Expat Essentials

Jennifer Dixey: Counting your days in (and out) of Spain and the Schengen Area, Pt. 1

(Editor’s note: This post detailing visa details is the first part of a two-part series. it originally appeared in Spain Expat. It’s reposted here with the permission of the author.)

One of the unexpectedly important – yet seemingly trivial – tasks for expats is tracking your presence both in Spain and elsewhere as a means to determine tax obligations and meet residency requirements. Learn how to count your days, confirm the requirements for your residency situation and review the technologies available to help you.

Residency in Spain can be a complicated topic for expats, and one of the elements that proves most confusing is the calculation of days in-country. How many days can you be absent from Spain and still be a resident? How long can you spend in other Schengen Area countries? And how do you manage to keep track of your travels?

The number of days you can be outside of Spain and still maintain your residency varies by your visa type. Worse, because of the European Union’s open borders, if you do venture out to another Schengen country, it’s likely you won’t have stamps in your passport to help you determine your days in Spain or in the Schengen area while you are outside of Spain.

This post aims to dispel some of the fog around the topic, help you understand what you need to know and give you some guidance on useful apps to help you track your time inside and outside of Spain.

How Many Days Can I Be Outside of Spain?

Each visa type has its own limitations regarding how many days one can be outside of Spain and still maintain one’s residency. Find your visa type below (either planned or current) in order to discover how many days you can leave Spain and still be considered a resident under that visa.

Schengen Visa/Tourism

If you’re just visiting Spain as a tourist (someday, post-pandemic, if we can assume this will be possible again), Spain counts as one of the countries where you can travel for 90 out of every 180 days, according to the Schengen area agreement. You won’t need to keep track specifically of your days within Spain, but you must not exceed 90 out of every 180 days in Schengen countries overall (including Spain). If this describes your situation, you can ignore the other visa categories, but you might want to jump down to the list of apps to help you track your time in the Schengen area. Now, let’s get into the temporary residency visas.

Non-Lucrative Visa

A very popular visa type for expats in Spain for the last several years has been the Non-Lucrative Visa, or NLV. This visa is intended for retirees and other people who have savings or passive income from investments (such as stock dividends). (Many remote workers have used this visa as well, but doing so is now officially frowned upon by the Spanish immigration authorities, who have been refusing to grant Non-Lucrative Visas on the basis of work-based income for the past few years.) 

If you hold this visa, you must stay in Spain for 183 days out of each year to maintain your residency. This automatically makes you a tax resident of Spain, so be aware that this visa will have tax consequences for you, even as the citizen of another country.

Employment or Self-Employed Visa

If you are employed by a Spanish company, or by an international company with offices in Spain, then you will be able to reside in Spain for the length of your contract under an Employment Visa. The Self-Employed or autónomo visa is also a well-known option for people from outside the EU who wish to work independently in Spain. To obtain this type of visa, you must show that you have contracts to support yourself according to the requirements of the visa.

As with the Non-Lucrative Visa, in order to renew your residency, holders of the Employment Visa or Self-Employed Visa will need to be resident in Spain for a minimum of 183 days out of each year. Obviously, as an employee, you will have Spanish taxes withheld for you, and as a self-employed person, you will already be paying taxes, so being a resident for tax purposes is moot under this type of visa.

Teaching Assistantships and Studying in Spain

If you’re a college student or English teaching assistant (Auxiliar de Conversación), you may have the option to convert your visa to another type, such as a working visa, self-employment visa, or jobseeker visa, once you have lived in Spain for three years. If you’re hoping to make your residency permanent in the future, you’ll want to watch the amount of time you spend outside of Spain. If you want to make Spain your long-term home, you must be in Spain for 183 days out of each calendar year for which you will eventually want to claim residency.

If your intention is just to reside in Spain on a student visa while you teach or study, without regard to your long-term status in Spain, then you needn’t pay much attention to how many days you are in Spain; however, you will still need to track your time while you’re outside of Spain, to make sure you don’t exceed 90 out of each 180 days in the Schengen area.

Entrepreneurial or Investment Visa

The Entrepreneurial Visa is probably the most difficult Spanish visa to obtain. You must submit a detailed business plan to show that you are prepared to invest significantly in an innovative business that will create jobs and give a boost to the Spanish economy. Similar visas exist for those individuals with the resources to make an investment in an existing business in Spain. The investment must be a minimum of one million Euros (or two million Euros invested in public debt), putting this type of visa out of reach for most people of ordinary means.

According to immigration lawyer Ainhoa Manero of the law firm Sterna Abogados, under the terms of the Entrepreneurial Visa, you must be in Spain for six months out of each calendar year in order to renew your residency. However, for the other two similar investment-type visas, residence in Spain for a minimum of six months out of the year is not required. You must simply be inside Spain for at least one day each year, presumably not a difficult task for the jetsetters among us!

Golden Visa

The Golden Visa requires a purchase of one or more properties in Spain by the visa applicant, worth at least 500,000 Euros total. As with the Investment Visa, holders of the Golden Visa do not need to spend six months out of the year in Spain; they can travel within the Schengen area for 90 out of 180 days of the year, and also go elsewhere at liberty, within the limitations noted in the following section on permanent residency. However, they do need to be inside Spain for at least one day each year, which is sufficient as long as they aren’t interested in long-term residency and eventual citizenship.

Next in the series: Permanent residency, enforcement and apps that can help track your day.

About the author:

Jennifer Dixey earned her Masters of Library and Information Studies from the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, BC. Her decades of experience in web and interactive media development for corporate, non-profit, education and small-business clients has provided her with a deep technical background that informs all of her work.

Jennifer has lived in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom and Spain, and travelled in Europe and Japan. She has lived in Washington State near the Canadian border with her husband and son since 2002, but is currently realizing a lifelong dream of living in Europe, as a North American Language and Cultural Assistant (Auxiliar de Conversación) in a small primary school in Vigo, in the scenic autonomous community of Galicia, Spain.

You can connect with Jennifer via LinkedIn here.

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