Spain ceases the Golden Visa scheme.

26th April 2024
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Alternatives to the Golden Visa Scheme for residency in Marbella and the Costa del Sol.

Spain ceases the Golden Visa scheme.

Earlier this month, in a significant policy shift, the Spanish government announced the cessation of the Golden Visa scheme, marking the end of an era for foreign investors seeking residency through property investment.
Since 2013, the Golden Visa program has attracted investors from around the globe, offering residency rights in exchange for property investments exceeding a certain threshold. The program awards non-EU citizens (including American’s and British) who invest at least €500,000 in Spanish real estate a special permit, allowing them to live and work in the country for three years.

The government's decision to terminate the Golden Visa scheme represents a shift in Spain's approach to residency and foreign investment. The move is said to have been made to address the current housing problem facing local citizens.

Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said: "Today, 94 out of every 100 such visas are linked to real estate investment... in major cities that are facing a highly stressed market and where it's almost impossible to find decent housing for those who already live, work and pay their taxes there."

The European Commission has long called for an end to such visas; stating that they potentially pose a threat to security, are open to corruption, and can aid in both money laundering and tax evasion plots. The change by Spain echoes moves recently made by Portugal to remove the real estate investment aspect of their Golden Visa scheme, Greece who doubled the amount of investment required, and Ireland who scrapped it altogether.

Marbella, with its picturesque landscapes, unparalleled lifestyle, and thriving real estate market, has been a destination for some of these investors. However, according to property website Idealista, the measure is unlikely to affect the property market since less than 0.1% of 4.5 million homes sold during that period (2013-2022) were purchased under the scheme.

The removal of the Golden Visa incentive may deter some foreign investors who were primarily motivated by the prospect of residency rather than genuine interest in property ownership. On the other hand, it is anticipated that discerning investors with a genuine affinity for Marbella's lifestyle and real estate offerings will continue to seek opportunities in the market.

Whilst the Golden Visa program provided an added incentive for some, Marbella's enduring appeal transcends residency perks, encompassing its Mediterranean climate, cosmopolitan atmosphere, and investment potential.

Moreover, the government's decision may foster greater transparency and sustainability within the real estate sector, aligning with broader efforts to uphold integrity and accountability in property transactions.

As we continue to adapt to the evolving regulatory landscape, we look below at some of the residency options still open to those individuals and families wishing to make Marbella their forever home.

 

Exploring the alternatives to the Golden Visa Scheme for residency in Marbella and the Costa del Sol.

 

With its incredible beaches, year-round temperate climate, a rich cultural calendar, and mouth-watering food, it is easy to see why hundreds of visitors to the Costa del Sol decide to come back time and time again, and why many make the more permanent move to living here full-time.

One of the first things you will need to do if you are thinking about moving to Spain, is to check the requirements for residency. With the recent cessation of Spain's Golden Visa scheme, individuals and families seeking to establish residency in Marbella and the Costa del Sol region may find themselves exploring alternative pathways to achieve their relocation goals.

While the Golden Visa program offered a streamlined route to residency through property investment, there exist several viable alternatives for both EU and non-EU individuals and families aspiring to make Marbella their permanent home.

 

Residency solutions for EU nationals relocating to the Costa del Sol.

For EU nationals dreaming of making Marbella or the Costa del Sol their permanent home (those who have an EU/EEA/Swiss passport), the recent cessation of Spain's Golden Visa scheme may not pose a hurdle to their relocation aspirations. Unlike non-EU individuals, EU nationals enjoy certain privileges and streamlined pathways to residency in Spain, making the process more accessible and straightforward.

Here, we highlight some of the key alternatives available to EU nationals currently residing in another EU country who are considering a move to Marbella or the Costa del Sol: 
  • Registration as a resident: EU nationals intending to reside in Spain for more than three months are required to register as residents with the local authorities. This process entails obtaining a Certificado de Registro de Ciudadano de la Unión (Registration Certificate), which serves as proof of residency and grants access to essential services and benefits.
  • Economic self-sufficiency: EU nationals who can demonstrate sufficient financial means to support themselves and their dependents without engaging in employment in Spain may apply for residency based on economic self-sufficiency. This entails providing evidence of stable income or financial resources to cover living expenses, along with comprehensive health insurance coverage.
  • Employment: EU nationals offered employment opportunities in Marbella, or anywhere else on the Costa del Sol may secure residency through employment, with the process facilitated by their prospective employer. Upon securing a job offer, individuals are required to obtain a work contract and fulfil certain administrative requirements to formalise their residency status.
  • Entrepreneurship: Aspiring entrepreneurs from EU countries can establish businesses or ventures in Marbella or the Costa del Sol, leveraging the region's vibrant economic landscape and entrepreneurial ecosystem. By launching a successful business enterprise, EU nationals can obtain residency status and contribute to the local economy and community.
  • Education and research: EU nationals pursuing academic or research endeavours in Marbella's esteemed institutions or research centres may obtain residency through student visas or research permits. This pathway offers an opportunity to immerse oneself in the region's rich cultural and intellectual heritage while advancing academic or scientific pursuits.

