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Spain non-lucrative visa for retirees tips by Colin Jackson

Learn how Colin and his wife moved from New Zealand after applying for the Spain non-lucrative visa for retirees. Get 12 helpful tips so you learn all the steps to get a Spain non-lucrative visa for retirees.

This is a log of our experiences in applying for a non-lucrative visa from New Zealand, and the additional steps we have taken in our first few months in Spain.

Colin Jackson, Alicante. Posted to Facebook 17 October 2023

We cooked up our plan to retire and move to Spain early in 2022. It seemed like a good idea because it would allow us to retire early, which we could not afford to do in New Zealand. The cost of living on the Costas is said to be about one-third to one-half of the cost of living in New Zealand, depending on how you choose to live. Also, my wife’s parents live in the Alicante region, so it would allow us to spend more time with them.

We went to Spain for a month in September 2022 to have a look around and try to get a feel for whether we would really enjoy the place, and we visited lots of towns and villages, on the Costa Blanca between Alicante and Valencia, to see if we found somewhere we liked in that area. In the end, we did not find too many places we DIDN’T like, so we found quite a wide area we could live in. However, we did decide against living in the countryside – not because we did not like it, but because my wife does not drive, and there are not a lot of shopping facilities out of town that you can walk to and not a lot of bus services. We also decided against Valencia, even though we loved it, because the property prices are high there. We have no kids but a dog and two cats to think about.

As we were planning to retire anyway, the NLV seemed like the obvious choice. Its pathway to permanent residency (which the Digital Nomad visa does not have) was a big draw. You cannot work while under an NLV, even for overseas companies. You can only have passive income. However, after 5 years you can apply for permanent residency, and then could potentially work if you wanted to. We could not afford the outlay for a Golden visa, which is the easiest and most convenient way to get in. You need a large amount of spare cash to acquire a golden visa.

Having firmed up the plan, we contacted a Spanish lady who facilitates the acquisition of these visas all the time. She is an accountant by trade but does this as a sort of side-hustle. She helps a lot of UK applicants and knows the Spanish embassies and consulates in the UK well, though dealing with the Embassy in Wellington was new to her. We paid just over one thousand euros for her service, though this did include helping with the Padron and TIE as well. In our view it was well worth the money, as she does all the really hard stuff, but your mileage may vary. She pulls the paperwork together, organizes the appointments, sorts out the translations and provides general guidance. Once the visa is granted, she also organized the Padron and TIE appointments. She pulled all our documents together in good time. However, for reasons that we do not need to go into, I would not specifically recommend her, and would encourage you to find your own assistance.

People who provide this service are more useful than, say, gestors, who tend to be single-task oriented. But it is a measure of how tedious and unnecessarily complicated everything is in Spain that a whole industry has sprung up around getting certain simple tasks done. I cannot emphasize enough that getting official and semi-official tasks done in Spain an exercise in patience.

Preparing for the Appointment: Tips for the Spain non-lucrative visa for retirees

If you are in New Zealand, you will have a physical appointment at the Spanish Embassy in Wellington. You must bring all your documents with you and hand them over at that time. Note: you must have paid the fee by bank transfer beforehand, or they will not process your application.

As you may know, the process for applying for visas can be a bit whimsical with the Spanish authorities. Different consulates require different documents, sometimes even within the same country. We tried to think of everything they might ask for and have it ready beforehand. This is the list of documents we took to our appointment:

1/. 2 x visa applications, one for each of us. These are filled in in Spanish but have instructions in Spanish and English. They have a passport-sized photo glued to the front page (with paper glue). We also included a colour copy of the front page, with photo, just in case. Our agent filled these in for us, we just signed them.

2/. 2 x EX-01 forms. Not entirely sure what this form is for, but again we just had to sign it.

3/. 2 x TASA forms. Again, not sure what they are for, but they are in Spanish and in triplicate. Again, we just signed these, three each. They seem to be associated with the payment in some way.

4/. 2 x statements from the NZ ministry of justice. These must be translated into Spanish and stamped with the seal of the translator. Our assistant got these translations done for us in Spain, and emailed copies to us. The Spanish embassy is happy with printed-out copies, so long as they have the business stamp of the translator.

The original certificate must be less than three months old, and also be apostilled by the NZ government. This is a process whereby you send a copy of your Ministry of Justice certificate to the NZ records department, along with instructions for payment, and they return it with a certificate attached by a ribbon that affirms that it is a true and accurate document. The turn-around time for the apostille was, in our case, only about 5 days, which was very quick, but of course YMMV.

You can find the form for apostilling here:

5/. Copies of EVERY page of both our passports. This took a while as NZ passports run to fifty pages. We did this on the instruction of our assistant but were told by the embassy that these are NOT required.

