The Least of our Worries – Update on Visa Rules

We have gone through the process to renew our Resident visas (and change them over to another visa type). Due to changes that have been made since Covid began, issuing and working as a remote worker on a non-lucrativo visa is no longer at the discretion of the issuing Spanish consulate overseas. Meaning that even if they told you at the consulate when they issued your visa that it was OK to work remotely for a company outside Spain on a non-lucrativo visa they have now changed the law so it can no longer be interpreted this way. Spain does not have a remote worker visa classification so now if you want to work in Spain remotely for a company with no presence in a Spanish territory you must apply for an independent worker visa. This means that it’s as though you’re a contractor (when you’re really not)- even though you work for a company outside Spain. You’ll be subject to the laws independent contractors are here. Paying quarterly taxes, social security, and no work contract.

Jeff is lucky that he works for a US company with an office in Barcelona. So we don’t have to mess with the contractor business. And he can fall under Spanish labor laws with a Spanish work contract, and all that comes with it. In Spain, if you have a work contract you can do almost anything. It’s one of the first things anyone asks about. It’s not normal for American’s living here, and it seems like when officials ask you about it they expect the answer to be ‘No’. And when it’s ‘Yes’ they light up. ‘Oh. Ok. Well, this is good.’ Then the wheels are greased.

We don’t do ‘work contracts’ in the US. Its a totally foreign concept. But doing anything large banking related is much easier here if you have one. We assumed we were ‘residents’ before. But we have now learned that with a non-lucrativo visa we just had the right to reside. We were not residents, as far as most government or financial institutions were concerned. We didn’t understand the distinction until now. Our new visas are true residents visas. They unlock other stuff and are not the same cards as before.

I feel sure that, like many many countries after Covid, Spain will eventually catch on to the fact that now many companies around the world are fine with employees working from anywhere, and the Spanish government will want their piece of the action. But it hasn’t happened yet. It is interesting that during Covid they’ve taken time to rewrite many of the requirements that we expats used to take for granted as acceptable documentation. I had to get new criminal background checks from the US, along with one from the Ministry of Justice here, because we haven’t lived here for 5 years consecutively. And then I had to pay an expensive Apostile service in the US to affix the paper that says it’s valid. And then have it translated. The same with a new marriage certificate. Crazy. We didn’t have to do that last time.

Even though Jeff is complying with the law getting the correct visa, it’s all new even to those in the offices where he had to go get fingerprinted. They tried to kick him out telling him ‘You need to come back. This isn’t correct.’ But he knew if he left he’d never get another appointment so he refused to get up out of his seat. He had an interesting time trying to convince them in broken Spanglish that it was indeed correct. Finally, the supervisor came over and spoke to him. Then she confirmed to the administrator that this was legit. ‘It’s just that we don’t see many of these.’

One other thing to be aware of is that, according to our lawyer, ‘the system has collapsed’. This means that offices are overwhelmed after being closed for so long. They have automatically extended visa expiration dates up to 6 month past the date on your NIE card to try to take pressure off the system. This is supposed to be in effect until May of 2021. But it’s constantly changing. Our lawyer applied electronically on our behalf and was able to get our visas approved very quickly after they were submitted. The one thing she couldn’t do is get me local appointments at the National Police for fingerprints and issuing the card. Jeff got his appointment in Valencia before they shut everything down here. I will have to go to Sagunto 20 kms north, as Sagunto and Gandia (an hour south of Valencia) are the only offices open in the entire Valencian Community. That means those offices will be overwhelmingly busy when I go to get my fingerprints done in January. Yes, it took months to even get that appointment. Jeff isn’t sure when his card will be ready. He’s tried checking but he can’t get information online and now that they require you to get an appointment to pick up the card (unlike before when you just turned up), and the office is closed where he must pick up the card, since that’s where they took his fingerprints, we aren’t sure when he can get his new blue TIE card allowing him to work in Spain. But we do have the paper authorization so we are still fine.

We’re not stressed out about it. It’s just that if we had to leave the country for any reason (family emergency or the like) we couldn’t go until we get our cards sorted out. But I think the chances of that happening in the midst of all this are slim to none.

These days we just have to learn to roll with things. We have other concerns. With the vaccine coming soon this will all be a memory a year from now. But it’s an example of how we must adapt and change as conditions warrant. This won’t be the last thing that humans have to overcome in the coming decades. We may even look back and think Covid was nothing compared to what might come down the pike with climate change. What was the big deal with wearing a stupid mask? So, who cares about TIE cards and government bureaucracy? That’s the least of our worries.

2 thoughts on “The Least of our Worries – Update on Visa Rules

  • I find it interesting, this change in the NLV. I haven’t read about this anywhere else. We are now focused on southern France on the north side of the Pyrenees in Pau but I’m still part of several Spain groups. There could be some big surprises for folks to learn about this!

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    • We heard it from our lawyer and Jeff read something in his news feed about it a couple of days ago. They don’t publicize so much of this stuff in Spanish news, I think, because it doesn’t impact Spanish ppl. Just foreigners. It will be very interesting to see how enforcement goes. We won’t know about it because we don’t have the NLV anymore, but our law firm in Barcelona is a big firm. I think the only reason we eventually got it was because they were listed as our representatives. They seemed on top of every single ever changing development over the last year.

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