Converting The Non-Lucrative Visa To Self-Employment

Last modified on September 21st, 2021

For many people who want to move to Spain, the non-lucrative visa provides the best option: it’s relatively easy to obtain (assuming a person has enough savings), and can usually be acquired in less than three months. The downside of course, is that the non-lucrative visa doesn’t allow any lucrative activities, such as work. That means a person must came to Spain with the intention of living off a passive income stream (or savings), and cannot perform any activities within Spain such as working for someone else or working for his or her self.

But what happens if a person moves to Spain on the non-lucrative visa, but then wants to work? The good news is there is a procedure for it, and one I just managed to finish.

If you go to the Spanish immigration website, you will see a page dedicated to visa changes. Some of the options are to change a residency visa to one that allows you to work for others, or to a visa that allows you to work for yourself (self-employment). That latter was the option I was interested in, as I wanted to be able to start doing software development and being legally able to declare the income in Spain.

The official information page on how to convert a non-lucrative visa to one that allows for working for yourself (called cuenta propia in Spain) can be found here. It should be noted that you have pick one or the other – you are either working for someone else as an employee, or you are working for yourself, most likely as an autonomo. Also, if you are applying to make the modification during the non-lucrative visa validity period, it will just change the status of the visa, not the renewal date. If you do the process at renewal, and supply a few extra bits of paperwork, it’s possible to make the modification and renewal at the same time – I’ve been told this is risky though, since if the modification isn’t approved, you’ll likely be outside of your allowed renewal period, and lose your original visa. So that’s something to be careful of.

At the time of this writing, here were the official requirements to make this change:

  1. Have been at least a year in a residence situation. Exceptionally, they may request the modification without a period of one year having elapsed, when a need to work can be proven due to unforeseen circumstances to guarantee their subsistence.
  2. Have no criminal record in Spain
  3. Not being prohibited from entering Spain and not appearing as objectionable in the territorial space of countries with which Spain has signed an agreement in this regard.
  4. Comply with the requirements that current legislation requires for the opening and operation of the projected activity.
  5. Possess the required professional qualification or accredited experience , sufficient in the exercise of professional activity, as well as membership when required.
  6. Be able to prove that the planned investment is sufficient and the impact, where appropriate, on job creation.
  7. To be able to prove that they have sufficient financial resources for their maintenance and accommodation, after deducting those necessary for the maintenance of the activity.

So basically, you need to have been on the non-lucrative visa at least one year, that’s key. In terms of points 5,6 and 7, you basically need to show you have some type of accreditation, like a degree, and also present a business plan that shows the business will make sense economically.

In terms of the procedure, here’s what you need.

  1. You need to complete the EX-07 form. Unfortunately at this time you can’t use the online Mercurio system, so I had to complete this document manually
  2. Complete copy of your passport – I basically scanned mine page by page and made a PDF document of the entire passport
  3. Copy of the documentation showing that you possess the required training – I satisfied this by obtaining proof from my university that I had a master’s degree in engineering. I didn’t authenticate this document, but your mileage may vary. I did however get it translated by a sworn translator.
  4. Accreditation that there is sufficient financial investment – I obtained some bank statements from a bank in Spain that showed enough investment for my planned activity, in my case a few thousand euros.
  5. Project or activity to be carried out indicating the planned investment its expected profitability and, where appropriate, jobs whose creation is expected
  6. Payment of the fee – Model 790 Code 062, section 1.5, which at the time of this writing was about 201 euros.

In terms of 3, 4, and 5, the best way to have these satisfied is to engage one of the self-employment worker organizations in Spain and get them to analyze and approve your business plan. Here is a list of the organizations in Spain you can contact.

