COVID Update September 2020: These answers are based on pre-COVID-19 procedures. As COVID continues to re-shape our reality, consulates have been making adjustments. Assuming they don’t shut down visa applications altogether, some of these work to your advantage. For example, several consulates are taking applications by email, instead of in person. But that too could change at anytime. If you’re preparing a non lucrative visa application, regularly check your consulate’s website for updates.
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.” If you can meet the income requirement, the non lucrative visa will likely be your easiest path to move to Spain. 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.
Can I apply for the Non Lucrative Visa in Spain? No, you must apply in the country where you currently permanently reside.
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? This will vary by consulate. I created individual consulate instruction pages linking to that consulate’s appointment scheduler. Make one, and only one, appointment for each applicant.
COVID Update: Some consulates are now taking visa applications by email (to minimize face to face contact). Check with your consulate.
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.
COVID UPDATE: Procedures are changing in this regard. Several consulates that normally require in person appointments are now accepting applications by email. They review all your docs. If they’re order, they email you with an appointment time to come pick up your visas! Check with the consulate. Keep checking your consulate website for updates.
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 minor children 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 appointment, 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. You might then be banned for six months or a year before you can try to schedule another appointment.
When should I apply for my visa? No earlier than 90 days before your desired arrival date in Spain.
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).
However, Spain has additional honorary vice consulates scattered throughout the country. If you live far away from the consulate where must apply, there’s a good chance you live near one of these vice consulates. You might be able to have your passports returned by mail to the vice consulate office. Ask the interviewer at your appointment.
How long does it take until I hear if our application has been approved? Depends on the consulate. Some are fast, like two to three weeks. Others more like two to three months. Average time tends to run about six weeks. Find your consulate’s stated resolution time in the instructions page for your consulate. You can also ask about this at your appointment.
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, no waiting periods, 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? Only if your American company is legally authorized to operate in Spain. Regardless, you’ll have a much easier time proving you’ve met this requirement for your application by going with a Spanish health insurer. Plus, using the policy benefits will be easier.
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, signed, dated and sealed with his or her physician’s stamp. It should be dated no more than 3 months before your appointment. If you’re doctor is willing to issue their letter in Spanish, you’ll save yourself a page of translation costs.
We’ve already had our physicals for the year. Do I need to see our doctor(s) again to obtain the certificate? No, so long as your doctor is willing to date the letter so that it’s not older than three months at the time of your appointment. There’s no 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 doctor 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, that’s fine. But make sure their statement specifies you pose no threats to human health per “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. For 2020, the minimum required posted by the consulate of Houston is 26,333 euros (or equivalent in US dollars) annually for the primary applicant and 6,583 euros annually for each dependent applicant. All the other consulates state the equivalent in USD of 25,816 euros annual for primary applicant and 6,992 annually for each dependent. The consulate always has the right to ask for additional proof. 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? Technically, no, though this wasn’t always the case, and is in theory, still a grey area. As of 2020, plan on needing to prove financial means without any type of remote work income or paid sabbatical.
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. You can’t apply for your visa more than 90 days in advance of your desired departure date. But the processing time can take a month or more. If you wait until the visa is approved, you may be forced to buy your tickets last minute (at a premium price). If you see a good airfare deal while still waiting on your visa, you might just go for it and roll with the punches in the event you’re not approved.
What is an Apostille: The Apostille of the Hague is an official stamp (certificate) you obtain for government issued documents only. The Apostille makes these documents legally recognized for use in other countries. In the US, Apostilles for state issued documents, such as marriage and birth certificates, are obtained by that state’s department of state. Documents such as FBI background checks, which come from the federal government, get an Apostille from the US Department of State.
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 Translation? A translated document accompanied by a signed statement from the translator attesting to the translation’s accuracy. In the US, there are no federal or state certifications for translators, though several private organizations do award certifications for translators meeting their standards. Certified translations are accepted for non lucrative visa applications by all the US based Spanish consulates except the Consulate of Spain in Los Angeles.
What is a Sworn Translation? A Sworn Translator is 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. The US does not offer such a distinction at either the state or federal level. As of 2020, the Spanish Consulate in Los Angeles will only accept translations by sworn translators registered by the Spanish government. A sworn translation will include the fully translated text and a copy of the original text. Each translated page will be signed, dated and stamped by the translator using their officially issued seal. 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 the certificates and documents you supply in your application be no older than 3 months on 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 government 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 Sworn Translator? Your documents may not be recognized, either during the initial application process 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.