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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I searched and could only find a few discussions that were a few years old. I thought I’d ask again because as I understand, a few things have changed.

I am interested in working remotely for a US company while living in Spain. The two options I’ve heard mentioned are non-lucrative and autonomo visas - the first one sounding a lot easier. Financial means aren’t an issue - I have enough in the bank to cover 3 years of expenses.

More about my situation… it’s a complicated one. I am a middle aged computer programmer. I am looking to switch jobs to one that is 100% remote. My wife and I want to move to Spain. My wife is currently working to get her Italian passport straightened out so we could be EU. Unfortunately that is taking a while and it will be a while before her online business is ready anyway. Sadly, when I made this career change (was a jazz guitarist, but switched to programming) two years ago, I got an amazing “foot in the door” job opportunity in another state - so we’re already (unfortunately) living apart. When I get my remote job, it actually would be cheaper to move to Spain if I can. We’ve been saving like crazy for an apartment so what we have in the bank is more than enough to show that we can support ourself for years (even though we wouldn’t need to touch it.) So (if we can) the plan would be for me to go over and work remotely until she gets her visa sorted out and then she comes to join me and we live our dream life.

I’ve read that this has been difficult in the past. But I’ve also heard that things have loosened up a bit. I’ve also heard that it depends on the consulate where you apply (Houston in my case). I was curious:

  1. Any recent experience with this?
  2. Any suggestions? Resources?
 

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You can find lots of remote working jobs on websites like Upwork. And you can remain in touch with your clients using tools like Zoom, Webex, R-HUB web video conferencing servers etc.
 

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A non-lucrative visa means no working, of any kind. It doesn't matter if the work is online, or if your clients/company is based in the US. If you sit down with your computer and work while you are in located in Spain, then you are working in Spain, and therefore are not eligible for a non-lucrative visa. In the not too distant past the consulates used to allow remote work, but in the last few years they've changed their tune and now say no. It's true that some people get a non-lucrative visa without mentioning their online work. (After all, who would know, right?) But then they run into problems with the Spanish tax authorities since as residents they have to file Spanish income tax and to declare all their worldwide income.

You could apply for an autonomo visa, but I think as you've seen yourself it's complicated and tricky, requiring an approved business plan and a place of work.

Look on the Houston consulate's website for exact information about the visas and the requirements for each one.

Your best bet is to wait for your wife to get her Italian passport. Then the both of you can come and work with no problems.
 

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Non-lucrative vsa is a good option until your wife gets her Italian passport. Remote work is not a problem with this visa type.
 

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The post is 10 months old. This poor guy has been wanting to move to Spain for about 10 years.
True, but my wife finally has her Italian citizenship recognized - she should be getting her passport later this year and then we're off to Spain. But yes, it has been a long process.
lucky for you as you avoided the harsh Corona lockdowns in Spain.
 

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Non-lucrative vsa is a good option until your wife gets her Italian passport. Remote work is not a problem with this visa type.
Not according to the London Spanish consulate. It doesn't accept remote working as an income source.

Some have in the past, but that is becoming rarer.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Some have in the past, but that is becoming rarer.
Yeah, that seems to be my perception. This seems to used to fall into the confusing category of "yeah, it breaks the letter of the law but we'll look the other way", but now it's getting stricter. One of the frustrating thing about moving into a new culture is figuring out which rules are strict and which are "nudge nudge, wink wink". Every culture has them, but they're always at least a little different.

It's largely a moot point anyway since my wife has got her EU citizenship sorted out and we're going to wait until we can move together.
 

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Yeah, that seems to be my perception. This seems to used to fall into the confusing category of "yeah, it breaks the letter of the law but we'll look the other way", but now it's getting stricter. One of the frustrating thing about moving into a new culture is figuring out which rules are strict and which are "nudge nudge, wink wink". Every culture has them, but they're always at least a little different.

It's largely a moot point anyway since my wife has got her EU citizenship sorted out and we're going to wait until we can move together.
 

