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Meagan with Tapas magazine translations

Self-employment visa timeline: becoming an “autónomo” (freelancer) in Spain

Meagan with her self-employment visa

Here I am with visa in hand after months of diligence and patience!

Thinking about applying for a visa to work as a freelancer in Spain? If so, you’ve come to the right place. Here I’ll explain step-by-step what my experience was like. I am American who was already living in Spain on a student visa (as part of Spain’s language assistant program). I decided to apply for a new visa to be able to work full-time as an autónomo, which is the Spanish term for “freelancer worker.” I was able to start the process from Spain, but had to go back to the US to pick up the visa.  Now I’m working as a translator in Madrid.

Note that it’s also possible to start this process without ever having lived in Spain by doing everything at your local consulate. And for those who have been in Spain for more than three years, it’s also possible to apply for a “modification” of your existing residency status, or to apply for to “legalize” your situation if your status is “irregular” under a process known as “arraigo social,” without having to get a new visa. An overview of all of these processes and links to more information can be found in the SpainGuru post titled “How to get a work permit in Spain.”

Whatever your current situation is, most of the steps I describe in this post will be relevant to you if you decide to go the “cuenta propia” (self-employed) work permit route. This type of work permit is a great option for those who are already freelancing or doing remote work, and want to be able to continue that activity in Spain, or for people who want to start a new business in Spain.It is the only type of Spanish work permit that doesn’t require a corporate sponsor. So, for those who want to come to Spain and look for work, it can also be an interesting option, since many employers are willing to hire workers nearly full time on a “freelance” contract. 

Madrid Gran Via

The hard work paid off. Now I get to live and work in the beautiful city of Madrid! Photo credit: Ángela Ojeda Heyper

A few disclaimers before we begin: While getting a work permit as a self-employed freelancer is totally achievable, it requires patience and determination. The initial pre-approval took about six weeks. But, if you also take into account all the time I spent gathering documents, my travel to the US to get the visa put in my passport, the weeklong visa processing time, my enrollment in the Spanish tax and social security system, and my application for a residency card (which took three tries – more on that later), then altogether, it will have taken about 6 months by the time I (hopefully) receive the card! Although, it’s worth noting that upon receiving the visa in my passport, which I got about three months after starting this journey, I was already able to start working and paying taxes in Spain.

Financially speaking, it cost more than every other type of visa: all in all, I spent 628 euros on the entire process. 

The financial breakdown:

Description Amount 
UPTA €15
Declaración jurada (embajada) €50
Tasa modelo 790 código 052 €10.50
Tasa modelo 790 código 062 €195.88
Regreso (to come back to Spain) €10.30
New TIE €15.45
Subtotal for what I paid in Spain: €297.13
FBI background check (Accurate Biometrics) $50
Apostille in DC for FBI background check $8
Tasa for visa itself (to pay in Chicago) $270
USPS Express Mail envelope w/ prepaid stamps $22
 Subtotal for what I paid in the US: $350 (€331)
Grand total: €628.13

Before you dive in, ask yourself if you plan to live and work in Spain long-term. If the answer is no, and you’re just looking to spend time in Spain, you’re might be better off going another route, such as working part time on a student visa, getting a “non-lucrative” visa without a work permit, or simply staying for three months on a tourist visa.

But if Spain is where you want to be in the long haul, it’s well worth obtaining work permission as a freelancer: you’ll be able to send invoices using your Spanish tax information, you’ll be enrolled in the Social Security system, building your retirement and getting access to public health care, and you’ll “start your clock” in Spain—after officially being a resident of Spain for five years, you’ll be able to apply for permanent residency (years as a student only count for half). Also, once you establish residency as a freelance worker, you’d be able to apply for a “modification” in order to work for another employer if you get a job offer — which is much easier than getting an employer to sponsor you from the get-go.

Meagan with Tapas magazine translations

In the end, it all paid off! Now I’m working as a translator – and here I am admiring some of my translation work that went to print!

I kept notes on the process as I went along, and now I’ve put together a detailed breakdown of every step in the process and how long it took. I hope you can learn from my experience! It’s a resource I wish I’d had six months ago when I started this journey!


June 10, 2016: Started collecting documents

This is when I really decided to go autónomo. I started collecting info, reading up on the process, and met with a lawyer to get better informed(I didn’t end up using the lawyer, but it probably would have made the process easier. I think most lawyers will do the process for you for under €1000). Note that I did everything in Madrid and at the Chicago consulate – some aspects may vary depending on what offices you’re dealing with. Don’t take this as the final word – always check with your local immigration office (extranjería) or consulate before getting your documents together, especially since the requirements change quite often!

June 15, 2016: Wrote my business plan

First page of business plan

This is what my business plan looked like. Download it here.

This is essentially a document to prove that you know what your’e doing and will have an income once you get to Spain. It needs to explain how much of an investment you will need (this depends on your business, but mine was around €1,000 since I’m a freelancer with essentially no start-up costs) and how much you have (proven by official bank certificates that your bank should be able to print for you very easily), what your line of work will be, who your clients are (if you have them), how you’ll get clients (if you don’t have them), etc.

In my case, I wanted to pursue translation work as a freelancer, and I had an offer from one client in hand that would meet the minimum income requirements, so I didn’t need to look for other clients.

To make my business plan I downloaded a template from the Internet and added in all my details. I had a Spanish friend read it over and correct the language. You can see my final business plan here. You’ll notice that in my plan, both my income and my initial investment were very low. I wasn’t sure if it would get approved – but I decided to give it a shot, and it was!

