Digital Nomad Visa Spain: Requirements for US Citizens
Have you always wanted to live in Spain? If you have, you’re not alone. The land of flamenco, sangria, and sunshine attracts people from all over the world. Not to mention the relatively low cost of living, warm weather and even warmer culture make one of the top places to move. But can you really make it happen? (Spoiler alert: Yes, you can!)
If you want to move to Spain as an American, there are several options you can pursue. You’ve probably heard of the North American Language and Cultural Assistants Program (if you haven’t, learn more about the top 8 teach English in Spain programs). Or the Non-Lucrative Visa, a great option if you’ve got passive income from investments or retirement. But now, a new visa is available: the Spain’s Digital Nomad Visa.
In this article, we’ll go over everything you need to know about Spain’s Digital Nomad Visa, especially if you’re a US citizen. We’ll cover the visa requirements, the advantages and disadvantages of this visa, the two ways you can apply, the process, and the big and little “gotchas” that can stop you in your tracks if you’re not prepared. So, let’s dig in and find out how you can move with Spain’s Digital Nomad Visa!
Spain’s Digital Nomad Visa: how it works
Spain’s Digital Nomad Visa is currently the fastest visa you can get for Spain. The average processing time is just 20 working days, lightning-fast for a Spanish visa procedure.
The law supporting this visa, technically known as the Startups Law, was hotly anticipated for many months, before it was finally approved in late 2022. As a new law, there are some growing pains, so not everything is perfectly clear yet. In general, the law allows people from non-EU countries to live in Spain and work remotely. Once in Spain and approved, you can work remotely, either for a company located outside of Spain, or as a freelancer.
This is a solid option for US citizens who work remotely, especially those who have already established a fully-online freelance business. “Wait a second,” you might wonder. “But I’m not a freelancer! I have a remote job, with a regular paycheck! Can I do this too?”
The answer is yes …sort of. There are currently limitations on the ways you can use this visa if you aren’t a freelancer, which we’ll detail below. And if you are a freelancer, we’ll also cover what’s involved when you freelance while living in Spain.
Spain Digital Nomad Visa requirements
Like all Spanish visas, the Nomad Visa has requirements you’ll have to meet in order for your application to be approved. Fortunately they are easy to understand, so once you read through them, you’ll know right away whether or not you qualify.
- Proof of employment for 3+ months
You’ll need to have worked for your company (or as a freelancer) for at least three months. To prove this, you’ll show current contracts that began a minimum of three months before your application date, and are indefinite, rolling, or at least last for the duration of the initial visa (maximum three years, if applying from within Spain).
- Proof of employer/client business existence of 1+ year
Your employers (or clients) must have existed for at least a year. If you’re a freelancer, your clients can’t be individuals, they have to be companies. But if you’re a person who works with individuals, like a coach or a financial advisor, take heart: there may be ways around this limitation, like forming a company and signing a freelance contract with it.
- Sufficient experience or expertise
To prove that you know your stuff, you’ll have to show that you’ve worked in your field for at least 3 years, or that your education is sufficient to qualify you for the work, like a university diploma, or proof of related professional training.
- Income requirements
The Spanish government maintains a figure called the Minimum Interprofessional Salary (SMI). For 2023, the SMI is 1,080€/month. To qualify for the visa, you have to make two times the SMI. If you want to add dependents to your application, you’ll need to show an additional 75% of SMI for the first dependent (spouse), and 25% of SMI for each additional dependent (child).Because Spanish paychecks are paid in 14, rather than 12, payments, there’s a bit of math required to convert the annual necessary annual income in euros into monthly dollars. For the main applicant (you), two times SMI is €2,16/month (€30,240 annually). Divided by 12 months, that means you need €2,520, or $2,744 each month, for one person. For a couple, that’s €3,330, or $3,626. For a family of four, it’s €3,870, or about $4,214.
All dollar figures are as of November, 2023, and may move up or down as the value of the dollar fluctuates. Also, the SMI follows inflation, and will most likely go up a percentage point or two in 2024.)
- Proof of Income
To show that you meet the minimum requirements, you can supply either invoices (if you’re a freelancer), or paystubs (if you’re an employee). These have to cover the same 3-month timespan as your contracts. For employees, just include three pay stubs, plus proof of payment into a bank account in your name, in your application. For freelancers, it’s three months of invoices (with proof of payments of those specific invoices into a bank account in your name).
- Approval from employer/client
You’ll need to provide proof that your employer (or your clients) have approved working for them remotely from Spain. US employees often run into roadblocks here, because HR departments can get nervous about foreign tax and legal obligations. But freelancers who work entirely online should have little trouble with this — just make sure it’s in your contract that you can work remotely.
- Proof of social insurance
Social insurance is required for anyone working in Spain. Most non-EU countries produce an official social insurance coverage certificate. US Social Security has this certificate, but it’s available only if a company sends you overseas. That’s why American W2 employees can’t easily use this visa (for now…more on this below). Alternatively, your American employer can agree to pay your Spanish social insurance directly (this is very rare, but if they do agree to do it, they can provide proof that they have registered as a foreign entity with the Spanish Seguridad Social).
- Private health insurance policy
You’ll need to buy a full-coverage Spanish health insurance policy for yourself and any dependents, unless you’re registering as a freelancer, aka autónomo, in which case you’ll all be covered by public health. Private insurance for you and your dependents is recommended in any case, to cover you after arrival in Spain and until you complete your paperwork following your approval. Spanish insurance companies know how to write this type of policy, so it’s easy to get. You’ll need to pay the annual premiums in advance, but Spanish health insurance is affordable by American standards (around €50-100/month).
