That’s what I keep insisting to myself as I ponder the world from my vantage point. When I tell those who will listen that I care not for made-up borders. That I hold no special allegiance to the place of my birth, simply because my parents were there when I arrived. I am a Citizen Of The World!, I loudly proclaim, and I am not limited by made-up borders! And yet, despite my never-ending stream of words, nothing changes except for a few months here and there.
The following words document the beginning of my journey, which is still a work in progress. So don’t go looking for the ending here, because it hasn’t been written yet. And as I venture down this path, I feel I should document my thoughts and findings for others to use as they see fit. Or at least so I can try to make sense of it myself. Because for me, this quest has gone from a dream to a necessity. In so many ways.
So … I’m moving to Spain. Or to be more specific, Barcelona.
The following is what I know and have done so far, using Spain’s Non-Lucrative Visa to become a Barcelona Resident. The details below are basically all that someone who would follow in my footsteps could use.
Legal Obligations as a US Citizen
Need to determine items like taxes while working for a US company, restrictions on visitation and travel as a full time resident of a foreign country, voting, legal address requirements, etc.
- US taxes. I’m still required to file them, as I’ll still be working remotely for a US company who will be withholding taxes, as my legal employment residence will still be in the United States. Nothing changes here at all.
- That residence will still be in the state of Florida, so I’m still absolved from filing state income taxes.
- My visa will not allow me to work in Spain, so there will be no income to handle via the Foreign Earned Income Exclusion (FEIE).
- If I do get a foreign bank account, and have more than $10k in it, I am required to file a Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts (FBAR). But I seriously doubt that I’ll ever maintain a Spanish account with those kind of funds.
- I have not seen nor read anything that would prevent me from casting federal and state votes via mail, just as I do now. I will need to make sure my voting registration stays current, and to request my ballot with enough time for mailing to Spain and then back to the US.
Legal Obligations as a Spanish Resident
Need to determine items like taxes, health care and insurance, legal requirements and obligations, etc.
- As far as being able to travel to other EU countries, if you have a valid residence permit from one of the Schengen countries, it is equivalent to a visa everywhere within. So no limits. I will be able to travel throughout most of Europe without (time) restriction.
- Other countries that have travel/tourist agreements with the US will remain as is. Meaning I will need to stay within their limits. I will still be a US passport holder and citizen.
- Countries requiring a specific visa for US citizens will require me to visit that country’s embassy where I am physically located. I will be known as a third-country national. Each embassy is different as far as how they accept visa requests in this way.
- I am not required by Spain to have a Spanish bank account. However, companies I may do business with might. (Leasing, etc). So it would behoove me to open an account with an international/Spanish bank and work out transfer mechanisms after I arrive. (I will need an identity number to do so).
- I may be required to file Spanish taxes, as I’ll be a resident. However, since I’ll be paying US taxes and my “economic life” is also in the US, I won’t actually be responsible for paying Spanish taxes.
- I will be required to have health insurance, with no deductible and no co-pay. It was strongly suggested that I obtain insurance from within Spain.
- All of the above items were verified with my immigration lawyer.
Applying for a Visa
Research non-lucrative visa and engage a Spanish legal firm to execute
- The firm I am using is called Global Immigration and they are based in Barcelona. Basically, they take care of everything for a fixed price, with the exception of couriers, translations, fees, and well, pretty much everything except for legal fees. So I’m really just paying them for what they know. Which is so worth it.
- Nikki is going to be joining me on my visa. How, you may ask, since we’re not married? Apparently many states (like Florida) have what’s called a Declaration of Domestic Partnership, which for purposes of the visa is pretty much the same thing. There are very few requirements, mostly agreeing that we are indeed domestic partners and that we reside in the same place. Now for us, that required an address change for me. We had purposely kept her official address as Miami, and mine in Key Largo. That was for hurricane purposes, since we couldn’t come down to Key Largo during an emergency to our Keys home without proof that one of us lived there. But we both live in both places. So for now, I’ve changed my official address back to Miami, so we won’t have to explain this every time.
