Many thousands of visitors to Spain have become so enamoured of it that they decide to retire or otherwise put down roots in this fair country due not only to its innate appeal but its afforability (and for many, its progressiveness). The home of Iberia Airlines offers culture ranging from prehistoric to cutting-edge modern, natural landscapes from beaches to deserts to snow-capped peaks, every style of architecture imaginable, and of course tempting gastronomic delights at every turn. And did I mention the Mediterranean climate? What’s not to like, right?
Some like it so much, in fact, that they dream of a longer stay than your average holiday can provide. For some, it might be a stint studying in one of Spain’s world-class universities; for others, the life of the working expat is very appealing; and still others, generally pensioners and people of independent means, seek to move here long-term or even permanently. If any of these describe your own aspirations, short-term or long, read on.
Study in Spain
Whether you’re looking to study the language of Cervantes in situ or get an international degree to advance your career, your first step is to get accepted into an institution of higher learning. The official Study in Spain website, developed to offer educational opportunities here for international students, provides useful resources such as lists of suitable institutions by province. Let’s say you are looking for an MBA, and you fell in love with Zaragoza on your last visit to the country. A quick click on the autonomous region of Aragón will guide you to the right institution, with links to its home page for further information.
Once accepted, you will need to apply for a visa. The Studying in Spain section of the Ministry of the Exterior website will help clarify your particular visa requirements; non-European Union citizens, for example, must obtain a visa, which will include the initial authorisation to stay in Spain. However, depending on your nationality, you may be exempt from this requirement if your stay in Spain is less than three months. If longer than six months, apart from the visa, you will also need a foreign student identity card, which you can procure at your local Foreigners Office or police station. Once you’re ready to apply for the visa, you will need to do so through your nearest Spanish embassy or consulate, which will be able to orient you as you navigate through the process, making sure to leave enough time (at least seven to 10 weeks) before the start of classes so that your papers come through on time. Note that this application must be filed in your home country, not once you’re in Spain.
Working in Spain
Perhaps the trickiest option, to work in Spain you need a work permit, and to get a work permit, first you need a job offer. That may sound like a catch-22, but it simply means that you must search for an employer willing to hire you, and your would-be employer must request authorisation for you to work legally in the country. Naturally, like most countries, Spain protects its citizens’ livelihood first, so the employer will have to prove that the job opening has been advertised and no candidates from Spain or the European Union were found to meet the requirements of the position. Clearly this is not a common occurrence, so unless you happen to work in a so-called “shortage occupation,” this may be a tall order.
If, however, you’re one of the lucky ones and authorisation is granted, you may then apply for your visa. The process may take up to eight months, but once you have your visa, it will be good for one year, renewable as long as you are still eligible under the same conditions. And if you make it to five years, there’s good news: you may apply for long-term residence.
Another Option for Telecommuters, Pensioners & Others
There’s also such a thing as a “non-lucrative residency” which allows you to live here as long as you do not gain your income from the Spanish economy. So this applies mainly to pensioners; those with a certain level of assets; or those with businesses outside Spain that generate sufficient income to meet the requirement. They may continue to oversee those businesses while in Spain, but cannot under any circumstance work for a Spanish company.
In essence, you apply for this non-working visa at your nearest Spanish embassy or consulate, filling out the appropriate forms and presenting proof of: sufficient assets or income to support yourself while in Spain; no criminal record; no contagious diseases; health-insurance coverage; and such other documents as the authorities may require. The first permit will be valid for one year, renewable twice under the same conditions for two periods of two years each. After these first five years, you may apply for long-term residence, under which you may live and work here regularly as a Spaniard.
If any of these three options sound like the way you want to spend a few months, a few years, or the rest of your life, you will also find plenty of sites and forums offering helpful tips and the chance to connect with others who have taken the same route. For a work or non-working visa you may also wish to hire a Spanish immigration lawyer who can walk you through the process, which may increase your chances of getting your visa approved – and the chance to live like a Spaniard!