If You Work From Home, You Can Now Live in Spain as a "Digital Nomad"
Clock into your Zoom calls from the Valencia waterfront.
The American workforce has swapped the cubicle for the couch. Between 2019 and 2021, the number of employees who work from home has tripled, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau. But what if your sofa wasn't limited to the confines of your house? And what if that sofa wasn't a sofa but rather, say, a sunlit chaise overlooking the sparkling waters off the Iberian?
That's now possible, thanks to recently passed legislation that allows you to live in Spain as a so-called "digital nomad," joining approximately 50 countries (including neighboring Portugal) that offer such programs. Of course, the process is outlined by some red tape, but if you have the patience to navigate it—and if your employer is cool with you working from a potentially different time zone—you can clock into your Zoom calls from abroad. Read on for everything you need to know about becoming a "digital nomad" in Spain.
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Who can become a digital nomad in Spain?
"The idea of living in Spain is appealing for many," Joe Cronin, president of International Citizens Insurance, which provides international insurance policies to expats, told Best Life. "But the purpose of this program is to bolster entrepreneurship and improve Spain's tech industry, so [officials] are going to look at quite a few qualifications and specifics."
For starters, you can't live in the European Union (EU). No more than 20 percent of your income can come from a Spain-based company. You'll have to have worked at least three months with your current employer, and provide documentation that both validates your employment and displays your qualifications. Finally, notes Cronin, the company you work for can't be older than seven years; otherwise, it doesn't really count as a startup.
You'll also have to meet some personal prerequisites. Your annual income has to be more than €28,000 per year ($30,400 as of this writing), though Cronin says that number is expected to be kicked up a bit. You'll need to find a place to stay in Spain and be able to prove it to authorities. And you'll need to be in possession of private health insurance that covers you internationally. According to data provided by Cronin, average plan prices tend to scale by your age, running anywhere from $2,400 per year (if you're between the ages of 18 and 29) to $8,300 per year (ages 60 to 69).
Oh, yeah, and you'll need a valid passport.
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How do you apply to become a digital nomad in Spain?
There are two ways to apply for a Spanish digital nomad visa, says Borja Roda Martinez, the co-founder of Coleccionando Postales, a Spanish travel blog. "Apply for residence as a digital nomad directly from Spain, during the first 90 days [on] a tourist visa, or start the application at the Spanish consulate located in [your] country of origin."
The application itself costs €75 ($81), Martinez says, and you'll need to set aside €15 ($16) for the residence card you'll get upon approval. The length of the application process could take anywhere from four to five weeks on average, says Cronin.
Can you travel outside of Spain?
Martinez notes that Spain's digital nomad visa doesn't limit you to Spain. Once you have the visa, you'll be able to travel throughout the Schengen Area—a coalition of 27 European countries that don't require visas to cross borders. Also, the time you spend in Spain while on such a visa counts toward the time needed to apply for permanent status, should that be something you're considering.
What other considerations are there?
There are a number of reasons applications get denied, Martinez says. Among them? "Having criminal offenses." But you could also be turned down for not meeting the other requirements—especially if you can't prove your income or professional profile.
Cronin also points out that some digital nomads have trouble adjusting to the cultural prominence of siestas—wherein Spain's economy essentially goes into low-power mode for part of the afternoon. It may sound amazing, but in practice, it means some bars, restaurants, and other establishments are all shut down for hours at a time.
"Before moving, you'll really want to consider if the culture is right for you," says Cronin. "A weeklong vacation in Spain is not going to give you a good idea of what it will be like to live there."