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I moved to Spain on the non lucrative visa, only providing proof of funds in bank accounts to prove sufficient income. Between cash and 401k I had many times the minimum amount.

Now that I am here, I have the opportunity to do some consulting remotely for a USA company. I checked with 2 immigration attorneys in Spain who both informed me that it is legal for me to work remotely and I will not risk losing my visa. The law does not exclude remote work, so neither the tax authorities or immigration authorities will come after me.

When you file your Spanish taxes, you submit your USA tax returns and must report all worldwide income.

When I successfully applied for the renewal of my visa, the immigration authorities asked no questions about income, nor did they ask for copies of tax filings. I again just provided copies of bank statements.

What has happened is that consulates in the USA are not approving applications with income from remote work. They are interpreting the law in that manner, and their websites reflect that.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
The law does not exclude remote work, so neither the tax authorities or immigration authorities will come after me.
My understanding is that it is vague on the subject and that a few years ago there was a high court ruling (or some official edict) that clarified that it does exclude remote work. I can't find it at the moment, but I'll see if I can find a link.

"I asked a few people and I and some others have gotten away with it" is not the same thing as "it is explicitly 100% legal". I think you're right that the consulates are more strict about it, and highly variable. And it may be that the authorities in Spain don't pay attention much. But until there is a law that explicitly clarifies that the "work" talked about in the NLV does not include remote work, this is always going to be a risk and the bureaucratic mood may swing in the other direction without warning, leaving a lot of people in the lurch.
 

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My understanding is that it is vague on the subject and that a few years ago there was a high court ruling (or some official edict) that clarified that it does exclude remote work. I can't find it at the moment, but I'll see if I can find a link.

"I asked a few people and I and some others have gotten away with it" is not the same thing as "it is explicitly 100% legal". I think you're right that the consulates are more strict about it, and highly variable. And it may be that the authorities in Spain don't pay attention much. But until there is a law that explicitly clarifies that the "work" talked about in the NLV does not include remote work, this is always going to be a risk and the bureaucratic mood may swing in the other direction without warning, leaving a lot of people in the lurch.
My immigration attorney here in Spain has advised me that it is legal for me to work remotely. That is different than telling me that I can "get away with it" or that I should try to hide it. I will take their advice over someone on a chat forum telling me that "their understanding" is the Spanish authorities will put me in jail or deport me.

There are also established law firms in Spain that specifically advertise the nonlucrative visa for remote workers.

Here is one example of many (though I cannot vouch for this firm): How to Work Remotely From Spain | The Definitive Guide

True, it could change at any time. So it might not be a good idea to set up a life in Spain counting on remote work as your only source of income. I have not done that and would not recommend that to anyone. Remote work can dry up, and there is no work here.

My advice - spend the $'s to hire a good lawyer.

I went numerous places looking for information on the Convenio Especial (access to the public health system for a monthly fee once you have been a resident for 1 year). I was told multiple times by experienced expats and people that advise expats that it was not available where I live (Basque Country). I could not find any application information anywhere, so I assumed they were correct. A few months later I found a good lawyer here and asked them for help. They got me CE coverage in a week.
 

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My immigration attorney here in Spain has advised me that it is legal for me to work remotely. That is different than telling me that I can "get away with it" or that I should try to hide it. I will take their advice over someone on a chat forum telling me that "their understanding" is the Spanish authorities will put me in jail or deport me.

There are also established law firms in Spain that specifically advertise the nonlucrative visa for remote workers.

Here is one example of many (though I cannot vouch for this firm): How to Work Remotely From Spain | The Definitive Guide

True, it could change at any time. So it might not be a good idea to set up a life in Spain counting on remote work as your only source of income. I have not done that and would not recommend that to anyone. Remote work can dry up, and there is no work here.

My advice - spend the $'s to hire a good lawyer.

