Visa for Spain from the USA (and Why We Chose the Non Lucrative Visa for Spain)
After traveling the world for nearly 2 years, we decided we want to switch from a nomadic short stays life style to a more hub and spoke model. While we love being nomadic and the daily adventures that come with the lifestyle, sometimes you just want to have all your belongings in one location. Specifically, Jen loves her Vitamix Blender and Food Processor (Hey, I can’t complain. She’s a great cook!).
When we were researching where to live, Spain kept coming up to the top of our list. Great food, people, weather, mountains, ocean, a lower cost of living (compared to the Pacific Northwest of the U.S.) and loads of dog friendly national parks. There was just one problem, Spain is part of the Schengen visa zone and while you can travel to Spain for a visit, the Schengen area requires a visa to be there longer than 90 days. So how does one get a visa for Spain from the USA?
There are several types of visas for US residents:
- A Working Visa – this allows you to live in Spain for up to one year and work.
- A Non Lucrative Visa – this allows you to live in Spain for one year, but not work (in Spain).
- Student Visa – you can live and study in Spain. You must be actively enrolled in a program to qualify.
- Other: there are visas like retirement and medical options. These are very specific and have special requirements.
After doing our research and consulting with a lawyer in Barcelona, we decided to go for the non lucrative Spain visa. Despite it being a “non-working visa” it has the lowest financial requirements, and though we cannot work in Spain, we can work remotely for any company in the U.S. and continue to freelance.
The working visa required an ungodly amount of more paperwork with business projections and business plans that it really wasn’t worth it.
Red Tape Galore
I’m not going to lie, getting a Spanish visa from the USA has more red tape than anything we’ve dealt with in the USA. Think the DMV x 10. It takes months to get everything in order and there is a high chance you’ll run into at least one “gotcha” moment at the consululate. Don’t believe me? Here is a hilarious parody video mocking how notoriously difficult the consulate can be when applying.
Scared yet? Don’t be, after much work, planning, and consulting with those who have successfully received a visa, we put together a comprehensive list of how to apply for and get approved for a non lucrative visa for Spain from the USA.
Before proceeding with your application, you need to consider if you can meet the financial worth requirement. The minimum amount required is 400% of the IPREM (Public Income Index, which is set yearly) currently estimated at 25,560€ (for 2018) annually plus 6,390€ for each additional family member.
A common myth is that monthly income will qualify for this, like the freelancing visa in Germany. This is incorrect. The financial requirement is defined by the liquid wealth you have in a bank account in your name. One tip we received was to apply before paying our annual taxes. This allowed us to show more money in our bank account before estimated taxes were due.
We HIGHLY recommend getting two expanding file binders that will allow you to store all your paperwork in an organized fashion. We used these Amazon Basics Expandable Binders as they come in a two pack, are inexpensive, and functional.
For reference, the newest visa requirements document as provided to us from the San Francisco Consulate can be found here.
This is the order we followed to obtain our visas. You may find a different order of operations easier. Keep in mind, the whole process can take at least 3 months, so give yourself plenty of time, especially with getting documents translated by a certified and approved translator (it can’t be your friend, the entity must be approved and registered with the Spanish government).
Step 1 – Confirm your passport is valid
This seems like a no brainer, but it happens. Your passport needs to be valid for a minimum of 1 year from the date of your application and has to have at least two blank pages. This is so the visa(s) can be affixed to your passport.
If your passport has expired or need a new one, then go to your local USPS and submit the necessary paperwork. USPS has clear directions on what it takes to get a renewal or new passport.
A birth certificate will not work in lieu of a valid passport. This is a requirement.
Step 2 – Make an appointment at your closest Spanish consulate
In the USA, there are locations in Boston, Chicago, Houston, LA, Miami, New York city, San Francisco, San Juan PR, and Washington DC. You can find the list of your closest embassy or consulate on the Embassies and Consulates page of the Spanish government.
Being in the Pacific Northwest, we made an appointment with the San Francisco consulate. You must have an appointment for every person applying. Since Jen and I were both applying, even as a married couple, we needed to request two appointments on the San Francisco Appointment page.
Appointments are booked months in advance, so make sure you do this before you start the paperwork.