To prove you have clients, you’ll also need to provide a collaboration agreement from at least one client who is willing to pay for your services. This type of service agreement is much less of a liability than an actual employment contract, so it should not be hard to convince a company to provide you one.  Unlike an employment contract, a service agreement can be ended at any time with no consequence for the company providing the contract. To make this contract, I used the template on SpainGuru and the client and I adjusted it to reflect the work I would be doing.

June 21, 2016: Got a stamp of “viability” on said business plan (optional, but recommended)

Take this business plan to one of the organizations that the government recognizes as being able to judge the “viability” of your business plan. Having a pre-approved business plan will give you an edge and make the rest of the application process go faster.

I went to UPTA (Unión de Profesionales y Trabajadores Autónomos). It’s an organization that helps freelancers get started and continue doing business, and has offices all over Spain.

In my case, they didn’t answer my calls or emails, but when I went in person during their opening hours they were very helpful (note, they close for siesta!). In theory, if you email them beforehand, they should be able to send you a checklist of things to bring with you so that you won’t have to make multiple trips. Along with your printed business plan, they’ll have you bring things like your bank certificate, a copy of your passport, a photocopy of your clients’ NIEs (if you have clients), a photocopy of your degree or otherwise certification needed in your field (if it exists), etc. In my case, when I turned all this in I was charged a fee of €15. (Note that this was my experience in Madrid, and may vary depending on which UPTA office you visit.)

Over the next week or two, their tech will look it over and let you know if it’s missing anything. Mine wasn’t, so they gave me a call and I went to pick up all my documents plus a shiny letter of recommendation with their (literal) stamp of approval. Note: this piece of paper does not mean you are approved. It essentially just tells the government that you’ve done your homework in creating a legit business plan, and it makes it more likely that you’ll get approved.

UPTA is just one of the five organizations authorized to approve business plans. Here is the full list:

  • Federación Nacional de Asociaciones de Empresarios y Trabajadores Autónomos (ATA)
  • Unión de Profesionales y Trabajadores Autónomos (UPTA) 
  • Confederación Intersectorial de Autónomos del Estado Español (CIAE)
  • Organización de Profesionales y Autónomos (OPA)
  • Unión de Asociaciones de Trabajadores Autónomos y Emprendedores (UATAE)
UPTA office in Madrid

The UPTA office in Madrid is in the Delicias neighborhood. You may have to go in person to get their attention, as they aren’t very responsive to unsolicited phone calls or emails. Photo credit: Google Maps

June 22, 2016: Made my first appointment at the immigration office (extranjeria)

I made my appointment online at this website (the same one for all immigration appointments) in order to get my application pre-approved for my new visa while still in Spain. The option you’ll want to choose from the drop down list is “Autorización inicial de Residencia y Trabajo por Cuenta Propia.”  If you’re not in Madrid, it may have a slightly different name.  If you’re not sure, you may want to call your local extranjeria office to check. My appointment ended up being at an office on Calle Silva 19 – which is right in the city center of Madrid! Thankfully, I didn’t have to go to the dreaded main office in Aluche!

Extranjeria appointment

Visit this website to make your initial extranjeria appointment.

June 23, 2016: Got the ball rolling on my FBI background check

FBI fingerprint cardThe next thing I did during June was get my federal (FBI) background check in the states. This isn’t needed until you apply for your visa in person in the US, but the process takes a while so you need to start early. You can take your fingerprints yourself and send them, along with about $50, to a private agency to be analyzed (see our blog post about this process). On the application for the background check, I personally put my parents’ address in the States, so that it would be faster (and because my contract was about to end for my apartment in Spain).

June 27, 2016: Turned documents in at extranjería (at aforementioned appointment)

At the end of the month, I had my appointment at the immigration office at Calle Silva, 19 in Madrid. I turned in my business plan and my UPTA approval letter, along with the forms and fees listed here (in Spanish). They scanned everything and returned my original copies to me. They told me I’d receive an approval letter in the mail (technically they can take 3 months to do this, but mine only took about a month).

It’s important to note: At this stage you ONLY need what you turned in to UPTA (business plan, bank account statements, etc.). You do NOT need your FBI check or other requirements yet. You only have to present those when you actually apply for the visa (details to follow).

FBI background check results

FBI check (click to see larger).

June 30, 2016: FBI background checked received, and sent off for apostille

My parents received my background check at their address in Indiana in about a week, and then immediately sent it off for an apostille. They included a return envelope so the final apostilled background check would be sent back to them as well. That way, when I arrived in the States to apply for my visa in person, my background check was there waiting for me.

It’s definitely faster to do everything in the states. However, if you prefer to handle everything on your own without relying on friends or family, it is possible to have the results sent to you in Spain and to do everything from there. However, if you do that the mailing back and forth would take longer.

August 19, 2016: Received extranjeria approval AND my apostilled FBI background check

The apostille (click to see larger).

I received a letter in the mail that my application for pre-approval from extranjeria was approved! This is the most important step of the process, because once the immigration office approves, the steps of actually getting the visa, and later your residency card, are just procedural. The decision has essentially already been made at this stage.

And, on the same day, my parents received the apostilled FBI background check back home in Indiana. Things were going exactly to plan!

It took over a month to receive my apostille – which I heard was unusual. But I was grateful to finally receive it after much pestering of the authentications office, and being told everything would be fine. Thankfully, it was!

Apparently they just had an unusually high workload. Others have told me they received their apostille in a less than a week.

August 23, 2016: Arrived to US

I planned to be in the US for five weeks, which gave me plenty of time to get everything done for my visa.

Downtown Indianapolis

Sweet home Indiana! Photo credit: Daniel Schwen

August 28, 2016: Got my medical clearance

Yes, at least at the Chicago consulate, the medical clearance HAS to be from an American doctor in the U.S., not a Spanish doctor in Spain, even if you already live in Spain. Annoying, I know. This is the same medical clearance needed for any type of visa, and is just a letter from a doctor saying they checked you out and you don’t appear to have any communicable diseases.

