We have been asked a few times “How do you apply for a Spanish Resident Visa?” Let me start by saying, it was not quick and easy. I know we applied specifically for Spain, but when researching other countries, the requirements were very similar.
Updated: As of January 2017
We have collected most of the info we have, all in one spot. Our 10 tips are still offered in this post. It is all free information to help you understan how to apply for a long-term Spanish resident visa, like the non-lucrative visa. We will help you plan and execute your Move to Spain, Just click on the image below.
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This ebook will save you hours upon hours of internet research and wading through all of the outdated and slightly incorrect information available. We keep the book up to date with the latest and greatest rules from the consulates. There is no doubt at all that it will save you time and money.
The Wild Goose Chase
We knew when making the choice to travel and live abroad, as American we were going to have an uphill battle. You see, it seems far more difficult for us to obtain residency in other countries and travel as more than a visitor. When we decided upon Spain as the location of choice for us to live, we scoured the web searching for a way to make it happen. On the Spanish Embassy website was a listing of all visas that were available to a U.S. Citizen. I found this information to be very confusing and often questioned how strict they were with the requirements. I wanted to know if we needed to meet every requirement or 90%, or what. I couldn’t find the information on-line.
I was directed several times to sites with Spanish lawyers and others that help American Expats obtain a Spanish Resident Visa. These are companies that usually help corporations with moving employees as Expats and the prices were way out of our budget. I didn’t really trust that this was the only way. Something had to be hidden somewhere. I was sure we could figure it out on our own.
I finally found a phone number for the Spanish Embassy in Washington DC and gave them a call. This was tough as they were only open to the public Monday thru Thursday from 9 AM -1 PM. I don’t know how many times, I would think to call and it was 2 PM or something. Anyway, one day I finally got through to a nice gentleman and explained what I was looking for. He said to me that it sounded like I should apply for the Non-Lucrative Spanish Resident Visa. I hadn’t heard of that and it was not on their website. He confirmed it was not something they advertised.
This gentleman was kind enough to email me the criteria for the Non-Lucrative Spanish Resident Visa, as well as a copy of the formal application. When it arrived and I read through it, and I had even more questions. It was just a Word document thrown together, but it didn’t clearly state what needed to be translated, what needed certification etc. Some items detailed it and others did not. With this type of visa, we could live in Spain without proof of Spanish roots. We would not be allowed to work and we had to meet ALL of the criteria on the check list. In a previous post, I listed the criteria.
How to apply for the Non-Lucrative Spanish Resident Visa
10 Tips to keep in mind when applying for a Spanish Resident Visa:
Alan and I did the “divide on conquer” approach with all of the legwork, so when it says “I” below, it is referring to either one of us.
Contact your local Consulate. Each consulate has slightly different rules, so I would look online, or call your local Consulate to get their requirements.
Get yourself organized. You are in for an adventure. I created a spreadsheet of each item that needed to be completed. The spreadsheet below is simplified as the one we used would not show up properly:
and for which applicant. I also kept close track on where we were in the process (to do, in progress, or complete). Even if you don’t use Excel, some sort of tool like this can really help keep you track of the status of all the documents.
- Apply in person – You must apply in person at your assigned consulate, based on the location of your U.S. address. This location is listed on the Embassy/Consulate website. I am not sure how they handle this if you are out of the country. Please verify by contacting the appropriate consulate/embassy nearest you.
- All Government documents should have a Hague Apostille (An internationally recognized seal of approval that documents are authentic). You may only obtain the Hague Apostille in the place which the document originated. (This may not be listed on the application check list, but we found it to be true. Save time and get all of the documents done.)
- (For example: we lived in North Carolina, but we were married in California). We had to obtain an original copy of our marriage certificate from California. Once that was obtained, we had to send that original back to California to have the Hague Apostille completed. This was all handled via US Post, so it was time-consuming. We could have paid for expedited shipping, but didn’t see the need.
- The children were born in North Carolina, so the Hague Apostille for their Birth Certificates was completed in North Carolina. As we were residents of this state, we also obtained the Hague Apostille for our police background checks, banking statements and other items.
- (May 2014 Update) For the documents that were not from a government agency, the documents do not need to an Apostille or notary. The only exception to that is the document where you describe the reasons for your visa request. In that case, a simple “Attestation” or “True Copy” (see example here) may be used. Your state/county may have a different name for it, but if you contact a local Notary, they should know the proper form.
- For the governmental docs, it may save you some gas or shoe leather, if you have the issuing governmental agency send the document to the Department of the Secretary of State for you. For example, our Police background checks were processed by the State Police, and mailed directly to the Secretary of State. See what options are available. It can save some time running around government agencies. Don’t be afraid to pick up the phone and call.
