Is it possible to work remotely on a non lucrative Spain visa in Spain in 2023?

In the SpainGuru Facebook group, one question that has been coming up consistently is whether it’s possible to work remotely while on a non lucrative Spain visa.

As the term “non-lucrative” suggests, it’s not possible to work for a Spanish employer while living on non lucrative residency (commonly referred to as an “NLV visa”). However, whether you can do work for a foreign employer is a grey area and there is a lot of misinformation out there about it. In this post, I hope to shed some light on the current situation.  The good news is that – as of 2023 –  the law does not explicitly prohibit remote work on non-lucrative residency, and many, many people are currently in Spain doing exactly this. However, if this is your plan,  there are several important things to keep in mind when deciding if this is the right type of residency for you.  At the end of this article, we also provide some information on alternative visas you might consider depending on your situation.

What is a non lucrative Spain visa? 

The non lucrative Spain visa is a type of visa created for non-EU citizens who have enough economic means to stay in the country, without the need for a Spanish work permit.

This visa type allows you to bring your family with you, although in that case the economic means requirements are higher. This permit gives you initial residence authorization, allowing you to stay in Spain for one year after entering the Spanish territory. Then, you will be able to renew the NLV every two years under the same conditions, until reaching eligibility for long term residency after five years.  Upon obtaining long term residency, you would no longer have any restrictions on the type of work activity you can do in Spain.

The most notable characteristic of non-lucrative residency is that it does not come with work permission.  However, it’s a very popular visa type because it has very few other requirements besides demonstrating economic means.  You do not need a work offer, to present a business plan, or to invest in the country, as is the other case for some other visa types. You only need to prove that you have sufficient funds and that your stay in the country will not create costs for the government (Here’s a compliant health insurance for NLV application).

Who is non lucrative Spain visa suited for? 

  • Those who want to retire in Spain.
  • Non-retirees who have sufficient economic funds to support themselves in the country without the need to work for at least the first year in Spain. (As explained later in this article, it’s possible to apply for a modification to work residency after one year).

What are the requirements for the non lucrative Spain visa? 

The non-lucrative visa is a very popular visa type because the application is fairly simple, assuming you meet the requirements.  This is the official list of documentation required, however the best source of information on these requirements is your local consulate, as each consulate’s interpretation can vary slightly. 

That said, here is a summary of the main requirements:

  • General eligibility means that you’re a non-EU citizen who is in good standing (not in an irregular immigration situation, and not banned from Spain or the EU) 
  • Having no criminal record in Spain or previous places of residence (usually you need to show background checks from anywhere you have lived in the past five years).
  • Proof of sufficient economic means to support yourself  – and your family members – for one year.  This can come from passive income – such as investments or retirement – or from savings. For a single person, the minimum amount you must prove to have is four times the current year’s IPREM, Indicador Público de Renta de Efectos Múltiples. (As of 2023, that amount is €28,800 euros, in other words, 400% of the yearly IPREM index). 
  • Proof of private healthcare coverage to show you will not create a burden on the Spanish social security system. The insurance your purchase must offer equivalent coverage to the public system, and not have any copays.Spainguru recommends this health insurance that complies with all the requirements of the NLV visa application (Link to health insurance page)
  • A medical note stating that you don’t suffer any illness that could pose a threat to public health. (If you are a UK resident, here you can obtain it)

Keep in mind that once you acquire the required visa application documents, certain ones must be translated into Spanish by an official certified translator, who will certify that the translations are accurate. Here’s Spainguru’s translator recommendations, who can provide the translations by mail or PDF. Make sure to check with the consulate on what really needs to be translated, as the cost for an official translation can be 60 euros or more per page. (Wise is a good option for making payments abroad to translators.)

Also, remember that you will need time to get certain documents (such as the background check) apostilled before you translate them.  For Americans, check out our article on How to get an FBI background check in 2 weeks

Why is there so much confusion on whether it’s possible to do remote work on a non-lucrative visa? 