September 2, 2016: Traveled to my visa appointment in Chicago

The day arrived for my visa appointment at the Consulate General of Spain in Chicago. The girl working was very confused because most who apply for this visa (already very few) apply before they move to Spain. I, however, had already been pre-approved in Spain, so I didn’t have to turn in all of the documents listed on the website. I explained my situation, she showed her boss everything, and they smiled and told me to expect to be approved very quickly. Total and utter relief. I turned in all documents and $270 addressed to the consulate (yes, you pay €200 in Spain and then another $270 in the States for the same application; I told you it was the most expensive!).

I provided them a USPS Express Mail envelope with prepaid stamps (which cost $20). This was needed so they could mail my passport back to me when my visa was approved (they’ll take your passport when you apply, so don’t plan on going anywhere until you’re approved). For the other autónomo visa requirements (it’ll mostly just be photocopies of documents), check your consulate’s website. My consulate is in Chicago, and each consulate has a slightly different way of doing things.

The Spanish consulate: One of the most beautiful sites in Chicago – at least when you are SO CLOSE to having your Spanish work permit! Photo credit: Google Maps

September 9, 2016: Visa (and work permission) received!!!

As promised, one week later, I received my visa in the mail. Note: if you’re applying from the States and you haven’t already been pre-approved in Spain, you should expect to wait longer (I’m not sure exactly how much longer).

From this point on, it’s pretty much smooth sailing. There’s more work to do, but you overcame the hardest part: you can officially live and work in Spain!

Visa in my passport

Here’s the prize! This is what the visa looked like in my passport.

September 30, 2016:  Returned to Spain and made my next extranjeria appointment

On this day, I returned to Spain and got my visa stamped. Make sure this happens. If for some reason, they don’t stamp your passport (like if you flew into another European country first), demand that they stamp it. You’ll need this later to prove how long you’ve been in the country with your visa. If for some reason you don’t get the stamp, it’s not the end of the world , but you will complicate your life by having to provide other proof of how long you’ve been in Spain.

Once you enter the country you have 90 days to apply for your residency card (once you have the card, you no longer need a visa – that’s why the initial visa is only for 90 days). You’ll need to go back to the same web site as you did the first time to make your next appointment with extranjeria. But before your appointment, there’s a couple of steps you’ll need to complete first: enrolling at the Spanish tax and social security offices, in order to get documents that are required for your residency card (known as your TIE or tarjeta de identificación de extranjero).

Barajas airport passport control

It’s good to be back! Source:

October 4, 2016: Got my social security number

The next order of business was to get a social security number (Calle Juan Bravo, 49). I brought my passport and my completed NA1 form. This step only gives you a number (this number will not ever change). Note: There are two more steps to follow after this before you’re actually enrolled in Spanish social security. The social security number, which you can request at any time, even if you don’t have a work permit yet – won’t do you much good on it its own.

October 7, 2016: Enrolled at the Spanish tax office

On this day, I had my appointment at the Spanish tax office, called Hacienda, (Calle Montalbán, 6; Administración de la Agencia Tributaria) to sign up for IAE (Impuesto de Actividades Económicos). This office deals with your income tax, which freelancers pay every three months, and is separate from Social Security. I enrolled in the system, meaning I’ll officially pay taxes for the first time in January.

I also tried to get my “clave pin” and “certificado digital” on this day, which are the username and program installed on your computer (and only your computer) in order to pay taxes. I couldn’t do this because I didn’t have my new residency card (known as a TIE)yet. More on that later.

October 19: Went to my extranjeria appointment in my first attempt to get my TIE

I went to the main extranjería office in Aluche, where all immigrants must go to get this card (Avenida de los Poblados, S/N, Madrid, Madrid 28044). Don’t make my mistake: I was turned away because I didn’t have the paper saying I was concedido, meaning the application was approved and processed in the system. They sent me to the office by Santiago Bernabéu (Calle Manuel Luna, 29), and a nice lady printed out a piece of paper saying I was concedido (apparently they sent it to me by mail but I never got it). I promptly made another TIE appointment at Aluche.

Aluche: the main immigration office in Madrid

Prepare to lose half a day whenever you have to go to this place: the dreaded “Aluche”!

October 24: Enrolled in the Social Security system

Social security enrollment certification

This is what you will receive to prove you are enrolled in social security (click to see larger).

Now is the time to finish actually enrolling in the Social Security system, at the office on Calle de la Cruz, 7. I was told next month I’d be charged for both October and November at once (€50 for each month, so €100 altogether) and that starting December it’d go back to the normal €50 each month. Note: If you live in Madrid the social security fee for autónomos is now only €50/month (€50.89 to be exact) for the first 18 months. This is thanks to a rebate from the community of Madrid that is on top of a nationwide discount offered to new autonomos. For those of you not in Madrid, you will have to pay €53/month for the first six months, and then it will go up incrementally until reaching €297 per month for the rest of your life as an autónomo. I don’t quite understand it all myself, so please speak with a financial professional for more details on that!  Note that to get the Madrid rebate it is REALLY important that you apply between your 3rd and 6th month of business activity or else you will have to pay the normal rate. Also note that if you ever miss a social security payment you will have to pay the full €297 that month, rather than the discounted amount! So, pay on time!