6/. Our medical insurance documents. You must have an active private health insurance account in Spain at the time of your application. This is a bit weird, since you cannot apply for this visa from within Spain, so you are effectively maintaining insurance you cannot possibly use, but that is what they want. This must have been paid for, and for the FULL YEAR, and you must have a receipt or proof of payment. This caught us out as, while we had the insurance certificate, the insurers had not taken the money, because our insurance start date was the day of the appointment. Make sure your insurance is up and running before your appointment date, and that you have some means of proving the full year’s premium.

7/. 2 x Medical Statements from your (NZ) GP. It is a stock form that they just have to sign and stamp, to say you do not have major communicable diseases, are not a drug addict and do not suffer from mental illness. It is called a “medical certificate of good health” and must be signed by your doctor and have the surgery stamp on it. The wording is quite specific. Sorry I do not have a link for this document.

8/. Financial status documents. Technically you only need to show them enough to qualify for your first year NLV, but we just showed them everything. As we had sold our house, we had a bunch of money sitting in Term Deposits, so I had certificates for that, plus statements from our savings account. We were also advised to take 12 months-worth of bank statements from our current account, as they like to see the flow of money. They DID look at these in some detail, but it was quite a stack! Also, as a precaution, we had a copy of a statement from our solicitor confirming the sale of the house (in case they queried where the money had come from). They did ask, and they did look at the house sale document.

9/. A coloured copy of the marriage certificate (not the original, as you will not get it back), plus stamped translation, which was again provided by our assistant. We were initially told this also had to be apostilled, but it is now the case that this document is no longer required AT ALL. This is a recent change I believe.

10/. Statements of intention to retire. Neither of us are of state retirement age, so we had to go the extra mile to show we were genuinely retired and intended to remain that way. In the UK, the consulates all ask for the P45 form, which is a piece of paper you get when you are not working (incidentally, this does sort of imply that they expect you to be retired at the time you apply for the visa, but this not stated anywhere explicitly). However, there is no equivalent of that in New Zealand.

Furthermore, I have been contracting for the last 20 years, so for me, ‘retiring’ is simply a case of not picking up a new contract. I wrote a statement in Spanish asserting that I had retired and intend to remain that way. I also had a statement from my last employer that I had stopped working for them on such-and-such a date.

My wife was still working at the time of our application, intending to retire shortly after. She had written a statement saying she had handed in her notice and intended to enter full-time retirement on such-and-such a date. Likewise, she had a statement from her employer at the time (in English, but we provide a translation) saying much the same thing. It is hard to see what else we could provide, and this area is a bit nebulous. Anyway, they accepted it, so it must have been sufficient.

They did not ask about work status in the end, but we fell on the side of caution on this one.

11/. Passports. They keep these while the visa is being processed, so be prepared for that. The visas are placed in them, then they are returned. The visas can be post-dated to a given date if you specify.

12/. Include a self-addressed mailing envelope (A4), so that your passports can be returned. We opted for courier postage to be on the safe side. The only thing you get back is your passports.

The NLV Appointment comments for a Spain non-lucrative visa for retirees

The consulate office in Wellington is only open 4 hours a day and you MUST have an appointment. It is easily found at 50 Manners Street in Wellington. The setup is a little odd and unfriendly. They do not provide a room or even a desk to sit at. The staff member is behind a glassed-off booth, and you feed your documents below the glass, like at a bank. However, the person processing our papers was friendly enough, spoke English and gave us the information we needed to know.

There was a sign on the glass window with the following information:

Spain non-lucrative visa for retirees

Important Note to Clients

  • Appointments are MANDATORY. You cannot see the embassy without an appointment.
  • All applicants over 18 years old must submit their application in person. Family members cannot apply on their behalf.
  • Appointments can be made by email:
  • Appointments are given on a first-come first-served basis.

Fees can be paid by direct credit to this account:

  • BNZ 02-0500-0886274-000
  • REFERENCE: Applicant’s First and Last name
  • Consular Section Hours:
  • Monday to Friday, from 9.30am to 1.30pm

You must have paid the fee beforehand or they will not process your application. We were initially told you could pay on the day, but this is NOT the case.

Embajada de España ↗

They were not interested in the copies of our passport pages which the agent had told us to take.

This might be just a difference between the NZ embassy and the UK consulates, which our agent was more used to dealing with. They also did not look at our marriage certificate, and we were told these were no longer required. Finally, they did not ask us about our current working situation, though we did still include our personal statements on that score out of caution.

