How to Apply for Non-Lucrative Visa or Residence Visa for Retirees for Spain as US Citizen

11 Jun

Due to popular demand, I am re-posting my series of blogs about how to get a “non-lucrative (retirement) visa to live in Spain. I have just completed my second renewal, which was considerably easier than my initial application, mostly owing to my experience at submitting  the correct documents. Here is my most recent visa, with personal info redacted:

Spanish visa/NIE card

 

 

At the time of my first post in July 2015 about the process of  how, as a U.S. citizen, to apply for a non lucrative residential or retirement visa to reside in Spain when I discovered this excellent and informative blog post by Jed on www.bucking-the-trend.com on February 17, 2014. So with his permission, I instead posted his blog, and then added my experiences where they were different. I was surprised to learn the requirements vary depending on which Spanish consulate you are required to apply. Here is Jed’s post:

How to Apply for Non Lucrative Visa for Spain as US Citizen – Bucking the Trend.

MY EXPERIENCES IN APPLYING FOR A “RESIDENCE FOR RETIREE” VISA

The process for applying for a non-lucrative visa to live in Spain as a U.S. citizen varies with which consulate you are required to go through. WHAT??? I thought the process would be the same since it is a national visa, but with some research online, and then personal experience, I was surprised to learn the requirements were sometimes different.

 

My first inkling about this came when I tried to inquire from the Spanish consulate in Los Angeles about the requirement of providing documentation of having a place to live in Spain, yet having to be in the U.S. to apply for and wait for the visa.  I had read a number of stories about the capriciousness of whether or not visas were issued by the Spanish government, so I was reluctant to rent a place in Spain without an assurance of being issued a visa. Moreover, I did not want to pay for a place which would sit empty for many months or possibly until the lease expired. When I initially contacted the L.A. consulate and naively asked how I was supposed to be in the U.S. yet have a permanent address in Spain, I was simply told I had to do everything required on the application.

 

When I inadvertently got on the San Francisco Spanish consulate website, there were different requirements, with no mention of the need for documentation of housing ahead of time. I wrongly assumed that the requirements would be the same across consulates, so I again contacted the Los Angeles consulate, (my mandated consulate based on living in San Luis Obispo County), noting that the San Francisco consulate did not have the housing requirement so did I have to at the L.A. consulate, to which I received the same response as my first contact with them, that I must do everything required on the application. They added that the requirements can vary depending on the consulate.

 

So I “relocated” to the San Francisco Bay Area with my son, and with my new address in Marin County, I submitted my visa application, sans documentation of a place in Spain to live. Interestingly, after booking my appointment via internet to submit my visa documents, when I showed up for my scheduled appointment, the man asked about my housing documentation. In my best, albeit slow Spanish, I smiled and explained that I did not yet have a permanent place to live in Spain because I would do that as soon as I arrived. Apparently, that was acceptable to him. Although it should go without saying, bring patience and politeness to your appointment at the consulate. I have seen curt and even rude people, whose behavior interfered with achieving their goal of getting a visa.

 

Also, on the San Francisco consulate’s website, they had a specific application “Residence Visa for Retirees,” which the L.A. website did not, although the requirements are largely the same with the exception of the variation between consulates. There are additional documents required to submit for those with a spouse and/or children.

 

There is a requirement to have all documents translated into Spanish. Living in California with many translators, I thought that would be easy. However, as with any time one deals with the Spanish bureaucracy, things were not that simple. I inquired as to whether a certified Spanish interpreter in California would qualify, and was told, it depended. The Spanish government may or may not accept the translation. As there were many documents that needed translation, including the reasons you want to move to Spain, criminal history check, medical certificate, medical insurance with no deductible, proof of minimum retirement income, with some documents requiring notarization, I tried to find a translator who was certified by the Spanish government. The first person I found was located in Spain, and after she learned I was in the U.S., she said she could not do the translation. The Spanish consulate website had a link to interpreters, but it was not working. I finally got someone at the consulate to send me the list of certified translators. One was conveniently located in the San Francisco Bay Area, and we exchanged documents by mail. She was fabulous, quick and met all translation requirements.

