Spain has long been a popular place for retirees, and now it’s gaining steam as a major hub for remote professionals. Most can agree that relocation to a warmer place is always a good idea if your job gives you that opportunity, and Spain is a great place to do that as it has been welcoming expats for a long time. But how easy is relocating to Spain as a foreigner?
Non-EU and British citizens must apply for a residence permit in order to work remotely from Spain. There are two main options available: a non-lucrative visa and a self-employed visa for freelancers, business owners and contractors.
Spain is a well-known destination for expats and investors, and one of the best places to spend winters in Europe. So how can you legally relocate to this beautiful Mediterranean county with your remote job in the UK? Keep reading as we discuss all the possible ways to work remotely from Spain for a UK-based company, including the legal side of it.
Working remotely in Spain for a UK based company
An increase in remote work over the past few years has made more people consider relocating to warmer and more affordable locations like Spain. By having a remote job with a UK company, one can move to Spain and still continue to pursue their career goals while enjoying a better lifestyle. The one catch for UK nationals is that since January 2021, residing in Europe has become more complicated as they need to follow strict rules in order to live in the EU.
Residence permits for remote workers in Spain
Most of you reading this article will need to apply for a Spanish residence permit in order to stay longer than 90 days.
EU/EEA citizens can stay in Spain for an unlimited amount of time. They just need to register in the city they live in.
Nationals from third countries need a visa to live and work remotely from Spain for longer than 90 days in a 180 day period. Most non-EU nationals might even need a visa for entering and staying within 90 days. Be sure to check the rules for your specific country of residence.
This doesn’t apply however to citizens of some western countries, such as the US, Australia and Canada. Citizens of those countries can work remotely in Spain for up to 90 days visa-free. After that, they should apply for residency.
Since January 1st of 2021, UK citizens have also belonged to the non-EU citizens category and need to follow special rules in order to stay and work in Spain legally. This is a result of Spain having signed a Withdrawal Agreement, where UK citizens can enjoy free movement in the EU for 90 days.
However, if UK nationals want to stay for a longer period in the country, they must also apply for a residence permit (permiso de residencia), the same way non-EU citizens have to. This is also known as applying for the TIE (tarjeta de identificación de extranjeros).
Any non-EU person is required to apply for a residence permit when spending more than 90 days in Spain during a six-month period. EU/EEA citizens can avoid this formality since they have freedom of movement in the Schengen Zone.
Which Spanish residence permit is available for non-EU and British citizens?
Unfortunately, Spain offers no remote work visa for non-EU citizens or British citizens to stay in Spain long-term. But the country is planning to introduce a special visa for digital nomads and remote workers in the near future.
For those who can’t wait and want to find a way to relocate and work remotely from Spain, you will need to maneuver through some government loopholes.
Below are two main residence options available for non-EU remote workers in Spain.
The Non-lucrative visa for non-EU and UK citizens
For most remote workers wanting to live in Spain, one loophole to stay long-term is obtaining a non-lucrative visa. The application process is quite straightforward, and you can apply from the Spanish embassy in your country of residency.
The requirements of a non-lucrative visa are easy to meet. An applicant needs to prove financial means of 27,115 EUR in a banking account and have a private health insurance policy.
This visa will give you an opportunity to stay in Spain for one year. There’s a possibility to renew it for two more years, and another two additional years after that (five in total). After five years, a person will be able to obtain a permanent residency in Spain.
However, this visa doesn’t allow an applicant to work in Spain. But at the same time, no one is prohibiting or controlling what you are doing.
In general, here are the clear benefits of a Spanish non-lucrative visa:
- You have a right to live in Spain
- You have the freedom to travel within the Schengen zone
- You will be eligible for Spanish citizenship after 10 years of uninterrupted residency in the country
- You will receive permanent residency in Spain after five years of uninterrupted stay
- Children born in Spain after one year of uninterrupted residency will be eligible for Spanish citizenship
- You are allowed to relocate with your family under this visa
How to apply for a Spanish non-lucrative visa
The application must be submitted at a Spanish embassy or consulate in your home country. The process of getting a non-lucrative visa can take between one to three months, so plan ahead. It’s recommended to apply three months before traveling to Spain.
Required documents for Spanish non-lucrative visa are:
- Proof of at least €27,115 on a bank account in your name (a bank statement for the last six months).
- Private medical insurance coverage. Note that the insurance company must be Spanish and coverage should be valid for a minimum of one year.
- Proof of accommodation in Spain or the financial means for rent.
- A certificate of good health showing you suffer from none of the diseases that bar entry to Spain.
- Proof of no criminal record in Spain or your home country or country you are residing in for the last 4 years.
- Proof that you are not prohibited from entering Schengen.
You must also translate documents (except your passport) into Spanish, and where necessary, they must be authenticated by the Hague Apostille. The translation must be made by a translation service recognized by Spain’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which will put an official stamp on the documents.
