NLV ‘Retirement’ Visa Applications: Top Tips And Biggest Mistakes

mature lady holding paperwork and takeaway coffee cup

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. 

Non-Lucrative Visa Basics

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.

NLV Checklist Of Requirements

The government publishes a checklist of requirements for the NLV, but applicants need to bear in mind that these represent the minimum criteria. 

  • National Visa Application Form correctly filled in
  • Form EX-01 ‘Autorización inicial de residencia temporal’ filled in
  • Fee Form 790-052 filled in
  • Recent passport-sized colour photo
  • Valid passport that has a minimum of one year left on it and at least two blank pages left in it 
  • Proof of financial means that represents 400 % of the IPREM (Indicador Público de Renta de Efectos Múltiples) monthly for the main applicant which, in 2023, is €2,400 per month/€28,800 a year. A further 100% of IPREM (€600 a month/€7,200 a year) has to be shown for each additional person on the application e.g. a married couple has to show an income of €36,000 a year in 2023
  • Full health insurance. Private health insurance must be shown for a full year and have no co-pay (excess) or deductions. British applicants in receipt of a UK State Pension can apply for an S1 in the UK that meets the health insurance criteria
  • A certificate of criminal record; known as an ACRO in the UK or a Background Check in the US 
  • A medical certificate issued by a registered medical practitioner, no more than 3 months old at the date of application, on letterheaded paper with a stamp from the practice. The certificate must then be translated into Spanish by a Sworn Translator
  • Marriage certificate if applying as a married couple and birth certificates for any children on the application
  • Proof of address

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.

Regularly Requested Additional Requirements 

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.

Top Tips For Success

We’ve collated some top tips from successful NLV applicants to increase the chance of being granted the visa:

  • Join a forum or Facebook Group such as After Brexit In Spain, which is a non-commercial group run by dedicated volunteers who share the latest information on all types of Spanish visa applications.
  • Write a cover letter giving your reason for wanting to retire to Spain; talk about a love of the country and culture and mention any ties you have such as friends, family or a history of holidaying there. The official only has a list of documents with an application but no understanding of why the person is applying; applicants doing this often suggest including a simple Google translation of the letter into Spanish.
  • Take two sets of photocopies of all documents to the consulate appointment; including a photocopy of every page of the passport. Despite the requirements only asking for a photocopy of the biometric information pages on a passport, many people report being asked for a photocopy of every page.
  • Organise your documents and photocopies to make it easier for the official who checks your paperwork against the requirement list. Have the original and photocopy of each document type together rather than all originals in one pile and all photocopies in another. If applying as a couple or family, split the documents by person and by type.
  • If possible, when applying as a couple show savings in a joint account to avoid the possibility of being asked for a costly signed affidavit that the account holder will financially support the other partner.
  • If the application is rejected the applicant is given 30 days to appeal by sending in a letter laying out why they feel the decision is wrong. Always appeal. Many applicants report being granted the NLV on appeal by laying out clearly why they feel they meet all the criteria and why they want to retire to Spain.

Mistakes to Avoid

The following are some pitfalls to avoid when applying for an NLV:

  • Intending to give up work only if granted an NLV. It’s common for applicants to say that, if their visa was rejected, they would need to continue living and working in the UK therefore they can’t give up work until they know if their visa application is successful. Unfortunately, for an NLV, the consulates don’t accept this rationale and absolutely expect the applicant to have discontinued work at the time they apply. Failure to do so almost guarantees a rejection.
  • Not being transparent and honest. It sounds obvious, but if the applicant is asked for further evidence or clarification during the process and fails to supply it or they falsify it, it will almost certainly end in a rejection.
  • Not being organised for the consulate appointment. Appointments are very short and simply involve an official checking you have supplied the right documents. If they discover any documents or ID is missing the applicant then needs to make another appointment to bring the correct documentation.
  • Having out-of-date documents. With the exception of the passport, all the other requested documentation must be no older than three months, even marriage and birth certificates. So the key is timing; generally gathering the documents a month before the appointment is optimal, taking into account the week or so it will take to get them legalised and translated. Linking back to being organised; having to get a second appointment because documents were missing on the first, runs the risk of all documents expiring and needing to be renewed.
  • Not understanding that the consulate will retain the applicant’s passport until a visa decision is made. It’s very common for applicants not to realise this and have foreign trips planned during the application period (which can be one to two months). It is possible to sign a passport out of the consulate, but it involves making an appointment to fill out forms to release the passport, then another appointment to take the passport back again if the visa application is successful and yet another appointment to pick the passport (with visa stamp in) up again. In short, it’s a total pain and best avoided.
  • Giving up if rejected. Bureaucracy is faceless; if an application is rejected by one official who isn’t satisfied it can just as easily be approved on appeal by a different official. As long as the applicant has met all the base criteria, can demonstrate that and has a good, clear argument for approval, it’s always worth appealing.

Thank you for taking the time to read this article. Do remember to come back and check The Euro Weekly News website for all your up-to-date local and international news stories and remember, you can also follow us on Facebook and Instagram.

Written by

Emma Mitchell

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


    • Michael

      16 November 2023 • 07:56

      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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