Residence permits in Spain: what is the best permit for you?

You are thinking of living in Spain and a very important part of the process is to regularize your situation and obtain a residence permit. However, there are many Residence permits in Spain and you do not know which one is the most suitable for you.

Well, don’t worry because in this article we are going to do a general review of all the Spanish residence permits and visas available so that you know, especially according to your specific case and your plans in Spain, which is the most recommended for you. Stay until the end, as we are going to see some tips and strategies that will be very useful for you to get your residence permit and navigate through the process very easily. 

Do you really need to apply for a residence permit?

The first thing we have to ask ourselves is: do you really need to apply for a residence permit? Well, the answer depends on two different factors: the first one is your nationality, your country of origin. 

If you are from a country within the European Union, you do not need to apply for a regular residence permit because you only have to apply for your European Union registration card or certificate, which is much easier and much faster to apply for, and with it you can now live, reside and work in Spain legally. 

Are you planning to be in Spain longer than 90 days?

If you are a citizen from outside the European Union, then we have to move on to the next question, which is: how long do you plan to be in Spain? If you are only going to be in Spain for three months or less, that is, a maximum of 90 days in any 180-day period, then you do not have to apply for a residence permit, but you do have to apply for a visa to be able to be in Spain during this time. There is a list of countries who are required to hold this visa, and a list of countries that are exempt. The official Schengen Visa list of countries is here. This visa is known as the Schengen visa or short-stay visa. It is very important that you take this period into account, because if you enter and you are going to be in Spain for 90 days and then leave the country, there will be no problem. 

If your intention is really to stay beyond these 90 days, then you will need a residence permit, otherwise you will be in an irregular situation. You will have to apply for a temporary residence, which lasts one or two years with the possibility of renewing it. It is very important to know this in advance, because to apply for many of the residence permits, you will not be able to do it from Spain, but you will have to do it at a Spanish Consulate in your country of origin. Therefore, before entering, it is very important that you plan how long you are going to stay. 

Finally, we also have the long-term residence, formerly known as permanent residence, which is what you will be granted once you arrive living in Spanish territory for a minimum of five years and you are already authorized to live indefinitely with renewals every five years.

The different residence permits in Spain

Let’s see now what are the different residence permits in Spain. The different options you have are depending on your particular situation and the main requirements so that you know exactly which one is the most suitable for you. 

The Spanish Non-lucrative visa

First type of residence: the Spanish Non Lucrative visa. Without a doubt, an option that we highly recommend due to its simplicity at the requirements level. Who is the non-profit residence for? For those people who want to come to Spain without carrying out any type of economic or work activity. We find the typical case of those who want to retire in Spain or those foreigners who simply want to live in the country. For example, spend a year visiting, discovering Spain, the different territories or the different regions and that they are not going to work. If this is your case the non-lucrative visa will be without a doubt the best option because the requirements are quite direct.

However, many people in our community ask “Is it possible to work remotely on a non-lucrative visa in Spain?”, and to answer that question we have written an article and made a video.

For this kind of visa, we are going to need private health insurance, and on the other hand, demonstrate that you have sufficient financial solvency to keep you in the country. In this case, we are talking about a minimum of 28,000 euros that you will have to show in your bank account. Although depending on your country of origin and the requirements at your consulate, since this permit is requested from your country of origin, you cannot do it from Spain, this amount may go up. It may be somewhat higher and may even require some extra requirements such as renting a place before hand, or have an school enrollment letter for your kids.

The Golden visa

Second type of residence, also quite direct in terms of requirements, is the investor visa or the famous Golden visa. This is the case for those people who want to buy, make an investment in real estate in Spain, either because it will be their habitual residence or simply because they want to invest in the country, and as long as this investment meets a minimum of 500.000 euros, then you will be able to get this first residence (which, unlike the non lucrative visa, also authorizes you to work from within Spain).

The Entrepreneur visa

The next option we find is the Entrepreneur visa. The entrepreneur visa is a work permit that is granted to those foreigners who are going to start a business in Spanish territory as long as this business is something totally innovative, it is something new that does not exist in the market, and that Therefore, it implies a high level of technology and innovation in its operations. If the business you are going to set up is something that exists, like a cafeteria or a bookstore, for example, then you would not be able to apply. This new entrepreneur visa is granted to those foreign entrepreneurs who want to start a project that is still totally new for the Spanish market and that is going to boost the country’s economy. 

The Digital nomad visa

It’s important to mention that a new type of visa is coming in 2023, the so called Digital Nomad Visa, that has been approved on December 22nd 2022 but its regulation has still not been approved. This law draft includes a new visa that permits to work remotely from Spain. Specifically, what is intended is to introduce a new visa and residence and work authorization in Spain through the well-known Entrepreneurs Law, through which you can live in Spain and work for companies that are outside our country. In addition, it allows the possibility of teleworking for companies located in Spain, meeting a series of requirements.

The Student visa

The next visa is the Student visa, which is undoubtedly a very popular option that is highly requested by many foreigners, who want to study either an university degree, a master’s degree, a doctorate, or some higher education in Spain, or even an accredited language School. This student visa can be extended as long as the studies last.