 

There were also some deadlines about how long you had to retrieve your visa from the consulate once notified of approval and to travel to Spain. One has to show proof of flight/travel arrangements when retrieving your visa, and the travel has to be scheduled within a short time, which generally means high flight costs. I got my notice of approval of my visa just shy of three months after I applied, and was required to pick it up within a few weeks. My flight to Spain was two months later.

 

In my next posts, I will discuss taking a pet to Spain, the procedures required once in Spain to actually get your Residential Visa/NIE card, and the first renewal of my Spanish visa.

 

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37 Responses to “How to Apply for Non-Lucrative Visa or Residence Visa for Retirees for Spain as US Citizen”

  1. Pedro1312 July 22, 2015 at 2:02 pm #

    i do not understand why different Spanish consulates ask for different things since consulates belong to the Ministerio de Asuntos Exteriores, or Department of State in the USA, and all the process to get Visas is ruled by the Ministry so it does apply to all consulates, just like in the USA a federal thing applies to all across the USA whether it is Kansas or New York.

    I think that it is the civil servants who fail to provide good information as they are lazybones.

  2. Nancy Bourguignon July 31, 2015 at 5:39 pm #

    Hi,
    Interesting post. If I may chime in … my husband and I are leaving for Spain at the end of august and when we picked up our visas at the L.A. Consulate, all they did was hand us our passports with visas and said “Good luck!”, they gave us no instructions, no other papers, no asking if we had made travel arrangements, nothing. Also, our appointment was on April 27th and the visas were issued on May 8th but nobody notified us, even though I had read and was personally told to wait for an email to confirm that the visas were ready. Having been told it could take up to 3 months, we waited as you never get an answer if you call or email, right ? Anyways, at week 9 I thought I’d send an email asking if there was a problem … lo and behold, I got a reply about an hour later saying the visas were ready. I was happy yet annoyed at the same time. We picked them up 2 days later. I would suggest for people to not wait 9 weeks like we did. I wasn’t going to rock the boat but I would be curious to know if somebody just dropped the ball or what !!! Which could explain why they just handed us our passports and almost shooed us away ! I have a question for you: we still do not have a long term place yet as we prefer to do that after having a chance to look around. We put down Barcelona on our application but we are now looking more seriously at Alicante. Do you have any idea about how to go about this ? should we show up at an Oficina in Barcelona or Alicante ? I’ve heard of people changing their minds like us and everything went ok but I’ve also heard of it being a major headache to change your place of residence. I was also thinking of doing a short term in Barcelona and applying in Barcelona and then moving to Alicante ( for all I know, we could still change our minds ha! ). Any ideas would be appreciated, thank you. Oh and about California dreaming ? Heck, I would only say we are currently in Bakersfield … yeah !
    Nancy Bourguignon

    • dawnrstarr August 1, 2015 at 7:46 am #

      I think it depends on whether you already submitted a residential address in Spain on your visa application. If not, when you arrive, I suggest get a vacation rental. There are currently more of those rentals now than traditional hotel rooms in Spain. You can then “test drive” the town and neighborhood you are considering. If you book for a week to start, especially if not in high season (i.e., the summer), you can get a fantastic rate, and extend your stay or move to another area if the first does not suit you. In the meantime, explore the town you are considering, and its neighborhoods, and then look for a real estate agency that does long-term rentals for locals, where you will find the best rates. If you go to a real estate agent frequented by ex-pats and/or in a touristy area, you will be steered toward expensive, and in my opinion, over-priced properties. I have a 3 bedroom 90 square meter apartment in Casco Antiguo (old town) in Altea for only 400 Euros. I suggest getting A/C if you are moving to an area that gets hot in the summer, which is most of Spain. Let me know if I can answer any further questions.
      I am not surprised about your experience with the LA Spanish consulate, except that they processed your visa so quickly. Wait until you get to Spain, and try to finish the visa process. In my next post, I discuss the first year renewal process. I will not even get to the final submission of paperwork until the end of September, seven months after my other visa expired, and then they still need to issue it with my photos which I will supply at that time.
      By the way, I moved to Altea, in province of Alicante, from San Luis Obispo County in California, as you know, close to Bakersfield, where I often testified as an expert witness on Sexually Violent Predators. Life here in Spain is way better.