After the appointment comments about a Spain non-lucrative visa for retirees

We received our passports back with visas in them on the 21st of Nov 2023, which means the process only took 3 weeks, which is pretty snappy. This may vary depending on the time of year I suppose. There were no problems with the application. We received no other communication; no email, no cover letter, just our passports, in our return envelope, with the visas glued in. Spanish bureaucracy is brutal lol, but the turn-around time was good in our case. They do say “within three months,” but it is pretty much understood that it does not take that long. I have heard horror stories in the UK of it taking weeks and weeks, but of course the volume of applications in the UK must be much higher.

Entering Spain tips for a Spain non-lucrative visa for retirees

With our passports in hand with the glued-in visa, we arrived at Madrid airport. The visa has an NIE number on it (printed really, really small). I would make a copy of this somewhere, as you will need it a lot. The NIE number identifies which particular foreigner you are.

The start date of the visa was slightly later than the date we were travelling. We worried about this for a bit, but nobody questioned it in the end.

At the airport in Madrid, there was no problem at the border control. I made a point of emphasizing that we had visas. They did not really care too much about this, since NZ has a visa-free entry agreement, but it did mean that he stamped his stamp on the same page as the visa. Then they just waived us through.

Settling in tips for a Spain non-lucrative visa for retirees

As mentioned before, Spain is an absolute arse for paperwork. You can get a lot done with just your NIE (you will need it to rent a house, and to buy a car), but I would suggest renting at first, because trying to buy property before you have your TIE and are set up for tax would prove very difficult.

The first step after your arrival (assuming you are settling in a specific area) is to sort out your Padron (“Empadronamiento”). This is the process of registering with the local authority. The Spanish are very keen on knowing who and where you are at all times. It is all a bit Big Brother to a freedom-loving Kiwi, but it is what it is, and it is house rules, so. You should apply for the Padron as soon as you can. The process can vary slightly from Ayuntamiento to Ayuntamiento, so check. You will need your passport, proof of purchase of a house, or a 12-month rental agreement (along with a receipt for the first month’s payment). The padron technically only lasts for 3-months, but you will hardly ever use it hereafter. You DO need one that’s less than three months old to apply for your TIE, however, which is the main point of getting it.

You should try to get an appointment for your TIE application as soon as possible. The TIE is your Spanish identity card, and you are expected to get one within three months of landing. In fact, these tend to take a while to process, so the best you can hope for is that you have APPLIED within three months of landing. On the whole, it does not seem like they are chasing people out of the country for not getting in “under the wire” however it is definitely something you need to get on. Once you have it, you will use your TIE card all the time.

Applying is a matter of organizing an appointment, getting your documents in order, paying IN ADVANCE (we paid the tasa at our local bank and got the appropriate receipts, which you will need to take). The appointment will either be at an ayuntamiento or at a police station. It is best to get help with this, as getting an appointment can be quite tricky – they are in short supply. Also, some places are easier than others, so it helps if you can travel. We went to Alicante, which is about 90 minutes away, but seemed to have plenty of appointments. You do not have to do it in your own area. The process can be a bit chaotic (especially queueing) and intimidating, but the people behind the desks are friendly enough. They probably will not speak English to you, so take a translator or wing it if you feel confident. They do this all the time, so there is not really much to go wrong, so long as you have the right documents. We managed without, and we are far from fluent.

Once you have completed the application, they give you a bit of paper, which you can show in the unlikely event you need to show you have applied. The actual card can take 5 or 6 weeks to be ready, and you have to go back to the place you originally applied at to pick it up in person. They will not mail it to you.

Long term tips for a Spain non-lucrative visa for retirees

Once you have completed the above, you can put your feet under the table and relax knowing you will not have to do any more paperwork. No, just kidding. The bureaucracy never sleeps. A big hurdle is getting your NZ driving license swapped out for a Spanish one, which you are supposed to get done within a few months. This is an extremely tricky task, since the agreement between NZ and Spain has only just come into force, and many places just do not know how to do it. It is also nigh on impossible to get an appointment. Might be another case of getting help from a gestor. I had a quote from a gestor of 150 euros to do this, but you cannot do it until you have your TIE card anyway, and they said it might take months to process. I am told it is unlikely to be a big issue if you have not swapped over, by the sound of things. The Spanish are not that pedantic about the paperwork, they know it is mad.

And then of course, after that, at the end of year one, you need to apply for your next NLV. On the second go around, you are applying for a 2-year visa. You need to have sufficient income to be able to stay for 2 years. The third round is also for 2 years. After those three periods, when 5 years have passed, you can then apply for permanent residency, and that is probably a whole other mission!

You might be interested in the following posts about living in Spain…

If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to message us or stay connected via our Facebook and Instagram pages. Cheers, Kent.

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