So you want to apply for a visa, huh? If you've found this post, it's pretty likely that you are already considering a new move abroad with family, and congratulations, you're about to have the adventure of a lifetime!
Applying for a non lucrative visa is like tackling a gourmet recipe, if you pay attention to the ingredients and follow the steps, you will make something amazing... but when you first read the recipe it can be a bit intimidating!
Don't worry, though, I typically make food that has directions on the box (like mac and cheese! Yum!!) and I got our family through this process just fine. 😜
First you will need a list of necessary items. I'm going to share with you an important mantra that is going to make EVERYTHING easier during the transition to a new country:
It is better to have it and not need it, than to need it and not have it.
Seriously, for your sanity's sake, keep a big folder of ALL documents (and at least one copy of everything) handy at all times.
Bring the folder to every appointment. It will be your best friend for months.
An accordion folder with dividers is perfect for keeping everything organized.
(Watch for our upcoming blog post for more specific details on how I put our handy accordian folder together for our non lucrative Spanish visa, which we STILL use even after 5+ years of living in Spain and lots of family world travel!)
You can typically find a list of the items that YOU will need by researching the country you want to move to and finding its consulate page for your area.
For example, for Spain, I went to the Spanish Consulate in Miami website here to find the list of requirements we needed for our family to get a non lucrative (or sometimes called a non working) visa.
P.S.- You can get our interactive Visa Application Prep Checklist as a FREE Google Sheets download here. (It helps you stay organized & on track with all your necessary documents!)
Documents needed for our non lucrative visa for Spain was as follows:
1. The actual Visa Application (two copies). This is available online, usually on the consulate website.
You can usually download a PDF version, print it and then fill it out with a black pen. Some countries are starting to offer online versions that you can fill out before printing, which is very helpful.
2. Two passport size pictures. These can be the exact same pictures you used to apply for your passport (as long as they are recent.) Make sure to get plenty of copies of your passport photos when you have them done, you will need about 5-6 of them for various things in your visa application and for settling into your new country.
We didn't know to get enough beforehand, and found ourselves scrambling to take new passport photos after we arrived in Valencia, because we needed them for our ID cards as well.
This can be stressful when you're already dealing with everything needed to settle into a foreign city- so be sure to get about 6 passport photos the first time and keep them in a safe envelope so they stay in good condition.
3. A copy of all pages of your passport. You will surrender your original passport as part of your visa application, but you will ALSO need to put copies of every single passport page in your application packet.
We used our home printer to copy our passports, as our printer had a scanner/copier tray on top. Also be sure to keep the passport pages separated.
(During our first renewal for our non lucrative visa Spain, I thought I was being quite clever and eco-friendly by putting TWO passports on the tray and taking copies that way to save paper- but then the application administrators refused our paperwork when we went to submit our applications! Luckily, they let us cut the pages apart so that only one passport was on each page. It was a mess of anxiety and stress, for sure! 😅)
4. Driver License or State I.D. with current address. You need a paper copy but will also have to show the original when you submit your application for verification that it is the accurate document and you are actually you.
5. Original certificate of good conduct (police clearance). This can be issued by the FBI or your State “Public Criminal Background Check” service.
Check the consulate instructions on this carefully to see what is accepted. For Florida, we were able to mail our request for a certified background check and they sent it back to us fairly quickly.
6. Local Health Certificate with letterhead, stamp, and signature of the Doctor translated into Spanish (or language of your destination country, see Consulate instructions for details).
You will need the original document and a copy. We have a great post explaining this document in detail. See the Medical Health Certificate Example that we submitted for our non lucrative Spanish visa.
I also suggest keeping a copy of this for your records, as it is a medical document created on demand, so if it got lost or anything, I still had my own copy. (You will probably never need it, but remember my motto above? It's better to have it and NOT need it, than to need it and NOT have it!)
7. Proof of accommodation in the city where you want to live. This requirement is also going to be dependent on your consulate.
We were able to submit a letter of intent, explaining why we had chosen Valencia to move to, and that was considered to be sufficient for this requirement. (You can see our Letter of Intent Example here as it is ALSO a separate requirement and can sometimes cause confusion.)