Step 3 – Police criminal records
This is one of the most confusing and painful steps of the whole process. It also can take the longest and that’s why it is the first step in acquiring the proper documentation. If you’re not from the USA, then you’ll need to have your FBI equivalent complete the criminal records portion.
If you have lived in the same country for 5 years, then you only need FBI records from the USA or home country. Our nomadic lifestyle didn’t qualify as living in another country despite getting visas in our passports.
- Go to your local police department and get fingerprints completed for each applicant. It cost us $10 for each copy. You’ll want to get two copies for each person. Make sure to confirm when your local police department is open and offers fingerprinting, as it is typically not done every day.
- Once you get your prints, use a Channeler who will send your finger prints to the FBI for your records. We used IDVetting.com and I highly recommend them. It was $55 and you can sign up and pay online, print out the documentation, and drop off the records in the mail. Plus, it includes 2-day FedEx shipping back to you. Average time to receive records is 2 to 3 days.
- Upon receipt from the Channeler, you’ll need to send your FBI records to the US State Department in Washington D.C. for Apostilling. We used USApostille.com. It was $50 per request, so for Jen and me it was $100. We filled out this form and sent our FBI records in the mail to their Washington D.C. office. Lead time is 4 days. They required us to send a check in the mail, but on their website they list that they take credit cards.
Upon receipt of your U.S. Apostille stamped FBI records, you’re all done with the criminal records piece. File the paperwork in your binder and mark “ready for translation.” You’ll send these documents as a batch for Spanish translating later.
Step 4 – Medical certificate
You’ll need to get your doctor or any doctor to sign off that you’re not a walking plague. Make an appointment with your doctor, and bring this Health Certificate form. This was provided by the Spanish consulate via email to us.
You MUST HAVE THE DOCTOR SIGN “MD” after their name in both the English and Spanish sections. Long story short, we had to resubmit our medical certificates a second time after visiting the Spanish consulate and submitting our initial paperwork. Why? Our doctor signatures didn’t include“MD” after their names, so how could the consulate be sure they were actually a doctor and not a nurse, despite a stamp. Red. Tape. Galore.
Step 5 – Marriage certificate
If applying as a married couple, you’ll need a marriage certificate authenticated by the Apostille of The Hague from your state, not the federal US State Department. Since each state handles their own apostille, you’ll need to research your state. In our case, we sent a new marriage certificate to the Secretary of the state of Washington in Olympia. We had to pay by check $15 for each copy (always get two copies) and it took about 7 days.
Upon receipt, file the apostilled marriage certificate in your binder and mark “ready for translation.”
You only need one certificate per couple. If your marriage certificate is older than 3 months, you’ll need to request a new copy from your county of residence. Since we recently were married, we were able to use our original marriage certificate from Snohomish county in Washington.
Step 6 – Proof of sufficient periodic income
This step can be a bit confusing. Most people think income is monthly funds that are attained through employment. That’s just too simple. Spanish government thinks income is the amount of money you have in your bank account. The minimum income required is 25,560€ annually plus 6,390€ per each additional family member and must be in your bank account before applying for the visa at the consulate.
As a tip, you really can’t provide too little information. The more financial credible you look, the more likely your visa will be approved. Spain is worried that you’ll become a social system leach and they want to ensure you can cover yourself.
Here are all the documents we submitted:
- Financials overview document (I created this and printed it for them to make sense of our financial situation and the ungodly amount of documentation I submitted).
- All investment accounts.
- All retirement accounts.
- Bank statements with 6 months of history.
- Savings statements with 6 months of history.
- First two pages of our latest tax returns.
- Appraisal of our house.
- Mortgage of our house.
- All credit card statements with 6 months of history. The more credit available the better.
- Any pay stubs from the last 6 months. In our case, we used the records for our personal freelancing work. It’s helpful to include any freelance contracts you have as well. It shows that you will continue to earn financially while living in Spain.
- Certification of funds from our bank signed by a manager. More on this below.
The certification of funds from our bank was incredibly helpful for the consulate. We were given this advice from a friend and we are glad we completed this step. In short, we moved all our liquid funds to our local credit union and asked the manager to produce a document listing how much money we had in the account and to print and sign it. Then we had the document officially translated into Spanish.
