This is the topic that we at LMDES get asked about the most. Is it possible to live abroad in Spain for the long term? The short answer is absolutely! The long answer is, some terms and conditions apply. That said, there are thousands of expats who have not only moved to the Iberian Peninsula, but also established roots.
Perhaps you're in love with the idea of Spain and its sandy beaches, perpetually blue skies and exquisite cuisine. It's possible that you've settled into a job that you adore, and have no intention of leaving any time soon. Maybe you've fallen in love with an actual Spaniard and you don't want to live anywhere else.
Whatever your backstory, here's what you need to know about living in Spain long term.
Although it's nearly impossible to predict that you'll want to live in a place forever, when you do have that 'aha!' moment it's best to start getting organized and planning ahead. What does that mean exactly? Start looking into your options, the documents you'll need to submit, and of course the deadlines. Spain is best known for its red tape, so the more informed you are the better off you'll be.
Can I Just Stay, and Say Nothing?
Of course you can! That's also extremely illegal. Many people live in the gray areas between legal and illegal and suffer because of it. If you're not properly registered as a resident in Spain simple things like traveling and free movement become risky. The police are within their rights to ask to see your documentation at any time. You need to be above board in order to have an active bank account, file and declare taxes, apply for a transport card, and travel within Europe. By not complying with Spanish law, you run the risk of fines and deportation.
That said, here's how to stay legally!
There is something called a 'Golden Visa' and it's for those (lucky) individuals who make a solid and substantial investment into the Spanish property market. This investment must be a minimum of 500k euros. That may seem like a lot, however, it also applies if you're purchasing space for a business also. Although this may seem far-fetched for recent collge graduates, this is great news for all you retired Wolves of Wall Street!
Did you graduate from an Ivy League School? Are you an expert in fields like science, maths or business? You may qualify for the fast-track visa for highly-skilled professionals! You'll have to demonstrate that you are an expert in an in-demand field or strategic sector. According to the Department of Interior, "The residence authorization will be for two years, and can be renewed for successive periods of five years, provided the conditions are generating the right are maintained." Harvard alums? Yale peeps? MIT? Where y'all at?
Family Origins and Latin American Passports
Spain is big on history, and obviously has lots of history with South America, the Caribbean and Equatorial Guinea. (This also includes Puerto Rico). If you are a passport holder for Andorra, Portugal, and Latin American country or of Sephardic Jewish origin, you can apply for Spanish nationality after just two years. The website states:
[Amount of time for nationality ] "Two years: for nationals of Ibero-American countries, Andorra, the Philippines, Equatorial Guinea, and Portugal, and persons of Sephardic origin."
Time to pull out those family trees!
Put a Ring On It
There are two components to this. The first being the coveted civil union. If your partner is from the EU, or Spain (obviously) and at least one of you has been registered in the country for one year, you may be eligible for a civil union. You'll need to show that you all have been living together for at least one year. You'll also need to witnesses to testify to this fact on your behalf. You must be over 18, and of sound mind. Appointments are often given out months later, so again, planing ahead is your best bet. Here's how to go about applying for Pareja de Hecho in Madrid. Each community has its own set of requirements. Also, it's easily dissolved as it's not technically considered a marriage. It will however give you the right to live and work in Spain for renewable periods of five years! Yay!
If you fall in love with a Spanish person, and decide to get married, after one year you're eligible to apply for Spanish nationality.
There are several programs in Spain for English teaching professionals. We detail quite a few of them in our All-Inclusive Guide for Moving to Spain.
You may come across people who have worked for 10+ years as an Auxiliar de Conversación. How do they do it? They hop programs! Some programs have a limit of 5 years, others 2 years, and there are some with 3 year limits. As long as you're in good standing with your program, and still meet the other requirements, renewing shouldn't be an issue. You may need more flexibility with this option as you may be asked to change regions if you opt to renew. It's a great way to see the country as a whole. Also, after 3 years you may also be eligible for a student visa modification. More on that here! *Don't forget that many programs require a new student visa if you're changing from one program to another; therefore, you'll have to return to your home country and apply from there.
You can also stay long term in Spain if you're granted a work visa, renewable research visa, or are a registered freelancer located in Spain. Each process has different requirements. We've tackled quite a few in this article: Can I legally work in Spain? Check it out here and good luck starting your journey!
See, the long answer wasn't so bad, was it? What's the cliché? Where there's a will, there's a way! Before giving up, or writing of your dream as impossible, make sure to explore all of your options first.
Danni, Community + Content Director at Las Morenas de España, is a twenty-something, Chicago native currently residing in Madrid. Lover of language, words, and travel, she's managed to combine all of her passions through her work. In her free time, you can find her exploring the winding streets of Madrid, hunting down good flight deals, planning her next adventure and writing & researching for LMDES. Danni loves spicy food, natural hair, music and of course, her wonderful husband. If you need to find her, she’s the girl with huge hair and her face buried in her Kindle.