The long-awaited Spanish Digital Nomad Visa is finally here – and not a minute too soon. Hot on the heels of the government announcing controversial changes to self-employed social security contributions, this visa offers a much-needed respite for solo workers residing outside the European Economic Area (EEA).
If you're not up to speed on Spain’s Digital Nomad Visa, this article will provide you with all the information you need. We'll discuss the rationale behind it, who it caters to, and how you can 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. In simple terms, a digital nomad is someone who can work from anywhere with a reliable 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.
Now, turning our attention to the visa itself. Introduced in early 2023, Spain joined the ranks of Estonia (Xolo's birthplace - yay!), Greece, Norway, and Malta by launching its own Digital Nomad Visa to attract investment and tech-savvy talent to the country. EEA citizens already have the right to work in Spain, so this ruling only affects people from outside the area, such as Canada, Australia, and the UK.
The visa is part of a broader Startup Law ratified in December 2022, with the ultimate objective of "establishing a specific regulatory framework to promote the creation and expansion of emerging companies in Spain."
In this new age of remote and hybrid working formats, the arrival of the Digital Nomad Visa couldn't have come at a better time. It's now easier than ever to launch an online business and hire talent from anywhere in the world, making it possible for business owners to retain expat staff who want to live in Spain or find talent 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.
As the government hasn’t announced a specific cost for applying for a Spanish Digital Nomad Visa, we can assume it’s the same as for any other visa — around €80.
Workers with a Spanish Digital Nomad Visa get a pretty impressive tax break — just 15% for their first four years, as long as they’re earning under €600,000. But let’s be honest, if you’re earning that kind of money, does it even matter any more?
The same applies for corporation tax, encouraging startups to get going in Spain.
The Digital Nomad Visa provides three key advantages for foreign freelancers working in Spain.
The Spanish Digital Nomad Visa allows non-European Economic Area (EEA) residents to live and work legally in Spain for one year, with the option to renew their legal status for an additional two years. After this, the visa can be renewed again until the holder reaches five years, at which point they can apply for permanent residency.
However, if you’re already in Spain on a tourist visa, you can apply from within the country and get a three-year permit straight off the bat! After your three years, you can renew for another two before applying for permanent residency.
Previously, freelancers from outside the EEA who wanted to work in Spain had to go through an uncertain and time-consuming process of applying for a full working visa or opting for a tourist visa which only grants a 90-day stay in the country.
Now, the Digital Nomad Visa eliminates these complications, allowing expats to work remotely for foreign companies or operate as freelancers in Spain, with the added benefit of being able to receive 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 15%. 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 startup status. 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, the Digital Nomad Visa allows you 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.
To qualify for this visa, you need to be a proven digital nomad freelancer, a remote employee of a non-Spanish company, a foreign worker for a foreign company with a base in Spain, or a digital entrepreneur.
Let’s break down those requirements:
There are two basic routes to apply for the Spanish Digital Nomad Visa:
are two basic routes to apply for the Spanish Digital Nomad Visa:
In either case, you’ll have to gather all your documents proving that you meet the requirements, before filling in a visa application form. At the time of writing, this official link is leading to a dreaded Error 404 page. But don’t worry, it’s not just you. Once the final details of the application form are ironed out, the website will go live.
You’ll also have to apply for a NIE simultaneously. This is your identification number that will follow you around all your tax and social security obligations,
In the same way that you’d go about getting a tourist visa, contact your nearest Spanish consulate or embassy to start your visa process and let them know you’re interested in the Digital Nomad Visa. If you’re successful, you’ll get a one-year permit that you can later renew for another two years.
This is a great option if you’re nervous about arriving in Spain only to find your application rejected.
As with any application, you’ll need all the required documents — the real classics:
The next step is to find your nearest embassy or consulate and book an appointment. You’re unlikely to find a button that says “get your Spanish Digital Nomad Visa here!”, so it might involve a phone call or an email. Schedule a time and date that works for you, and make sure you don’t forget those docs!
Just like any other visa, you’ll have to pay a fee. This is usually around €80, but that price could vary, depending on where you go.
Show up early and double check you’ve got all of your documents. There’s nothing worse than a plan falling apart because of an easy oversight.
As we mentioned earlier the Digital Nomad Visa application webpage is currently down, so we’d recommend filling out a general visa application form and taking it with you. Of course, you can contact the embassy or consulate directly for the latest recommendations.
Make sure to take your passport with you, and remember that the embassy or consulate will keep your passport until the process is approved.
Now you’ve done everything you can, it’s time to kick back and relax for a bit. The government estimates that the process should take around two weeks to complete, after which time they’ll contact you with their decision.
Once your Digital Nomad Visa is approved, you can finally live and work in Spain for one year! As we have covered before, you can apply to extend your permit by two years at a time until you hit five years. Then it’s time to apply for full residency.
If you’re confident you fit the requirements and you’re already in Spain, you can apply directly!
Obviously, you must be in Spain legally, which for most people means on a three-month tourist visa. The advantage of applying for a Digital Nomad Visa from Spain is that you get a three-year permit straight away, which you can still renew for two more years.
The steps for applying for the Spanish Digital Nomad Visa once you’re already in Spain are similar to those outsite.
Just like your counterparts applying from abroad, you’ll need:
Make sure to apply online in the first 30 days of your arrival in Spain. In reality, you’re applying for a temporary residence permit, which gives you permission to live and work in Spain for three years — two more than if you had applied from abroad.
Soon, you’ll be able to apply online, but for now, we’d recommend scheduling a meeting with your local immigration office.
Now it’s out of your hands, you’ve just got to tuck into some tapas until you get a decision!
In addition to the changes in salary expectation for digital nomads with families, you’ll also have to bring along all the relevant documentation when applying for your visa.
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. While Portugal's program is clearer and easier to apply for, Spain has a lower minimum income requirement. Compared to Estonia, the first country to introduce a digital nomad visa, Spain is much more flexible with visa extensions and how long you can stay in the country.
Yes, whether you get the initial one-year visa by applying from abroad or an initial three-year visa by applying in Spain. After your first visa runs out, you can renew until you reach five years, when 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, exchanging ideas and collaborating, and organizing 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.
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