Tapas Forever

Helping make the dream of moving to Spain a reality

Tag: Visa

How To Move To Spain From Canada

If you’ve found this page, chances are you’re a Canadian, looking out the window at the snow or the endless months of winter dreariness. I know, because that’s exactly what I was doing approximately a year ago when I came up with the idea of moving to Spain from Canada. And here I am now, a year later, living in the beautiful coastal city of Valencia and eating paella with new my Spanish friends. You can read about some of my reasons for moving to Spain here.

So what does it take to move to Spain? Well, since Canada isn’t a part of the European Union, it’s a bit tricky. Normally Canadians are only allowed to visit Spain (technically the Schengen Zone) for three months in every six month period. While some people thinks this resets the moment you leave, in actuality it’s a rolling six month window – if you’ve been in Spain for three months in the previously six months, then you aren’t allowed to stay longer. That’s a bit of a pain if you want to stay longer than three months.

But if you’re here, chances are you are looking for something more permanent. So I’ll give you a few of the options.

The first way to get into Spain is to have a job offer, at which point the company can sponsor a work permit for you and you can get in that way. The problem with that is most Spanish companies have to first prove that there isn’t a local who can do the job they want you for. Unless you have a unique skillset or are in demand, it might be difficult for the company to do that.

The second way is to become a student and obtain a student visa. The only problem with that is you have to go to school as a full time student. So if you want to spend most of your time in school, then that’s certainly an option. But for people who want to spend their time bouncing around Spain, or staying longer once school is over, that may or may not work for you.

Another way a person can enter into Spain is to register as a self-employed worker, or autonomo. I don’t have any experience with that personally, but you can read about how to become an autonomo on the Toronto consulate’s website. The one downside is that you immediately have to start paying into the Spanish social security system, and the taxes for an autonomo I believe are on the order of €264 per month. So if you aren’t sure you’ll have any income for a while once you become an autonomo, you should save up as you’re going to have to pay that fee each month.

The way I entered into Spain is via something called a ‘Non-Lucrative Visa’. The non-lucrative visa is a special type of visa for Spain that means a person can live here, but they cannot work. The latter part is a bit of a grey area in that it’s debatable whether or not a person can work remotely (for a company outside of Spain), but I do know some people who did get the visa while working remotely and declaring that with the Spanish consulate.

You can read the entire requirements for the Spanish non-lucrative visa here, but in short, you need to be in good health, to not have a criminal record, and to also provide proof that you can live for a year without working in Spain. While some people have successfully approved by showing income made by working for remote companies, I have heard about more people who have been rejected for that. So it’s best to be able to provide proof that you can live on your savings alone, which as of 2018 is €2151.36 per month for all 12 months (so a bank account with €25,816.32) in it.

I applied through the Toronto consulate in Canada, and surprisingly, it went rather smoothly. But in general you have to apply for a Spanish visa in your country of residence (and not within Spain). I started the process of obtaining documents for my non-lucrative visa in May of 2018, submitted the application at the start of July, and was in Spain at the end of August.

So if you are motivated and fulfil the requirements of the non-lucrative visa, you can pull it off rather quickly. If you can imagine yourself living in nearly perfect weather year-round and spending your off-time sipping cervezas or vino tinto, then perhaps moving to Spain is a great option for you – it was for me.

Arriving in Spain for the First Time

After I received my non-lucrative visa, I quickly finished closing up my life in Canada ( at least for a while ) and continued getting ready to head to Spain. I was debating a lot of different things at the time, one of which was whether or not I should bring an extra suitcase full of items I thought I might need in Spain, or to simply pack lighter and buy what I would need there. I chose to do the latter, mostly because I hate travelling with a lot of stuff.

When the time finally came, I boarded an airplane at Vancouver international airport and set off to London, UK, as my entry point into Europe. One of the things I read was that it’s really important to have documentation on when you arrived in Spain for the first time. Often they will look for proof of arrival when you go to fill out all the paperwork you will have to do when you arrive in Spain.

When I arrived in London, I approached the customs agent. She asked where I was going, and I said Spain. She then ask, “for how long?”. To which I replied “one year.” That got her to raise her eyebrow a bit, since I’m sure she’s well aware that Canadians can only spend three months at a time in the EU. I then explained that I had a long-term residency visa for Spain, which she quickly located inside my passport.