Before 2019, remote work income was often accepted as a legitimate income source when approving non lucrative visas. However, rumor has it that sometime in 2019 (soon after a government change in Spain) a memo was sent to consulates advising them to no longer accept any type of work income when considering non-lucrative visa applications. 

Even today, not all consulates interpret these recommendations the same way.  However, the result is that many non-lucrative visas for remote workers have been denied since 2019, especially by consulates in the US. 

Here is a link to a webinar of immigration lawyers Sterna Abogados that explains you the situation further:

You can request an online consultation with Sterna here.

So, how are remote workers still coming to Spain with this type of visa? 

While the requirements for the visa are now being interpreted more strictly, this hasn’t impacted the way that the law is being enforced once in Spain.

This Spanish supreme court ruling appears to be the current legal precedent on this issue. It’s a long document, but the gist is that the person in question had a business in Russia that he was suspected to be working for and the court ruled that it was not grounds to revoke his non lucrative residency.

The ruling states: “No es que el solicitante de este tipo de visados no realice trabajo alguno, sino que no lo realice en España” which translates to “It is not that the applicant for this type of visa cannot not carry out any work, but that he cannot carry it out in Spain.”  

Today there are thousands of remote workers residing in Spain who continue to do remote work as non-lucrative residents. However, when applying for a non-lucrative visa today it is important not to include remote work as an income source on the visa application. At many consulates, the visa must be approved based on savings or passive income sources alone. However, once in Spain, there is no law preventing someone with non-lucrative residency from earning other sources of income, including income from remote work.

Can I enroll in social security while on a non-lucrative visa? 

No. This is the main difference between work residency and non-lucrative residency. In order to work for a Spanish company you would need to enroll in the Spanish social security system, and this isn’t possible if you have non-lucrative residency. 

If you are working remotely for a company outside Spain, presumably you could pay into the social security system in that country. If you plan to stay in Spain long term, you may want to check if Spain has an agreement with your country regarding social security, in which case what you pay into in the other country’s system may contribute toward benefits in Spain in the future. 

That said, if you are sure about making a permanent move to Spain, it may be in your interest to start paying into Spanish social security as soon as possible, to establish a work history and be eligible for health, unemployment and retirement benefits. In that case, you may want to consider applying for self-employment visa or other type of visa that gives you a work permit.

Do I have to pay taxes in Spain with a non lucrative Spain visa?

Yes.  A non-lucrative visa requires you to spend more than half the year (183 days) in Spain in order to be eligible to renew. It so happens that anyone who lives in Spain more than 183 days out of the year is required to report worldwide income (including that from remote work and any other foreign income source) on their Spanish tax return.

Keep in mind that Spain has agreements with many countries in order to avoid double taxation. This will prevent you from paying both countries’ tax on the same income. However, you would usually have to pay the higher tax rate. So, if you already paid tax on your income in another country, and the tax rate for your bracket is higher in Spain, you would have to pay the difference on your Spanish tax return. Get a consultation with a Spanish tax expert to find out your obligations in Spain.

Can I change my non-lucrative residency status to work residency? 

Yes, but only after one year. That makes the non-lucrative visa a great option for those who have enough savings to fund a year abroad in Spain, but would like to work after that. 

After your first year in Spain, you can apply for a modification to work residency, either as a self-employed person or as an employee, if you have a job offer.  See our residency options page for more information on modifications.

When should I start the process of applying for my non lucrative Spain visa

Applying for the visa must be done in person at your local embassy or consulate (US Spanish Consulates list) at least three months before you would like to leave for Spain. We would recommend 4 to 5 months before to be safe. 

Note it can sometimes take weeks or months to get a consular appointment, and your visa application can take up to two months to be processed and approved.

Make sure to check with your consulate regarding how old your documents can be.  They can be sticklers about the issue date, and many require that records such as your health certificate and police background check be no more than 3 months old.

The best option is to lock in an appointment date a few months in advance and then work on getting all your paperwork together so that it is not outdated by the time of the appointment.

What alternatives are there to the non lucrative Spain visa for remote workers? 

Useful links