I went numerous places looking for information on the Convenio Especial (access to the public health system for a monthly fee once you have been a resident for 1 year). I was told multiple times by experienced expats and people that advise expats that it was not available where I live (Basque Country). I could not find any application information anywhere, so I assumed they were correct. A few months later I found a good lawyer here and asked them for help. They got me CE coverage in a week.
It honestly depends upon the consulate.

In the past some have issued NLVs for remote workers, but most haven't & some which have in the psast now don't.
 

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It honestly depends upon the consulate.

In the past some have issued NLVs for remote workers, but most haven't & some which have in the psast now don't.
That is correct. NLV applications at most consulates now require sufficient funds by some combination of bank accounts, investment accounts, 401k's, monthly social security/pension payments.

My post was referring to allowed activities for a person with an approved nonlucrative visa already living in Spain.
 

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My immigration attorney here in Spain has advised me that it is legal for me to work remotely. That is different than telling me that I can "get away with it" or that I should try to hide it. I will take their advice over someone on a chat forum telling me that "their understanding" is the Spanish authorities will put me in jail or deport me.

There are also established law firms in Spain that specifically advertise the nonlucrative visa for remote workers.

Here is one example of many (though I cannot vouch for this firm): How to Work Remotely From Spain | The Definitive Guide

True, it could change at any time. So it might not be a good idea to set up a life in Spain counting on remote work as your only source of income. I have not done that and would not recommend that to anyone. Remote work can dry up, and there is no work here.
The 'proof in the pudding' as the saying goes, would be what happens to your NLV when and if your income from outside of Spain goes on your tax return.
If the tax authorities here and the immigration talk to each other, then I would imagine at the visa renewal, your working income would be flagged. Even if not taxable here it does still need to be declared.

You are correct that working income is not allowed for the NLV as the Uk forms quite clearly state that you are not allowed to work, it doesn't mention remote but then again it doesn't not.
Below is the actual term from the UK visa application.


NON-LUCRATIVE RESIDENCE VISA
This visa can be requested by third-country nationals who wish to reside in Spain without engaging in any work or professional activity.


That seems quite explicit to me.

I dont know if the US forms have boxes for employer details etc, (the Uk one is a one size fits all form) but I would assume that leaving these blank or marking them N/A is hiding the truth (was going to say fraud) as you then sign the form saying you have given truthful information.

As to setting up once you are here, well thats another ball game. I do occasional work and this will be placed on my tax return as income from other sources (Im retired and dont wish to pay any contributions apart from any tax due) as I have private healthcare and wont work enough years for a Spanish pension.

On another note I would assume the official at your interview would be suspicious if you were in your late 20's and said you were retiring for the NLV. Someone like me in my late 50's would be less likely to be picked up (thats profiling for you)

The whole thing is going to continue to be a grey area.
But I still would not take the word of any lawyer etc. In the end it will you or me that picks up the bill and any consequences arising from their 'advice' if it turns out they were incorrect.
 

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My immigration attorney here in Spain has advised me that it is legal for me to work remotely. That is different than telling me that I can "get away with it" or that I should try to hide it. I will take their advice over someone on a chat forum telling me that "their understanding" is the Spanish authorities will put me in jail or deport me.

There are also established law firms in Spain that specifically advertise the nonlucrative visa for remote workers.

Here is one example of many (though I cannot vouch for this firm): How to Work Remotely From Spain | The Definitive Guide

True, it could change at any time. So it might not be a good idea to set up a life in Spain counting on remote work as your only source of income. I have not done that and would not recommend that to anyone. Remote work can dry up, and there is no work here.

My advice - spend the $'s to hire a good lawyer.

