By Emma Mitchell •
Updated: 16 Nov 2023 • 15:50
NLV success. Credit: Image by wayhomestudio on Freepik
Retiring to Spain is possible for non-EU citizens, including post-Brexit UK, thanks to the Non-Lucrative (‘retirement’) Visa. Those who have been through the process know that there’s the published list of visa requirements and then there’s the reality of applying where applicants are often asked to jump through extra hoops.
The Non-Lucrative Visa (NLV) is often referred to as the retirement visa which gives the biggest clue about who it’s aimed at, those who don’t intend to carry out any paid employment either in Spain or outside Spain. The Investor Visa (aka ‘Golden Visa’), Self-Employed Visa (‘Autonomo’) or Digital Nomad Visa are alternatives for people wanting to work whilst living in Spain, whereas the NLV is restricted to ‘passive income’ only (i.e. income derived from means that don’t require active participation) such pensions, savings, dividends and rental income. More about the other visas can be read in our How to Retire to Spain: The Complete Guide.
If an application for an NLV is successful it grants an initial one-year residency visa which can be renewed for a further two years twice (i.e. a total of five years) before a permanent residency can be applied for. During that period the applicant cannot spend more than six months outside Spain in the first year and no more than 10 months in total for the five years if they intend to seek permanent residency.
The government publishes a checklist of requirements for the NLV, but applicants need to bear in mind that these represent the minimum criteria.
The medical certificate and criminal record certificate must be legalised with the Hague Apostille stamp which is a certificate issued by the Department of State in the US and the Legalisation Office in the UK. If you’re required to supply other official documents, such as Marriage or Birth Certificates, they must also have the Apostille stamp.
On the ground, officials dealing with an application can, at their sole discretion, ask for further documentation or seek clarification on what has been submitted. Whether they do or not does, like most things bureaucratic, come down to how the individual approaches their role and perhaps even how good a day they’re having!
Proof of non-working status
It seems to be increasingly common that NLV applicants who are under state retirement age are being asked for proof that they aren’t working in the form of a P45 or, in the case of self-employed people, a letter from the HMRC.
Most people being asked for this requirement report that the Spanish consulate ask for this proof at the time of application i.e. that the applicant has to prove that they have already stopped working when they apply.
If, in the financial means evidence, an applicant shows an income from being a landlord it’s also not uncommon for consulate officials to request that they provide a signed contract with a management agency as proof that the applicant isn’t actively managing properties themselves which would count as work.
Simon M said, “When I applied I was a self-employed owner of a limited company; I had to show proof from Companies House that I had dissolved the company.”
Alex W shared her experience, “I was told a letter of resignation would be good enough, but they refused it and gave me 10 days to produce a P45. I was still working my notice period so I didn’t have one! They rejected my application and I have to start all over again. It’s so frustrating and has made us think twice about going.”
Bianca G shared “I was self-employed and had to get a letter from the HMRC to confirm that I had ceased trading.”
Financial Means Evidence
This is an area where officials reviewing NLV applications often ask for clarification, extra evidence and funds in addition to the stated requirement. Following are some of the additional information and requirements applicants have reported they’ve been asked for.
Bank statements: It’s reported that they either need to be original copies on headed paper sent by the bank or, in the case of printed-off e-statements, taken to a local branch to be stamped. Statements covering six months is a regular request, although some people report being asked for 12 months of statements.
Accounts in a single name: Some applicants who are married who show bank statements from accounts in one name report that they’ve had to produce an affidavit confirming that they will financially support their partner. Reports are that the affidavit has to be witnessed by a notary, then legalised with an apostille stamp and finally translated by a sworn translator.
Donna S commented, “We showed a lump sum in a savings account that was in my hubby’s name but then he got asked to do a legal statement that he would be financially responsible for me. We had to pay 120 for a notary 30 to get it legalised and 23 for the translation so it added a lot of cost.”
Additional funds: Although, technically, an applicant can simply show a savings account with the full amount required for the initial year’s visa (€28,800 + €7,200 for each additional person on the application in 2023), the experience on the ground is that applicants are often asked to show additional savings or income. In some cases, it has been known for consulates to demand proof of double the minimum amount. The thinking seems to be that if you show the minimum financial requirement in one lump sum, some officials will wonder where your income will come from in year 2.
It’s worth mentioning that, if successful in getting the first year’s visa, if the applicant intends to show savings as financial proof when the visa is renewed for years two and three, they need to show twice the amount i.e. if €36,000 in savings was shown for year one, then €72,000 savings would need to be shown on renewal to cover years two and three and, again, on renewal for years four and five €72,000 would need to be shown.
This can also have its problems as renewal applicants who showed €36,000 of savings for a couple on the initial application, then left it untouched in an account and added more savings to enable them to show €72,000 on renewal, have reported being asked to show proof of the income they’d been living on.
Origin of funds: Applicants are sometimes asked to provide documentary proof of the origins of their savings or income; for instance proof of a house sale if savings come from that, copy of a signed tenancy agreement if showing property rental as a passive income, proof of share ownership if drawing a dividend etc.
Information On Spent Criminal Convictions
Part of the requirements is a clear criminal record check or ACRO in the UK. Technically the requirements for the visa are no criminal offences in the previous five years, but British applicants regularly report being asked for details of old, spent offences when an ACRO certificate bears the phrase ‘no live trace.’
An ACRO will either show ‘no trace’, meaning no previous cautions or convictions, ‘no live trace’ meaning there are old, spent, cautions or convictions on record or it will list details of any live cautions or convictions. It is very common for consulate officials to ask for details of previous offences not detailed on an ACRO and a number of applicants have reported having their visa rejected on the basis of minor driving offences that are years old.
We’ve collated some top tips from successful NLV applicants to increase the chance of being granted the visa:
The following are some pitfalls to avoid when applying for an NLV:
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Emma landed in journalism after nearly 30 years as an executive in the Internet industry. She lives in Bédar and her interests include raising one eyebrow, reckless thinking and talking to people randomly. If you have a great human interest story you can contact her on email@example.com
don’t forget after 6 months income tax becomes payable in Spain, the english car needs transferring to Spanish plates (UNLIKE THE ONE SEEN LAST WEEK UNTAXED/MOT’D SINCE 2007), new wills etc etc etc .and there are visas! it puts down those that do yje right thing
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