The following documents must be translated in Spanish:
- police records
- health certificate
- personal statement
- financial statements
- medical insurance
When renewing the non-lucrative residence permit, you need to fulfill the same conditions, hence present the same documents. However, you must provide financial proof of at least €54,000 when renewing your residence permit for it will be issued for two years, not one.
If you want your family to come with you under the same visa, you must present a higher amount of sufficient funds to support yourself and your family. For a single family, an applicant will need to prove an additional €6,770 in a banking account for each dependent.
Applicants must also keep in mind all limitations of the non-lucrative visa:
- It doesn’t allow you to work for a Spanish company or employer in Spain
- It doesn’t allow you to set up your own company in Spain
- It doesn’t allow you to open a branch or representative of your company in Spain
- You are not eligible to access the state healthcare system
You must also spend at least 183 days each year in Spain in order to keep a residence permit valid.
A Spanish non-lucrative visa is a good option for people who are planning to work remotely from Spain for their company or business in a foreign country, including the UK. However you must keep this in mind: some Spanish consulates might deny granting a non-lucrative visa if you state your intention to work remotely from Spain.
After you have received a non-lucrative visa, you must exchange it for a residency card in Spain because the visa will be valid only for 90 days. In whichever Spanish municipality you will reside in, you can retrieve the card there. It’s called Tarjeta de Identidad de Extranjeros (TIE), also known as Permiso de Residencia (residency card). The exchange must be done within 30 days after arrival in Spain.
NIE in Spain
After arrival in Spain, you must get an NIE number. The Foreigner Identification Number (NIE is the Spanish acronym) is an all-purpose personal identification number and tax code that is associated with all foreigners for all of their administrative official proceedings with Spanish authorities. It’s a mandatory document that foreign nationals must have in Spain, and it doesn’t expire.
You will need this number when dealing with any official procedures in Spain. For example, this number is required to buy property, buy a car, pay for utilities under your name and pay taxes.
The application must be done within 90 days after entering Spain at the Foreigners Office of the province you’ll reside in. In some cases, an NIE can be received in a Spanish Consulate abroad.
The Self-Employed visa for non-EU freelancers and contractors
The second option to reside in Spain and work remotely is to apply for a self-employed visa. This residence permit is reserved for freelancers, business owners and self-employed workers from non-EU countries. That includes the UK.
If you are working in a UK company and want to use this visa to stay in Spain, you should become a contractor. In that case, you will be operating as a freelancer from Spain and have the UK company as the main client.
Applying for the self-employment visa and its hurdles
As with the non-lucrative visa, the application must be submitted to a Spanish embassy or consulate abroad well in advance. But beware that a self-employment visa has more requirements.
Generally, an applicant must have following:
- a business plan for their corresponding idea or business activity
- enough funds for the foundation of the business
- enough funds to sustain themselves in Spain for at least one year
- a clean criminal record in the country where they have lived in the last four years
- corresponding professional qualifications if such are required for their professional activity
The required amount of funds will depend on an applicant’s type of business. Generally, the Spanish government will want to see around €100,000. With the self-employed visa, you will be liable for social security cover in Spain, hence private medical insurance isn’t required.
A self-employed visa will also allow you to live and work in Spain for a period of one year. After this, you can renew the visa for two years twice, until you reach the five-year mark for permanent residency.
Paying taxes while working remotely in Spain
Remote workers legally residing for more than 183 days in Spain need to pay taxes where they are physically located. One’s income source doesn’t play a role in this case, and their income will be taxable for worldwide income. This means that any money earned abroad will be subject to taxation.
Your income will be taxed in Spain using Model 100 of IRPF. In that case, the double taxation agreement will be applied to you in order for you to avoid paying taxes twice. While staying less than 183 days in a year, a person will only be taxed on any income generated in Spain.
Double taxation between UK and Spain
Non-EU and UK citizens can only stay in Spain for up to 90 days. After that, they need to apply for a residence permit. After spending more than 183 days in Spain, they will become tax residents.
While being an employee of a UK company and residing in Spain, you need to pay the local income taxes in Spain. Also, the double taxation agreement will apply, where you pay the taxes of Spain. Spain will give you a tax credit for your taxes paid, which you can submit to the UK so as not to pay taxes twice.
Social security while working remotely in Spain
Like income tax, the starting point is to assume that you could potentially be liable to social security in Spain since you are physically there.
Depending on your residence permit in Spain, you will either remain with your home country’s social security, or you will have to be enrolled in the Spanish system. Holders of non-lucrative visas can maintain their social security in the country of employment or origin, while people with self-employed visas must contribute to the local system.
If you are moving to Spain for the first time after the 1st of January 2021, social security is covered by the terms of the new UK-EU protocol on social security coordination.
However, in most cases, it’s not possible to remain in the UK National Insurance system if your remote working arrangement is expected to last more than two years. Hence, most remote workers in Spain will remain under UK social security for at least two years if the employer is in the UK.
Want to move to Spain as an expat?
Then get a remote job with us to live and work from Spain. Here, at Support Adventure, we hire talented people from around the world to give them the opportunity to work from anywhere, including Spain.