 

Residency solutions for non-EU nationals looking at moving to Marbella.

As a citizen of a non-EU country, (for instance the UK or USA) if you are not intending to stay for more than 90 days in any 180-day period, then you don’t need to get residency status. Be aware though the 90 days includes a stay in any Schengen zone country (Portugal, France etc). 

Meaning once your 90 days is up you will need to return to your country of permanent residence, or only travel to countries outside the zone until you have had 90 days outside the Schengen area.

If you want to stay for longer than 90 days in any 180-day period, you will need to meet the obligations to stay in Spain and apply for an appropriate visa.
Non-Lucrative residence visa: Ideal for individuals or families with the financial means to support themselves without engaging in employment in Spain, the non-lucrative residence visa grants residency for a renewable period of one year, with the option to apply for long-term residency thereafter. Applicants must demonstrate stable income from foreign sources, along with comprehensive health insurance coverage.

The non-lucrative visa is popular for retirees and anyone not wishing (or needing) to work for a year (minimum). This visa allows the holder to live in Spain for one year, without undertaking any paid employment. The holder will need to demonstrate that they are able to financially support themselves, and any dependents.

Once you are living in Spain you can then apply for a one-year residency permit, which (if you continue to meet the requirements) you can extend for a further four years (two-years, and then two-years), and at five years you can apply for permanent residency.

To apply for the non-lucrative visa, you will need to show:
  • That you are a non-EU national (passport).
  • Evidence that you can financially support yourself, and any dependents (usually bank statements). The amount you are required to be able to demonstrate is (as at 2022) approx. €28,000 for yourself, plus an additional €6,900 per family member included in the application.
  • A criminal record certificate, issued within the three months prior to the application.
  • Complete coverage private health insurance.
It is worth noting, that if this is the route that you choose to take to gain Spanish residency rights, then to keep these rights you won’t be able to leave the country for more than six months in any one year during this period, or more than 10 months in total for the first five years.
 

Some of the other visa options available are:

  • Family reunification visa: For non-EU individuals seeking to join family members who are already residents or citizens of Spain, the family reunification visa provides a pathway to residency. Eligible family members include spouses, children, parents, and dependent relatives, subject to specific criteria and documentation requirements.
  • Student visa: Individuals pursuing higher education opportunities in Marbella's esteemed academic institutions or nearby universities may opt for a student visa, which grants temporary residency for the duration of their studies. Upon completion of their educational program, students may explore avenues for transitioning to long-term residency or employment in Spain.
  • Work visa: Qualified professionals offered employment opportunities in Marbella, or the Costa del Sol may obtain a work visa, facilitating legal residency in Spain. Employers must demonstrate that the position cannot be filled by a qualified EU candidate, and applicants must meet the requisite qualifications and criteria set forth by the Spanish authorities.
  • Entrepreneur visa: For aspiring entrepreneurs and investors with innovative business ideas or plans to launch ventures in Marbella or the Costa del Sol, the entrepreneur visa offers a pathway to residency. Applicants are required to present a viable business plan, along with evidence of sufficient financial resources to fund their entrepreneurial endeavours.

Working from Spain.

Visitors to Spain from all over Europe, and other parts of the world, have always seen the Costa del Sol as a tourism hotspot. Now Malaga (only 30 mins drive from Marbella) is emerging as a hub for European business with Vodafone, Google, and Citigroup all opening offices in the city.

For a growing group of individuals, Marbella and the Costa del Sol has become a popular base to work from, with online jobs and telecommuting having become increasingly widespread.

A trend that was already growing before, and became the norm during the pandemic, is the “working from home” culture. The advancement of modern technology - smartphones, laptops, and the internet – means many people can easily work from home, wherever in the world that may be.

