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Digital nomads in Spain: best cities, visas options, tax and more.

Company Director Spain

Making the first step toward the life of a digital nomad in Spain is exciting. You might have seen people on social media who balance an adventurous lifestyle and remote work. They explore endless opportunities by having the freedom to move and desire for changes. You don’t need to be an influencer to have an exact lifestyle. It is an accessible reality when you are free to change, discover, and live your life to the fullest. 

At Lexidy, we received numerous requests from people who work remotely and wish to stay in Spain shortly after visiting. For us, it is important to make law simple. Below our lawyers explain the easiest way to become a digital nomad in Spain.  

Under the time of IoT (Internet of things), digital nomads uncover a new horizon toward the modern work model.

Digital nomads, who are they?

A digital nomad is a person with endless curiosity to explore the world while having work fully via the internet. Not a movement, but the mindset to have the freedom to live life to the fullest.  

Originally the term “nomad” is old as humanity. Back to the 8,500–6,500 BCE, a nomad was a member of the community who didn’t have fixed habitation. This included groups of hunter-gatherers who had to change places several times depending on the best advantage of Flora and Fauna. As you see, It took some time since it has shifted online. Accordingly, the whole idea would extend even more in the future,.  

At present, the world of digital nomads is expanding, they uplifted the new possibility of work without physical presence. Most commonly they are Programmers, Developers, Designers, Marketers, Entrepreneurs, and Writers but can be any who can turn the work to the remote. The continuous shift to online will make it accessible to more jobs each year, therefore, prioritizing comfort and performance more than a specific location to work from. 

Best cities in Spain for digital nomads:

In Spain, the prime point of Europe, if tourists could stay inside the country after vacation, they probably would. The overwhelming Spanish culture accompanied by convenient location and climate makes the country the desired place to live. From South Andalusia to North-west Galicia and East Catalonia to Central Madrid, Spain charms with cultural diversity and switching landscapes. 

  • Barcelona.

Barcelona is next to the Balearic Sea, also known as a tech hub because of the entrepreneurial society. of people from all over the world, but first has to be counted as the city of outstanding architecture.

Feel welcome to visit our office in Barcelona, we are just in the center, a few steps away from Casa Batllo. Our Immigration, Tax, and Real estate lawyers will help you with the desired goals.  

  • Madrid. 

The heart and the most business city to find in Spain. Madrid has an intense rhythm where people balance hard work with large leisure afterward. The greatest place for art and music devotees.  

Visit us in the capital! Lexidy in Madrid helps with a wide range of legal services.

  • Seville.

Seville is a port city located next to Portugal with a mix of mountains and shores. The city makes it accessible to travel all around Spain and neighboring countries

  • Valencia  

Not far from Barcelona, moderately big Valencia brings slow-paced lifestyle to Spanish. Best niche city to enjoy your time on the beach and find alike people in the English-speaking community.

  • Malaga

Malaga is also a port city, small in size but is the second after Barcelona in terms of technology development. 

Lexidy Law Firm – authoritative guide to set up life in Spain and Portugal. We share our knowledge about the law to make your goals easier to reach. 

Visa options for digital nomads in Spain 

In case you are a digital nomad and you plan to work and reside in Spain, it is important to take into account your job circumstances in order to see which
the residence permit option is the one you have to apply for: The Non-Lucrative Residence Permit or the Business Activity Residence Permit.

When it comes to the legislative procedure of being a digital nomad in Europe, the answer is a bit complex. Because this trend is fairly new to Europe, most of the European countries did not adopt precise rules. While there are numerous accessible visa types, it could be difficult to apply for the right one. The most common question we receive is regarding two similar visa types. Down below would explain do and don’t about choosing a visa to Spain for remote work.  

Our lawyers advise you to take time and analyze visa options before applying, otherwise, it can take appropriate turns. In the article, we advise only legal procedures that are legitimate only for digital nomads wanting to move to Spain. 

Non-lucrative Residence Permit

In Spain, there is only one legal way of getting a residence permit for digital nomads and it is a Business Activity Residence Visa. Debulking the myth, it is not the Non-lucrative Visa. To end the common fallacy, we have asked the heads of the Immigration and Tax departments at Lexidy to give explanations from a legislative viewpoint. 

What is a Spanish non-lucrative visa? 

  • Non-lucrative visa created especially for non-working individuals (with a reliable, ongoing source of income and substantial savings) who wish to stay in Spain for more than 3 month period.

Source: Ministry of Immigration in Spain, http://www.exteriores.gob.es/

Even knowing the existing opportunity for the non-lucrative visa, now the government requires more information than before, lowering the possibility for this alternative to zero

Expert opinions from Immigration and Tax departments: 

The option to apply for the Non-Lucrative Residence Permit depends on the obligation that you will have to register with the Spanish Social Security, due to your work situation in Spain:

  • If you are the director of a foreign company, and you plan to reside in Spain while operating your foreign company, which issues invoices in the name of the company, you would not have the obligation to register with the Spanish Social Security, and you would be able to apply for the Non-Lucrative Residence Permit.