      • Kelly Knape August 16, 2015 at 3:30 pm #

        Would you mind giving us the translator that you used and how much they charge?

      • dawnrstarr August 17, 2015 at 9:11 am #

        Her name is Wawi Gorriz Ramallo. I believe the fee was around $200 US plus shipping both directions. Although the San Francisco Spanish consulate’s website had a place to click to find approved translators, the link was broken. I finally called and got a few names. She was quick and easy to work with.

      • Kelly Knape August 17, 2015 at 6:56 pm #

        Thank you so much. We had approx. 20 documents totaling 25 pages and we had bids from $530 -$650. We were impatient so we took the low bid. Please stay in touch. Take care. Kelly

  3. Nancy Bourguignon August 17, 2015 at 4:57 pm #

    I just saw your post/reply today ! Thank you for the info and indeed we prefer to deal with local people. For our application, we reserved a hotel room as they insisted on an address, any address. and promptly cancelled the reservation afterwards. I will now stop obsessing over the visa issue 🙂 and deal with it once on the ground. I also used Wawi Gorriz and she was an absolute joy to work with. She is very thorough, conscientious and affordable. She will even try to condense some things so as to keep your cost down. Recommend her 100%.

    • dawnrstarr August 17, 2015 at 5:35 pm #

      Nancy: Thanks for the strategy of how you have dealt with the vagaries of the Spanish visa application. Creativity, tenacity and patience are the key. Also I am sure Kelly appreciates the thumbs up on Wawi.
      Keep me posted on your progress. Maybe we will be sort of neighbors a second time.

  4. kate swanson November 18, 2015 at 12:50 am #

    Hi – wondering if you might be able to help me out with something I’ve been spending a lot of time googling lately 🙂
    My husband and I are planning to quit our jobs and move to Granada for ~1 yr on the non-lucrative visa and we’d been planning on heading over in early Feb. I’ve got an appt at the Chicago consulate next week and I’ve had all the paperwork in order for a while now, but we’ve just gotten some health-related news that could possibly force that Feb departure into late April or so. The idea of re-requesting all the documents/apostiles/translations makes me shudder, but the requirements say the originals can’t be older than 3-6 months from date of application.
    My question is…if we go ahead with our application next week with the early Feb arrival date, what is the likelihood that we’ll be able to just show up in Spain in late April instead? I’ve seen a couple sites that indicate (for student visa) that you get a 90-day arrival window and you just can’t be early. Can’t find anything similar related to non-lucrative visa, but I’m guessing this one is far less common, and there aren’t multiple universities helping people navigate the system 🙂
    Based on your experience, would you have any insight about this? When you got your visa, did it have that 90-day arrival window?
    I appreciate any info you could offer!!

    • dawnrstarr November 21, 2015 at 1:54 pm #

      I am not sure, and I would hate to give you wrong info. It took the embassy about 3 months to process my application. I then had a window of time in which I had to retrieve it, something like 30 days. And I had to bring paperwork to show my booked flight. I picked up my passport with the visa approval in late Dec, and I did not leave until early March. If it takes them several months to process your application, by the time you have to book the flight you may well be into your desired departure time. Also many of the time frames and limits they give are inconsistent or impossible, like when I first arrived in Spain and went to get my NIE card for my visa, I was told I had to set up my appointment for the final submission of paperwork and getting fingerprints within a narrow timeframe, but the computer automatically generated a date at least two months after the deadline. Let me know what happens.

