As with all countries, there is a considerable list of immigration rules in Spain, which you will need to familiarize yourself with if you intend to move to Spain. Depending on your personal situation, the immigration rules of Spain will require that you meet different criteria in order to legally live in the country and work if you so desire. Because of Spain’s relationships with the European Union, neighboring countries, and former Spanish colonies, your country of citizenship has a big impact on what you need to do to move to Spain. This article is intended only as a guideline; for detailed information specific to your circumstances, please speak to a lawyer with experience in Spanish immigration law.
How to move to Spain legally
If you are trying to move to Spain, your first step is to determine which type of long-term visa you are eligible for. It’s important to sort this out ahead of time, because you can’t come to Spain as a visitor and then change your tourist visa to a long-stay visa for work, study, etc. while you are in the country. Any long-stay visas must be applied for at the Spanish consulate or embassy in your home country. The required documentation varies according to the type of visa. Keep in mind that, for work visas and student visas, you have to have made the necessary arrangements before applying for the visa. In other words, for a work visa, you must have a formal job offer and the employer must apply for work authorization on your behalf. Only once you have that authorization will you be able to apply for your visa. Similarly, for student visas, you must be able to show that you have been accepted into a qualified program of study in order to apply for your visa.
Note that EU citizens, citizens of EEA countries, and Swiss citizens do not need a special visa to move to Spain, and they are allowed to work without a work permit as well (except for Croatians until June 30, 2020).
Regardless of your status as an EU citizen or non-EU citizen, within 30 days of your arrival in Spain, you will need to apply for your foreigner’s identity number/card, or NIE. This card also serves as your residence card while you are living in the country, and usually must be renewed each year until you are eligible to get permanent residency status.
New immigration rules in Spain
The most important recent change to immigration rules in Spain involves the investor visa, commonly referred to as the “golden visa”. This visa offers legal residency to people who invest in real estate property in Spain over a certain value. Some years ago, this value was just €160,000, but under the new immigration rules in Spain, it has recently been increased to €500,000. Still, for anyone who has that sort of capital to invest in Spanish property, the golden visa is a very attractive option that comes with lots of perks. You may be allowed to work without applying for a special work permit, for example, and you can fast-track residence visas for your family so that they can join you in Spain.