  • In case you are an employee of a foreign company and you plan to keep on working remotely while residing in Spain for that foreign company, you would not have to register with the Spanish Social Security, and you would be able to apply for a Non-Lucrative Residence Permit. However, bear in mind that, lately, some Spanish Consulates are requesting a letter of resignation signed by the employer and the employee, in order to accredit that the applicant for the Non-Lucrative Residence Permit will work in Spain remotely (this is contradictory to what is established by law but, as we know, the different consulates can have their own criteria).

  • In case you plan to work as a freelancer in Spain, without a company, and invoicing to your clients on your name, even if they are foreign clients, you will have to register with the Spanish Social Security and, thus, you would not be able to apply for the Non-Lucrative Residence Permit. In that case, you would have to apply for the Business Activity Residence Permit.”

In case you are considering being an employee for a foreign company as an employee, at Lexidy we can advise you about the options you would have.  

What is possible is to work remotely as an employee for a company established outside Spain. Also, as long as the company has no clients in Spain and does not offer services in Spain.

Apart from Immigration, Jose García, Head of the Tax Department, comments that the issue of digital nomads raises a serious problem in tax matters (and linked to what Laura has commented):

“If the Digital Nomad is a freelancer (which means that works under a contract for the clients) when he becomes a tax resident in Spain (for spending more than 183 days in Spain), has the obligation of registering before the Spanish Social Security.

I think that the figure of the Digital Nomad tries to take advantage of the “fiscal statelessness” by flying under the radar. Precisely, what is attractive about the digital nomad novelty is the lack of state control. 

However, sometimes, this is understood as if they will never be a tax resident anywhere, which is completely incorrect. Even if they do not register anywhere, they will be considered a Tax resident somewhere, based on the double tax treaties between different countries. And when the time comes, the Digital Nomad will have to pay taxes on his/her worldwide income.”

Jose García

Working for a company remotely is something that it is not expressly prohibited by law, however, as explained, some Consulates understand that with a Non Lucrative residence permit it is not possible to work at all, even if the person does not have to register with the Spanish Social Security, so this is something to bear in mind.

Business Activity Residence Permit 

The Business Activity Residence Permit would allow you to reside and manage your business in Spain from the very first moment. You can apply for this type of residence permit in case you wish to establish a company in Spain and work as its administrator, or in case you wish to work as a freelancer in Spain without establishing a company.

The Business Activity Residence Permit would allow you to reside and manage your business in Spain from the very first moment. You can apply for this type of residence permit in case you wish to establish a company in Spain and work as its administrator, or in case you wish to work as a freelancer in Spain without establishing a company.

Step 1. Authorisations

You have to present the application for the Business Activity Residence Permit personally at the Spanish Consulate of your place of residence.

Besides the basic personal requirements, you have to accredit the viability of your project by presenting documents regarding your business and financial situation, such as documentation accrediting your training and qualifications (if needed), accreditation of enough economic investment and/or commitment from financial institutions, commitment letters by future clients in Spain, and a detailed business plan indicating the expected investment, profitability and possible jobs created. 

In case you wish to establish a company in Spain and work as its administrator, you have to have the company established and registered with the corresponding registry before the application for the Business Activity Residence Permit. Should you wish that your company initiates the activity before you obtain the residence permit, you will have to appoint a legal representative of that company in Spain, which must be a Spanish citizen or a resident in Spain.

Furthermore, you will have to find a place from where you will conduct the activity in Spain, which can be an office, a co-working space, or your home if your work can be done from there. 

It can take up to three months until you receive notification of their decision on the application.

Step 2. Visa

If the authorisation is granted, you will have to apply for the visa at the Spanish Consulate within 1 month after receiving the positive resolution. After receiving the Visa, you have to enter Spain within its duration.

Step 3. Spanish Social Security and obtainment of the Foreigner Identity Card:

You have to realise the registration at Social Security as the administrator of the company or as a freelancer within three months after entering Spain. After the registration, you have one month to apply for the Foreigner Identity Card at the Immigration Office of your place of residence.

As a general rule, the application for this residence permit is more complicated than the Non-Lucrative Residency Permit which is why we suggest applying for the Non-Lucrative Residence Permit if the applicant is not in a hurry to start working in Spain, and modify the Non-Lucrative Residence Permit into a Business Activity residence permit after having resided in Spain for at least 1 year. However, beware of faults that can happen with the Non-Lucrative visa that we explained above.

Please note that, after having resided in Spain for one year, residence permits can be modified to other residence permits. Thus, if the applicant is the holder of a Non-Lucrative Residence Permit and after the first year of residency in Spain wishes to start working in Spain, there is the option to apply for a modification of the visa from Spain, as long as they comply with the specific legal requirements regarding the permit the person wishes to apply for.

Sum Up

Whether you are choosing Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia, or any other city in Spain, be conscious about law procedure. The country is borderless of possibilities and discoveries, surely here you find something for yourself. A Business Activity Visa may be complex in the first place, but the one to deliver you the best experience. 

When people wonder what can be the best time for a change, the answer will be tomorrow which rarely happens. If you are an active person with a mindset toward changes and endless curiosity, make the first step TODAY, and Lexidy will help you throughout your adventure.

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