In addition, the student visa opens the doors to stay in Spain in the long term in an easy way, because once you finish your studies, if you have had this student visa you will be able to make a “modification” towards another type of residence permit, which normally will be some kind of work permit.

The student visa modification

If you have been studying in Spain for a year with this student visa, you will be able to modify a job search permit. It is basically a residence permit that allows you to spend a year in Spanish territory looking for work after finishing your studies or preparing to start your own business project, your own business. Alternatively if you receive an offer where the salary is high enough, it is a technical position, you have people in charge, etc., you could modify to a work permit as a highly skilled worker (which we will see below) and finally if you wanted to get a permit regular job you could too. Before, you had to have spent three years with your student visa in Spain, but with the reform of the regulations of the immigration law of 2022, you will no longer have to wait those 3 years, you can now change from a student visa to a work permit automatically after your studies are finished.

So, as you can see, this student visa or study visa opens the doors to many foreigners who want to stay long-term. They start studying and then change to a work permit

Obtaining a regular work permit is obviously a rather more complex option in terms of requirements. There are different work permits, the regular work permit can be either for someone else’s account (Cuenta ajena) if you want to work for a company or for your own account (cuenta propia) if you want to start your own project, and unlike the entrepreneur visa, your project would be something that already exists, it is an established business, such as a bar or restaurant, or any similar type of business. 

The regular work permit is undoubtedly a more complex option, but once again thanks to the reform of the regulation of the immigration law of 2022, the procedures and requirements will be greatly facilitated. 

There is an alternative that is the work permit as a highly qualified worker. It is a permit that was created to encourage the entry of international talent and this permit is offered to those people who, after having studied a master’s degree, or a doctorate, that is, they have a higher level education, and start working for a company leading people or directing a team as a technical position that requires that knowledge that they have acquired in this higher education and that they have at least a salary of about 40 to 45 thousand euros per year, although the higher the better for the application. In these cases, this permit can be requested as highly qualified worker.

Residence by legal union or family member

Another very frequent way for all foreigners who want to start living in Spain is the community card, that is, the residence visa as a family member of a European citizen, in the cases in which we have a family function with nationality. From any country in the European Union, in this case, they grant us this community card that allows us (and this is a great advantage) to live and work in Spain for five years. 

The most common case is the foreigner whose partner is Spanish or European and they register as a Pareja de Hecho, or common-law couple, although they can also do so by marriage, but due to the simplicity of the process, and the requirements, it is usually done through the common-law couple You register as a common-law partner with this European citizen and therefore you can therefore apply for this residence as a family member of a community member. In this case, you can exceptionally apply directly from Spain with your short-stay visa.

The Arraigos

Finally, in the last case we find the residence due to exceptional circumstances, that is, the residence due to arraigo or rooting. There are different types of Arraigos or rooting. Until July 2022 there were three specific types of Arraigo, and in 2022 a new one was added. As you know, it is granted when you have been living irregularly in Spain for a long period of time. You can access one of the four types of Arraigo

The most common, the most common is Arraigo Social (Social roots), which is granted to foreigners who have been living irregularly in Spain for three years, as we have said, who have also obtained a job offer and have their own financial means or those of a family member. or are going to carry out an activity on their own account

On the other hand, we also find Arraigo Laboral (labor roots), which is the arraigo granted to foreigners who have been in Spain for two years (one less than in the case of Arraigo Social (Social roots)) and who, in addition to these two years for at least six months they have been working irregularly in a company in Spain the main requirement apart from this two-year residence and six-year work is to make a claim for this improper contracting of the job they have been occupying. In addition, it must be proven that you have no criminal record either in your country of origin or in the country where you have resided for the last five years.

Then we find Arraigo Familiar (Family roots), which is granted to those foreign citizens in Spain who are in an irregular situation who are either the children of Spaniards of origin or the parents of a Spanish child born in Spain. 

Finally, as a novelty since the regulation reform of August 2022 we have the Arraigo Laboral or Arraigo for training, through which foreigners who prove their continued stay in Spain for a minimum period of two years can obtain a residence permit for a period of twelve months. As requirements, lack of criminal record, Commit to carry out a certain list of training.

This is in general the summary of the different residence permits and visas in Spain, and their main requirements that will allow you to obtain them.

Please notice that this article is no legal advice. If you need immigration experts, please contact Spainguru’s recommended lawyers here.

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Bruno Bianchi
Bruno Bianchi is the Director at SpainGuru, where he offers his expertise on Spanish immigration, visas, and residency. Over the years, he has been a guide for many navigating the intricacies of Spanish immigration & bureaucracy. In addition to his role at SpainGuru, Bruno anchors the SpainGuru YouTube channel. Through this platform, he shares valuable insights and updates on immigration matters, simplifying complex processes for a global audience. Bruno's dedication to providing clear and trustworthy information has made him a trusted figure in the community. In addition to his pivotal role at SpainGuru, Bruno boasts over 17 years of professional experience in several online platforms. With roles ranging from the COO and co-founder of and Sales director of the MAPSA Group, Bruno's diverse experiences (he holds 3 nationalities) and multilingual capabilities (he speaks 5 languages) make him a dynamic and influential figure in both the immigration and business sectors.