One thing I didn’t know at the time is that there are four classes of EU visas, each with a letter: A, B, C, D. Type D is one that allows you to stay for a longer period of time, and I suspect she was looking for that on the Spanish visa. When she found it (I didn’t even know it was there), she made a few notes in her computer and then asked me just some genuine questions about why I was moving to Spain, and what the process was like. She then stamped my passport and told me to enjoy myself.

I was told when I would arrive in Spain (since it would be on a flight originating from the UK) that they wouldn’t stamp my passport there again. That would mean I would need to keep my boarding pass as proof of the actual date of entry into the country. So that was my original plan.

My Passport, with stamps in the UK and in Valencia

But when I arrived in Valencia, Spain, a few hours later, there was a quick customs checkpoint. I was watching the agent there, and he wasn’t stamping any passports, so I suspect it was just a quick check to make sure everyone was legally allowed to be there. When I approached him though, I notice that he did have a stamp next to him, so I politely asked him if he would mind stamping my passport, which he happily did. So I ended up with an official EU entry stamp for Spain on the exact date my visa was valid on.

I’ve heard of other people having to go to the police station to receive official paperwork indicating the exact day they arrived, but that seems a bit excessive to me. I would think it’s enough to simply do your best to get a stamp in your passport, or worse case, keep your boarding pass and any receipts in airports along the way that have the date on them.

My first shot in Valencia, Spain

My first shot in Valencia, Spain

After 17 hours of travel, I was exhausted, but was thankful my arrival into Spain was pretty much non-eventful. The next step would involve obtaining my TIE card (which is what you need to make your residency semi-permanent), and my empadronamiento, which is the proof you need for certain government bodies to show you actually live in Spain. More on those later.

The Completed Non-Lucrative Visa Process

Yesterday I received my passport back from the Spanish consulate in Toronto – inside was my non-lucrative visa, which contains my NIE number that I’ll need in Spain. It’s possible to obtain a NIE without getting a visa (for example to buy a house), but they are issued automatically with your visa as well.

My completed non-lucrative visa

I started assembling my documents In May, and mailed my application at the end of June. It took roughly six weeks for them to process the application, and approximately one more week to send them my passport and for them to mail it back.

When I received the email saying my visa was approved and that they needed my passport, they also asked me to forward along my flight confirmation. I had a flight already in October, but decided to move it backwards and send the new flight information in. I’m glad I did since they used the date of my flight to set the start date of the visa. Had I not done that, my visa would have started in October, which meant I wouldn’t be able to fly to Spain early. So if you are doing this process, pay attention to when your flights are since your visa will likely be dated to that.

In just one week, I’ll be heading to Valencia. It would be nice to say this process is over, but there are still things I need to do in Spain upon arriving, and not all of them are easy. As you can see from the photo, the visa is only valid for a few months. What is supposed to happen is that I have to make an appointment within one month and apply for the TIE (Spanish Foreigner Card) which is what will ultimately let me stay in Spain for a year or longer. One of the requirements for the TIE though is that you have a permanent place to stay – that doesn’t really work for me since I plan to bounce around for a few months at first. I’ve been told you have to show at least a six month rental contract, which I won’t have. So this is still a problem I’m working to solve. I do know a few people in Spain, so I may see if one of them would be willing to state I’m living (i.e. couchsurfing) at their house for a while, just so I can complete the registration at the town hall.

Also, since I’m flying into London and will receive my entry stamp there, I’ve read I have to make sure I keep my boarding pass stubs for my flight to Spain to prove when I arrived there (since I won’t receive an entry stamp there). Without that they have no idea of when I actually showed up in Spain, and apparently that can cause a problem.

But I’m definitely excited to have the non-lucrative process behind me – it ended up being fairly straightforward, and despite some complaints I read online about the Toronto consulate, my experience with them was really quite good .

And It’s Off – My Completed Application Is In The Mail!

Two days ago I picked up my new passport from the office in Surrey, BC, Canada and updated the last bit of my non-lucrative application. Afterwards I went across the street and made two full copies of the entire application, one for me and one to include in the application (since most consulates say you should include duplicates).

One thing I didn’t do is submit my entire passport with the application: instead I opted to just send in a photocopy of the primary page and said in my application I will just mail it overnight as soon as they require it. I hope this doesn’t cause any issues, but with the amount of travel I do, not having my passport for three months would be difficult.