November 3: Applied for my residency card AGAIN

My second TIE appointment arrived. I brought all my documents: 3 passport-size photos, social security info, the application, payment… The lady confirmed that I had all of my documents. But what was missing wasn’t a document: if you read the fine print of the paper I got on Manuel Luna, 29, saying I’ve been concedido, it says at least one week before my appointment at Aluche, I must send photocopies of three things (my visa, my social security enrollment paper, and my empadronamiento) to a specific email address ( so that my information could be “archived.” Once I’m archived, my status in the system changes from “pendiente” (pending) to approved. No one will tell you to do this, and the email address will not confirm they’ve received your documents, even after sending them multiples inquiries (can you tell I’m bitter?), but you just have to do it.  I made my third TIE appointment.

Aluche immigration office in Madrid

View of Aluche from the inside, from the first floor looking down.

November 25: Applied for my residency card: THIRD TIME!

I had my third TIE appointment, and the third time was the charm! They told me to come back in 30 days to pick up my shiny new TIE.

Meagan at her computer

Once I was enrolled in Spanish tax office and social security I was ready to start translating and invoicing clients!

Future to-do’s

Yes, there’s still more to do in the months to come—but don’t worry, the pace has slowed down now. After I get my new TIE, I’ll need to go back to the Hacienda office by Banco de España (Calle Montalbán, 6) and activate my “clave pin,” as well as get a “certificado digital” installed on my computer. This lets me pay my taxes (which are filed every 3 months for autónomos) and I’ll only be able to do it from my computer. The next time we (all autónomos) file is in January.

As you can see, the process is not for the faint of hearts: it requires patience and perseverance. But the benefits far outweigh the work if you want to live and work in Spain! My advice is to ask as many questions as possible, double and triple check your paperwork, and demand written (or emailed) confirmation when you submit documents.
If you have any questions, please leave a comment on this post and I’ll do my best to answer! Good luck!


  • Shaheen S. 2 months ago Reply

    Thank you so much, Meagan, for sharing your experience!

    • Gem 1 month ago Reply

      Thank you for sharing! Do you need to renew every year? Is there a quota of how much you should earn per year or money in your bank to be get renewed?

  • Allie 2 months ago Reply

    Very nice timeine! I just went through the process last year for Barcelona, and it´s a pain, but it´s doable!

  • Natalie 2 months ago Reply

    Thanks for sharing your experience!! I was looking around the Internet about someone else’s experience!

    • anand 23 weeks ago Reply

      Hi there, im curious, how long it took for you to get the visa?

  • Jae Lee 2 months ago Reply

    Thank you so much.
    I’ve been seeking info like this.
    I will re read it and will try to change my Spanish visa status from non lucrative to autonomo.
    Thanks again.

  • Bahar 2 months ago Reply


    I’ve got some questions. I used to do Spanish-TurkishTurkish-Spanish translations, Spanish-English/English-Spanish, English-Turkish/Turkish-English translations when I lived in Spain last year for some companies or independent people who paid me for it. Also, I taughht some people English and Turkish as a freelance teacher. I would like to include these to my business plan and create one like this with my personal clients and 1-2 companies but the only problem is that I’m not qualified with any types of certification to do these, I just do them because I can and I’m good at it. Will my business plan be approved anyway or do I need a teaching-translator etc. certification for it to be approved?

  • Lisa Letto 2 months ago Reply

    Great job Meagan. I did this too just over a year ago. I wanted to add a few things in general and about the process from a Canadian perspective as there are a few differences. If you are in Spain when you apply you have to do it before you go ‘irregular’. My student residency was expiring on June 30 so I had to start the process before then. I think I just ‘requested’ my appointment by that date. I believe my appointment was for the following week. In Canada, the background check was with the RCMP. They say it could take 120 days but it only took a week. I went to an RCMP detachment and did the one with fingerprints. They sent it in and I received it in the mail. For the family doctor note, I went to my family doctor and was charged $100 for the letter. Canada doesn´t have the apostille process. I had my friend who is a lawyer sign them saying they were authentic. I chose to hire Ainhoa to help me through the process. At the time I wasn´t able to find anyone who had done it before so I wasn´t confident doing it on my own. She helped me immensely by answering my numerous questions, giving me a business plan sample for teaching English in Spanish that I adapted for me, doing up my contracts with clients, and going with me to the Extranjería. She also helped me with a few things when I was in Canada like going to pick up the official response letter with all the details the Consolate needed to process my Visa. I left for Canada before receiving it (just the way the timing worked out). So for me hiring her was definitely worth it. I am from Eastern Canada so the consolate I worked with was in Montreal and everything is done by mail. They say they have up to three months to process everything but it was done within a month and in time for my return flight (I find they always try to process things based on the flight date I give them). Once I returned to Madrid, my TIE experience was smoother than Meagan’s. I did the paperwork for social security and the hacienda myself. Ainhoa told me how to do it. If you hire a gestor for your business they will also do it for you for a charge. I hired a gestor after those steps to help me with my monthly invoices, taxes, annual taxes etc. I pay 57€ a month (taxes included) for my gestor. For me it´s worth it. Last year I got all my taxes back in December. He’s also helped me when I´ve expanded some o the services in my business. I started of just with teaching English and have added subtitling and translating this year.

    • Gokay 2 months ago Reply

      Hey Bahar. I’m going through the same process. I met a lawyer in BCN who has been helping me with the paperworks. I’m a teacher and the lawyer asked for my degree and certificates to hand in them with the rest of the papers. I’m not sure if it’s essential to do so but I guess it was a plus. Hope it helped and good luck.

    • Gokay 2 months ago Reply

      Hey Bahar. I’m going through the same process. I met a lawyer in BCN who has been helping me with the paperworks. I’m a teacher and the lawyer asked for my degree and certificates to hand in them with the rest of the papers. I’m not sure if it’s essential to do so but I guess it was a plus. Hope it helped and good luck

      • Rachel 20 weeks ago Reply

        Hi Gokay. I’m a teacher living in BCN and I’m considering moving to autónomo status. Would love to connect and chat more about your experiences and the lawyer who is helping you.

