told us it should be half this amount and that we should be using a lot less". 

READ ALSO: Is Spain's digital nomad visa still worth it?


Loving the public transport

All three digital nomads agree that one of the easiest parts of their move to Spain has been using public transport.

“We walk or use public transport, and the city system just works” explains De Dios. “We actually have a life after working hours, and we don't waste our weekends in traffic. We can easily step outside, grab lunch or dinner at one of the many restaurants nearby, hit the gym, or enjoy the park”.

Martinez agrees: “We’re obsessed with the bus,” she said. "It makes it so easy to get practically everywhere we need. When we first arrived we were a bit intimidated, considering that we’re originally from California, where a car is pretty much a must. Public transportation was brand new to us completely and overall it’s been so easy”.

She also loved the proximity of everything like De Dios and being able to walk everywhere. “If we need to get our dog groomed, it’s a few blocks away. If we need groceries, again just blocks away. Need a bottle of wine, just right around the corner. It’s perfect for us and what our family needed in order to spend more time together, feel connected to a community and honestly, just feel like we’re actually living life now,” she said.


Learning the language

All interviewees also agreed that learning Spanish or the local language is important to get by in their new lives here.

“Dealing with Spain's bureaucracy definitely requires a basic grasp of Spanish; don't expect people to speak English here,” De Dios said.

“Our Spanish is getting better day by day simply by using it often in our day-to-day, but we’re still working on becoming fluent,” added Martinez.

READ ALSO: Spanish legalese is so wordy most Spaniards don't understand it, study reveals


Impressions of life in Spain so far

Overall, all three of the nomads have had mostly positive experiences.  

Heinz Scrabeck said that she had fallen in love with Valencia and found the culture very easy to get used to.

“We don't have any regrets about moving,” said Martinez, and “We see ourselves here in the long term and we love it". 

“Despite the challenges, living in Madrid has been a positive experience for us, both mentally and physically,” concluded De Dios. 

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


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