You can be a digital nomad in Spain but at the moment (October 2021) you have to have one of the existing visas the non-lucrative visa or the Golden Visa
The short answer to that question is, yes, but you have to have one of the existing visas; the non-lucrative visa allowing you to only work in Spain for a foreign company, or the Golden Visa that allows holders to live and work anywhere in Spain. However, the Spanish Parliament is supposedly drafting a visa especially for Digital Nomads as part of the Startup Act. When it will be available is anybody’s guess.
A digital nomad is someone who works away from their normal place of residence, often via a laptop or iPad and WIFI. Away from their normal place of residence often means another country. Many digital nomads work for a parent company based in their home country.
Whilst this is by no means a new concept, digital nomads started exploring the world as soon as they realised the Internet gave them cheap connectivity, it has taken some years for countries to realise that these largely unregulated workers, often travelling on holiday visas, could be a source of tax revenue. Spain will hopefully join the ever-increasing number of countries that encourage digital nomads by offering a visa with less strict criteria for acceptance than the non-lucrative visa or the Golden Visa, the so-called Digital Nomad Visa.
Spain is keen to encourage digital nomads, and not just for the tax those nomads will pay, nor the skills they will bring to the country. A major factor making the Startup Act acceptable to all the major political parties in Spain is the prospect of re-populating what is known as España Vaciada – or Emptied Spain, those villages that have seen their population move on over the years. There are dozens of villages in Spain in terminal decline.
Around 34 towns and villages across Spain have decided to join the Red Nacional de Pueblos Acogedores para el Teletrabajo (or National Network of Welcoming Villages for Remote workers) to encourage digital nomads to visit. They all have under 5,000 residents and want to attract new residents to repopulate their streets.
In Andalucia, Genalguacil, Benarraba and Tolox, all in Malaga province and Santa Ana La Real in Huelva province are members of the Red Nacional de Pueblos Acogedores para el Teletrabajo.
Those municipalities all offer incentives to digital nomads including 4G connectivity, free WIFI areas, teleworking centres and in some cases, subsidised living and workspaces, all measures that help reduce the cost of living for the digital nomad to an estimated 131 Euros per week per person (in Genalguacil).
Instead of having to find their own way, the programme provides remote workers with a host who can welcome them to the town or village and connect them with community life.
At the moment, the Digital Nomad Visa is just one measure in the Startup Act that is designed to encourage foreign investment and startup businesses in Spain. The Act was in draft version in July 2021
The new Spanish digital nomad visa is expected to last for 1 year after approval. Additionally, under the current proposals, residents holding the visa will be able to renew it for a further 2 years if they continue to the meet the necessary requirements.
The new Spanish visa for remote workers has been created for foreign employees from Non-European Economic Area (EEA) countries. People with EU passports or arriving from Schengen countries can already work remotely in the country for up to 6 months of the year without needing to register officially.
For those arriving from non-EU countries the new digital nomad visa will allow applicants to apply who are either:
• Employed by non-Spanish companies
• Have an income with less than 20% earned from Spanish companies
• The new visa will also ease the process of applying for residency on arrival. As it stands, it is necessary to register for a permit with local municipalities within 30 days of settling in Spain.
The digital nomad visa will be a perfect option for people working remotely as freelancers or entrepreneurs with multiple clients. It will also benefit people employed full time with foreign companies, with the ability to work from home or abroad.
At the moment, the proposal is that holders of the Digital Nomad Visa will pay the Spanish non-resident tax rate of 24 per cent on incomes of up to €600,000 for their first 183 days in the country, and if they stay longer their tax rate will be decided using double taxation agreements. By comparison, Spanish residential tax rates vary but can be as high as 45 per cent for top earners. This is very much in the draft stage, there are proposals that the tax rate should be reduced to 15% and that there could be a tax deferral incentive.
When it is available, applications for the Digital Nomad Visa will be made in the same way as existing visas, at Spanish Embassies and Consulates in countries outside the EU.