Good news for remote workers who love tapas, year-round sunshine, and pan con tomate: Spain has joined the growing number of countries offering a digital nomad visa, which allows people to live and work remotely while maintaining their employment or self-employment status in another country.
In November 2022, the Spanish government started deliberating on the digital nomad visa, and approved it in December 2022. In January 2023, Google searches from Americans for “Spain digital nomad visa” jumped a whopping 66%.
Which is not surprising, given that, until now, digital nomads had to apply for other kinds of residence permits to live and work in Spain, including a non-lucrative visa.
Whether you’re looking to hire talent in Spain or hope to move there yourself, this article is for you. In it, we’ll highlight the most important elements of Spain’s digital nomad visa and run through the requirements and process to obtain it. Finally, we’ll hear from two digital nomads about their experiences living in Spain.
Spain’s Startup Act enshrines the digital nomad visa in law and aims to help the country attract startups, investors, and global talent through measures such as a new tax regime and simplifying the process of setting up a company in Spain.
The new digital nomad visa is for employees and entrepreneurs from non-EU countries who want to live in Spain while working remotely for a foreign company or with clients outside the country. It offers non-EU citizens a residence permit that can be extended for up to five years, and these years count toward Spanish nationality and permanent residence for those who aspire to a lifelong diet of paella and jamón.
The initial remote work visa lasts for three years, with the possibility to extend for a further two. There are two ways to obtain it:
The Spanish digital nomad visa also allows you to bring family members, which is great news for parents dreaming of bringing up bilingual babies.
And, perhaps best of all, the visa gives you the right to travel throughout the Schengen Area — the 27 European countries that have abolished border control at their mutual borders. Put simply — it puts Europe at your fingertips.
By the way, European citizens can live and work for up to six months in Spain visa-free. After that, they’ll need to obtain a NIE (national identity number) to continue.
Spain’s Startup Law sets out the visa requirements and digital nomad visa application process. This section will walk you through the eligibility criteria, required documents, and step-by-step application process.
The digital nomad visa is available to all non-EU citizens who meet the following requirements:
Spain’s cost of living is one of the lowest in the European Union, and is estimated to be 33.3% lower than the US, while the average rent is 56% lower. While this isn’t such great news for Spanish people, as it reflects the country’s slow economic recovery from the 2008 crash and subsequent effects on inflation and wages, it makes it an attractive option for digital nomads.
Additionally, Spain has one of the best public health systems in the world, ranking at number eight, so affordable healthcare is a big benefit to those who live there. For instance, Barcelona boasts not one but two of the best 100 hospitals in the world — Hospital Clínic at number 62 and Vall d’Hebron at 83.
Of course, WiFi and other digital nomad amenities — like coworking spaces and decent coffee — are important considerations. Fortunately, Spain ranks 13th in the world for internet speed and has over 1,500 coworking spaces. While coffee rankings are a little more subjective, coffee lovers will feel right at home in one of the country’s many trendy sidewalk cafés.
We spoke to two digital nomads in Spain to find out what they love about calling it “mi casa”.
Cey, who’s originally from the Philippines, has been living in Barcelona since early 2023, having fallen in love with the city during a pre-pandemic trip with her family. She loves the city’s vibrant art scene and modernist architecture, which provide inspiration for her own designs.
“Barcelona is a very walkable city. There’s so much design everywhere: I enjoy looking at every type of media around the city. It helps me with my process a lot of times,” she says.
For Cey, one of the best things about Barcelona is its excellent transport system that gives her easy access to nearby cities and neighboring countries. “It’s a great way to disconnect after work,” she adds. Cey recommends that under 30s get a T-Jove card and a free RENFE rail pass to explore the city and surrounding areas while saving money.
Although Barcelona is a very affordable city, Cey says she’s noticed it’s gradually becoming more expensive. She’s also found administrative processes can be slow, so she recommends that digital nomads “prepare all the paperwork and schedule ahead of time to get your resident cards because it can take a while sometimes!”
Finally, she advises aspiring Barcelonians to do their research into the different neighborhoods when looking for an apartment and allow plenty of time to find a place to stay.
Victoria is from the UK, has lived in Barcelona since 2013, and was hired by her current employer through Remofirst in 2023. Although she originally planned to stay “for six months,” she fell in love with the city’s vibrant culture, comfortable climate, beach lifestyle…and one of its residents.
One of the things she loves most about living in Spain is the way people approach the work-life balance. “People take their time off seriously,” she says. “In the UK, people laugh at the idea of siestas and wear burnout like a badge of honor. But we’re the ones who have got it wrong.”
Like Cey, Victoria has found that administrative processes can be slow and frustrating, “but you get used to it,” she says. “Plus, the quality of life makes it worth it.”
Spain is likely to see an influx of global talent as a result of the digital nomad visa program and it's great employment benefits. If you’re an employer looking to hire team members in Spain or anywhere else in the world, you’ll need to stay up-to-date with local labor laws to ensure compliance.
To learn more about hiring in Spain, check out Remofirst’s Spain country guide.