Nowadays, and especially after the pandemic, more and more individuals from all around the world decide to leave their usual office and start working remotely. When searching for the perfect location that will become the new base of operations, Spain easily comes to mind.
But then is when we enter the legal question.
For many years, remote workers and the so-called digital nomads have relied on the non-lucrative visa as the way to establish themselves legally in Spain and carry out their job and generate their income online. But is it that really possible today? Can you actually work remotely in Spain with a non-lucrative visa legally speaking?
In this article we solve this question once for all.
Why the NLV seemed the ideal option for working remotely
Even though it is called visa, is a residence permit for 1 year that can be renewed every 2 after those 12 initial months come to an end.
Just hiring private health insurance and demonstrating the possession of a minimum of €26.000 on your bank account is enough to obtain this visa.
And those simple requirements enabled an easy adoption among many expats, especially those who wanted to retire in Spain, who decided to spend one year in the country without working as a gap year, or those in any other similar situation in which no economic activity is carried.
And that is the essence of the NLV: you must demonstrate to have sufficient funds so that you don’t have to work to sustain yourself in the country.
Nevertheless, there is a segment of foreigners who have used this visa for remote work too, and you may be able to find out their testimony online.
But is that possible from a legal standpoint?
If you start doing your research, you will encounter conflicting information: some say it is possible, others say it is not.
That helps explain why we receive so many queries from our clients (especially after the pandemic) asking questions like:
- Can I work remotely in Spain for clients who are based in other countries?
- Can I work for a company that is located outside Spain while being here?
- And can I make money while on a non-lucrative visa?
Let’s try to answer all those questions and shed some light on this topic.
What does the immigration law say?
This is where things get a bit tricky.
When talking about the non-lucrative visa, the General Immigration Regime in Spain states that:
- You cannot work for a Spanish company
- You cannot work for a Spanish employer
- You cannot open your business in Spain
- You cannot open a branch office in the Spanish territory
And that’s it.
But what about working remotely? What does the law say?
That is the problem: the Spanish immigration law simply does not address this topic. There is no section talking about this type of economic relationship.
And this is what has been generating many doubts, as some consulates may have accepted it while others haven’t, causing painful rejections to foreigners who after reading online that it is possible or following the advice of an expat friend have tried with poor results.
Then, can you work remotely in Spain with a non-lucrative visa or not?
Unfortunately, the real (and legal) answer is no. You cannot work remotely in Spain with a non-lucrative visa (wait until the end, things may not be that bad).
And if we consider the reason why the non-lucrative residency exists and what are its main requirements, we can reach this same conclusion by ourselves.
It is logical to think that a visa that requires you to have sufficient funds in your bank account to afford your living (and that amount being quite high) is not made for receiving any other source of income than the one you already have.
It is true, nevertheless, that until very recently many non-EU citizens have who were digital nomads or who wanted to work remotely from Spain used this path.
But especially during the pandemic (from 2020 onwards), the vast majority of consulates started to reject applications from foreigners who clearly stated they wanted to start working remotely.
Or, even worse, if the consulate sees that remote work is what you have been doing for the past months/years, your application may even get rejected too.
Hence, our advice is to be really cautious here.
Search online. Enter your consulate’s website and read all the requirements and see what they are saying. Get in touch with them and try to get more information.
Or, what is really ideal, contact our immigration lawyers so that we can assess your situation and devise which is the best solution.
But wait! There is an alternative
Reading this article may have generated some frustration and negative feelings: perhaps you were picturing a great future in which you could work under the Spanish sun, and that now may not seem possible anymore.
But there is an alternative!
There is a new visa that will radically change the game, and that will allow digital nomads, remote workers, and any other foreigner in the same situation to legally live in Spain while receiving income and working for other countries.
This new visa is under the new startup law, and the only downside is that it is not yet legally available.
For the past months, the Spanish government has been working on all the required procedures to publish this new law, which must be now voted on the Congress.
While we don’t know yet which are the expected publishing dates, we hope that will be really soon, as many foreigners will really benefit from this measure.
And, for any other doubt, our lawyers are at your complete disposal: