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Non-lucrative Visa Vs Digital Nomad Visa: Which Is Better To Move To Spain?

There are many different types of Spanish visa available for international citizens who want to move to Spain – whether temporarily or with the aim of becoming a Spanish resident. The Spanish visa you should apply for depends on what you intend to do in Spain, such as studying, working, or retiring.

For many years now, the non-lucrative visa has been one of the most popular options for non-EU citizens immigrating to Spain, but it does have its limitations. That’s why many people who would love to live in Spain are excited about the arrival of a new option, the digital nomad visa.

So, if you’re thinking about moving to Spain, which of these two Spanish visa types is the best choice for you? Here’s a quick guide explaining the non-lucrative visa vs the digital nomad visa to help you decide which one to apply for.

Can you work in Spain with this visa?

As the name suggests, the non-lucrative visa (NLV) is for applicants who won’t be actively earning an income or engaging in economic activity in Spain during their time there. It is open to non-EU citizens who have the means to support themselves financially, which is why it appeals to retirees and those who have sufficient passive income to live on.

However, if you want to be able to work and earn money while living in Spain, you cannot legally do this with an NLV – including remote work. On the other hand, the digital nomad visa (DNV) has been created specifically for remote workers who want to live in Spain.

The DNV is available for citizens from outside the European Union and European Economic Area who are self-employed with a location-independent business or remotely employed by companies outside of Spain, including freelancers. While they can also work remotely for Spanish companies, only up to 20% of their total income can be from companies in Spain.

How much money do you need to apply?

For both types of visa, the Spanish government will expect the applicant to prove that they have the funds to support themselves while living in Spain, so they won’t be a financial burden to the country. This will be based on passive income for the NLV and income from remote work for the DNV.

To apply for an NLV, you must have 400% or four times the IPREM (Indicador Público de Rentas de Efectos Múltiples/Public Multiple Effects Income Indicator) in Spain. This is currently around 600€ a month, meaning you would need to prove that you have at least 2,400€ a month to live on in 2023. This money must come from passive sources such as a pension, investments (e.g. dividends or rentals), annuities, or royalties.

To apply for a DNV, you must have 200% or twice the SMI (Salario Mínimo Interprofesional/Minimum Professional Salary). This is currently 1,080€ a month, which equates to 15,120€ a year with the two extra monthly payments usually paid in Spain in July and December. That means you would have to prove an income of at least 2,160€ a month or 30,240€ a year in 2023. This can be proved with payslips, tax returns, bank statements, etc.

In both cases, you will also need to prove that you have purchased private health insurance in Spain, which covers potential medical expenses for the duration of your planned stay (including emergency treatment, hospitalisation, and medical repatriation).

Can you stay in Spain indefinitely?

A non-lucrative visa is only valid for 90 days from its issue, meaning the applicant must travel to Spain and apply for their TIE (Tarjeta de Identidad de Extranjero/Foreigner Identity Card) within this time window. This will then allow you to live in Spain without working for up to 12 months, after which you can apply for a renewal lasting 2 years up to two times.

The digital nomad visa is a bit more complicated, as there are two application routes with different validity periods. If you apply from your home country, it will also be a 1-year visa with up to two 2-year renewals. However, if you apply when you’re already in Spain on a short-stay tourist visa, it will be valid for 3 years instead, with just one 2-year renewal.

Both require you to stay in Spain for a minimum of 6 months or 183 days out of the year to maintain Spanish residency. Both also allow the holder to travel freely through the Schengen zone, which includes 26 other European countries.

Can you bring your family with you to live in Spain?

Both visas allow the individual applying to bring their immediate family members with them, without having to make separate applications for different visas or family reunification – as long as you can prove sufficient income for them. This includes spouses, unmarried partners, children under 18 years old, and adult dependants within the family unit who cannot support themselves.

For the NLV, the applicant must provide evidence of sufficient passive income for themselves as explained above, plus an additional 100% of the IPREM for every relative. For example, if you wanted to bring your spouse and child to Spain, you would currently need an additional 600€ a month for each of them – so 1,200€ a month (totalling 3,600€ a month on top of your own 2,400€ a month).

For the DNV, in addition to the minimum income from remote work explained previously, the applicant must prove an additional percentage of the SMI for each family member they want to bring. This is 75% for the first dependant and 25% for each dependant after that. For example, you would need another 810€ a month for your spouse and then 270€ a month for your child (totalling  3,240€ a month combined with your own 2,160€ a month).

