Common Questions

Do I need a visa to live in Spain? Rules vary by nationality. American citizens may only stay in Spain, or any other EU nation, up to 90 days out of every 180 day period. Longer stays require a visa.

What is the Spanish Non Lucrative Visa? The Non Lucrative Visa for Spain allows you to live in Spain “without doing any lucrative activities.” Click here for a description of this visa and detailed steps on how to get one.

Does Spain offer other types of residency visas for Americans besides the Non Lucrative? Yes, there are many, such as the visa to retire in Spain and the Self Employment Work Visa. The Spanish Consulate in Los Angeles provides an informative overview here

Where do I apply for a visa? At the consulate with governing authority over the state in which you permanently reside. Find your consulate here. No, you may not go to another consulate just because it happens to be more convenient. 

May I apply for the Non Lucrative Visa in Spain? No, you must apply in the country where you currently permanently reside. The only possible exceptions might be if you are married to a Spaniard or other EU national or have other family ties. 

How do I find my consulate? Access the find your consulate page here.

How do I apply for a Non Lucrative Visa? First, find your consulate. Next, follow the link to the page I’ve created for that consulate. Each consulate has distinct procedures so be sure to follow the directions for your specific consulate.

Is an appointment required to apply? As of January 2018, all consulates require an appointment with the exception of Miami and Washington DC. Each of my individual consulate instruction pages provides a direct link to that consulate’s appointment scheduler. Make one, and only one, appointment for each applicant.

Must applications be made in person? Yes, for all consulates, all applicants must apply in person, including minor children. Bummer for those who must travel from far away to reach your consulate, but unavoidable.

Does each family member need her own visa? Yes. Each family member, including minor children, needs their own visa. Each will be assigned a unique NIE number (Número de Identidad de Extranjero).

Does each family member submit his own application? Families moving abroad together will apply as a unit. Designate one spouse as primary applicant. The other spouse and all children will apply as dependents on that same application.

Do I make an appointment for each member of the family, or one for all of us? One appointment, and only one, for each family member, including minor children. Try to book them back to back so you can get the whole process done in one day. Appointments fill up quickly and could require a 6 to 12 week lead time to secure one, depending on your consulate.

Can I make several appointments in order to secure them, then cancel as needed once I know I’m ready? No. Several consulates specifically state that if their system catches multiple appointments for the same person, all appointments for that person will be canceled. You’ll include your passport number with your name when you register your appointment, so yes, they’ll catch it.

When should I apply for my visa? Some consulates strictly state to apply no more than 90 days in advance. Others are a bit more flexible, but stay in that 90 day time frame.

Must I appear in person to pick up the visa once granted? This will depend on your consulate. Some offer a mail option. To take advantage of that, you’ll be required to leave your passport with the consulate during processing. For those that require pick up in person, they’ll want to see all applicants, including minor children. (Double bummer for those of required to travel far to get to our consulate).

How long does it take until I hear if our application has been approved?Depends on your consulate. Find your consulate’s stated resolution time in the instructions page for your consulate.

How do I meet the health insurance requirement? You need real health insurance. Travel insurance will not qualify. Read detailed instructions here.

How much health insurance coverage do I need? Your health insurance policy must be a zero deductible policy with no co-payments and minimum 30,000 euros of coverage. It must include routine as well as emergency health care, along with repatriation of mortal remains benefit. Read detailed instructions here.

Can I use my US insurer to meet the health insurance requirement for the visa?Yes, so long as your US provider/policy offers coverage in Spain, for the entirety of your stay, at zero deductible, minimum of 30,000 euros coverage, as well as repatriation of mortal remains.

What is a Medical Certificate and how do I obtain one? The Medical Certificate is a signed letter from your doctor stating in very specific terms that you’re not a threat to public health. It must be printed on your physician’s letterhead, bear your doctor’s original signature and sealed with his or her physician’s stamp. It should be dated no more than 3 months before your appointment.

We’ve already had our physicals for the year. Do I need to see our doctor(s) again to obtain the certificate? If your doctor is willing to date the letter to time with your appointment without requiring another visit, awesome. The date on the letter must be no older than 3 months before your application appointment. The certificate itself doesn’t need to mention the date of the exam. The date on the letter is all that matters.

