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This guide is about the immigration requirements when coming to Spain to set up a business. If you come from an EU member state, you can pretty much ignore this guide as you will have the right to live in Spain to work or to set up a business.
If you come from a non-EU country, there are a number of ways in which you can come to Spain to set up and work in a business. Broadly speaking, Spain encourages people to come to set up businesses as the provide employment for local people and boost economic activity.
Video guide to business visas in Spain
You can get a quick overview of business visas in Spain by watching this video interview (below) with Spanish lawyer Miguel Manzanares. You can also scroll down and read the guide he has written with us, and see our other residency/visa guides for Spain.
Short business visits
A visa is not required if the length of the visit does not exceed 90 days and the person is from a country whose citizens are entitled to visa-free access to the Schengen Area for 90 days in any 180-day period.
Self-employed foreign adults (over 18) can apply for temporary residence in Spain for the purpose of developing gainful self-employment.
Temporary residence status allows the foreign person to stay in Spain for a period of more than 90 days and less than five years.
The initial authorisation lasts for one year and is limited to a specific geographic area and sector of activity.
The applicant must:
- Not be in Spain unlawfully
- Be from outside the European Union or Switzerland
- Not have a criminal record, either in Spain and in his previous country of residence, for any offence during the last five years
- Not be listed as a non-acceptable person in countries with which Spain has signed a treaty to that effect
- Not have previously agreed to return to his country of origin due to a previous irregularity in status in Spain, and have submitted the application to return to Spain before the lapse of the agreed term outside Spain
- Meet the legal requirements regarding the opening and operation of the planned activity
- Provide evidence relating to his qualifications and the planned business
- Prove that he has sufficient money to support himself
- Have duly paid the relevant fee (€10.50) for processing the temporary residence permit and the working permit fee (€195.88).
To apply for obtaining a temporary residence permit:
- The application must be made by the applicant personally to the local Spanish Consulate in the country where he lives.
- The application must be accompanied by:
- An official (certified) copy of the applicant’s passport
- An official (certified) copy of any licences required for the opening and operation of the proposed business
- Accreditation of good standing and an official (certified) copy of any professional qualifications legally required
- Details of the proposed activity to be performed, indicating the planned level of investment, the expected profit and the jobs that might be created by the business. This must include proof that the required funds are in place or that there is guaranteed financial support by, for example, a bank
- The application must be accompanied by:
- If the application has been correctly completed, the consulate, within 24 hours, sends the application (electronically) to the General Directorate of Consular and Migration Affairs. It is then sent to the place in the territory where the applicant seeks residence.
- The Government there decides to grant or deny the authorisation.
- If the application is granted, the consulate notifies the applicant and issues a visa to enter Spain. This is valid for one month.
- The applicant must apply for a work permit to carry out the business activity within three months of his arrival in Spain. This is done at the Spanish Social Security office.
- Within one month he must personally apply for his NIE – foreign person identity card.
- If the applicant fails to register, he loses his right to stay in Spain and will be deported.
On the expiration of the first permit after one year, it can be renewed for a further two-year period.
Spain has a special category of visa for entrepreneurs.
Foreigners who are not citizens of EU member states can apply for temporary residence to develop an innovative entrepreneurial activity with beneficial economic potential. This application can be made:
- Outside Spain. In this case, the applicant must apply for a temporary residence visa that will be issued for one year for the sole purpose of preparing the documents and other things necessary to start his entrepreneurial activity. The application is made at the Spanish Consulate in the place where the applicant lives.
- Inside Spain. In this case, if the applicant already has an authorisation to stay in Spain, they must specifically apply for an entrepreneur residence authorisation to extend their stay. This is issued for two years and can be renewed. The application is made to the Unit for Large Businesses and Strategic Collectives (Unidad de Grandes Empresas y Colectivos Estratégicos).
The following documents must be provided:
- Public or private health insurance provided by a company that operates in Spain
- A criminal records certificate
- An official (certified) copy of his passport
- Proof of sufficient means to support himself and his dependants for the period he will be resident in Spain
- A favourable report on the proposed entrepreneurial activity. This report must be obtained, in the case of the visa applied for outside Spain, from the Oficina Económica y Comercial de España and, in the case of the application made within Spain,from the Dirección General de Comercio e Inversiones. To request the report, the applicant must produce a business plan. To be approved, the entrepreneurial activity must be of special interest to Spain. This will be the case if the activity creates employment and is truly innovative
Once granted, the authorisation allows the applicant and dependants to live and work in any part of Spain.
Non-EU foreigners wishing to make a significant investment in Spain can apply for a visa based upon that investment. The procedure is similar to that used for entrepreneur visas.
It can be renewed if the investment is maintained and the applicant has spent at least some time in Spain during the period of the visa.
A significant investment in Spain is defined as any of the following:
- €2 million in public debt.
- €1 million in shares in private Spanish entities
- €1 million in bank deposits in Spanish banks or financial entities.
- Real estate located in Spain valued (net of any legal charges) in excess of €500,000
- A business project in Spain which:
- Provides for the creation of employment, or
- Provides for investment with positive socioeconomic impact within the area where it is to be made, or
- Makes an important impact on scientific or technological innovation
In the case of a business project, a favourable report on the entrepreneurial activity must be obtained (as above).
The residence authorisation allows the applicant and his dependants to live and work anywhere in Spain but residence in Spain is not necessary. The applicant only needs to visit Spain once a year to renew the residence authorisation.
If you want to set up a business in Spain there are plenty of opportunities to do so, especially if you are going to create employment in Spain. However, the processes can be quite complex and you are well advised to seek guidance from a lawyer specialising in this field. It is likely to save you a lot of time and trouble.
Please contact the author if you would like any further information. See the sidebar for their contact details.