Relocating to Spain is a popular ambition, where the warm weather, welcoming communities, and quality of life attract thousands of expatriates every year. The Spanish economy is resilient, the culture and history are rich, and there is a wide variety of places to live, from the bright lights of Madrid to the luxurious environments of Mijas, Seville and the Basque Country.
The challenge for many UK citizens is that the post-Brexit criteria for a Spanish visa have changed dramatically. While multiple possible visa routes remain, particularly for those with professional qualifications and sought-after skills, the freedom of movement previously available to British residents as European Union citizens no longer exists.
The Spanish Residence by Investment Program, also known as the golden visa, is a scheme that permits non-EU citizens to apply for legal residency after making a qualifying investment into Spanish real estate or the economy. Let’s examine the initiative and explain how it works.
Applying for Residency by Investment in Spain
Investor visas allow non-EU nationals to secure long-term residency permits by making an eligible investment. Conditions apply, but successful applicants become legal residents and can travel visa-free throughout the Schengen Zone and relax in their new life overseas.
There are various potential investment routes, and although many opt to purchase a property, the options include:
- Purchasing qualifying real estate worth at least €500,000 (£427,000) – this could be one residence or multiple properties.
- Investing at least €1 million (£853,000) into investment funds, listed company shares or bank deposits with an institution registered within Spain.
- Investing in Spanish government bonds worth at least €2 million (£1.7 million).
The golden visa is similar to the non-lucrative residence visa, which offers a residence permit valid for two years. Applicants must prove they have the financial means to support themselves and all family members, equivalent to €2,400 (£2,048) per month and an additional €600 (£512) for each dependent – or €28,800 (£24,576) per year and upward following amendments to the visa requirements from 2024 onward.
British citizens often opt to apply for the residency by investment programme in favour of the non-lucrative visa because they already intend to purchase a home in Spain. Applying through the golden visa route may be more flexible – in either case, permits are renewable on a five-year basis and can lead to permanent residency after a minimum stay.
Advantages of Applying for a Spanish Residence Permit Via the Golden Visa
The Withdrawal Agreement between the UK and European Union made some concessions where UK nationals already living in Spain could verify their residency position or replace a temporary residency permit with a long-stay visa if they met the criteria.
Following Brexit, the visa routes available have changed, with many of the options limited to specific groups or visa applicants who fit into certain categories:
- Work permits are assessed based on the skill, salary and confirmed offer of employment the applicant can demonstrate.
- A tourist visa is time-limited and may act as a short-term temporary residence permit rather than allowing the holder to reside in Spain indefinitely.
- Spanish university students can apply for a student visa, usually linked to the duration of their course and verified by the educational establishment.
- Schengen visa routes are restricted to EU citizens and usually exclude any UK nationals or third-country applicants.
There are alternatives like the entrepreneur visa for business owners or those seeking a self-employed worker visa. Still, an investor visa is a preferable solution for many who would otherwise be ineligible – with affluent retirees frequently opting for the simplicity and ease of the golden visa.
Processing times take just 20 days on average; successful applicants can travel freely to and from Spanish borders, and they have the right to live in Spain and enter into employment or start a business in the future if they so choose. This differential separates the non-lucrative visa from the investor visa, where the former is only available to those looking for a residency permit without the ability to work or conduct commercial activities.
Provided applicants meet the conditions, purchase a qualifying property and remain compliant with the visa terms, they can apply for permanent residence authorisation and citizenship after five and ten years, respectively.
Moving to Spain With Family Members
Another benefit is that non-EU expats who qualify for residency in Spain as investors can choose to add family members to their application without needing to meet any further requirements.
The golden visa allows approved applicants to relocate with any of the following:
- A spouse or partner
- Financially dependent children – of any age
- Adult children who are full-time students
- Dependent parents of either partner or spouse
Some limitations apply, where financially dependent parents must be 65 or above, but there are few other requirements. This means non-EU citizens can obtain residency, enjoy living in Spain with their families, and secure the right to long-term residency for as many dependents as they wish.
Unlike a regular residence permit, there is no mandatory minimum stay requirement. While residents may need to have lived in Spain for a required period to be eligible for permanent residency and citizenship, they can become Spanish residents following just one in-person visit.
Long-Term Planning Following a Spanish Residency Application
There are many considerations when deciding on the appropriate visa, and much may depend on how often you plan to visit Spain and whether you feel a temporary residency permit would be relevant or require a long-term visa to live in Spain permanently or for extended periods.
It is also essential to consider how a relocation to Spain may impact your finances, irrespective of whether you anticipate remaining a UK tax resident. Residency assessments evaluate the time you spend in each country, the location of your primary residence, and other aspects such as familial ties – and becoming an ‘accidental’ tax resident is certainly possible.
The country where you are categorised as a resident for tax purposes is normally where your worldwide income is taxable. Therefore, careful analysis is required to ensure you select the right visa category and make arrangements to restructure, transfer or retain access to investments, assets and pension savings.
For more information about Spanish residency, visas, eligibility requirements, and incorporating financial planning into your move, download our free Spain Residency Guide and contact either of the Chase Buchanan teams in Spain or our UK Administration Centre.
*Information correct as at February 2024