With the approval of the Startups Law, the Spanish Government is for the first time regulating international remote working (from now on, digital nomads), following the steps of other EU countries such as Portugal or Italy, with the aim of making Spain a more attractive country for entrepreneurs and foreign investors. This law includes a series of tax measures (special taxation regimes), commercial measures (agility in the incorporation of emerging companies, startups) and migratory measures (creation and agility of the residence process).
What is a digital nomad?
A digital nomad is a person from a foreign country (not EU) who carries out a labour activity (employment contract/employee) or a professional activity (commercial contract /services) remotely for companies located outside of Spain.
Professionals who want to be digital nomads must be graduates or postgraduates from renowned universities, vocational training courses or prestigious business schools. Alternatively, they must have a minimum professional experience of 3 years.
What are the requirements to reside and work in Spain?
First, we must differentiate whether the foreign worker is going to carry out a labour activity or a commercial activity remotely from Spain.
On one hand, if they will carry out a labour activity, they will have to prove the existence of a previous employment relationship of at least 3 months prior to the visa or residence application. They will also have to show that it is possible to carry out the activity 100% remotely (both requirements are proven with the employment contract). Moreover, it must be shown that the foreign company has had an actual and continuous activity during a minimum of 1 year.
On the other hand, if they are going to carry out a commercial activity, they will have to prove that there has been a previous commercial relationship with the foreign company or companies for a minimum of 3 months and the activity can be carried out 100% remotely. As in the case of employees, it must also be proven that there is a real and continuous activity of at least 1 year, but in this case, with the company or companies with whom the professional relationship exists. Finally, it should be noted that if the digital nomad wants to work for one or more Spanish companies, they may do so with a limit of no more than 20% of their total turnover.
What are the options to reside in Spain? Difference between visa and residence permit
Those who intend to reside in Spain for a period not exceeding 1 year may apply for a remote work visa at the Spanish Consulate. This visa will enable them to reside and work in Spain, without the need to carry out any other immigration procedure.
Those who intend to reside in Spain for a longer period may apply for a residence permit for a maximum validity of 3 years, renewable for 2 more years. This application must be submitted before the Immigration Office (known as UGE) and subsequently apply for a visa, if applicable, and a residence card (TIE).
Those who initially entered Spain with a one-year visa may apply for residency and extend its validity within the 60 days of the visa expiry date.
Finally, it must be noted that direct family members may also apply and obtain both the visa and the residence with the remote worker (spouse or partner, children who are minors or those of legal age who are dependant, and dependant parents) and will be entitled to a work permit.
Special Tax Regime for Digital Nomads
Digital nomads will also be eligible for a Special Tax Regime (known as Beckham Law) during the next 5 tax years if they have not been residents in Spain (during the previous 5 tax years). This regime establishes some important benefits such as a fixed rate of 24% for earned income (up to a maximum of €600,000) and the non-taxation of income generated and obtained outside of Spanish territory. Family members of the digital nomad will also be eligible for this regime.
Marta Salvador Mateo, Lawyer
Immigration and International Mobility Area