    • Ella 1 month ago Reply

      A big thank you, Lisa, for the Canadian perspective!! Super richly useful! xo

  • Lisa Letto 2 months ago Reply

    One more thing, the cost for the business visa in Canada is more than in the US. It´s about $1000 CDN.

  • marusa 2 months ago Reply

    Hi! Thanks for this blog post. It’s really useful stuff. I do have one question – do you have to prove that you have a special knowledge that they are lacking of in Spain to get a working permit? Because I know some countries have those conditions.

    • Ben 2 months ago Reply

      No, this is not necessary.

    • Shaheen S. 2 months ago Reply

      Hi Marusa,
      No, there is no such requirement for the self-employment visa. Such requirements do exist for certain types of work permits. However, now with the introduction of the “highly qualified worker visa” in 2013, they are much more flexible than before.

  • Dani J 2 months ago Reply

    So incredibly helpful (and actually reassuring that your process was only six weeks, I’ve heard much longer estimate)!!
    Similar to the last comment, I’m wondering are there are any stipulations about providing services to Spaniards? I know a friend who set up a brick-and-mortar business and a pretty important step was proving that her business would provide something new and important for Spaniards (receiving the service as well as with job opportunity). If I go this route, I am considering a service that would be for non-Spanish students and therefore wonder if it would be more difficult to get approved. Thanks in advance for any feedback!

    • Shaheen S. 2 months ago Reply

      Hi Dani, no there is no such requirement with the self employment visa. Perhaps your friend applied under the “ley de emprendadores” scheme, which has much stricter requirements. Although that is mostly focused on “high tech” businesses that are considered strategic for the Spanish economy.

      • Dani J 2 months ago Reply

        Thanks Shaheen! You may be right, I’m really not positive what route she did, just that it was different from this one so I wanted to confirm. This is very good to know. Appreciate all the assistance on this site!

  • Jonathan 2 months ago Reply

    Megan, this article is amazing! My fiancee and I are starting our process now and your site will be so so helpful. I’m hoping you could be helpful as well – can we hire you to translate our materials? Are you certified at that level? Please email me. Thanks!

    • Shaheen S. 23 weeks ago Reply

      Hi Jonathan,
      I’m one of the Spain Gurus and founder of the translation agency, VeraContent. Meagan is a freelancer who works with us. She isn’t personally a “traductora jurada” but we do offer this service through the agency. If you’d like a quote, please send a copy of the document you need translated, and let us know the language you need it translated into and the turnaround time you need.
      You can reach us at
      I hope we can help you out!

  • Daniel 2 months ago Reply

    Hello, thank you for the info! I am applying for my permits this week and would like to know where you downloaded your business plan from. It is similar to the layout I used with my German Freelance Visa.

    Thank you,


    • Shaheen S. 1 month ago Reply

      Hi Daniel,
      Meagan’s business plan is based on a template provided by UPTA. Unfortunately we don’t have a copy of the blank template, but you could use hers as a basis and put in all your relevant information.
      The exact format isn’t really important, just that it includes all the information they need in terms of the nature of the business, the initial investment needed, the expected earnings and expenses, and the profit you expect to make.

  • Vencho 2 months ago Reply


    Great read! I really enjoyed reading this through.

    I have only 1 question.

    We are 2 people that are basically self employed for more than 2 years now, so most likely we will hire a consultation through your site. My question is do we apply separately for the same business, or we can do 1 application for both of us? Because the business is the same, financial results are the same, can we register the small business with 2 names? 🙂 I hope you understand what I mean.


    • Shaheen S. 1 month ago Reply

      Hi Vencho,
      You can prepare one business plan, however I believe you’d need to do two separate visa applications. It’d be two applications with essentially the same information, but each would need to specifically show how much you will earn individually from the business.
      If you set up a consultation the lawyer can definitely give you more precise information on this. You can email or book the appointment online directly at:
      Good luck!

  • GRAZIELE MOREIRA 1 month ago Reply

    I live in Ireland, and they do not allow self-employment to Non-Eu citizens. Employers do not hire Non-Eu without existent Work Visa Permit. Living in Ireland has become a hassle for Non-Europeans. I thought maybe trying to go to another country like Spain, where I can live and work. Your post helped a lot to understand the process of becoming a freelancer in Spain. Hope I can do the whole process from here.

  • Danica 1 month ago Reply

    OMG this was amazing! And such a wonderful insight! Thank you so much! I am wondering if it’s not in my best interest to hire the lawyer to handle all the paperwork for me… i am a hot mess with all the bureaucracy and requirements!
    Also- quick question… I am wondering if you know if it is possible to work as an auxiliar while applying for this freelancer visa (and ultimately switching visas mid-school year)?!?!

    • Shaheen S. 1 month ago Reply

      Hi Danica,
      If you’re interested in setting up a consultation with a lawyer, I highly recommend Madrid-based law firm Sterna Abogados, who Meagan consulted with. They are total experts on the different processes for work permits in Spain, speak English and do consultations over Skype. You can set up an appointment here (Choose “English speaking” and then “Skype/Phone consultation in English”)!
      Good luck with everything!