Some of the other consulates require applicants to submit a lease or deed valid for 12 months- this is a BIG commitment to do ahead of moving somewhere, so check your facts ahead of time and do your research! 😊
It's also important to note that a lot of consulates are becoming stricter about their proof of accomodation requirement(s), because so many people are moving to countries like Spain and Portugal, and these governments want to make sure the applicants are in a stable situation and won't be a burden on any of the public services.
So make sure to check your consulate's requirements carefully so there aren't any issues later on.
8. Proof of health insurance with full coverage in Spain. We have more details about this in it's own specific post about Getting Health Insurance For A Visa, but we got a policy through Sanitas that was specifically made to serve expats.
There are specific requirements for what kind of policy you can get and what coverage you need, so again, check your specific consolate for details. The requirements we needed for our non lucrative visa Spain might be different than what you may need.
9. Proof of Financial Means. This is essentially proof that you can afford to pay your living expenses while living in your new country abroad. Usually this can be proof of savings, retirement income, or another stable income source.
We needed to show bank statements (in English and Spanish) showing we could support ourselves and meet the minimum income requirements without any issues.
When we applied, the minimum income requirement was 4x the national (Spanish) IPREM, which is their basic minimum income, plus 50% of the IPREM for each accompanying family member, such as spouse and children.
Here is a basic IPREM chart for Spain in 2022. The IPREM changes each year in accordance with cost of living, inflation, etc. So don't forget to look up the most recent stats for accurate numbers, as well as the specific income requirements for your particular visa, as that can also change over time as well.
For our application's proof of income, we showed proof of our business income (our business is based completely in the US and was about a decade old at the time- aka considered stable), as well as statements for our retirement and savings accounts.
10. Authorization of residence application. This is just an easy pdf application to fill out and attach. It is luckily one of the simpler requirements.
11. Authorization of initial residence fee. You will need a money order for this amount with your visa application. You can see the cost of the initial residence fee on the consulate's website. This fee is specifically for processing your residence application.
Each person in the application will need a separate money order. You can NOT combine the fees into one money order. (This is important to remember.)
12. Visa Application Fee. This is a separate fee for processing your visa application. You will need a SEPARATE money order for the amount for each person for this as well. Do not add the residence and visa fees together. (I know this is tedious, but important.)
I know this seems like a LOT of items, but if you break it down and tackle them one at a time, it is much more manageable.
It took us approximately 6 months to gather everything and prepare all of the necessary items.
The checklist I created for our application (download it free below!) REALLY helped us to stay organized and know what we had ready vs what was still needed.
Sometimes additional items are needed that are not on the above list. This is especially true if you are applying as a family.
There should be a short list on your consulate page with the separate requirements for dependents. Be sure to check the consulate page! This is a situation in where you want to OVER prepare. Everything goes faster and smoother that way. ;)
Documents that are usually needed (but not always listed) for the non lucrative visa are:
Original copies of birth certificates, translated and apostilled by the state they were issued in. IMPORTANT: We needed this for all seven of us, but it was not specified in our original list of documents on the consulate website for some reason! These take a few weeks to get, so it's best to prepare them in advance in case you need them.
Original copy of your marriage certificate, also translated and apostilled.
A letter of intent - this can also be wrapped into your Proof of Accommodation letter, but even if you need to show proof of a lease you should include a letter of intent. (You can see our example letter in our blog post about example Visa docs.)
It seems silly that these (clearly important) documents aren't on always the list, and to be honest, I am not sure why they weren't on our list of needed document.
I can, however, attest that navigating Spain's government processes often feels like a drunken, confused version of Marco Polo. 🤣 So maybe it was just a case of not knowing where to look...
But luckily, my over-the-top-ness really came in handy here!
I ended up doing a LOT of research about why families' visa applications got denied- because I'm a firm believer in learning from those who've gone before me in all things- and these three final documents popped up as things that were almost ALWAYS requested.
In general, applications that were submitted without these things got kicked back for more documentation.
It was well worth it to spend the extra time and gather these documents to submit with your application the first time. Our application was approved right off the bat, no extra information needed. (Whew!)
That covers pretty much everything!
Please feel free to drop a comment below if you had to provide anything I haven't included, especially since all countries are different and processes are continually improved. :)
And if you didn't snag that free downloadable checklist, be sure to grab it NOW! 😜
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