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  • Writer's pictureInvestment Synergy Team

How can I move to Spain now the golden visa has been scrapped ?

No golden visa? No problem. There are still options for Brits who want to live in Spain despite the axing of the scheme, whether they are working or retired.


Liz Rowlinson April 9th - The Times


This week Spain became the latest country to announce that it is getting rid of its golden visa scheme, which can grant non-EU nationals residency when they buy property costing at least €500,000. 

 

With other countries such as Portugal and Greece amending or ending their golden visa schemes of late, there’s a feeling that in Europe the door is closing on these type of residency schemes, blamed for outpricing locals and causing house price speculation.

Spain’s left-wing culture minister Ernest Urtasun called the golden visa a “European disgrace”, saying that “it cannot be that someone is given a residence permit for the fact of being rich; this is creating first and second-class citizens”.

 

Spain’s popularity with overseas investors meant that 2023 was the second highest year on record for foreigners buying property. Some 123,189 homes were bought by foreigners, according to the Spanish housing ministry, while domestic sales have dropped off in the face of higher mortgage rates.

What does it mean for the British? Despite allowing holders to work in Spain and spend flexible time periods there, the golden visa (also known as the investor visa) has not been as popular as some other visa types.

Only 185 Britons have applied for a Spanish golden visa since Brexit came into force in 2021, according to the online newspaper El Confidencial — a fraction of the 10,000 issued to non-EU investors since 2013 and of the thousands who buy properties each year in Spain. In July to September 2023 the British bought 2,188 homes, making them the biggest group of foreign buyers. Many of these were not in cities, where 94 out of every 100 golden visas have been issued, according to the Spanish government, and where housing affordability for locals is the biggest issue.

 

Melanie Radford from the relocation department of My Lawyer in Spain is trying to expedite 15 golden visa applications — including three British — as panic sets in before Spanish parliament passes the legislation. “I’ve seen some processed in three to four weeks, so I think it’s possible to push them through,” she says. It is not yet clear what will happen to golden visa holders, but she says some consulates such as Malaysia have stopped processing applications.

She says that with the €500,000 (unmortgaged) purchase necessary in one person’s name — if a couple buy a property they are deemed to own €250,000 each — the golden visa has not been as popular as the non-lucrative visa (NLV) aimed at non-workers such as the retired. “Many British buyers do not have the time nor the funds to purchase a property for €500,000.”


Although official figures are not available on its take-up, the digital nomad visa introduced last year is the most popular route for Britons looking to work in Spain — especially those in marketing and IT, or company owners, says Vicente Garcia from Legal Luris, a law and tax firm. “If somebody wants to move straight away it is easier to obtain quickly — 20 working days, if they meet the criteria [see below].” His clients typically favour the Costa Blanca, Costa del Sol or the cities of Valencia or Madrid. Employees or self-employed non-EU nationals can apply for this visa, which has been attracting younger remote workers spurred by lifestyle benefits.

 

Adam Leaver uses his outdoor gym, plucks a lemon off a nearby tree for his morning cup of tea, and then he’s on the laptop for a few hours in his house in the town of Orihuela in the region of Valencia. “I used to work as a full-time employee tied to my desk in Watford,” says the 31-year-old business analyst, originally from Gloucester. “When I heard about the new Spanish digital nomad visa I fast forwarded my long-term plan to move here. Weather and affordability were the two main reasons.”

With cycling and off-road quad biking further attractions, he’s a long way from the typical retired British person playing golf. So is Suzanne Haider, who in August moved from Manchester to Villamartin, Costa Blanca, with her husband, Musa, to run their online tutoring company after buying a three-bedroom villa with a budget of €150,000. They are currently waiting for their digital nomad visas. “In the summer we swim every morning before work,” says Haider, 48, who has sons aged 19 and 22. “Finishing lessons at 9pm, it’s the ideal time to go out for dinner — in Spain we fit so much more in the day.”

 

Official data shows that in 2022, the latest available full year, 4,400 Brits moved to Spain for reasons other than study, employment or family. While some were retiring, others were looking to take time out before setting up a new business. For these, applying for an NLV and modifying it (in Spain) after a year is a popular route, Radford says. “Some are not sure quite what they want to do, so they will take a year out to generate a business plan. It’s easier than applying for a self-employment [autonomo] visa at the outset from the UK.”

Mark McMillan from Sun Lawyers in Alicante says that NLVs are still the most popular visa for their British clients. “It takes the Spanish consulate around four weeks to make a decision.”


In her attempt to swap Bermuda for Alicante to work remotely as the chief finance officer of a construction company, Heather Wilson’s application for an NLV was rejected by the Spanish consulate in London. She was told she was “too young to retire”. The 52-year-old got a digital nomad visa last year. “My parents are Scottish, so I fancied Europe. Spain is inexpensive, and the 12pm to 8pm working hours suit me.”

The Valencian region (including the Costa Blanca) was the most popular with foreign buyers in 2023, with 39,171 sales, followed by Andalusia (23,247) and Catalonia (18,283), according to the Spanish housing ministry.

 

Some remote workers are spending longer at a second home they’ve owned for several years. For Gill Burgess from Northumberland this means an Andalusian finca in the village of Competa, an hour from Malaga. “Scuttling between the UK and Spain, we were living our lives under the Schengen calculator,” Burgess, 59, says of the app used to keep track of days spent in Spain up to the 90-day limit. She and her husband, Pete — who have two grown-up children — set up their Gateshead-based company Revolution Growth, from which she can do her job “almost all remotely”. “Since I got the digital nomad visa in February I spend much more time outside, walking in the mountains.”

 

The NLV and digital nomad visas, despite requiring significant paperwork and some expenses — has tax benefits. Holders can apply — within six months — for the special expats’ tax regime, or Beckham law, which means a flat 24 per cent rate of income tax up to €600,000 on Spanish income. 

Spain has a wealth tax, which has been a deterrent to taking residency for some (another advantage of the golden visa is that it doesn’t require residency), but the Balearic regional government has followed Madrid and Andalusia and raised its wealth tax threshold, from €700,000 to €3 million, after removing inheritance tax for immediate family members last year. So, still good incentives to move to Spain after the golden visa.


Know your visas

Digital nomad visa Requires a minimum income of €31,752 a year for a single person, or for a remote worker with a partner €43,668 a year, or €47,640 with a child. Private healthcare is sometimes required. The visa can last for one to three years, then can be renewed. Set-up costs €200 to €1,000.

Non-lucrative visa The NLV lasts for one year then can be renewed for two years. Financial means (pensions/investments) of €28,800 a year must be proved, or €36,000 for a married couple. Set-up costs tend to be €1,000 per person plus private healthcare. State pension-age retired people can use Spanish healthcare with the S1 certificate.

The golden visa Requires the purchase of real estate costing €500,000 or more, or investing €1 million in shares in Spanish companies, €2 million in government bonds, or transferring €1 million to a Spanish bank account.


Investment Synergy - the speculation should be more about how inviting "more" visa options for lower entry levels of income may well affect the property market for locals that are not competing for properties 500,000 plus - let alone the rental competition ... that locals will be up against....




 

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