1) Why Spain for a Golden Visa?
First and foremost, Spain is in the mind of most – if not all – Filipino clients we encounter due to its colonial heritage and intertwined history. While there are other ways to become Spaniard (e.g. by evidencing your lineage, marriage and/or time), the Spanish residency-by-investment program (aka Golden Visa – enforced since 2013), in essence, grants a right to legally reside in Spain in exchange of an investment into a property (or properties) worth a minimum of EUR 500k. By extension, a Spanish Golden Visa holder (and all qualifying family members) may opt to work and study in Spain without the need to further secure an additional work or study permit. Lastly, one more benefit of the Spanish Golden Visa is that it entitles a certain mobility within other Schengen countries. The latter being applicable under normal circumstances and no guarantee of such mobility should be given (or taken for granted) in this time of COVID-19.
The Golden Visa is notably popular in the Philippines since it does provide a path for Filipinos to obtain citizenship after 2 years and therefore secure a Spanish passport. It is to note that careful consideration should be given to applicants looking at the Golden Visa as a path to citizenship – more on this below.
2) What are the advantages/ disadvantages of getting a Golden Visa for Spain, compared to getting one from its neighbor, Portugal?
I can think of a few. The main factors which differentiate the Spanish and Portuguese programs are residency, options for investment and the citizenship path.
Portugal, whilst being minimal, has a residency requirement of roughly a week per year in order to maintain the Golden Visa while Spain doesn’t. A point for Spain.
Spain in mainly popular for its real estate investment option, whilst Portugal offers multiple investment options for potential investors. A point for Portugal. At the moment, the most popular options among our clients for a Portugal visa are the followings:
- A minimum investment of EUR 350,000 into an investment fund;
- A minimum investment of EUR 350,000 into a qualifying real estate property dating more than 30 years to be refurbished;
- A minimum investment of EUR 500,000 into one or multiple real estate property(ies);
- A commitment of EUR 175,000 into an incubation program under the Start-up Visa program.
Path to Citizenship
Portugal also provides a route to citizenship after 5 years. On the other hand, for non-colonized countries, Spain is also open for citizenship but after 10 years, unless you are Filipino (or from any other colonized countries) for which a 2-year period may be sufficient under certain circumstances. Here, the point will depend on your nationality.
Once citizenship is secured, according to the latest data from IATA, Spain has a slight advantage regarding its passport strength since it currently provides visa-free access to 188 jurisdictions, while Portugal is at 186. As a gloomy comparison, the Pilipinas Pasaporte currently provides visa-free access to less than 70 countries.
3) What are the major hurdles for a Golden Visa from Spain?
There is no hurdle in applying for the Golden Visa so to speak. However, there is a note to be made about the misconceptions that several Filipinos have on the differences between what the Golden Visa is, the path to citizenship, and the requirements (and potential impact) of becoming a Spaniard on one’s wealth situation.
The Spanish Golden Visa, as described above, is fairly straightforward and does not have residency, language nor test requirements. Renewing this Golden Visa – every 2-5 years – is simple and the fees for each renewal are minimal. As long as the applicant and family maintain the investment and continue to respect the initial requirements, the Golden Visa can be renewed.
The path to citizenship is a different story. To qualify for citizenship in Spain, one must speak Spanish and demonstrate a certain proficiency. This will further be ‘tested’ by sitting an examination on the Spanish culture and history – in Spanish. For nationals from non-colonized countries, the former citizenship may need to be relinquished and the path to citizenship will likely be a 10-year journey. For Filipinos, that journey will take around 2-3 years while allowing the retention of the Filipino citizenship. Said journey, depending on each family, may also have unfortunate tax circumstances given that Spain prevents applicants to be outside of Spain for a certain number of months per year.
4) What is the approximate total outlay for a successful Golden Visa from Spain?
There is no ‘one size fits all’ as the total outlay varies depending on the family constitution, as well as the property type and location.
As a tentative overview, the minimum investment being set at EUR 500k, the investor should expect an additional EUR 50-75k in various taxes and fees associated with the property as well as third party disbursements such as government and application fees and of course, the professional legal fees.
Any applicant looking to explore the Spanish Golden Visa should look to invest an average of EUR 575-EUR 600k.
5) How long will the process take?
This vary depending on whether the applicant will (or can) visit Spain or not. An average processing time would be between 1-4 months. It is to note that at the moment, and in light with the pandemic, HLG is able to process all applications remotely. Indeed, all meetings with our counterpart in Spain, the selection and purchase of property, the completion of the Golden Visa application – and even a preselection of schools for their children – can be done remotely and through digital means with our firm.
6) Can everyone apply for a Spanish Golden Visa?
Unfortunately, no. The program is restricted to non-EU/EEA nationals. Other grounds for inadmissibility include but is not limited to those with:
– past criminal convictions;
– have debts or any similar unpaid monies to the Spanish authorities e.g. unpaid taxes;
– have entered or stayed illegally in Spain.
A note should be made that Politically Exposed Persons (PEP) are not, prima facie, inadmissible for the Spanish Golden Visa program, but their eligibility will require a thorough and extensive legal assessment.
7) What happens to the Golden Visa if an investor wants to sell the property?
The Spanish Golden Visa is reliant on the property and therefore proper consideration should be given to an investor who wishes to sell the property before converting the residency permit into a Permanent Residency status in Spain – or becoming citizen. Once the investor attains either of those status, they may decide to dispose of the property without any impact on their immigrant status in Spain.
8) Would you recommend the Spanish Golden Visa to your clients?
The Spanish program remains generally a popular option to both Filipinos and non-Filipinos. All programs have their own set of pros and cons and our recommendation will depend on the needs/requirements of the applicants. It is our duty to understand the needs of the applicants and their family and advise what program(s) may be suitable based on their specific circumstances. Ultimately our role as legal advisers is to give all the information, whether good or bad, to the applicant, to enable an informed decision to be made.
9) Why should I choose HLG to help apply for the Spanish Golden Visa?
Our professional duties are to the client and in our experience, we have seen many ‘consultants’, ‘advisors’ and other questionable individuals presenting the Golden Visa in Spain as an outright ‘Citizenship-by-Investment Program’ or as a ‘walk in the park’ process to get citizenship, which is not a true representation of the program. Ultimately, failing to consider key factors, or hiring a non-professional, could result in unfortunate financial losses in addition to a potential immigration ban for up to 10 years.
Each client should carefully consider the necessary due diligence on both the investment and the service provider, as well as seeking a professional opinion on the potential tax exposure in both their current country of residency and Spain. As a law firm, HLG carries out the necessary due diligence and manages the whole process from the start to finish. Our integrity is paramount, and we are prepared to go the extra mile for our clients to make sure the chosen program is the right one for them.