How to get a residency in Spain for non EU citizens.

In this article I am sharing my personal experience of becoming a Spanish resident for a non EU citizens (spanish residency for americans, if I would be more definite), via applying for a non-lucrative residency visa which allows to stay in Spain for a year. And after the first year there is a very easy process to continue this type of visa for the next two years and finally get a permanent residency.  I will tell you how long it takes and what steps you need to do to get Spanish residency fast.

Visado de Residencia no Lucrativa gives you a right to live in Spain without a right to work there, in other word you get a Spanish residency. You can work from home (online for instance) or have a business in another country or even have a business in Spain, but you cannot be hired by any Spanish company (officially).

documents for visa to Spain

In 2014 my husband and I started to travel around Europe, looking for a place where we would like to settle down and to raise our kids. One day I will right down all the pros and cons we had about many Mediterranean countries (we wanted to live only near the ocean), but here I just mention that in 2015 we decided to try to move to Spain. For a few months we traveled inside of Spain, moving from North (Catalonia) to South (Malaga), trying to choose a perfect place for our family. We chose Alicante and immediately after coming back to the USA started to prepare all the documents to get a residency in Spain.

Also to read: “How to get a return permit while waiting for your residency card.

We looked at the different opportunities to get a residency in Spain, read a lot of information on the Internet and decided to try to get our visas by ourselves, without the lawyers. Our visas were approved very fast and I will try to describe as detailed as possible how we reached this goal.

But before the idea of getting a residency in Spain will grow in your mind and you`ll involve yourself into researching about the details, please check your own situation according to these two big and the most important questions:

  1. Do you have enough income? Visa no lucrative – it`s a type of residency which requires to have a stable monthly income or a certain amount of money on your bank account.  So you need to earn not less than 25 600 EUR per a year for one person. If you are planning to bring to Spain a family, you should increase this number to 6 500 EUR for each dependent.   If you don`t want or cannot to show a monthly income, than you can just print your bank account statement, but make sure that the amount of money you have is double (not 25 600 EUR, but 52 200 EUR).
  2. Do you have a place to stay will you be able to find a place to stay? One of the requirements is to show that you have a place to live in Spain (hotels are not counted). There are two ways to do it: to buy a property in Spain or to sign a lease contract for not less than 1 year.

If you think that you can qualify according to two main requirements for getting a non-lucrative visa to Spain, listed above, than you can spend your valuable time reading this article till the end. If not, may be you should try to get a different type of visa (residency) to Spain, like student visa, working visa or investment visa.

You may be also interested in reading: “What do you need to know before buying a property in Spain“.

During the process of preparation the documents  for  getting your visa to Spain, I would recommend to start with those you have to wait for the longest:

Criminal record check (by the end of 2015 we had to wait for this paper for almost a half of a year, because the computer system failed down and all the information was researching and putting in the order almost manually).

To be able to order you criminal background in the USA, you need to get your fingerprints in the local police department, than send them and an application to the U.S. Department of Justice Federal Bureau of Investigation and wait for the results. When your criminal background will arrive you need to get an apostle on it, and this actually also takes some time.

Important note: if you lived in another country for the last 5 years for more than 6 months, you will have to order a criminal record check also from this country. It was my case. I had to order my criminal background  in the US and at the same time in Russia. If you have to do the same thing, just keep in mind that Spanish consulates accept the criminal record checks no more than 3 months old, so you need to be very proactive with managing the timeline of ordering these kind of papers from different countries! In my personal experience I ordered my Russian criminal background too early and when my American criminal record check arrived, my Russian one was already expired, so I had to order a new one.

Deed or lease contract. In our case we actually bought a property in Spain before we started this visa process. So we had a deed. But for those who are not planning to go so far yet, it`s very important to have a lease contract. And this is also could be kind of tricky. You need to have a lease contract for a year (or longer).  In theory it`s possible to do it online, using the real estate agencies. We honestly tried to do it (before we bought a property), but it absolutely didn`t work for us. When you will come to Spain and will try to have any kind of business with Spanish people, you probably will understand me better. For now I just would like to mention that nothing is easy in Spain.  A long story short, it`s  almost impossible to get an answer to your email and not always possible to reach somebody in Spain by phone… So if you are planning to sign a lease contract, the best way to do it is probably to go to Spain and do it there. And because this particular step could take a lot of time (and maybe even a few trips to Spain), may be it would be a good idea to start the whole journey of getting a residency visa to Spain with this step.

Summary: it is very important to show that you have a place to stay in Spain while applying for you residency. And because either process: buying a property in Spain or signing a lease contract could take more time than you probably expect, it`s better to start to move forward to get a deed or a lease contract as soon as possible and before any other step I am writing about in this article.

Número de Identificación de Extranjero (NIE). Without this number (it`s like a tax pay id number) you will be not able to buy a property or to sign a lease contract in Spain. You also will need your NIE when you`ll decide to open a bank account in Spain. You can apply for NIE in Spain or in any Spanish consulate around the world. I would recommend to keep in mind that it could take for about a month to get your NIE, that`s why I put this step in my list of “steps, which take a long time”.


What other documents you need to be able apply for a Spanish residency?