    • Michelle March 14, 2017 at 2:43 pm #

      Hi could you help/give me some info? I’m applying for a non-lucrative visa at the Chicago consulate. I have some questions:
      1. Which documents should I get apostilled? The original docs from the state, or the Spanish translated ones?
      2. The consulate requires ‘Lease’, did you get a signed lease before applying, or would a hotel reservation be sufficient?
      3. Do you have any recommendation on ‘Certified Translator’ ?
      Thank you,

      • dawnrstarr March 23, 2017 at 8:24 am #

        Sorry, it has taken a bit of time to get back to you. I was in Venice and Paris, and when I returned, I had to locate my original visa application. I got the state background check that said I had no criminal history apostilled. Then I got it and all the rest of my documents translated. I suggest using a Spanish (from Spain) certified translator, as they may or may not accept translation by someone certified in the U.S. I used Wawi Gorriz Ramallo, who was very responsive, timely, and reasonable in cost. We handled things via courier mail; she lives in California. Her email is wgorriz@gmail.com. Have you read my series of 3 articles on applying for a visa in Spain? In it, I describe in detail the issues I encountered with dealing with the lease requirement. I think it varies with which embassy you are applying.

  5. Marcos November 25, 2015 at 11:59 am #

    Great site!

    Do you know if I can switch the visa type when in Spain? I mean, just in case I’m under the non-lucrative visa and want to start a business in Spain. I’m not sure if I can request and switch to a work permit visa such as the self-employed visa.

    Thank you!

    • dawnrstarr November 26, 2015 at 7:55 am #

      I am not sure, but the Spanish government doesn’t want ex-pats to be taking jobs away from Spaniards. I think they would be fine if you started your own business, but I can’t say for sure. When you are here, you can go to the Oficina de Extraneria, where you will have to go to start the process of getting your actual visa card. After you have those steps in place, you could go back and inquire about what needs to be done if you want to start a business. I wouldn’t suggest doing them both at the same time, because there are already enough problems just with doing all the steps for the residential non-lucrative visa.

  6. Travis October 17, 2016 at 2:16 pm #

    Thanks for the great post Dawn! Quick question, did you have to submit your U.S. passport with your application? In other words, are you without a passport for up to 3 months? I’m trying to figure out if I can travel while they process my visa application. Thanks!

    • dawnrstarr October 18, 2016 at 6:44 am #

      They kept my passport. I was a bit concerned but it is standard procedure. Then they attach the preliminary visa approval to the passport, which you will use in completing the residential visa once you are in Spain. Good luck.

      • Pamela Fay October 22, 2016 at 12:58 am #

        Wonderful post, Dawn. Thank you. I am confused by the insurance requirement. How did you present proof of having medical insurance without paying for a policy well in advance of your move?

        In our case, we will have our visa appointment at the San Francisco consulate in December and will move to Spain in April or May of 2017. We can’t imagine paying for insurance (especially since we are retirement age and insurance won’t be cheap) for 5 or 6 months prior to when we need it. I see lots of conflicting information about whether travel insurance will be accepted. Some say yes, others say no. What was your experience? Thanks!

      • dawnrstarr October 22, 2016 at 11:51 am #

        I found the insurance requirement confusing. What worked for me was buying “travel insurance” for Spain through Insubuy, but you do need it (with zero deduction; no co-pay) when you apply at the consulate. When you re-new, you need to get a Spanish medical policy, which you can do through local insurance companies. I got mine here in Altea through an English-speaking agent.

      • Kate Swanson October 22, 2016 at 6:17 pm #

        I’m not sure if it will work for everyone, but just wanted to share our experience FYI. We applied in Nov last year and didn’t come to Spain until May this year, so we were also unwilling to buy insurance coverage several months before needing it. I went through the purchase process on the insurance website (Sanitas) up to the very last step (payment) and then printed out screen shots of everything showing what we were planning to purchase. We took that to the Chicago consulate and they didn’t love it, but they accepted it. In April, I reached out to the insurance company again and asked them to establish our policy as of May 1st.

      • pamelafay October 23, 2016 at 3:14 pm #

        Thanks, Dawn. We think we’ll try travel insurance…maybe.