  1. National Federation of Associations of Entrepreneurs and Self-Employed Workers (ATA)
  2. Union of Professionals and Self-Employed Workers (UPTA)
  3. Intersectoral Confederation of Self-Employed of the Spanish State (CIAE)
  4. Organization of Professionals and Freelancers (OPA)
  5. Union of Associations of Self-Employed Workers and Entrepreneurs (UATAE)

I reached out to the ATA organization, and asked them what was required. They sent me templates of the business plan they wanted me to complete, along with several pages of financial information. They said it would cost roughly 60 euros, and would take a week to review once it was complete. I did contact a few of the others, and their templates were slightly different – so if you find a template somewhere, it’s better to ask the organization directly for new one.

For the business plan, I simply wrote mine in English and then paid someone to translate the entire document into Spanish. There are companies that will charge you to do a business plan in Spanish, but for me it was much cheaper to do this way. I also think everyone should write their own plan, as potential problems with your business may come to light as you create the document, and I think it’s important people go through the process themselves.

The ATA organization also wanted two letters from future clients saying they were interested in hiring me. It’s sort of a strange request in my opinion, since there’s no requirement that the people writing the letters actually hire you, but they do require it. I only provided one at first, and they emailed me to obtain another. I actually wrote these myself for two companies that wanted to hire me in Canada, and they just signed off on them. In terms of translating them, I purposefully included the Spanish and English text on the same document, and had them sign both.

One sticking point for me was that some of my documentation had some bank information in Canadian dollars. They gave me a hard time on this, and wanted me to provide some official documentation on what the exchange rate was. I thought this was a bit strange, since it’s trivial for anyone to get official exchange rates online, so I pushed back a bit (politely). In the end what they settled for is a one page document that I signed attesting to what the exchange rate was on a certain day.

Eventually they had everything they needed, and reviewed my documentation. It was approved after about a week, and they sent me a document stating as much.

One I had all the paperwork together, I prepared one massive PDF with everything. Probably prior to COVID I would have been able to go to a public office to submit it all, but the new procedure was to email all the documentation to a certain email address here in Valencia, and then wait. After about a week of receiving it, they sent me an appointment date to meet in person to look over all the documentation. That meeting lasted only five minutes, after which they gave me the official document number for my application.

I officially applied on April 14, 2021, and was under the impression the process would take three months or less. That was of course a bad assumption. One of the things I was concerned with was that my non-lucrative visa officially would expire on August 30, 2021, and was really hoping the process would be done well before that. If it went to plan, the modification would go through first, which would change my visa but not extend the date, after which I would apply for the renewal of the new visa on roughly August 30, 2021.

What actually happened though is the process took roughly five months, and after June 30, 2021, I officially became able to renew my non-lucrative visa. Unsure of what to do, I used the online Mercurio system to add the two documents necessary to renew my visa at the same time – I had no idea if this was the right thing to do, or even allowed, but I thought it worth trying.

On August 26, 2021, I received an official letter via the online system that said they required two documents from me within 7 days – the first was to go Alta on my autonomo business, which meant I needed to make it active. The second document was proof I registered for social security. I asked my accountant to do both, and she provided the documentation for me, which I then added using the Mercurio system. At this point I figured it was pretty certain the visa modification would go through, as registering for social security seems like something that’s pretty onerous to undo if they suddenly rejected it.

From that point it took roughly another three weeks, but on September 15, 2021 (five months to the day after applying), I received my final approval notification.

One thing to take note of is in the approval notification it says that you *must* email a certain email address a copy of your social security registration *before* you make an appointment for the fingerprints. I read online somewhere that when they showed up for their fingerprint appointment, they had forgotten to do that, and they were sent home. In terms of documentation for that appointment, you need to pay for the TIE card using the Mod 720, Cod 012 document, bring an up to date Padron document, your passport, current TIE card, and carné sized photos for the card.

I have my appointment next week, but I suspect it will go fine. The date the new visa is valid is from the date of the social security registration, which in my case was August 30, 2021. The card will be valid for one year I’m told, but on renewal will be valid for an additional two.

So anyways, after a five month process, I’m now officially able to work in Spain, which is great.