  • application form (two per a person)
  • 2 passport photos (a white background)
  • travel passport,
  • national ID or green card
  • marriage certificate if you are submitting the docs together with your spouse (must has an apostle)
  • birth certificate for each child (plus an apostle)
  • medical insurance (it must cover a repatriation and a medical treatment overseas for not less than 30 000 EUR)
  • medical record** (Note: it`s very important that the medical record would include the follow phrase “This person doesn’t have the diseases which are listed in the International Health Regulations (2005).
  • bank statment
  • Modelo 790
  • form ex-01
  • a letter with the explanation why you are applying for a long-term visa to Spain

no lucrativa visado

** Medical record  check.

I`ve found out that the easiest way to get a medical record check in the US for Spanish embassy (consulate) is to visit a Spanish speaking doctor.  There are many of them around all the states. But be sure that you get a medical record from a doctor who has a medical practice at the same state where you are going to apply for your visa to Spain.

I personally don`t understand why is it so important, but because of all our travels we got a medical record first in Arizona and submitted our docs for Spanish visa in Texas.. We were told that the medical record needs to be redone in TX, so we had to find another Spanish speaking doctor and to pay him for a medical record again. A good thing about it is this: a Spanish speaking doctor is that he/she can write a note in Spanish and you will not have to translate it.

Medical insurance
Medical insurance

Another important moment is this: if you are planning to get a long term visa to Spain for a child, even if it`s just a little tiny baby, you also needed to get a medical record check for your kid. We didn`t do it, may be because our daughter was just a few months old. And when we submitted our docs in the Spanish consulate we were told that a medical record check for a child is needed. So the very next day we had to visit a doctor again and to get a new medical record check for our little daughter. Each medical record coasted about $65 per a person.


You will have to translate to Spanish all the documents. ALL. On the official websites of the Spanish consulates there is information that a translation must be done by a certified translator. However there is no “certified translators” listed. We decided to send an email to the consulate and ask where we could order a translation which would be accepted by the consulate. Here is the answer we got:

«Hello Mr. and Ms. ***,

The documents have to be translated by a certified translator. I would recommend you to get in contact with a translation agency that can offer you that service.

Best regards».

As a result we ordered a translation online from one of the translation services in the US.  The translated docs were proved by Spanish consulate.

Spanish consulates in the US.

To get an appointment go on a website of the consulate managing the area you live in and follow the directions.   A notification that you did everything right and have an appointment day comes to your email box. Mine looked like this:

«Appointment Scheduled


Your appointment for VISA APPOINTMENT (VISA APPOINTMENT) on Monday, January 11, 2016 11:30am CST lasting 15 minutes has been successfully scheduled. To view your appointment details please visit view appointment details

In the moment that you will be aware of your impossibility to come, please cancel the appointment immediately.»

Advice #1.  First impression is very important for spanish people. Remember that spanish are conservative and even a little bit of “old style’, so if doesn’t go wrong with your personal believes I would recommend to put on a nice clothe for the appointment, just assume that you are going to apply for a job in a law firm and present yourself as best as you can.

Advice #2.  If you have children, bring them with you.  Spanish love kids. And families.

Advice #3.  Put all the docs in order. Spend some time and really organize everything nicely with the little notes where and what you have. My husband represented our papers in such a perfect order that it was so easy for a consulate found everything. The consulate was pleasantly surprised and even told us about it.  I am not sure that we got our visas so fast only because of the organization, but… may be we got it fast and without questions because of our paper organization…. You never know.

Taxes and payments for a long term visa pay at the consulate, so bring some cash with you please.


It took about 4 months to get all the docs ready. And before about 5-6 months we were in the process of negotiating a purchase contract and transferring a deed to our name. So I would say that from the day when we said to each other: “Let`s move to Spain, why note” till the appointment day at the spanish consulate where we submitted all the papers for getting a spanish residency, it took about a year fro us.

It took time. It took energy. It was not easy. But…. Our applications were proved for just 17 days!  It was fast. And I know for sure that it was fast because of all our preparations. Many steps on the long road of getting spanish residency we fulfilled by ourselves, but for some worked we hired people and paid. For instance, we paid for getting our NIE, for transferring a deed to our names, for translation…  But we didn`t pay for getting a  spanish residency, we got it by ourselves. I know that many firms offer this kind of service. And their price is over $2000 per a person. At the same time nobody cannot guarantee that you`ll get you visa. That`s why we decided to rely on ourselves and we succeed.

Also to read: “How to get a return permit while waiting for your residency card.

What did we get?

When we got the information from the consulate that our visas are approved, we come back to the consulate and got in our passport a national spanish visa,  “D” category.  According to the information on this visa, you have 90 days to get into Spain. This visa just give you a right to cross a spanish border. But an actual residency will be given to you only in Spain, not in the US or any other country where you are applying for it.

I will try to write a post about submitting the docs for getting a residency card in Spain. But at the end I would like to repeat one more time the list of the docs we represented to the consulate to get our long term visa to Spain:

  1. Application for a national visa (2 per a person)
  2. 2 passport type photos, white background
  3. Passport
  4. Green card if not a citizen of the US
  5. Form Modelo 790
  6. Form ex-01
  7. Birth certificate + apostil (for a child)
  8. Criminal record check + apostil
  9. Medical certificate
  10. Medical insurance
  11. Marriage certificate + apostil
  12. Proof of ownership, leasing or renting a property in Spain
  13. rational why applying for spanish residency
  14. Bank statements (not less than 25 600 eur per a main applicant and 6 500 eur per each dependent).

I hope it will help at least some of you. If you have any additional questions please don`t be hesitate to ask me in the comments section.

You may be also interested in reading: “What do you need to know before buying a property in Spain“.