This is the text for the note is:
Dear Consulate General of Spain, My name is (name and managerial title) at (bank name) in (city, state). I'm writing this letter on behalf of (insert your own names), longterm clients of XX bank since (insert year first account opened). My clients have X open accounts with XX bank: XXX-XXXX-last 4 digits: $XX XXX-XXXX-last 4 digits: $XX XXX-XXXX-last 4 digits: $XX XXX-XXXX-last 4 digits: $XX XXX-XXXX-last 4 digits: $XX The total of their five accounts is: $XXX If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me. Sincerely, (Your signature)
Once you’ve completed all the paperwork. Print out two copies and file it in your binder and mark “ready for translation.” You do not need every document translated into Spanish. Just the certification of funds from your bank will be sufficient.
Step 7 – Complete required forms
You’ll need to fill out these additional documents:
- National Visa Application Form – ask your local consulate for the latest form. We found one online and it was outdated.
- Form EX-01
- Form M790 C052
All forms should use the international date stamp of DD/MM/YYYY. Also, it’s worth mentioning, a visa still allows you to travel to and from the United States and you’re not limited to only residing in Spain.
Step 8 – Letter of intent
You’ll need to create a notarized letter explaining why you are requesting this visa, the purpose, the place and length of your stay in Spain and any other reasons you need to explain, with a certified translation into Spanish.
The document doesn’t need to be very long and should be 1 page maximum. Make sure to mention anything relevant to Spain and that you intend to go there for specific reasons. For example, to learn about the rich history of the country or to practice speaking Spanish.
Once completed, you’ll need to get the letter notarized. You can do this at any local bank or notary service. Please note this can take a week as you’ll need to make an appointment first. Make sure to send an email to yourself with the text version of the letter as it may need to be changed.
In our case, the local Spanish speaking notary made some formatting changes before signing. You only need one letter of intent per family. In our case, we each had one, but it wasn’t needed.
After the letter is notarized, fill out two copies and file it in your binder and mark “ready for translation.”
Step 9 – Proof of medical insurance
If you’re used to healthcare insurance in the USA, then this step will be a breeze. You will need to provide the consulate proof that you’re signed up for private health insurance in Spain with a $0 copy and $0 deductible.
The medical insurance must, at minimum, cover $30,000 worth of coverage. In reality, your plan should cover $1M as you never know when something will happen and $30,000 isn’t much coverage. Your coverage must also cover you in traffic accidents.
We chose to go with Sanitas as they were inexpensive and easy to work with. Our insurance is less than $100 per person a month and includes acupuncture and dental coverage as well. There are many plans to pick from and the Mas Salud plan is designed for visa applicants.
When completing your registration request the insurance company send you a signed and stamped letter in Spanish stating your passport number(s), full names, dates of coverage, and that it has no copay or deductible. We had to ask several times for the insurer to include the zero copy and deductible in the letter. This is very important as many people have had trouble with consulates stating they didn’t know the type of coverage the applicant was providing.
Step 10 – Passport photos
This step is easy. Go and get three passport photos taken on a white background with 2x2in. Each applicant will need one per form. Technically, the main applicant only needs two and any additional family members or spouses need three. Any drug store will be able to take this photos on the spot.
Step 11 – Spanish translations
You would think that anyone could translate your documents into Spanish. But no. As mentioned earlier you must go through a certified translator. If you use a translator located in Spain, the cost is significantly cheaper, however, you must wait for the documents to arrive and use a payment service like Paypal. We used María Eugenia and highly recommend her.
She was professional, easy to use, and got the job done without worry. Plus, she saved us hundreds of dollars vs using a US based translation company.
Here is María’s contact information:
Make sure to send all your documentation that needs translating: FBI records, marriage certificate, letter of intent, certification of funds from bank signed by a manager, and any other information.
Closing – Yes you can get a visa for Spain from the USA
It’s a ton of work to get a visa for Spain from the USA, however, you can do it. If you’ve got the time and energy to collect all the paperwork, then you’ll be fine. Just remember to be organized and give yourself a time buffer for completing the documentation work. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and expect them to go unanswered. If you’re persistent enough, you’ll get the information you need to be successful.
After residing in Spain for over three months, we can say that it was worth the paperwork and hassle. The sunshine, food, nature, and culture are fantastic.