What should the medical certificate include? Provide your doctors with this example, taken directly from the consulate’s website. Ask your doctor to use this exact language. If your doctor prefers to use his or her own words, make sure there is some statement specifically referencing that you pose no threats to human health as specified in the International Health Regulations of 2005. Without that language, you may have problems.

What is meant by “Sufficient Financial Resources?” This is the minimum amount of money you are required to possess/earn/receive in order to obtain the Non Lucrative Visa. Might be listed on some consulate requirements as Proof of Financial Means, Proof of Recurring Non-Working Income, and a variety of other verbiage. For 2018, the minimum required is 25,560 euros annually (or equivalent in US dollars) for the primary applicant and 6,390 euros annually for each dependent applicant. The consulate has the right to demand more. Click here for more information on proving financial means.

Can I work remotely and use the income I earn from my virtual job as part of my proof of sufficient financial resources? The Non Lucrative Visa is specifically defined as “visa which allows you to live in Spain without doing any lucrative activities.” The Spanish Consulate in Washington is the only one to specifically mention allowing remote employment. Provide clear documentation, such as a copy of your work contract or letter from your company, clearly stating the remote work agreement in place.

When should I buy plane tickets? All consulates recommend waiting until your visa has been approved before booking airfare. Depending on your consulate, this will be one of the trickier logistical pieces to manage. With the restriction by some consulates to apply no more than 90 days in advance of your desired departure date coupled with a processing time that may vary from a couple weeks to several months, if you wait until the visa is approved, you may be forced to buy your tickets last minute (at a premium price).

What is an Apostille: aka Apostille of the Hague, an Apostille Certificate is an official certificate you obtain for government issued documents so they will be legally recognized by and valid in other countries. In the US, Apostilles are issue by state government authorities for documents such as marriage and birth certificates, and by federal government authorities for documents such as FBI background checks.

How do I Get an Apostille? Find more information and links to both government issuing offices as well as private agencies legally authorized for this service.

What is a Certified Translator? aka Sworn Translator or Legal Translator, such translators are officially recognized by the nation(s) that have certified them. Their translations follow a precise protocol and are considered official and acceptable by legal authorities in that country.

What should a Certified Translation Include? The fully translated text and a copy of the original text. Each translated page will be signed and sealed (stamped) by the translator. The final page of each translated document should include a legend or an oath of the translator declaring that the sworn translation is a complete and faithful reproduction of the original.

How do I find a Certified Translator? See the resources I’ve aggregated here.

What is an issue date? The date a document was signed and stamped by the office or individual issuing the certificate. The majority, but not all, of the consulates require some or all of the certificates you supply in support of your application be no older than a certain time period, typically 3 months, before the date you apply in person at the consulate.

Private Party Channeler: Also known as FBI and Apostille Channelers, Third Party Channelers and Authorized Government Vital Statistics Service Providers. These private agencies have approval from the respective bodies they represent to process criminal background checks, secure Apostilles, or offer vital statistics retrieval services. You’ll pay a high price compared to going directly to the corresponding national or state government offices, but in return you’ll get the documents you need fast, typically 24 to 48 hours. Find links to both government and private party channels here.

What happens if I don’t use a Certified or Legal Translator? Your documents may not be recognized, either during the initial application process and/or for the subsequent residency card procedures in Spain. If you choose this path, you will need to have the translator notarize each and every translated page, a cost far outweighing any potential savings. Not worth the hassle. Find a competitively priced translator here.

I speak Spanish. May I translate my documents myself? This depends. If you’re an officially sworn translator, absolutely. If not, then you’ll need to notarize every page you translate. Though less expensive than pay per page translation, there’s still a cost, plus you run the risk that the translations might not be accepted in Spain. That said, you may submit any original documents you write yourself, such as your letter of intent, in Spanish.

If I’m able to obtain original documents in Spanish, may I do so in order to avoid translation costs? Absolutely, so long as they’re issued as ‘originals’ from the institution in question and not ‘translated copies.’ Some counties/states issue birth and marriage certificates in multilingual format. Your health insurance provider, financial institutions, physician’s offices likely can issue whatever you need in Spanish. It never hurts to ask.