- (May 2014 UPDATE) All documents should be translated into Spanish. [May 2014 – Based on working through the visa process for some readers of our blog, there is a requirement (at least for some Consulates) that the translation be done by a certified translator. The Spanish government has a specific nomenclature for such a translator, and it’s called an Official Sworn Translator. Check with your local Consulate to see what they require. I find it odd that the consulates have different rules for this stuff, but it pays to do your homework. While we did not do the official translation, if you’re serious about your application being approved, it would be worth it. When I contacted the San Francisco Consulate, they provided a list of "official” translators, and non-official translators. End May 2014 Update] If you cannot translate yourself, it may be worth hiring someone to do this properly. I would not solely rely upon any of the web translators out there. We thought we would do that and then had a friend spot check the Spanish. More often than not there were several grammatical errors that needed to be corrected. Beware these are very personal documents with private info, before sending them off to be translated. Don’t take short cuts in this area! After all, you are applying to be a Resident in a Spanish-speaking country, put your best foot forward and show them you are serious and you care. You should apply in their language. One of the things that I used when translating was looking at dual-language documents. California has a wealth of state/county documents available which have English/Spanish text, so that can go a long way in getting an accurate translation.
- Should you hire a lawyer or firm to assist you? I can’t answer that, as it is entirely up to you. When I found out all that needed to be done BY ME (us), even with a lawyer or visa firm, I decided I was doing all of the work anyway. It is tedious and is like putting a puzzle together. Every item has a different lead time and is in a different location. Depending where you are currently located, it can even become more complicated. The bottom line… YOU are going to have to request your Birth, Marriage Certificate, Police Background, Medical Records and Bank Statements. If you’re going to do this yourself, make sure you are organized. Have a checklist, and double/triple-check it (see Number 8).
- What Spanish address do I use on the formal application? This is a catch 22, the application asks for your address while living in Spain, but you can’t get an address until you have a visa. We verified with the Spanish Embassy, and were advised we could put the address if we had family or friend in Spain, where we were going to live. We explained we didn’t know where we were going to live. She suggested that we put the name of the nearest “big city” to where we would like to live.
- We weren’t sure if it was better to fill in with a big city like Madrid or one near us. We were advised it is best to put as close to the location as possible.
- We filled it in with Malaga, as we planned to be on the southern coast somewhere. The reason or this is the application is actually sent to that place for approval. All applications go via Madrid to the location where the application will be living.
- There is no telling if it is faster for it to process in a bigger city or smaller one. The smaller city has more transportation time and probably a couple of extra desks to “sit” on. That said, they may have a smaller overall stack than the bigger city.
- Photocopies of all paperwork:
- I highly recommend you not only make the 2 copies required for the application, but that you also save a copy for yourself. At least scan it, so you have electronic copies. You don’t want to have to retrace any of the steps.
- When making copies, you should copy all pages. (The Apostille page with seal, the translated page and the original English copies).
- Organize your documents into complete individual sets of applications. For example (1 set for you along with 1 set of originals and 2 complete copied sets for your application.) One application with a set of all the required documents paper clipped together and the second set done the same. If there are multiple people applying, as we were, you would want all sets for the “head of household” on the top and then each complete set of 3 (1 set of originals and 2 copies) to follow.
- Financial Records – You should have records for each adult applying. If they are shared banking accounts, then these would go with the “head of household” applicant on behalf of all of the dependents. (As stated above, translate, notarize and Apostille)
- Passport photo’s – You are required to have 2 for your application, but go ahead and get a few extra if you can. If not, you will need to take more photos when you arrive. You will need 2 photos of each person for your NIE card (resident card). If you have children, they will also require passport sized photos for their school identification. If you plan to obtain an international drivers license from AAA or somewhere, you will need 2 photos for that as well. (apply for the international drivers license in the U.S. just before departure).
Some of the questions we had when we were applying:
Q1. Is only the head of household required to apply for the non-lucrative visa? Family of four (husband, wife, and two kids).
A1. Each person needs to apply for the visa in the family.
Q2. What about the Medical Certification? Does each member need to submit one?
A2. Yes, for all 4 of us. Also, the Medical Certificate has some very specific text that must be included. Make sure you understand this requirement.
Q3. Does everyone need to apply in person, or just head-of-household?
A3. All in person
Q4. Is the application cost $140 cost per person, or per family?
A4. Per person. $140 each for all 4 of us. (at the time of our applications, verify)
Q5. Is there a form for the Police Record?
A5. Need letter that we don’t have (needs to be state police or FBI). If you can get away with it, I would recommend getting something from the State Police. It’s probably a faster turnaround.
Q6. Does entire family need to supply Police Records?
A6. Only for adults
Q7. Does entire family need to be present to apply for application and pick up approved visa?
A7. It was required for us in the DC office in 2012. We have heard of different rules based on Consulate, so please check with your aligned consulate.
Example Documentation: Apostille cover letter
Good Luck to you! feel free to comment if you have any questions. Keep in mind we don’t know all of the rules or make them. We have just been through the process and can only share what we experienced.