Is Spain still Golden?

Sean Woolley of Cloud Nine Spain explains the changes to the Golden Visa


Earlier this month Spain’s Minister for Housing, Isabel Rodríguez, announced that the Government was taking the first steps to eliminate the Golden Visa.

This visa was a popular choice for non-EU residents who wanted to gain residency in Spain, by making an investment of €500,000 or more in a property or business. The move sparked fears that scrapping the Golden Visa might put off potential buyers from outside of the EU from investing in property in Spain

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But Spanish property expert Sean Woolley from Cloud Nine Spain says, that although it’s certainly made life a little tougher for those British buyers looking to make a permanent move to Spain, it isn’t the only visa option. In fact less than 10% of their transactions to foreign buyers are Golden Visa related.

We caught up with Sean to better understand the full implications of this legislation change.


Can you explain what the Golden Visa is and who have been taking advantage of it since it was introduced in 2013?

The Golden Visa allows anyone of good character outside the EU to apply for residency in Spain and gain unrestricted access to the Schengen area of Europe. The only requirement is an investment of at least €500k in Spain. This includes a simple investment in property. However, this investment can’t be via a mortgage, so you’d need to pay €500,000 without leveraging a mortgage loan to do so. This provides the same rights to the applicant’s partner/spouse and any dependent children under 18 years of age.

The initial residency is for two years, which can then be extended by a further five years if all the original conditions are still met. You can then apply for permanent residency and thereafter citizenship. When it launched in 2013, the early adopters were mainly Chinese and Russian investors, but during the years up to 2021, the numbers of Golden Visas granted were surprisingly low, at an average of less than 1,000 per year

There is a window of opportunity now, so there is no excuse to wait.

Sean Woolley


What is the change in legislation that has been announced?
The government has announced its intention to scrap the Golden Visa scheme altogether, as soon as their proposal is ratified.


Why do you think it is being scrapped now?
Although it wasn’t often used between 2013 and 2021, the figures for the last two calendar years tell us a different story. There were 2,017 Golden Visas granted in Spain in 2022 and 3,273 in 2023. Already in 2024, 424 have been approved, with plenty more in the application stage. The predominantly left-wing coalition government has come under increasing pressure to abolish the scheme, it being seen as a hurdle preventing locals accessing more affordable housing.


Have you seen a recent increase in interest in the Golden Visa in Marbella?
Yes, especially with the growing interest from the US and Canada. Many people now identify Marbella as an ideal relocation destination for themselves and their families. If you don´t have EU residency, this is now going to become more difficult.


What will happen to the people who have applied, but not yet been granted their visa?
We don’t yet know, although it would seem only fair that a deadline for applications is set so that these applicants can rest assured that they will not be unduly affected.


Can people still apply for a Golden Visa now?
Yes. Remember, this proposal needs to be ratified before its abolition, and the idea could be met with objections and delays.


How quickly do you expect this new legislation to come in?
Again, we are unsure, but a timescale of 6-12 months would seem to be a fair assessment.


Do you expect this to affect your buyers/sellers?
It depends on the nationality and residency status of the buyers. Those with EU passports are unaffected. Brits who are happy to adhere to the 90/180 rule (i.e. spending no more than 90 days in the EU within any one period of 180 days) will also be unaffected. Those seeking permanent relocation into Spain via this scheme from outside the EU are most at risk.


What are the alternative ways for non-EU buyers to get residency in Spain?
There are a couple of avenues still available, one being the recently introduced Digital Nomad Visa. This visa is for any foreigner planning to live in Spain as a resident, working remotely as a freelancer, or for a company in another country. There’s also the Non-Lucrative Visa, popular with retirees. In this case, you need to prove your ability to financially support yourself and you need to be resident in Spain for at least 183 days per year. With the Golden Visa, you only theoretically need to visit Spain for one day per year.


People are saying this is the end of the Spanish dream for British buyers, or those outside of the EU, what is your professional opinion
?
Well, it’s certainly made life a little tougher (but not impossible) for those British buyers looking to make a permanent move to Spain. But it isn’t the only visa option, and in fact, less than 10% of our transactions to foreign buyers are Golden Visa related. Most of our non-EU buyers have been happy to abide by the 90/180 access rule, or use one of the other visa options available.


Are you worried about the impact of this announcement on the property market on the Costa del Sol?
I actually think the announcement may bring a spike of renewed interest from those seeking to secure the Golden Visa before it gets abolished completely. There is a window of opportunity now, so there is no excuse to wait.

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