I went numerous places looking for information on the Convenio Especial (access to the public health system for a monthly fee once you have been a resident for 1 year). I was told multiple times by experienced expats and people that advise expats that it was not available where I live (Basque Country). I could not find any application information anywhere, so I assumed they were correct. A few months later I found a good lawyer here and asked them for help. They got me CE coverage in a week.
I whole-heartedly agree with this post. There are many people on the board that think they know the rules better than Spanish lawyers and accountants. Get professional advice! Furthermore, I believe there is some variance in the procedures for visas, work and health-care between the communities. As a result, I recommend you work with professionals within your community.
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
There are many people on the board that think they know the rules better than Spanish lawyers and accountants.
No, I just don't put faith in other people cherry picking the Spanish lawyers and accountants that tell them what they want to hear. I understand the desire - I share the desire - I just think it's dangerous to give people legal advice based on that - especially when if it is wrong, lives can be messed up.

Also, in Spain, do lawyers take precedence over actual government officials, like consular officers? And other lawyers that say the opposite? Does that work differently in Spain than it does in the US?

Yes, you can find stuff on the internet that say one thing. I could also point out that they have a vested interest - if a web site tells you what you want to hear, you are more likely to stay on it and they get to sell more advertising - basically click bait. And a lawyer (even if well intentioned) is more likely to get your business if they tell you what you want to hear. This is different than a consular officer who doesn't benefit either way.

But there are sources on the internet that say the opposite (I can also find web sites and "experts" explaining that the Earth is flat) - people just want to ignore them because they tell them what they don't want to hear. That is a dangerous way to make important legal decisions.

Again, the rule: This visa can be requested by third-country nationals who wish to reside in Spain without engaging in any work or professional activity.

Maybe we all have different definitions of the word "any". To me that language is very clear. While you are residing in Spain, you will not do any work. Remote work would fall under the category of "any" by my understanding of the word. Maybe you can find a lawyer or even a judge that agrees with you that the word "any" only means "inside Spain" and "outside Spain" magically (and contrary to how language works and how the rest of the world understands ) isn't covered by the word "any". Maybe you can find some people that agree. But there is a huge danger that you will run into someone with the opposite interpretation, maybe someone with the final word.

I don't know for sure how the law works in Spain. I know that in the US, the "sure I broke the letter of the law, but I found some lawyers that told me I can interpret that law in the way I want, even though it kind of contradicts what the law says - and I read stories about other people that were getting away with it" - in the US that defense doesn't work. In the US, you go to jail or get deported, that lawyer gets a reprimand or maybe not, and they get to keep the money.

I understand that Spain may have a looser understanding of the law and this sort of thing may be common. But that door swings both ways and their "nudge, nudge, wink, wink" attitude may swing back hard the other way. They could easily wake up one morning and decide that these people are tax cheats, and or illegal immigrants, subpoena some tax records from the US and the UK and suddenly some nice people are being taken away in handcuffs and getting their bank accounts seized, all while screaming, "but I found a few lawyers on the internet that said it was OK!". Maybe it's worth it to some people to pretend that that couldn't happen. I don't get it.

And again, I've looked and can't find it, but last year someone pointed out an official court ruling from some Spanish high court that clarified that this law also prohibits work outside the country. I didn't bother copying it since it made it perfectly clear that that would be a fruitless avenue and we had other options developing anyway. I feel bad about the "I have a source but I can't share it" BS - I call people out for that all the time. But I'd rather give someone the right information but lacking a source than to let people make decisions that could destroy their lives (or at least severely mess things up). But I'll keep looking.

I would also point out that most countries that welcome digital nomads, et al usually do it by creating a new law, because the old law's language won't allow it or is dangerously vague on the subject. Spain has made no such move.

I know this is the internet and people don't like to admit they're wrong. But I will gladly admit I'm wrong and buy the first round of drinks. But it's going to take more than "sure, it's proven, as long as you ignore the letter of the law, ignore what the consulates say, and only listen to the lawyers that agree with me". That may be "good enough" on the internet, but I suspect it would be found wanting in a Spanish court. If people want to gamble on that, I can't stop them. But I also don't have to enable them by telling them definitively that they are making the right guess - I would consider that to be immoral.
 
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