  • Carla 1 month ago Reply

    Hello Megan,

    My name is Carla and I live in Granada. I just went to UPTA today to get more information about changing my status from student to freelance. The price that UPTA has asked is 200 euros + IVA = 242 euros, it is not longer for 15 euros.
    So the sworn statement letter is not longer being used in this case instead the International Department at Universidad de Granada and the university in your country have to write that letter mentioning there is no scholarship or award had been given to the student.
    The person who wants to change the status from student to freelance should show about 6.000 euros in their Spanish bank account.
    The person who applies this freelance can’t go back to their own country until they get the new TIE.
    That is the recent information that I got today 🙂

    • Shaheen S. 1 month ago Reply

      Hi Carla,
      Different offices of UPTA have their own policies. The one in Madrid still charges 15 euros, it seems, but other offices may charge different prices.
      UPTA is also not the only organization that can approve the business plan, so if UPTA quotes a high price it may be worth asking around to the other organizations in your area.
      Also each one may have slightly different criteria on what they require as a minimum investment that they consider “viable” to start your business activity.
      In Meagan’s case, they only required about 1000 euros to start her business. So, again if one organization doesn’t give you the answers you want it might be worth checking with another. That said, each extranjeria office also has slightly different policies. It could be that extranjeria in Granada is more strict about the initial investment criteria and that’s why UPTA advised you to have more funds.
      You could always put in your business plan that you plan to do the business in Madrid, in which case you could do the whole process there – but it would obviously require some travel to do all the paperwork. And, upon receiving the residency you’d likely need to “empadronar” and initially start paying taxes in Madrid to get your initial residency card, but then could later switch communities without an issue. Anyway, it’d probably be more trouble than its worth, if the Granada requirements are reasonable!

  • Mark Swindle 1 month ago Reply

    Hi Meagan,
    What a very thorough and helpful piece! I’m on the verge of submitting paperwork to the Spanish Consulate here in Chicago, and wondered if you could recommend a certified translator – e.g. yourself??!


    • Shaheen S. 23 weeks ago Reply

      Hi Mark,
      I’m one of the Spain Gurus and founder of the translation agency, VeraContent. Meagan is a freelancer who works with us. She isn’t personally a “traductora jurada” but we do offer this service through the agency. If you’d like a quote, please send a copy of the document you need translated, and let us know the language you need it translated into and the turnaround time you need.
      You can reach us at
      I hope we can help you out!

      • M El 2 weeks ago Reply

        Hello Shaheen,

        I hope all is well with you, and I am in a very similar situation as Meagan but a Canadian citizen, a freelance translator & interpreter and have been following steps to obtain my work permit/residency in Granada, and a lawyer, a friend of mine has been guiding me and my situation is slightly different as I do have a family link here in Granada, my mother and half of my family, and I also have an approved business plan from CADE, but I will submit from here Granada without leaving to Canada, as I have been living here in Granada for last 3 years or so, and my friend, the lwayer has advised me that everything should go well, so my question and actually Meagan has confirmed that the whole process can be done while still in Spain, and I just want a confirmation from you and thank you! Best regards, M El

  • Altoon Phillips 1 month ago Reply

    Hello Meagan,

    I am interested in obtaining some translation services to assist me through this process. Is there any way I can connect with you when I arrive in Madrid in June?

    If so please let me know how best to reach you!!

    Thank you,

    • Shaheen S. 23 weeks ago Reply

      Hi Altoon,
      I’m one of the Spain Gurus and founder of the translation agency, VeraContent. Meagan is a freelancer who works with us. She isn’t personally a “traductora jurada” but we do offer this service through the agency. If you’d like a quote, please send a copy of the document you need translated, and let us know the language you need it translated into and the turnaround time you need.
      You can reach us at
      I hope we can help you out!

  • Shaheen S. 1 month ago Reply

    FYI, guys, I’m one of the founders of SpainGuru and I helped Meagan with the legal details of this article, so that’s why I’m answering a bunch of the questions. I’ll let Meagan know to come back here and answer the ones that were directed to her specifically!

  • Meaghan 1 month ago Reply

    Hello Meagan and Shaheen,

    Thanks for this very detailed information! It´s so helpful. Do you have any insight into whether it is easier or more difficult to be approved when applying from United States, rather than from Spain as Meagan has done?

    I work in Madrid now as an auxiliar and I have dreams of transitioning from my student visa to this freelance visa, but I want to go home at the end of June when my job ends and my rental contract ends. The only reason I would stay in Madrid for the summer would be to pursue this visa application if its the case that staying here would improve my chances or facilitate the process.

    Thanks again

    • Shaheen S. 27 weeks ago Reply

      You should be able to do it from either place with about the same probability of success!!

  • Rachelle 1 month ago Reply

    I’m a little confused. If I do freelance work for a US company and US clients only, do I need the self-employment visa or will a non-lucrative visa be appropriate? I am retirement age, but still do freelance writing for US clients. Thank you.

  • Phil 1 month ago Reply

    My residency (student) expired seven years ago. I still have the old card and understand the NIE stays the same forever. I’m from the US and currently in Madrid on the typical 90-day allowance. Is it possible for me to get started on the process here in Spain as Meagan did or do I need to have valid/current residency to do that? Obviously trying to avoid going back to the US to wait for three months.

    • Jose 1 month ago Reply

      I’m interested on this as well. Can I use non-spanish clients?

      • Shaheen S. 23 weeks ago Reply

        Jose, yes, you can present contracts with non-Spanish clients to support your business plan.

    • Shaheen S. 23 weeks ago Reply

      Unfortunately,I believe you do need to have a valid residency card (TIE) to be able to start the process from Spain. But, you might want to set up a consultation with an immigration lawyer to find out what your options are.

  • Loni 1 month ago Reply


    I was wondering if anyone knows if while we are waiting for the approval of the residency permit part of the visa, if we are allowed to leave the country? Ideally, I’d like to go back home and once I receive the resident permit, I’ll have it sent to me in the states so I can apply for the visa. Any insight on this? Thank you!

