Co-Authors: Nadja Vietz + Pina Espinoza
A few months ago, we reconnected with an American entrepreneur friend who has lived in Asia forever. In Hong Kong, actually, and he has been politically active there, so for reasons that will be clear to you if you follow the news, he’s in the process of moving. Spain is his first choice, and we think it’s an excellent one.
We have offices in Barcelona, Madrid and Palma de Mallorca, and over the years we have guided hundreds of individuals and organizations through the process of investing in Spain, purchasing property in Spain, and of course acquiring residency in Spain. Given that many people have spent the past 15 months rethinking their life and business circumstances, it seems like a good time to review Spain’s “Golden Visa” scheme, implemented in September 2013 by the Spanish government to stimulate foreign investment in Spanish real estate, industry and public debt.
The Golden Visa program was launched in 2013 to make the Spanish economy more competitive, further boost foreign direct investment, and enhance foreign trade and local job creation. Amendments to the program in 2015 added additional incentives and made it faster and easier to secure Spain visas and work permits.
The program has been an unqualified success and is one of the EU’s most attractive investment programs for non-EU investors. It can provide Spanish residency to the investor’s immediate family, which as of 2015 can include not only married partners but also common law partners, as well as economically dependent children, including grown-up children, and parents.
The least expensive (and often the easiest as well) way to qualify for a Golden Visa is by investing at least €500,000 in real estate. Another way is by investing at least €1 million in a Spanish company, investment fund(s) or venture capital fund(s); a third avenue is by buying at least €2 million of Spanish government bonds.
Once the Spain visa is granted through property investment, an investor can buy and sell properties as long as they maintain an investment threshold of €500,000. Investors are no longer required to invest as individuals. Rather, investors may purchase property in Spain either directly or indirectly through a registered company, so long as the investor continues to hold the majority of shares and the company’s address is not located in a tax haven. This means that if you can find investment partners, you can secure a Spain visa by investing well under €500,000.
Below is an outline of the different types of Golden Visas, as well as the requirements and process for application:
1. Who May Apply for a Spain Golden Visa?
Non-EU citizens may apply for a residence and work permit, if they:
Are Investors and
- invest €500,000 in real estate in Spain
- invest €2 million in Spanish public debt
- invest €1 million in Spanish companies, stocks, or Spain-based closed-end or venture capital funds investment funds
- deposit €1 million in a Spanish bank account
or if they are Highly Qualified Professionals who
- are hired as a highly qualified professional (this is a subjective determination that will be made by the Spanish government on receipt of an application) by a company in Spain, or
- if they are Entrepreneurs and
- plan on realizing an innovative business project considered of special economic interest for Spain
2. The Spain Golden Visa Process
The application process for a Spain Golden Visa is extremely fast. Visa applications must be made at a Spanish Embassy or Consulate in the applicant’s country of origin or residence, and visa application turnaround times are normally within 10 working days, with residence permit turnarounds within 20 working days. Successful applicants initially receive a one-year visa. The applicant may then apply for a residence permit (and a work permit) that is valid for two years and that can be renewed for periods of five years. If you are already resident in Spain when you apply for a Golden Visa you can apply directly for the 2-year residence permit.
The visa does not have a minimum stay requirement for renewal. This is appealing for those investors wanting the benefit of Spanish residency while enjoying unlimited travel to other countries. Investors can choose to remain in Spain or become tax residents in a third country. After ten years of continued residence (you must spend at least 183 days per year in the country), applicants may apply for Spanish citizenship.
3. Required Documents for Individual Investors
You must present your passport, health insurance documents issued by a company operating in Spain showing full coverage without co-payments, a police clearance certificate for every country in which you have lived in during the previous five years, and proof of sufficient economic means to maintain yourself and any accompanying family members in Spain.
Further, you will have to present documentation of your investment.
If you are applying for a Golden Visa through a €500,000 (or more) property investment, you must present the certificate of property registration and your real estate purchase deed or deeds. If the purchase has not yet been completed, you can show the public deed of purchase, in which case, you would be issued only a 6-month visa, on the understanding you will present the registration on application for the visa renewal.
If you have invested in Spanish public debt, you must present the certificate from your financial institution or the Bank of Spain. If you have invested in unlisted shares and equity, you must present a statement of investment filed with the Investments Register of the Directorate-General for International Trade and Investments (DGCOMINVER). If you have invested in listed shares, you must present confirmation from a financial broker registered with the National Securities Market Commission (CNMV) or the Bank of Spain. If you have put your money with investment funds or simply deposited funds with a bank, you must present confirmation issued by the fund manager or financial institution.
4. Required Documents if Investing through a Company
As above, amendments to the initial Golden Visa program make it possible to invest through a company. An investor must hold the majority of shares in the investor company and the company’s address must not be located in a tax haven. If these requirements are met, the company may nominate an applicant for a Golden Visa, submitting a report from the Directorate-General for International Trade and Investments (DGCOMINVER) attesting to the applicant’s good character.
5. Additional Visas for Close Family Members
Family members can accompany the investor and apply jointly and simultaneously or successively for their visas and residence permits. Eligible family members include a spouse or unmarried partner, children who are minors or financially dependent adults who have not yet started their own families. Dependent parents may also apply, but the dependency will have to be thoroughly proven. All accompanying family members whose age allows them to work in Spain will be eligible to receive work permits.