Do you have to pay taxes in Spain?

Yes, it’s likely that you’ll have to pay tax in Spain on either visa. Both provide a route to Spanish residency – and anyone who lives in Spain for at least 183 days or 6 months out of the tax year is classed as a Spanish tax resident.

This means liability for common taxes such as IBI (Impuesto sobre Bienes Inmuebles/Municipal Property Tax) and capital gains tax on investments and property sales. While non-residents are liable for fewer taxes and income tax only applies to their earnings within Spain, residents are taxed on their global income – though several countries have double taxation agreements to avoid the same income being taxed twice.

The standard non-resident tax rate for non-EU/EEA citizens is 24%. For Spanish residents, there are progressive income tax rates depending on earnings, which start at 19% and go up to 47%. Those who apply for the digital nomad visa could have an advantage here, as there is the option to apply for reduced non-resident income tax.

Under the RETD (Régimen Especial para Trabajadores Desplazados/Special Regime for Displaced Workers), eligible applicants could pay a reduced rate of 15% on annual income below €600,000 for up to 4 years. To be eligible, you can’t have been a resident in Spain in the previous 5 years.

Can you change the visa or apply for Spanish citizenship?

If you want to be able to change your Spanish visa instead of renewing it at the end of the first year, you can do so with a non-lucrative visa. For example, you could secure an employment contract beginning after the NLV expires, and apply for a work permit before it runs out.

You could even switch to a DNV if you set up a location-independent business as a self-employed freelancer, as another example. However, the digital nomad visa does not allow Spanish residency in the previous 5 years if you are applying for the RETD tax reduction, so you cannot switch to a DNV after living as a Spanish resident on an NLV.

If you use a DNV for a year or a few years and then wish to change to a regular work permit, you could also follow a similar route of residence modification as you would with an NLV. Of course, in either case, applying for a different type of visa will depend on whether your situation qualifies and require providing further documentary evidence.

With renewals available to extend each type of visa for up to 5 years, both provide the opportunity to become a permanent Spanish resident. If you live in Spain for at least half the year for 5 consecutive years, in addition to meeting the other requirements, you can apply for a long-term residence permit.

Long-term residency allows you to live in Spain with all the rights of a regular Spanish resident for 5 years, without having to worry about the limitations and maintenance requirements of an NLV or DNV. After meeting the minimum stay requirements in Spain for 10 consecutive years, you could take the further step of applying for Spanish citizenship if you choose.

What are the application requirements?

The application process and requirements are very similar. Both visas require a checklist of documents alongside the specific visa application form, including a valid passport, a police report showing no criminal record, proof of your finances, and a health insurance certificate.

The application fees and the exact documents required and accepted may vary, but typically all documents must all be translated into Spanish and apostilled before you can submit them.

To apply for a non-lucrative visa, you must make an appointment at a Spanish embassy or consulate in your home country, where you will submit the application and undergo an interview. You can also apply online in advance. In either case, you can expect to hear back within 2–3 months.

To apply for a digital nomad visa, you can either do the same as above and apply for a 1-year visa, or travel to Spain on a Schengen visa for tourists and then apply for a 3-year DNV once you’re in the country. The former should be processed within 20 days, and the latter almost right away.

If you apply for either visa in your home country and are approved, you’ll have to return to the embassy to collect your visa and then travel to Spain within 90 days. Once in Spain, you must apply for your TIE card within 30 days and make an appointment at the police station, where you’ll provide biometric information and receive your temporary residency documentation.

Which Spanish visa do you need to move to Spain?

There you have it – almost everything you need to know about each visa. The main takeaway is that you cannot work in Spain on a non-lucrative visa, while you can on a digital nomad visa – albeit only remotely, and 80% for companies outside of Spain.

There’s also the fact that you can apply for a DNV after travelling to Spain, while you have to apply for an NLV before you can enter the country, and there’s a reduced income tax scheme for DNV holders that isn’t available for those on an NLV.

However, with the digital nomad visa being so new, its conditions could still be subject to change. To make sure you have the latest information and choose the most appropriate Spanish visa for your personal circumstances, you should consult Spain immigration lawyers.

Not only can they provide professional legal expertise, but they could even handle your visa application on your behalf if you appoint them as your legal representative in Spain. You could have your new visa and be emigrating to Spain before you know it!

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