This is a response to a letter from "John" in Friday’s edition regarding expatriate status. Sorry to share the unvarnished truth, but the assumptions made about the Spanish regulations for residency of non-EU nationals were incorrect.
As ex-pats (a very meaningful and not offensive word when one is still proud of their home nation of origin) living and residing in Spain for 15 years, we have experienced many of these requirements first hand while obtaining permanent residency in Spain.
First, there are different levels and situations for which residency can be requested - marital status, family reunification, work permit, established roots, among other reasons. But make no mistake, you must fit one of their conditions.
There is a long list of forms and paperwork to obtain and complete from both the Spanish authorities and your country of origin, so it is best to engage a gestor or lawyer to organize, unless your Spanish/Catalan is quite good. There is also a personal interview with a local official required - it is conducted in Spanish. All applicants must show that they have no criminal record and have never been incarcerated.
Also of importance as a non-EU ex-pat, each non-working applicant is required to obtain independent private health insurance - you are not eligible to use the Spanish National health program.
Before obtaining permanent residency, there is a vetting process of "pending" and provisional residence permits for the first few years. These must be renewed every 8 months to 2 years. Please note, until you have actually obtained your final permanent residency status, you are not eligible for the island resident’s discount on any airline flights to or from the mainland.
Also don’t forget! Your non-EU driver’s license is not legal here to be automatically exchanged for a Spanish one. You must, as a resident, take the Spanish driving course, memorize the over 300 questions with correct answers and take the hour-long driving test after about 20 hours of lessons. The written test can be taken in English, but it’s not a great translation.
In addition, inheritance taxes for non-EU residents are very high. For EU nationals the rate is 1% to 7% on a sliding scale according to the amount. For non-EU nationals, the tax rate is very high starting at 30% - 60+% depending again on the amount involved.
After completing and obtaining Spanish residency approval, you will receive your Spanish DNI number. This is a precious thing - and the number that is required for everything, including your taxes, contracts, and all other agreements.
But no John, it is not a "great" or easy process. And it’s important never to forget that as a non-EU national, you have no vote nor any public voice here anymore. There are also very limited rights that apply to us as we are not citizens of the EU, no matter how educated or economically privileged one may be.
There is no free-ride for non-EU nationals, don’t fantasize about that.
However and thankfully, it is an amazingly lovely place to live and we are very privileged and thankful to have earned residency status here in Spain!
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