If you live in the Toronto, Ottawa or Montreal regions, you can simply go in person to start this process, and they’ll simply make a copy of your passport – when your visa is ready, they ask you to bring the passport back in and put the visa in it, usually within 24-48 hours. Unfortunately because I live in BC, Canada, I have to mail my application in to Toronto, and they ask for the passport on the website. But hopefully they’ll just process it as is and email/call me when they want me to send the original in.

I did one final check of all the documentation, then put it in an Xpresspost envelope and sent it off to the embassy in Toronto. It’s a long weekend here in Canada, which means they should receive it on Tuesday, July 3rd, at which point the clock will start ticking. My current plan is to leave for Spain on October 8th, which gives me a little over three months for them to process my application (the website says three months is typical). So I’m in good shape from a time perspective.

In terms of final costs, here’s the tally:

  • Non Lucrative application fee – $762
  • Temporary residence fee – $16.10
  • Medical exam in Spain – $80
  • Criminal record check in Canada – $80
  • Various copying at Staples – $30
  • Two-day postage from BC to Toronto – $30
  • Self-addressed envelope to return my passport – $21

So in total I’m looking at about $947 for the application. I also renewed my passport for $210 recently, and my Sanitas plan in Spain (which was a requirement for the non-lucrative visa) is about $710/year, but those have other benefits besides just this application, so I’m not including them in the direct costs. So in short, it’s not a cheap process.

Regardless, I’m happy to be done with the application process. It takes quite a bit of time to assemble everything properly, and I’m happy that time is now freed up again. With luck in a few months I’ll have a shiny new non-lucrative visa, which will allow me to live in Spain for a year or more. Wish me luck!

The Magical Non-Lucrative Visa for Spain

I’m currently in the process of applying for a non-lucrative visa to come live in Spain for a year. While there are many different visa options you can apply for to enter Spain – such as a work visa or a student visa – the non-lucrative visa is great for people who want to enjoy Spain without being a student or working locally.

The name, “non-lucrative”, basically refers to the fact that you can’t earn any money with it. Unfortunately what that means is a bit confusing (as are many other things about Spanish visas in general, but we’ll get to that shortly). Basically Spain wants you to have an income stream for a year, but not necessarily get it by doing any work (and certainly no work in Spain itself).

Some people interpret the visa to mean that you can obtain this visa while working remotely and earning money in another country. So if that’s how you interpret this (and more importantly, how your consulate interprets it), then you are fine with applying for this visa and showing an income stream in another country to satisfy the requirements.

Another way to interpret this though is that you can’t be actively working in any country while holding this visa. I tend not to share this viewpoint, since technically even if you have passive income from investments in another country (like Canada, for example), it’s still income, and would likely be included on your tax return wherever you are. But this is a point of contention because people applying for the visa, as well as the consulates themselves.

For example, here is what the Spanish consulate in Los Angeles says:

Documentation proving economic funds sufficient for the duration of residence or proof of a minimum reoccurring monthly income. The minimum amount will increase for every additional member of the family. There must be proof of significant savings and proof of re-occuring, non-working income.

So they indicate that your income, if it’s recurring, must not be from active work – in other words, this income should likely be produced from investments.

The Ottawa consulate has this to say on the matter:

Sufficient economic means at the time of the visa application, or proof of a source of regular income without having to engage in any business or professional activity in Spain, for you and your family, where applicable, for the requested period of residence

Which seems to indicate that it’s fine to work, as long as that activity isn’t in Spain.

And to add even more confusion, let’s take a look at what Toronto says:

You must prove that you have enough means to live in Spain without working for the whole period that you want to stay in Spain.

Which seems to indicate that you can’t work at all.

Confused? Hold on tight, because we’re just getting started!

I think the safest option is to simply have enough savings to support yourself without working for the entire year, at least in terms of the application process. The current guidelines say you need to have at least 2,151.00 Euros available per month, or 25,812 Euros per year. So if you have that in some form of savings such as a retirement fund, bank account, or long-term savings account, you should be fine.

