Hopping between tapas bars in Madrid, gorging on art and culture in Barcelona or simply soaking up the sun in the Canary Islands. For most people, those beat awkward conversations by the water cooler in a lonely suburban office park. Remote workers looking for a change of scenery can now live and work in Spain if they meet the requirements of its new visa program.
The visa is aimed at “international teleworkers,” according to the Spanish government. The so-called “digital nomad” visa is open to a wide variety of remote workers and has already attracted considerable interest. U.S. Google searches for “digital nomad visa Spain” spiked by 66% in late January, according to digital marketing specialists Semrush.
Who is eligible?
The new visa is for foreigners who carry out remote work or professional activities using computers or other forms of telecommunication, according to Spain’s Ministry of Inclusion, Social Security and Migration.
- be nationals of countries outside the European Economic Area — which includes European Union countries plus Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway
- be self-employed or employed by a company operating outside of Spain
- Have no criminal record in Spain or anywhere else for five years prior to applying
- Have health insurance with a company that operates in Spain
- Be qualified to work in their field, as evidenced by a university degree or work experience
Applicants must also provide proof of a sufficient work history. Freelancers can establish this by showing a professional relationship with a foreign company for a minimum of three months, according to the requirements.
Applicants must also have sufficient funds to support their stay in Spain, which can be proven by showing a minimum monthly income of at least twice Spain’s monthly minimum wage, which was raised to 1,260 euros ($1,340) last week. That equates to around $2,680 per month, or a little more than $32,000 per year.
Spouses and families can join successful applicants, but applicants will have to show higher wages to bring them. For one family member, the applicant must show an additional 75% of the country’s monthly minimum wage, or $1,000 more per month in income. After that, they will need to show 25% for each additional dependent, or about $335 per person.
Thus, for a family of four to move to Spain, the applicant would need to show earnings of $4,350 per month, or about $52,200 per year.
A ‘game changer’
Warm weather and tempting cuisine are just two of the draws in a country where daily living often costs less than other parts of Western Europe. The cost of living in Spain is, on average, 20% cheaper than in the United Kingdom, according to the moving comparison company Comparemymove.
Market research manager Fernando Angulo said he’s been living as a digital nomad for the past 18 years. Angulo, who currently lives in Prague, told CNBC he’s relocating to Barcelona soon.
“People I know working in Thailand and Bali are moving to Spain,” he said. “They want the benefits of living in a European country. … lower taxes, the weather, mindset and cheaper living costs mean it’s becoming a huge point of interest for digital nomads.”
He said he’s seeing a lot of interest from those working in “the fintech and crypto worlds too — there are a lot of opportunities for crypto wallet holders.”
Zach Boyette, co-founder of the digital marketing agency Galactic Fed, called Spain’s digital nomad visa a “game changer.”
Boyette, a longtime digital nomad, said the visa allows digital nomads to “spend a longer time in Europe,” he said.
“This is the latest, and probably the biggest, in a trend of other countries adopting similar measures,” he said.
During the pandemic, places such as Bermuda, Croatia and Portugal launched programs to attract remote workers to live and work from their shores.
“I think it’ll be good for Spain’s economy — having these entrepreneurs, smart people, freelancers with different perspectives — come live there, and potentially settle down there over time,” he said. “They’re not taking jobs from Spain. They’re just injecting capital into the economy.”
Another draw? The money
Prithwiraj Choudhury, an associate professor at Harvard Business School who studies future work trends, said Spain’s new remote worker visa is financially compelling for two reasons:
- the tax rate for most workers is 15%, and
- visa holders can earn up to 20% of their income from local Spanish companies.
But countries stand to benefit from remote worker programs too.
Not only do they spend money, remote workers can “act as catalysts for knowledge and resource flows between regions, benefitting themselves, their organizations and their host countries,” he said.
Digital nomads can affect real estate markets too, said Marc Pritchard, marketing director at real estate developer Taylor Wimpey Espana.
“We have already seen an increase in the number of people buying second homes in Spain and then using them for work,” he said. “Buyers are also staying in their properties for longer than they did pre-pandemic. We anticipate that this will increase as both digital nomads and energy nomads head to Spain to wait out the winter in the warm.”
While it will take time to see the numbers of people taking up the new visa, Boyette — who said he hasn’t paid rent or a mortgage since 2016 — is hopeful that it will have an impact beyond the country’s borders:
“Frankly, I don’t see why more countries aren’t considering this,” he said. “My hope is that with Spain doing this, they will see increased revenues, a net positive that will eventually lead to France, the U.K. and larger countries adopting and exporting this idea around the world.”
Source: CNCB, February 2023