- Clean criminal record
You’ll need to provide a criminal record clearance for the US, as well as any other countries where you’ve lived in the past two years. An FBI background clearance is accepted; you can usually get this done even if you’re currently living abroad. You’ll also need to make a declaración responsable stating that you have no criminal record for the past five years.
Spain Digital Nomad Visa: stay up-to-date
The prospect of being able to work remotely for an employer or client back home from a Mediterranean beachside cafe is incredibly exciting. But with the remote worker visa being based on a brand new law, it’s bound to experience some hiccups. There have already been adjustments and new interpretations, although changes are “not as frequent as in the beginning of 2023”, says Richelle de Wit, the founder of Ask Richelle Andalucia, a Spain immigration consultancy.
Richelle advises Americans to be proactive and “avoid delays and even rejections” by engaging an experienced professional to help them with the visa process. Another way to stay informed, although less efficient, is to join reputable DNV-related Facebook groups, where advice about the visa is given freely, both by professionals like Richelle, and other Americans who are applying for (and being approved for) the digital nomad visa every day.
The “W2 vs 1099” challenge Americans face is just one example of the wrinkles yet to be ironed out. Rumor is that the Spanish and US governments are talking about making a social security certificate possible for DNV applicants, but this hasn’t happened yet. So, if you have a W2 job, your first order of business is to talk your employer into making you a 1099 contractor, or freelancer. Once that’s accomplished, provided you meet all the other requirements, you can start planning your move to Spain.
Spain Digital Nomad Visa application
Spain’s digital nomad visa application process is similar to other Spanish visas, with one exception: you can apply for the DNV from Spain. You just need to gather your documents, go to Spain on a tourist visa, or rather as a tourist under the normal 90-day Schengen visa waiver, submit your completed application form with the application fee, and wait for approval.
Most applications are approved in less than a month, but if any complications arise, your 90-day limit will be extended. You can be rejected, or asked for more paperwork, but you would only have to leave Spain if you’re turned down again after an appeal. And you can work remotely the whole time, which already sounds pretty good, right?
Best of all, if you apply within Spain, your initial visa period will be for a maximum of three years, provided contracts are in place covering that amount of time or indefinite.
Intrigued? You might already be daydreaming about where to wait out the process! If you are, check out our 12 best places to live in Spain and narrow down your top choices. But what if you don’t want to move right away? That’s okay too. You can apply at the Spanish consulate that services your region of the US. The downside of applying through your consulate is that the visa you’ll get if approved is good for only one year initially, not three.
Also, because most people are applying from within Spain, consulates may not fully grasp the requirements of this visa, and may turn down applications that should be accepted. So we think applying from Spain is the best option, if you can make it work.
Spain Digital Nomad Visa taxes
Moving to Spain is a big step. You’ll experience life differently. You might discover a taste for green olives, taking siestas, or getting kissed on the cheek when you meet total strangers! If this is all new to you, head over to our 20 pros and cons of living in Spain as an American to learn more about Spanish culture. But if you’re ready to take the leap now, hold up a second: you need to think about your taxes.
Like most Spanish residency visas, this one requires you to live at least 183 days of the year in Spain, making you a Spanish taxpayer. And those taxes are high — up to 45-47% for top earners!
Beckham law Spain & capital gains in Spain
But what about the IRNR, also called “Beckham’s Law”? British soccer star David Beckham famously benefited from this law, which caps your tax rate at 24% for your first 600,000€/year of income. DNV holders approved for this also get their income taxes deferred for the first two years, interest-free.
Sadly, Beckham’s Law only applies to employees, so Americans on the DNV will unfortunately have to pay regular Spanish income taxes. However, while it’s true that the highest tax rates in Spain are eye-wateringly high, it’s a tiered system. You’ll pay the highest rate on your income over 300,000€, the second-highest rate on your income over 60,000€, and even less on income below that — 19% is the lowest tier in most regions. And although you’re taxed on your worldwide income, whatever you pay to Spain will usually cover all income tax owed to Uncle Sam. Yes, you’ll still file US tax returns.
On the other hand, capital gains are taxed in Spain, at 19%-28% (the IRNR, if you qualify, limits it to 19%).
Freelancer in Spain
And being a freelancer — autónomo in Spanish — entails tax obligations in itself. Crucially, you’ll pay 300€/month for social insurance, and even more if you’re a high earner. You’ll also pay quarterly and annual income taxes, plus VAT. But social insurance rates are greatly reduced for the first year. Also, the system offers benefits, like paid maternity leave, that freelancers Stateside can only dream of — and, let’s not forget, free health care. It pays to avoid any big financial surprises, so learn about the tax and autónomo systems before you apply.
Is the Spain Digital Nomad Visa right for you?
If Spain wasn’t on your radar until until recently, you can learn more about living in Spain as an American. But if a life in Spain is already on your wishlist, you owe it to yourself to check out all the ways to make that wish come true, including the Spain Digital Nomad Visa.
Analyze your situation in light of the visa’s requirements, drawbacks and high points. If it’s a good fit for you, you could be sipping sangria in the Spanish sun in no time! Here are some other ways to move forward with your move-abroad goals:
- Sign up for the next Move Abroad After 30 Masterclass to see if a move abroad is a possibility for you!
- Join our Facebook Group for women age 30 and up who want to move abroad
- Grab your copy of our Ultimate Visa Guide to Living in Europe as an American