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Digital nomad visas:
a new way to work

Spain is introducing visa options for digital nomads. Other countries have already introduced similar schemes, allowing workers to take advantage of the possibilities offered by post-Covid remote work and simplifying the potentially complex administrative burden on their employers.

One of the dramatic changes to the employment landscape as a result of the COVID-19 crisis has been a surge in requests from employees to work remotely from another country. At the height of the pandemic, these requests were usually short-term relocations, for reasons of expediency or need. However the trend has continued even as the public health crisis has receded, with many requests now involving longer-term or even permanent moves abroad. 

Dealing with these requests can be complex for employers and the area is a potential legal minefield. Would the employee’s presence create a ‘permanent establishment’ for the employer for tax purposes? Will the employee gain local employment rights that differ from those in the ‘home’ jurisdiction? How can employers be sure they are complying with health and safety, working time and data privacy rules?  

Some countries have sought to address these issues by introducing ‘digital nomad’ visas, simplifying the conditions for people to work for a foreign employer from their jurisdiction. The latest country to do so is Spain. A draft Spanish law aims to promote Spain as a destination for remote working. It is expected to be approved by end of this year.  

Under the new rules, two main avenues would be available for digital nomads. 

Visa for international remote work

Foreign nationals who are not in Spain, yet intend to stay in the country and work remotely for a non-based Spain company, would be able to apply for a visa at the Spanish consulate for international remote work. This would be valid for up to one year, unless the remote work agreement is valid for a shorter period, in which case the visa would be limited to the employment contract validity. 

Holders of this visa would be allowed to reside and work remotely while in Spain for as long as their visa is valid. 

Once they are in Spain, foreign nationals with this visa would have the right to apply for a residence permit for international remote work (see below). This can start 60 days prior the expiration of their visa, provided they still meet the conditions. 

Residence permit for international remote work

Foreign nationals who hold the visa described above, or who are otherwise in Spain legally, even as visitors, can apply for a residence permit for international remote work, valid nationwide. 

The residence permit would be valid for a maximum of three years unless the remote worker has a contract for a shorter period. 

Holders would have the right to renew their permits for periods of two years as long as the conditions leading to their initial approval are still met.  

General conditions

Foreign nationals applying for either of these options must be highly qualified professionals, graduates or postgraduates from universities, vocational training or business schools, or alternatively, where appropriate, have at least three years’ professional experience. 

Visa-holders’ dependents will qualify for visas or permits for the same period of validity as the digital nomad. Adult dependents will be allowed to work. 

The draft Bill defines these digital nomad visa-holders as third-country nationals who are authorised to remain in Spain to work remotely or undertake a professional activity for companies located outside Spain, exclusively using computer, telematic and telecommunication means.  

For remote employment, the visa holder can only work for companies located outside Spain. For professional activity (such as freelance or contractor work), the visa or permit holder may work for  organisations located in Spain provided that work does not exceed 20% of their total professional activity. 


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Written by
Sagardoy Abogados largest boutique firm focusing on HR law.
Mounia Jrabi
Sagardoy Abogados