All that glitters might just be gold.

Because as of 2013, Spain introduced their ‘golden visa’ law.

Put simply, it means non-EU nationals can obtain European residency in only 2-3 months using a fast track process. What do you get in return? Easy movement within the Schengen area, amazing business opportunities, and a chance to secure your family’s future. And, should you choose, you can live, work and play in one of the world’s most popular relocation destinations.

The golden visa is valid for one year, but there are plenty of options to use it as a springboard into a longer-term opportunity in Spain – including turning the golden visa into a residency permit (which can be renewed indefinitely) or even permanent residency or full citizenship.

Why choose a Spanish golden visa?

So let’s review those advantages in depth to understand how exactly the process works, and why it might be the right residency-by-investment option for you.

1. Incredible relocation destination: Spain is one of the most popular expat destinations in the world. In fact, the 2016 HSBC Expat Explorer survey spoke to 27,000 expats in 190 countries and found that in terms of experience Spain is ranked at number one for quality of life. It’s also near the top of the list when it comes to property, community, culture, and health.

A 2016 HSBC Expat Explorer survey spoke to 27,000 expats in 190 countries and found that in terms of experience Spain is ranked at number one for quality of life.

Bustling metropolitan cities like Barcelona or Seville compete with beautiful coastal towns like San Sebastián or Puerto Banús. Across the country, you can expect incredible food, warm and welcoming people, rich culture and a fabulous climate. It’s no wonder Spain has 4.4 million foreign nationals.

2. Visa-free travel across the Schengen area: Spain has been a member of the 26-state Schengen area since 1995, which means as a resident you can travel throughout the Schengen area without a visa or lengthy custom processes. This includes countries like Germany, the Netherlands, and France.

You can travel freely throughout the entire zone for up to three months within every six-month period, and don’t need to enter Spain first. So if you have business to conduct in Austria but the visa process would cause unreasonable and potentially embarrassing delay, the Spanish golden visa could unlock travel to any such meetings without hassle.

3. An exceptional platform for international trade: Things are starting to turn around for the Spanish economy. That’s why over 12,500 foreign companies do business in Spain, with some big names – including 70 of the Forbes100. Spain has a domestic market of 46 million consumers, and a huge export economy as well. With a GDP of USD 1.2tr, Spain is the fifth largest economy in the EU.

The country is also the perfect hub for business with Latin America thanks to common roots, strong international ties and exceptional trade links. Spain has 17 agreements to avoid double taxation in Central and South America, and 19 agreements for promotion and protection of reciprocal investment agreements. Spain is actually the Latin American headquarters for many multinationals like Siemens, Alstom and Huawei.

Spain is also a fantastic platform for business in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, with 19 double taxation treaties across the area, 15 reciprocal investment agreements, as well as numerous Euro-Mediterranean association agreements.

Overall Spain is well-placed geographically with strong international ties. Your golden visa unlocks those opportunities.

4. Bypass restrictions on dual nationality: Residency-by-investment programmes such as this have the major advantage since they bypass dual nationality restrictions that might exist for some nationals. Although it’s not the norm, some countries do refuse to acknowledge dual citizenship. This means investing citizens would have to choose between their new citizenship and home citizenship – not ideal.

Golden visa programmes like Spain have no such restriction, offering a valuable way around such limitations for many investors.

Golden visa programmes like Spain have no such restriction, offering a valuable way around such limitations for many investors.

5. Real estate option can deliver fantastic returns: Spain has a couple of investment options which we’ll look at in depth later but by far the most cost-effective is the real estate route. To secure your golden visa, you need only buy property worth EUR 500,000.

The great thing about real estate in Spain is the huge expat and tourist population practically guarantees your rental or sale market. Spain saw 75 million annual tourists in 2016 and those numbers have been growing strongly year-on-year. Real estate prices are still notably low following market crash in 2007 but we’re just on the precipice of seeing real estate growth in Spain, with slight price increases starting in 2016. This means smart investors can capitalise by picking up property now, for huge potential returns.

