Spain, with its renowned bureaucratic processes and extended waiting times for official documents, poses a challenge for non-EU nationals seeking visas and residency.
Understanding the processing durations is crucial for those embarking on this journey.
The quest begins with the initial application for visas such as the Non-Lucrative Visa (NLV), Family Reunification Visa, or Golden Visa, followed by the subsequent steps of obtaining residency and the padrón registration.
The Non-Lucrative Visa
Applying for the Non-Lucrative Visa (NLV), which grants non-EU foreigners the opportunity to live in Spain without engaging in work or economic activities, may theoretically take one month to process.
However, the reality is somewhat different. Obtaining the NLV can take between six and 11 weeks from the United States and approximately two months from the United Kingdom. This delay can be attributed not only to processing times but also to challenges in securing necessary appointments, further elongating the overall process.
The Golden Visa
Spain's Golden Visa, also known as the Investor Visa, presents a unique opportunity for non-European Union (EU) citizens to establish residency in Spain by fulfilling specific criteria. This program offers various investment options, including purchasing real estate above the value of 500,000 euros, investing 1 million euros in a Spanish company or having 1 million euros in a Spanish bank account.
The processing timeline for this visa varies depending on the chosen route. Opting for property investment, for instance, requires two to three months to finalise the property purchase and related procedures.
After ensuring that all the necessary documentation is in order, you can proceed to submit your Golden Visa application to the competent authorities. The processing time for the application itself is generally short, typically averaging around 20 days. However, it is important to keep in mind that this time frame is not fixed and can be subject to change.
Factors such as the workload of the immigration authorities, seasonal variations, and any additional scrutiny or requests for further information may affect the processing duration. It is advisable to maintain open communication with the immigration authorities and promptly respond to any queries or requests to facilitate a smooth and timely processing of your application.
The Digital Nomad Visa
The approval of the Digital Nomad Visa in late 2022 has sparked great interest among individuals seeking to work remotely from Spain. This visa, although new, is expected to gain significant popularity. However, it is worth noting that the authorities responsible for processing these visa applications may still be unfamiliar with the requirements due to its recent implementation.
Before the introduction of the digital nomad visa, non-EU nationals had two primary options for obtaining residency in Spain: the non-lucrative visa or the golden visa. Unfortunately, the non-lucrative visa does not permit any work activities in Spain for a minimum of 12 months. On the other hand, the golden visa requires a substantial financial investment of either €500,000 in property or €1,000,000 invested in a company.
One of the notable advantages of the digital nomad visa is its relatively short processing time, estimated to be around 20 days. However, in reality, many individuals currently undergoing the application process have expressed difficulties and delays.
Numerous applicants have voiced their concerns about the extensive documentation required, which has proven to be a significant obstacle in obtaining the visa. Additionally, many have reported having to pay legal fees to law firms ranging from €1,000 to €10,000 per application. It is essential to be aware of these factors and potential challenges when pursuing the digital nomad visa, considering its recent introduction and the potential lack of familiarity among the authorities responsible for processing the applications.
The Family Reunification Visa
Family reunification visas allow non-EU citizens residing in Spain with a residency permit, such as the TIE card, to bring their family members to live with them. However, this option is available only after one year of legal residency and authorisation for an additional year.
The application process generally takes around six months to complete, accounting for possible delays based on appointment availability and individual circumstances. An initial response to the application is typically received within three months, followed by further waiting time for the visa to be processed.
Residence cards for family members of EU citizens
Referred to as ‘Tarjeta de Residencia de Familiar Comunitario’ (another type of TIE card), residence cards enable non-EU relatives to live with their EU citizen family member in Spain.
This card must be applied for within the first three months of the relative's arrival.
The Spanish authorities aim to decide on issuing the residency card within three months, but it is not uncommon for delays to occur due to staff shortages and high application volumes at certain migration offices. Consequently, the overall processing time for this type of visa and residency paperwork can reach six months or longer.
However, the bureaucratic hurdles do not end once you arrive in Spain. Within 90 days of receiving your visa, you must focus on obtaining a residency card, as the visa alone holds limited value.
The Residency Card
Non-EU individuals must apply for the TIE card or ‘Tarjeta de Identidad de Extranjero’ within 30 days of arrival. Officially, the processing time for the residency card is approximately 20-40 days after application. However, the main challenge lies in securing an appointment or ‘cita previa’ to initiate the application process. It is advisable to start attempting to secure an appointment as early as possible, considering that availability depends on the time of day and location within Spain. Major cities like Madrid and Barcelona, with a higher number of foreigners, often present greater difficulty in securing appointments. Once the card is ready, another appointment is necessary to collect it, which may require an additional month, depending on availability.
Registering on the Padron
Prior to applying for the TIE card, registering on the padrón, a document that verifies your address and enrols you in the local census, is mandatory. The padrón certificate is essential for various official procedures, including the TIE application.
To obtain the certificate, an appointment at the town hall is necessary. However, waiting times for these appointments can range from weeks to even months in certain circumstances. It is crucial to apply promptly upon arrival, provided that you have secured permanent accommodation and possess the required rental contract or property deeds.
Most town halls indicate a maximum waiting period of three months from the date of application to receive the certificate.
If you live in certain regions of Spain, you may even be able to apply for your padron certificate online which can save time.
Navigating the Spanish bureaucracy can be a daunting task. To optimise your experience, it is recommended that you begin scheduling appointments as soon as you arrive in Spain and ensure that you have all the required documents for each application. Organisational skills and evidence of appointment applications will prove invaluable throughout the process.
For individuals encountering significant difficulties, several official agencies in major cities can provide assistance for a fee. These agencies often have pre-booked appointment slots, potentially expediting the process.
Remember, patience and preparedness are key to successfully manoeuvring through the visa and residency processes in Spain.
September 25, 2023
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