The long-awaited Spanish Digital Nomad Visa is about to arrive, and not a minute too soon for certain freelancers out there. Hot on the heels of the government announcing controversial changes to self-employed social security contributions, solos in countries outside the European Economic Area (EEA) get a welcome breath of fresh air.
We’re still waiting for an official announcement, but the visa is expected to come into effect in January 2023.
If you’re not up to speed on Spain’s Digital Nomad Visa, this article is for you. We’ll explain the reasoning behind it, who it’s for, and how to apply. So if you want to turn living and working in Spain from a pipedream into a reality, read on!
To fully address what the Digital Nomad Visa is, let's first take a look at what a digital nomad is. Put simply, a digital nomad is someone who can work from anywhere that has a stable internet connection. Normally working in disciplines like graphic design, content creation, coding, or advertising, digital nomads can either be freelancers, or be employed by a single client that supports remote work.
Shifting our focus to the visa itself. As of January 2023, Spain has joined countries such as Estonia (Xolo’s birthplace — woo!), Greece, Norway, and Malta, in launching its own Digital Nomad Visa to attract investment and tech-savvy minds to the country. EEA citizens already have the right to start working in Spain, so this ruling only applies to people from outside the area, such as Australia, Canada, and the UK.
It comes as part of a broader Startup Law, ratified in December 2022, whose overall goal is “to establish a specific regulatory framework to support the creation and growth of emerging companies in Spain.”
The Digital Nomad Visa couldn’t have come at a better time. With remote and hybrid working formats now commonplace, it’s much easier to launch an online business and hire talent from all over the world. Therefore, business owners can retain staff who want to live in Spain for a few years, or find talent that is already there.
It’s a symbiotic relationship with the Spanish state. As the influx of digital nomads pours in, they pay taxes, contribute to the economy, and give a talent and investment boost to the country.
There are three main advantages of the digital nomad visa for foreign freelancers in Spain.
In brief, the Spanish Digital Nomad Visa allows people from outside the European Economic Area (EEA) to legally live and work in the country for one year, and renew their legal status for a further two years. You can then renew your visa again until you reach five years, when you can apply to become a permanent resident.
Previously, freelancers from outside the EEA who wanted to work in Spain needed to apply for a full working visa — an uncertain and time-consuming process. Alternatively, they could go for a tourist visa, but that only gives them 90 days to enjoy the country.
Now, the Digital Nomad Visa allows expats to work remotely for foreign companies, or become a freelancer without the complications of the full visa or brevity of the tourist visa. Although the law is heavily aimed at those working for foreign companies, freelancers who take advantage of the Digital Nomad Visa can bring in 20% of their income from companies registered in Spain.
Great news: if you qualify for the visa, you don’t pay regular income tax (IRPF), you instead pay a non-resident income tax (IRNR), which is lower. Tax for freelancers in Spain is pretty complicated, so we’d recommend getting advice from expert gestorías, like the team at Xolo.
But if you want to go even further and launch a startup, you can benefit from some great conditions. Spain is reducing corporation tax from 25% to 15% for the first four years, as long as the company maintains its status as a startup. As an extra incentive, these businesses can defer the payment of their tax obligations for the first two years of activity.
Apart from all the administrative benefits, you also get to live in Spain — and who wouldn’t want to do that? Now, you can spend an extended period of time soaking up the culture and cuisine of one of Europe’s most popular destinations. What’s more, as long as your visa is valid, you can travel throughout the Schengen Area.
City hopping around Europe at the weekends? Yes please.
Unlike working visas that are available for any kind of worker, to take advantage of this one, you need to be a proven digital nomad freelancer, a remote employee for a non-Spanish company, a foreign worker for a foreign company with a base in Spain, or a digital entrepreneur.
The requirements for Spain’s Digital Nomad Visa are as follows:
Before you get too excited about applying for Spain’s Digital Nomad Visa, you should first know that applications aren’t yet open. The government has not yet set a date for when the program will begin, but it should be pretty soon!
When the Digital Nomad Visa program is active, you will be able to apply online in the first 30 days of your arrival in Spain. If you want to apply before you arrive, you can do so in a Spanish consulate, but it’s not necessary.
In either case, you’ll have to gather all your documents proving that you meet the requirements, before filling in a visa application form.
No, you don’t need to apply for the Spanish Digital Nomad Visa before you get to Spain. You can choose to start your application at a Spanish consulate in your country, but it’s not mandatory. Instead, you can apply within the first 30 days of your arrival in Spain.
Among all the confusion and uncertainty surrounding Brexit, one thing is for sure — the Spanish Digital Nomad Visa is available to British citizens who want to live and work in Spain.
Spain’s Digital Nomad Visa is pretty competitive compared to other countries, despite it being much newer. Portugal’s program, for example, is clearer and easier to apply for as it has been around longer, but Spain requires a lower minimum income. Compared to Estonia, the first country to introduce a digital visa, Spain is much more relaxed about how long you can stay in the country — especially with those visa extensions!
Yes! After your initial year, you can apply to renew your visa two more times for two years each. Then, in your fifth year, you can apply for permanent residency in Spain.
As great as Spain’s Digital Nomad Visa is for citizens of Australia, the USA, the UK, and more, we do have to come clean about one thing: The Spanish administrative system is no fun. On the long list of reasons to live and work in Spain, it’s not often you find “to spend time sitting in government buildings” or “to get really confused and frustrated”.
So if you want to reduce all your admin to the minimum and spend more time at the beach, exploring the architecture, or draining a jug of sangria, you need Xolo.
Xolo was founded by freelancers, for freelancers. Our team of local experts has been there and done that, and their mission is to save you all the hassle of solo work.
From the moment you arrive in Spain, we’re there to help you:
✅Register as a freelancer in Spain
✅Create invoices, send them to clients, and get paid
✅File your quarterly tax returns like a pro
And after signing up to Xolo, you can also be part of a thriving community of freelancers who offer tips and tricks on being self-employed, exchange ideas and collaborate, and organize networking and social events.
James McKenna has been a freelancer since 2017, working in subtitling, translation, and his main passion — writing. He loves nothing more than falling down a rabbit hole, a habit that has helped him specialize in areas as diverse as biotech, climate change, higher education, and business strategy.
Based in Barcelona, James learned the ropes the hard way, making mistakes that turned into valuable learning experiences. After working hard to establish himself, he is now working smart, and is always on the lookout for ways to streamline his business.
Recibe las últimas noticias y nuestros consejos
para vivir una mejor vida freelance directamente en tu email.