6. No residency requirements: You might well want to live in Spain but there is no requirement to do so. Previous to Law 14/2013, aspiring Spanish residents had to reside permanently in Spain to achieve residency, but this law waives that requirement.

7. A passport to full Spanish citizenship: Spanish residency is beneficial for its own sake but if you needed an added bonus, the golden visa programme can also become a path to full citizenship.

This does take time though – ten years, to be exact. It’s ideal if you’re thinking long-term since you need to meet certain residency requirements to apply for citizenship. The golden visa programme is essentially an entirely separate law, while both permanent residency (available within five years) and citizenship (10 years) require you to live in-country to apply.

If you’re interested in this route you’ll first gain the golden visa. Then, you’ll need to live permanently in Spain for five years, then apply for your long-term residence permit. Then after five more years of permanent residence, you can apply for citizenship. You can claim citizenship within only two years if you’re a national from Ibero-American countries, Andorra, the Philippines, Equatorial Guinea, Portugal, as well as those with Sephardic heritage.

8. How does it work? Securing a Spanish golden visa: The process is simple and can take as little as two to three months. Spain structures their investment residency programme in tiers, differentiating between residence visa and residence permit. The residence visa is what we call the golden visa, and it’s the first step in your Spanish residency journey.

To secure this residence ‘golden visa’, you must first meet some basic requirements:

  • You’re not currently in Spain illegally
  • You’re over 18 years old
  • You’re a non-EU national
  • You have no criminal record, in Spain or any country in which you have lived for the past five years
  • You’re not on the list of banned nationalities for any country with which Spain holds a travel agreement
  • You have public or private health insurance that covers you in Spain
  • You have sufficient financial means to support yourself while residing in Spain

Then the only remaining factor is your investment. You can include your spouse and any dependent children on your application too, so one investment would cover your family. Then simply invest EUR 500,000 into property and you’re done. There are no limitations on where or what you buy, so you can choose the most sensible investment property.

If real estate doesn’t take your fancy there are also other investment options. You could invest at least EUR 2m into Spanish government debt securities, or EUR 1m into stocks and shares, or deposit EUR 1m into a Spanish bank, for instance.

If real estate doesn’t take your fancy there are also other investment options. You could invest at least EUR 2m into Spanish government debt securities, or EUR 1m into stocks and shares, or deposit EUR 1m into a Spanish bank, for instance.

There’s also the option to invest into business projects in Spain. This doesn’t give a specific investment amount but must create jobs, have socio-economic impact in Spain, or contribute significantly to scientific or technological innovation. This is worth considering if you’ve already got business plans in Spain, but most investors prefer the real estate option.

Investment made, you qualify for a one-year golden visa. You needn’t visit Spain at all to obtain this visa. If you only need Spanish residence for one year, that’s the end of your journey. If you want to extend residency beyond one year, you can upgrade your golden visa to a two-year residence permit. To do so, your golden visa must have expired no longer than 90-days ago, and you must have maintained your original investment. You need to have visited Spain at least once during your initial golden visa year in order to qualify – so if you’re unsure about longer-term residency it’s worth visiting Spain once to give yourself the choice down the road. Your residence permit will then be valid for two years, and you can extend for two more years after that, and so on.

Then permanent residence and full citizenship lie beyond, if you’re interested.

Spanish golden visa – the gold standard

Spain is an incredible relocation destination but that’s not the only reason to choose a Spanish golden visa. Spain is an impressive global trade hub, unlocking profitable business lines into Latin-America, Africa and the Middle East – and residence earns you freedom of movement across the lucrative Schengen area.

Then you’ve got the cost-effective real estate investment option, with the potential for very good returns from Spain’s vast tourist and expat population. All in all, the Spanish golden visa programme might just be the gold standard for residency-by-investment.