- Notes from the web: Visa issued will have a validity of three months and fifteen days, with multiple entries and 90 days of stay in Spain. Within a month of arriving in Spain with the non-lucrative visa, must apply for a residence permit and a foreign national identity card. The residence permit is usually issued for a period of 2 years, renewable, provided that you still meet the economic requirements and you have lived at least 183 days in Spain each year. After 5 years of holding the temporary residence permit, you will be eligible for permanent residency. After 10 years of legal residency (temporary or permanent) you may be eligible for naturalization. Lots of fees.
- Notes from the web: Requirements in a nutshell. Proof of income/bank balances, private health insurance with no deductible, three months processing time for the Spanish embassy, an appointment with the embassy which can also take months, police record, personal statement, health record, most of which needs to be translated by an approved entity. Pick a start date and get tickets to show embassy in order to finalize visa. Will also need to authenticate (Apostille) required documents.
- Notes from the web: Once there. Will need a NIE (National Identification Number) and a residency card. Will also need several additional passport photos.
- The official list of documents we had to deliver to our attorney, and thus to the consulate:
- Bank/investment statements proving we meet the financial requirements of the visa.
- A letter of intent. Basically, why do we want to live in Spain?
- Copies of our passports and drivers licenses. The former must have at least a year remaining before expiration.
- Passport photos for the application.
- FBI “rap sheets”. Proof that we’re not, and haven’t been, criminally active.
- Medical certificates from our doctors, using a standard form, to show we’re healthy as well.
- Proof that we have a place to live when we arrive. (We’re going to use an AirBnb apartment for a few months while we look for more permanent accommodations).
- Proof of a medical insurance policy that meets requirements.
Setting a Date and Planning The Move
Create the end-to-end plan / checklist and set the date, based on visa timelines and requirements
- According to my lawyer, it can take two months to gather the necessary documents and get an appointment with the consulate in South Florida. It can take a month or two to get a resolution.
- Even if we are denied (crossing fingers this doesn’t happen), we can still come back to Barcelona and stay at the AirBnb rental for up to three months on a tourist visa. So the airfare and rental charges that we need to incur as part of the application won’t be forfeited.
- Our date for arrival in Barcelona is May 1st, 2020.
New Neighborhood Research and Selection
Look into how to select a neighborhood, using airbnbs, firms, etc. Keep in mind that the visa may require something
- We will use temporary housing (AirBnb, HomeAway, etc) while we select an official barrio and apartment. There is no time limit on when we need to sign a lease. In fact, there really is no need at all, with the exception of needing an address for shipments. AirBnb could be the permanent way to go. My current budget (including utilities and internet) is almost exactly the same as what we paid for our last multi-month stay in Barceloneta. It might even be best to rent a PO box for deliveries and just spend a few months here and a few months there. And let it lapse for extended trips back home.
Sell, Sell, Sell
Simple, sell what isn’t being brought from the states, or stored for later use
- I sold my Jeep. Cancelled insurance as well. So now I’ve got some savings while planning continues.
- I will be keeping the trailer/caravan. Just need to find an affordable place to store it. It will affect the monthly budget, as I still owe payments on it. But it could make for a grand adventure upon the eventual return. Same with my motorcycle. I will need to store it long-term, but it’s a fun thing that isn’t going to kill me by keeping. I might need to see if my insurance has a cheaper option, since it will rarely be used.
- As for the rest, I just need to decide what I might want to come back to, in the next adventure after the next adventure, and store it in the trailer for safe keeping. Assuming I ever want to come back. 🙂
Shipping, Stuff and People
Airline tickets, shipping options for stuff
- We found a cheap one-way flight to Barcelona, so we’re landing May 1st, 2020!
- As far as shipping our stuff, everything is going to be consolidated into a couple of large roller-bags, and they go in the belly of the plane with us.