      • Kelly October 24, 2016 at 11:51 am #

        We recommend travel insurance to start. Most other international policies are very expensive. We used Azimuth Beacon. Usually they will reimburse the unused amount when you change to a local health insurer (Seguros in Spanish.) We got our Spanish private health insurance through Atlantida. Others were either expensive or just refused coverage because of pre-existing conditions like depression. In general the good news is that it is much much cheaper than it is in the U.S. After a year, you can apply for the national health system and pay a smaller premium, unless you are employed and thus paying into the system. Your employer will set that up for you.

      • Pamela Fay October 24, 2016 at 4:39 pm #

        Kelly, how long ago did you apply? Which consulate? I’m getting so many different answers and it seems consulate-dependent.

      • Kelly October 25, 2016 at 5:10 pm #

        It has been a little over a year. We started in Virginia where we were preparing based on the U.S. Embassy requirements and then had to move back to Texas. The main differences were that the Embassy had not mentioned the need for fingerprinting which we had to do in Texas. There were local offices for that purpose so it was easy. The consulate in Houston is where we took our completed application. There the big difference was that the income requirement was significantly less than the U.S. Embassy in D.C. (approximately $35000 per couple per year versus $90K.)

      • pamelafay October 25, 2016 at 6:27 pm #

        90k? That’s crazy! However, it vindicates me since I insisted to my husband that we include ALL of our assets because you just never know! Thanks for your response.

  7. dawnrstarr October 25, 2016 at 6:36 pm #

    I was surprised that the various Spanish consulates in the US have different requirements for a Spanish visa.

  8. pamelafay November 16, 2016 at 3:23 pm #

    My husband and I are applying for a non-lucrative visa from the SF consulate in December. I am confused about the insurance requirement. How did you provide proof of insurance without paying WAY in advance of when you need the policy? With two to three months to get the visa approved, plus two to three months before we sell the house and actually move, we would be paying for four to six months of insurance we cannot use!

    • pamelafay November 16, 2016 at 3:28 pm #

      Sorry, I realize I already asked this question. I’m still concerned about our plan to not pay. We have contacted ASSSA and are going through the San Francisco consulate. We’re just worried that they won’t accept the “we plan to purchase” answer!

    • Kelly November 17, 2016 at 2:36 am #

      We purchased a travel insurance policy with Azimuth Beacon. It was much cheaper than other international plans. It was only for emergencies and evacuation.They will reimburse you for any unused portion. You can only get coverage up to a specific amount of time and then it is renewable. So we paid in advance for the first three months, coverage starting when we arrived, and no questions were asked. If they had asked, we planned to say that we would be buying local private insurance after we moved, which we did.

      • dawnrstarr November 19, 2016 at 8:20 am #

        I saw no way around it, so I bought a policy through Insubuy in the U.S., which was around $1200 per year. At the time of your first year visa renewal, you will need to get a Spanish medical insurance plan, or you can do that at the outset, but I think you need an NIE number first which you get when you complete the visa process upon arriving in Spain. I have heard of people cancelling their policy after receiving the proof of insurance to receive a refund, but this could be a problem if you have any major medical expenses in Spain.

      • pamelafay November 21, 2016 at 2:18 pm #

        Thank you, everyone, for helping with the insurance issue. I wanted to report the outcome.

        We decided to apply with ASSSA for regular residence health insurance. They are a Spanish company with an English speaking agent, Laura Carrion, that I was able to work with. I was told some months ago by ASSSA that if we had a visa appointment in December, we should purchase insurance starting in December. This would have meant paying for insurance we would not need until April. As the total amount of the insurance was approximately $3,000, this was completely unacceptable to us.

        So, for several months I searched incessantly for another solution. Other Spanish companies required an NIE, which, of course, we don’t have. I have heard several conflicting stories about whether or not the San Francisco consulate would take travelers insurance.

        We live in Portland, Oregon and have to go to San Francisco for the visa appointment. I had nightmares about being told we have to return because we failed to meet the requirements, or, even worse, start the whole process all over again.

        Well, despite being told we couldn’t do what we wanted to do, we tested the waters anyway. Our fallback was going to be travel insurance through Insubuy for about the same amount of money. We preferred regular insurance, however. My husband and I are 58 and 63.

        We applied for ASSSA insurance using our planned dates for departure of April of 2017. They accepted it!!! I wanted to inform others so they can know that there IS a viable solution.

