Visas For Members

EXPLAINED: When you can exchange visas in Spain

Esme Fox
Esme Fox - [email protected]
EXPLAINED: When you can exchange visas in Spain
How to exchange visa for another in Spain? Photo: Yan Krukau / Pexels

There are several different types of visas and residency permits you can get to be able to live and work in Spain, but what happens when your situation changes and you want to exchange your visa for a different one?


There are many different reasons you may want to exchange the type of visa or residency permit you have. Perhaps you're on a student visa and have completed your studies, but still want to be able to stay in Spain. Or maybe you've been on a one-year non-lucrative visa, but can no longer afford not to work and want to exchange it for one where you're allowed to work. 

Read on to find out which visas are possible to exchange and which are not. 

Student Visa to Digital Nomad Visa 

The simple answer is yes, it is possible to exchange your student visa for the new Digital Nomad Visa (DNV) that first became available last year. This will, however, depend on your individual circumstances and what job you plan on doing.

Firstly, in order to apply for DNV you must either have a degree from the field you want to work remotely in or have three years’ work experience in that industry. If you’ve just finished your studies this could be possible, but if you were studying something different, it could prove difficult.

If you are an older student, you could definitely have three years’ work experience in the industry you want to work in or you may have gained the experience working part-time in Spain while on your student visa.

Secondly, you must make sure you have worked for the company that hired you for a remote role for a minimum of three months before you apply for the DNV. The main caveat is that the company has to be registered outside of Spain as you are not eligible for the DNV if more than 20 percent of your income comes from inside Spain. This means that you will have to secure a remote job in another country while still on your student visa, making sure that you stick to the 30 hours a week you’re allowed to work.


Non-Lucrative Visa to Work Permit or Self-Employed

Being in Spain on the Non-Lucrative Visa or NLV can prove to be expensive because you’re not allowed to work, but have to prove you have a significant amount of savings or passive income. If you want to stay in Spain, beyond the initial year, you may be considering a different residency permit. Luckily, you can exchange it for a work permit or self-employed permit in a process called residence modification.

During your last few months on the non-lucrative visa, you are able to apply for jobs in Spain, which may give you the possibility of being granted a work permit. There are many prerequisites, including having lived in Spain for a year and being offered a pre-employment contract.

You could also decide to become self-employed at set up your own business. In order to do this you will need to meet the requirements that current legislation requires for opening and operating your chosen business. You will also need to sign up to the autónomo system, pay your own social security fees and submit your taxes five times a year.

READ ALSO: Should I change my non-lucrative visa for another residency permit in Spain?


Student Visa to Work Permit or Self-Employed

If you’re living in Spain on a student visa, then it’s relatively straightforward to exchange it for a work permit or become self-employed, if you want to be able to stay longer. The main requirement is that you have to have lived in Spain for three consecutive years, before you exchange it. This means, it’s really only possible for those who are doing a long-term course, such as a degree at a Spanish university. If you’re simply here for a year doing a language course, then it won’t be possible.

If you have been here for three years on a student visa, you have two options – the first is to find a job and become an employee by getting a work permit and the second is to become self-employed. If you opt for the first, the easiest way is to get a job offer and apply for the permit that way. Because you’ve already had a student visa and been here three years, it will be easier for companies to hire you as they won’t have to prove that there isn’t anyone from Spain or the EU that can do it first or that they have a shortage of professionals who can carry it out.

If you want to exchange it for a self-employment permit, you will have to present a business plan in order to get approval and prove you have the correct qualifications and experience to carry it out. If approved, then you will typically sign up to the autónomo system.


Student Visa to Entrepreneur Visa

Student visas are the easiest visas to modify in Spain, meaning you have many different options to exchange them if you want to stay longer. The Entrepreneur Visa - Visado de Emprendedor is another option that will allow you to stay for a period of three years (with the option of exchanging or extending). It is, however, slightly more complicated to exchange to than simply getting a work permit or becoming self-employed.

The Entrepreneur Visa is especially for those who want to set up a business considered to be innovative with a special economic interest for Spain. Unlike becoming just an autónomo, you must agree to be able to create employment opportunities for locals in the future. You could also in theory exchange your NLV for an entrepreneur visa too, provided you can prove that you haven’t done any work while you’ve been living in Spain for the year on your NLV.

Non-Lucrative Visa to Digital Nomad Visa

It may sound confusing, but you can now actually exchange your NLV for a DNV too. Even though you are not allowed to work while on the NLV, you can actually decide to change it for a DNV, so that you will be allowed to work remotely either for a company or for yourself via clients. The Unidad de Grandes Empresas (UGE), the body that deals directly with DNV applications, has confirmed this is possible and The Local has heard of people who have successfully done this too. The only thing to remember is that no more than 20 percent of your income can come from inside Spain once you change over. 


Comments (1)

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James Blick 2024/04/30 21:53
Unless something has changed, the UGE confirmed in a live presentation that you can change from NLV to DNV. Doesn’t make a lot of sense for the reasons you state, but I suspect they’re being pragmatic and letting people who were working on the NLV regularise their situation.

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