In recent years we have seen a rise in the number of “remote workers”. Those self-employed individuals, freelancers, and even small to medium sized businesses, who leave behind the traditional workplace setting completely and adopt a fully online working strategy.

One that doesn’t involve a daily commute to the office, but rather a log-on to zoom, teams, slack or any of the other ever-increasing communication tools; meaning work can be done from anywhere in the world.

This has led to an increase in the number of opportunities for many individuals and families looking for a different way of life; and some (especially those from colder climates) have decided to relocate to the Costa del Sol, taking full advantage of being able to “wfh 👨‍💻☀️” (work from home), in the sunshine, as a “remote worker”. And why not when you consider Spain is one of the most affordable countries in western Europe to live in.

Others still have decided to travel whilst they work …. joining the ever-growing legions of “digital nomads”.

Becoming a “Digital Nomad” in Spain.

For those not fully conversant with the expression, a “digital nomad” is someone who travels to different locations, whilst working remotely. (The term was first used as the title of a book, written by authors Tsugio Makimoto and David Manners in the late 1990s; who believed that new technology would allow people to return to a nomadic state and exist on the move.)

Digital nomads often only need a laptop and can work anywhere with internet access (WiFi). Some even have their own travel Wi-Fi or mobile hotspot which enables them to log on to work, wherever they can pick up a connection.

This gives them the flexibility to travel, all over the world - at the same time as working as a freelancer, or for a company that has a remote working policy - as long as they comply with the current regulations and visa requirements of the countries they visit and stay in.

It is estimated that (worldwide) there were approximately 35 million digital nomads in 2021, with that number predicted to double over the next few years. And the single biggest challenge they claim to face is connecting to the internet. 

Spain clearly recognised the advantage of welcoming digital nomads, and in 2021 announced plans to launch a new visitor visa specifically geared towards them. In December 2022, the Spanish parliament gave its final approval to the special Digital Nomad Visa. The law came into effect on 23 December 2022, and in January 2023, Spain launched their Digital Nomad Visa as part of the new Startup Act, that allows remote workers and freelancers to live and work in Spain for a year if they meet the minimum income requirement.

To apply for the Digital Nomad visa, you will need to show:
  • You are a remote worker and can complete your job from Spain via an internet connection.
  • You must prove that you have specific expertise in your field.
  • That the work is stable and well-established, that you have worked in the role for a minimum of three months, and that the company you work for has been in business for at least one year.
  • Evidence of a minimum income of €2,160 per month to apply, with additional income required if you are to be accompanied by a partner or children.
  • A clean criminal record from all the countries that you have lived in for the last five years.
  • Complete coverage private health insurance.
The visa is for up to 12 months initially and then can be renewed for up to three years (on a yearly basis).

Luckily Spain has a fantastic internet infrastructure in place – with over 82% of the population having access to a connection. Spain is well served by a variety of providers; speeds are generally good; and prices are fairly low. 3G and 4G is available throughout the country, and 5G is available in most cities and urban areas. Coupled with the weather, you can see why Spain is a popular choice for remote workers and digital nomads.

In conclusion, the removal of the Golden Visa incentive may deter some foreign investors, but for those individuals and families seeking to move to Marbella or the Costa del Sol, residency does not need to be a stumbling block.

Dolan Property, real estate specialists based in the heart of Marbella.

Whether you're drawn to an investment in Marbella’s thriving real estate market; a relaxed retirement in a more temperate climate; being able to work from home in the sunshine; or any of the myriad of benefits life in this region offers, with our extensive expertise in the Marbella real estate market and our network of legal professionals, we stand ready to facilitate a seamless transition to life in this coveted Mediterranean destination.

We understand that choosing a new home is a big step, and for those of you buying or selling a property in a foreign country, it can be very stressful, Dolan Property is here to help. If you are looking for a professional real estate expert; we are based in the heart of Marbella’s Golden Mile and specialise in high quality, desirable properties in prime residential locations; Nagüeles, Sierra Blanca, Cascada de Camoján, East and West Marbella, Istan Road, Nueva Andalucia, and the new Golden Mile in Estepona.

Contact us for further insights and guidance on navigating Marbella's dynamic real estate.

Dolan Property specialists are committed to the highest levels of business and ethical standards, and we are proud members of the Leading Property Agents of Spain (LPA).

 


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