        Also, thanks for the recommendation for Wawi. We are working with her now to get our documents translated. She is very helpful.

  9. dawnrstarr November 21, 2016 at 2:28 pm #

    Thanks everyone for the helpful input. Requirements for the visa can be a daunting task, with sometimes inconsistent requirements. Pamela: Glad you were able to figure a way to delay purchase of the insurance, and sharing that info.

    • Cin Chung September 19, 2017 at 4:11 am #

      Thank you for such a great post! I’m just about to start the process and all the different information is mind boggling. I will be applying for a nonlucrative at San Francisco. How is everyone contacting the consulate? I had emailed them and they said they were going to call me back but that they were busy. It’s been weeks. Am I able to call them directly?

      Did anyone use a lawyer? Does that help? I was hoping to do it myself.

      Thanks for the insurance information everyone. That was confusing to me as to how to pay for a plan when you don’t know your dates. So it sounds like I can put a date far out that I would like to be in Spain and it will be acceptable. Also, does anyone know if I still need to carry US insurance for Obama care purposes, in order to not be penalized? Or I can drop this after I’m out of the US for 183 days?

      Renting a place prior to getting a visa is also concerning to me. I was hoping to go through Spotahome, which is like an airbnb and perhaps rent 1 or 2 months as proof. That way it will give me enough time to look for something while I’m there. That should work?

      Also, not sure about moving household belongings. I was hoping to ship a couple boxes later due to not having a permanent place to stay. But it seems I would need to do it sooner to not be taxed on my things.

      Thanks again!!

      • Cin Chung September 19, 2017 at 4:15 am #

        Sorry one more thing…. regarding the medical certification, does SF Consulate care what kind of doctor I go to? I don’t have a regular doctor so can I just go to urgent care?

        I’m also assuming Wawi Gorriz is pretty familiar with visa apps so if something is majorly wrong, she will tell me?

        Does the application have to be hand written or should it be typed?

        Thanks again everyone!! =)

      • dawnrstarr September 20, 2017 at 10:58 am #

        They want a statement that you don’t have any history of major medical problems or contagious diseases, or something to that effect. Don’t know if an emergency room doctor would do that. Before setting up an appointment, I would suggest you check to see if they can provide that service. And it may be helpful to take a paragraph with the content needed so the doctor can use that and make sure to address all issues.

        Wawi Gorriz is a translator, not someone trained to comment on whether your visa application meets muster.

        I filled in the application by hand, but everything else typed

      • dawnrstarr September 20, 2017 at 11:09 am #

        San Francisco has an internet link to set up your appointment. I don’t know if you can do it by contacting them. Look on their website.

        I did not use a lawyer.

        While still in the US, you can buy travel insurance for the first year you are in Spain. I got mine through Insubuy. I think it needs to be in effect when you go for your consulate appointment. I let my Calif medical insurance lapse as soon as I arrived in Spain as it did not cover anything out of the US. I am not planning on returning to live in the US, so I have no reason to keep medical insurance in the US. If you are 65 or older, there are some issues to consider about the mandatory supplements for MediCare, which if you don’t enroll and decide to later, there are heavy fines. Once you are in Spain, and renewing your visa for the first time, you need Spanish medical insurance with a zero deductible. Mine is a little over 1000 Euros a year, or you can pay monthly if you have a Spanish bank account.

        It was a huge hassle shipping only two boxes of kitchen stuff here. They want you to provide receipts and current value, and then pay import taxes. If you can ship them in small batches, you may be able to avoid that. Maybe you can package each box and get someone to send them bit by bit once you are settled. If you can scan back through my blog, you will see some of my posts about one box that went back and forth to the US three times, even after I paid the taxes (their fault, but I never got a refund.)

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Spain: Residential Visa Renewal | Starr Treks - April 28, 2017

    […] are links to my prior posts on getting a Spanish residential visa: https://starrtreks.com/2015/07/09/how-to-apply-for-non-lucrative-visa-for-spain-as-us-citizen-buckin…; […]

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