    Loni Slatkin

    • Shaheen S. 23 weeks ago Reply

      One of the requirements of starting the process from Spain is that you have a valid residency card. So.. there’d be no issue with leaving the country. If you are in the same situation as Meagan, it would be necessary in order to apply for the visa at the consulate in your country. If you don’t have a valid residency card, you’d need to go back to your country and do the entire process at the consulate, as is explained in the original article.

  • Kimya Karshenas 1 month ago Reply

    Hi, thank you so much for taking the time to organize all this information! I have been very lost on how to go forward to extend my current student visa, but i would like to go tgis route if possible. Do you know if freelancing as an ESL teacher qualifies aa autonomo? I have my tefl/tesol certifications and my current school will sponsor me. Any information you have is helpful!

    • Shaheen S. 27 weeks ago Reply

      Yes, that should work! Plenty of people go this route to be freelance/private English teachers.

  • Noémie 1 month ago Reply

    hanks for sharing this.
    I am a bit confused though.
    I am a Belgian Citizen, currently living in Thailand. We are going to relocate to Valencia with my husband and two kids.
    He works online for a chinese company, teaching English. He will have to apply for autonomo status.
    You wrote about FBI check and visa. Is that also valid for EU citizen? I thought we could work anywhere in europe without visa.

  • Kellyn 1 month ago Reply

    Thanks for sharing. This has been so helpful. I’m a blogger looking to do freelance writing. I’m not sure if they would accept me, I plan on writing a cook book in Barcelona. I have a Masters degree( if that helps). My husband speaks Spanish but has no formal degree, I’m not sure if they would accept him if he decided to create a business plan for translating. Would love some feedback from you. Just a side note, we’re planning on coming with the kids.

    • Shaheen S. 27 weeks ago Reply

      Hi Kellyn,
      Having a related degree helps, but it’s not essential for getting approved. If you husband has some translation experience on his resume and some pre-signed contracts with people who say they’d want to buy his translation services he should be fine. More importantly, if you have plenty of money in the bank that greatly increases your chances of approval. It shows that even if your business isn’t super successful you won’t be a drain on the Spanish state.

  • Walker Rowe 1 month ago Reply

    I wonder about my background check as I am an American who has lived in Chile for 6 years and the USA before that all my life. Now I am living as a digital nomad so you think they will want criminal background checks from each country where I go (I spend 3 months in each, currently in Spain).

    • Shaheen S. 27 weeks ago Reply

      Hi Walker, you can most likely just submit the USA background check and they wouldn’t be the wiser. The worst that could happen is that they say your application isn’t complete and ask you to submit the additional documents. If you get your application in as early as possible that would buy you time in case of any complications.

      Also – I encourage anyone who’s questions aren’t directly related to the topic of this article to ask your questions on the Q&A page!

  • JIHANE GHANEM 1 month ago Reply

    Hello Meagan,
    i really appreciate you writing about all the details of your moving process, since honestly reading about it on government websites, it gets too technical and complicated whereas ur step by step detailed explanation helped alot 🙂 tx alot.

  • Zein 26 weeks ago Reply

    Hello Shaheen,

    I am currently a student in Spain (less than a year), kindly advise which option should I choose after selecting “Autorización inicial de Residencia y Trabajo por Cuenta Propia.” :
    1. Si el extranjero es reagrupado y desea tarjeta independiente
    2. Si el extranjero es residente
    3. Si el extranjero es estudiante (3 años)
    4. Si el extranjero tiene arraigo sin trabajo

    Thank you in advance

    • Shaheen S. 23 weeks ago Reply

      Hmm in Madrid they don’t make you specify that. One challenge is that depending on the region they sometimes don’t know that the process that Meagan did is possible. So sometimes you have to educate the people working in your local extranjeria. I’d choose the “si el extranjero es estudiante (3 años)” option, and then once you arrive at the appointment explain that you are seeking preapproval to apply for a visa in the US (not do a student modification, which can only be done after 3 years of being a student resident).

  • Sam 25 weeks ago Reply

    Hi Shasheen,
    Thanks to you and Meagan for all the great info. I have done a lot of research on the self-employed visa and I have a couple of questions I would like to ask please.

    I’m a US citizen living in San Diego with my family. I am self-employed (over 10 years) as an expatriate tax specialist (I used to work for PwC’s Global Mobility group in Tokyo, London, and Singapore – total experience over 25 years). We are interested in living Valencia and plan to make the move next summer.

    We would be applying through the consulate in LA. What isn’t clear to me is whether we need to have accommodation arranged prior to applying for the visa. The list of documents required on the LA consulate’s website doesn’t mention this. However, it is mentioned on some of the other consulates’ websites. Is this required as a practical matter if applying in LA?

    The other question relates to my spouse and 2 kids (ages 9 & 11). The LA consulate’s website says they should apply for the residence (non-lucrative) visa and that all the documents listed for that visa are required. The accommodation requirement isn’t listed either. However, the requirement to purchase private health insurance valid in Spain is listed. This isn’t a requirement of the self-employed visa, probably because I will be paying social security and have access to the state system. I would have thought my family would also be covered under the state system. If yes is this something that can be skipped? I will almost certainly purchase a private health plan, but would prefer to do so after the visa is approved. Looking at the Houston consulate information the medical insurance requirement isn’t listed for the spouse/kids. Then again Houston wants accommodation proof….the inconsistency is maddening! I suppose I just need to follow LA’s instructions, but it still makes me nervous.

    Thanks for any insight you may be able to provide.