Official Requirements

I hesitate to use the word ‘official’, because it seems there is no real standard as to what each consulate wants to receive in terms of this visa. But there’s sufficient overlap for most of the items, and I’ll list the primary ones here (this particular list below comes from the Ottawa consulate):

  1. A valid passport or travel document recognized by Spain with a minimum validity of one year (some consulates only need six months).
  2. If the applicant is not a Canadian citizen, he/she must provide documentation proving his/her residence status in Canada (permanent residence permit, working permit, study permit, etc.)
  3. A medical certificate issued by your family doctor worded as follows:
    “This medical certificate states that Mr./Mrs.….. does not suffer from any diseases that may have serious consequences on public health in accordance with the provisions contained in the 2005 International Health Regulations” – [Read This]
  4. A Police Check issued by the authorities of all the countries where an applicant has resided for the last 5 years, including Canada.
    NOTE: The Police Check should be issued by the RCMP and contain the fingerprints of the visa applicant. You can find information on how to obtain one here.
    We will not accept Police Checks issued by local Police Stations.
  5. Sufficient economic means at the time of the visa application, or proof of a source of regular income without having to engage in any business or professional activity in Spain, for you and your family, where applicable, for the requested period of residence…
  6. A public or private medical insurance with an insurance company authorized to operate in Spain.
  7. A completed and signed visa application form with one (1) recent full-face photograph attached to its right top corner. The photograph should be a Canadian passport size picture, in color, on a light, plain and uniform background, without dark glasses or any garment that may prevent identification of the applicant
  8. A completed and signed non-lucrative residency permit application EX-01
  9. A completed and signed permit application form Modelo 790 Codigo 052
  10. Visa fee: CAN $ 91.20 (year 2018), except when a reciprocity fee applies to other countries, such as Canada and USA. Visa processing fee for Canadians is $ CAN 762.00. Please refer to the consular fee chart for other nationalities. Only cash, money order or certified cheque payable to the “Embassy of Spain” will be accepted.
  11. Non-lucrative residence permit fee: CAN $ 16.10 (year 2018). Only cash, money order or certified cheque payable to the “Embassy of Spain” will be accepted.

I’m guessing Canada did something really bad to Spain at some point, which is why we get hit with an extra $762 reciprocity fee. We’re sorry, Spain, please don’t hate us.

I’ll update each of the above items as I work my way through the process, as there is confusion at many of the steps. In addition, at least in Canada, it’s next to impossible to get ahold of anyone either by email or telephone at any of the Spanish consulates. Which basically means you have to rely on whatever information you can find.

Some consulates seem to want everything that’s in English to be translated (officially) into Spanish, while some seem to be fine with everything being in English. In addition certain documents (such as the criminal record check) also potentially require an Apostille (legalization of a document for use in another country).

Canada never signed Hague Convention, so legalization of authentication of official documents is very cumbersome involving:

  • Obtain the official document, such as a criminal record check, from Ottawa
  • Send that document to the department of foreign affairs where they will verify that the signature on the document is legitimate and stamp the document saying it’s official.
  • Send the now stamped document to the Spanish embassy in Ottawa and have their consulate investigate the stamp on the document, and add their own stamp to verify that the stamp from the department of foreign affairs was legitimate

Only after all steps have been done will the document be considered legal and official for use in Spain. There’s confusion as to whether this is necessary at all embassies (and in fact, given that the criminal record check comes from the government, seems completely redundant to have yet another government department verify the document, at least for use in Canada), but that’s what some people seem to have to do. In the United States you’ll need to find someone to act as an Apostille for your criminal record check.

Once you gather all the required documents (and pay your fees of course) and send them to the consulate, you’ll be able to live in Spain for a full year. I’ve heard in the US it often takes less than a month to be approved, but in Canada you should expect more like three months.

I’ve also been told it’s a good idea (and a silent requirement for some consulates) to include proof of travel to Spain for after you obtain your visa. That seems a bit risky to me, since you aren’t entirely sure when your visa will be complete, but I know some consulates (namely the one in Toronto) have asked other people for it prior to approving their application. At some level it may help guarantee you get your visa back before a certain date, but the consulates also say they aren’t liable if they don’t get it back to you in time, so it’s definitely a financial risk. I’ve chosen to be an optimist, and have booked a flight back to Spain, timed to be approximately three months after the date I plan to submit my application.

Once the process is done you’ll hopefully receive your passport back with a Spanish visa inside that’s valid for 90 days. You have to get to Spain generally within a month, after which you will obtain a place to live and apply at the local police station for your residence card. Once you have the residency card, I’m told the renewal process each year is much simpler, involving only showing proof of income or proof of funds, and also proof that you stayed in Spain for at least six months each year.

Given that the residency permit is renewable twice for two years each, in theory once you obtain your non-lucrative visa you can live in Spain for up to five years. And after those five years are up you quality for permanent residency, which would start the five year clock towards becoming a Spanish citizen.

I’ll update this post as I complete each of the steps, but with luck I’ll have my non-lucrative visa in four months.

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