Managing The Family
In person, help them understand what’s happening. Create a solid plan for visitation and keeping in touch, work through issues with elderly parents, create a slush fund for emergency travel
- I have elderly parents. And even though no one likes to talk about these things, both of them realistically have, at most, ten years of life left. Which means that during those years, the likelihood that they will fall ill is also much higher. Their lives are on a path very different from that of this 58 year old, so sitting down with them and having a frank discussion about how we will together face the next decade is important. Make sure everyone’s expectations and understanding is on the same page. This includes pre-setting what will happen during events such as hospitalizations. And when planned returns and visits will happen.
- Because I will be away the majority of the time, it will fall to other family members who remain physically closer to bear a burden I cannot. So I also need to have realistic discussions with them as to what each of us can and cannot do. Waiting until an emergency is the wrong time to do that. So discussing triggers and responsibilities before I leave for Spain is a necessity.
- Aside from elderly parents, I also leave my entire family behind. So I must also plan, well in advance, trips “back home”. These trips should be several weeks in duration and allow everyone to make some sort of plan regarding time spent together. I must physically be in Spain for a minimum of 183 days a year in order to stay compliant with my visa, so establishing preset trips back to the states will help manage that as well.
- This works both ways as well. Family can come visit me in Spain. Especially my kids. We need to work together to make this a norm, not having visits only be one-way. So we must all work together to find a happy compromise.
Setup The New Place and The New Life
Shopping and integrating into the neighborhood, determining what services cannot be accessed in Spain (Netflix, etc) and closing/substituting them, determine mailing, shipping, and delivery options (mail-based prescriptions, for instance). How to live in Barcelona.
- Communications. Kinda important, right? When I have visited before, I tried several options, none of which worked perfectly. And once I become a true “citizen of the world”, I’ll need to change some other things as well. Here is what I’m going to use:
- Telephone numbers. For the states, I’ve switched over to Google Voice. And I have a US Skype number as well, as backup. Both are obviously data-plan-based. I use a data-only sim card in the US. And in Spain, I will use a Spanish-based sim card. So the same US number(s) everywhere, although in Spain I will also have the local number that comes with the sim card.
- In both cases, I primarily use wifi, collecting automatic sign-ins everywhere I go. Nothing I do online with a mobile device needs to be secured.
- I will continue to use Facebook Messenger and/or Instagram DM for those that prefer those. And Whatsapp for those that use that platform. SMS is through Google Voice, Skype, and my Spanish sim.
- And finally, email. Between all of these, I should be able to communicate and use the internet without limitation anywhere I go in Europe or the states. For travels outside of those areas, I will need to research options.
- Social activities are key. I will continue to use InterNations and Meetup to find events and groups. Facebook as well. The idea is to make lasting friendships in Spain and Europe. Or at least as much as expat life allows. Staying involved with the community and the people is job number one. I must stay active. I must be social and a part of something larger.
- Exercise is my next highest priority. Walking will of course be required and much used. But more will be needed. If we select a home near the beach, outdoor exercise areas can be used. Signing up for Bicing is also a must, as I’ll be using a bicycle often. And finding groups or friends to get into the woods and hike with is also a must do. Water sports and activities should not be overlooked.
- And of course, Barcelona will be our home base for travel and adventures both within Spain and in countries easily traveled to/from here. We just need to remember our 183 day minimum stay in-country.
Health Care and Other Obligations
Selecting doctors and dentists, making appointments, conforming to anything ongoing required by Spain and my visa
- Just as this says, one needs a physician, dentist, pharmacy, etc.
- My immigration attorney will also provide me with any other specific requirements from Spain.
Language lessons, drivers licenses, organizations/associations, etc
- Even though Barcelona offers free lessons in Catalan, I would first want to learn Spanish. To become fluent. I will need to engage a school or a tutor.
- Eventually, I may want to get my Spanish drivers licence and purchase a “moto”. An American drivers license does not automatically transfer. I would need to start from scratch as far as testing.
And that’s it for the planning! Well, maybe. Time will tell. As of this latest update, we have most of the documents completed and we’re pushing hard towards a consulate appointment on February 3rd, 2020. So more posts forthcoming after that appointment is completed, and of course another once we arrive and start dealing with the in-country aspects of this odyssey.