    • Shaheen S. 23 weeks ago Reply

      Hi Sam,
      This is getting into some details!
      You might want to set up a Skype consultation to get your specific questions answered:
      You can also join our forum on Facebook to hear from others who have been in similar situations:
      From what I know, generally you don’t need to have the accomodation in advance. But it’s always best to check with your particular consulate because the requirements can vary from consulate to consulate. They generally reply to email/phone calls (although not always promptly.) Your wife and kids should be able to apply for visas as your dependents – they shouldn’t need to apply for their own non-lucrative visas. However, there might be some benefit to doing so. You might want to consult with a lawyer for that. (I’m not a lawyer, but if you set up a consultation it would be with a lawyer specialist in Spanish immigration law.) For the health insurance, you should be able to just show whatever current health coverage you have in the US, assuming it has some coverage for being abroad. They have no way to know whether you continue that coverage after you come to Spain. You definitely do need to show some kind of letter that says you have health insurance so they can check that box off your application.
      More questions – please use the Facebook group or set up a consultation! I don’t have the chance to reply to comments on here too often!
      Good luck,

      • Sam 22 weeks ago Reply

        Thanks Shaheen. I definitely plan to get a consultation. We are travelling to Spain again over Thanksgiving. We’ll make our decision to whether to proceed with the move after that trip. Thanks again.

    • Loni 18 weeks ago Reply

      Hi Sam,

      I just completed this process and am actually looking to speak with an expat tax specialist about my US taxes. Maybe we can help each other out. Let me know how I can contact you!

      Loni Slatkin

  • Fran 25 weeks ago Reply

    Hi there,

    I noticed you mentioned the Language Assistant Programme AKA “caps language assistant program” or “meddeas language assistant program”, I would like to know what this is exactly and where I can get further information on it please?

    Thank you kindly!


    • Shaheen S. 23 weeks ago Reply

      Hi Fran,
      We’re not super experts on language assistant programs. But I can recommend you to join the Madrid Auxiliares facebook group, where you can find TONs of information on this from people who know a lot more about it than I do:
      Good luck!

  • Raul 23 weeks ago Reply

    This is a lot of great information and I am really greatful for it. My wife works freelance for a US company, we are in Madrid already thinking about becoming freelancers but we are beyond the 90 day stay permit. Can we still apply for autonomo?

    • Shaheen S. 21 weeks ago Reply

      Hi Raul, my understanding is that you wouldn’t be able to apply from Spain if you have overstayed your visa. You, could, however, leave and apply from the consulate in your country. Don’t take my word for it, though! You might contact UPTA, an organization for freelancers in Spain, and they would advise you on your situation for free. And, of course, you could set up an consultation with an English-speaking lawyer here:
      The lawyer could run down all your options with you.
      Good luck,

  • Kris Leitz, EA 23 weeks ago Reply

    Very informative post! I’m looking to start the process so I can move by end of April. Meagan mentioned that a lawyer can help with some, can you refer anyone.

  • Chris 23 weeks ago Reply

    Wow. Thank you so much for all of the information. I’m glad that somebody else has already done and so thoroughly documented what I want to do!

  • Veronica 22 weeks ago Reply


    Great article.

    I am stateside in the process of getting a self-employment visa.

    I currently do freelance work for an american company but would like the opportunity to work with Spanish companies as well to supplement my expenses.

    How can I apply for residency and self-employment in Spain from Texas to have the documents for my visa appointment in Houston?

    What licenses and permits are required?

    Do you provide help for filling out the forms EX-07, M790 C052 and C062?

    • Shaheen S. 21 weeks ago Reply

      Hi Veronica,
      Depending on the type of business you propose on starting, you may or may not need any licenses or permits. Considering that once your visa is approved there is no limit on what business activity you can pursue after you’re in Spain, it’s probably best to keep your business plan simple 😉 If you want one-on-one advice, I’d suggest setting up a consultation with one of our English speaking lawyers. You can do that here:
      Good luck!

  • Mariel 19 weeks ago Reply

    I am trying to apply for a self-employment Visa in Spain and have just started the process. I am writing my business plan now and was hoping to inquire about a few things.

    When Meagan said: ” I had an offer from one client in hand that would meet the minimum income requirements, so I didn’t need to look for other clients”, what did she mean by “minimum income requirements”? Is there a certain income that I have to prove on my business plan?

    Additionally, in regards to proving that I have clients, do I have to have a contract that would last one year? Or could it be less time? And does the amount that the client and I decide that I will be paid have to match my year-long income on my business plan? Or is it okay to put more assuming that I will find more clients upon arrival?

  • Aykut Altınışık 14 weeks ago Reply

    We are a family of 3 from Turkey. I wish to set up a company and then apply for a self-employed visa in Turkey. Can you recommend me a good immigration lawyer in Madrid?

  • Alisa 13 weeks ago Reply

    I am currently living in Barcelona, on a long-stay non-lucrative Visa. I have been in Spain for 3 years, renewed my long-stay once already and it’s coming up for renewal again in January. I would like to modify to an autonomo. Can I do all of this in Barcleona? I have my NIE and VISA in my passport. Any advice would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.

    • Alisa 13 weeks ago Reply

      I should say TIE not NIE

  • Sierra 2 weeks ago Reply

    This is super helpful! Do your clients for your freelance business have to be within Spain? For example, I would work as a travel planner and my clients would be from the US and Italy.

  • Molly Steele 2 weeks ago Reply

    This is so incredibly helpful. You are a saint for documenting all of this! 🙂 Quick question – once you receive pre-approval of your business plan from UPTA/Extranjería, is there a timeline (i.e. 90 days or something) that you then have to get your VISA within? I ask because I don’t want to start the process too soon if the pre-approval expires before I’m planning to go back to the US for the VISA appt in June.

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