Let's Talk VISAS

When I first starting researching 'living abroad', it was a lot!  It was super overwhelming and I just wasn't sure where to start.  So, of course, I started where lots of people do these days - social media.  Not the most reliable information, and usually people answer in groups with 'well I heard...' so I still had to sift through all of the crap.  I literally joined as many FaceBook groups as I could find that somewhat matched what I was looking for:  Living Abroad, Americans in Europe, Americans in Spain,  ExPats in Spain  .... and on and on.   It seemed most of the conversation and resources fell in to a couple of groups:  1) retirees who would move to European countries to retire only (no income), 2) 'golden visa' situations where you could invest $500,000 Euro or more to purchase a home and you would be awarded a VISA to live there and 3) temporary VISAS, so people who were sent for work but were eventually going to move back to The States.  

Eventually after being bombarded with endless posts about useless information, I narrowed it down to just a few groups that seemed most helpful.   From there, one in particular kept referring to a company called GoSpain and eventually, I too, reached out to Venetia and Linden via messenger to get acquainted and ask for direction.  They were super helpful and after I offered our own personal situation (Australian citizen living and working in USA via a GreenCard, USA citizen - neither of which were planning to retire anytime soon and dependent children of USA citizenship)... they did refer us to a local Spanish law office: Salvador Tax & Legal out of Almeria.

Alejandro from Salvador Tax & Legal was easy to connect with and super helpful.  We were able to set up a video conference call to meet and share what we were trying to do for a nominal fee of around $100 Euro.  He was great at explaining our options and what paths we might want to pursue... no obligations to use their office, but I highly recommend them if you are looking for some local insight on VISAS. 

Here's the bottom line and what Alejandro eventually recommended for us.  Based on Ray's education (MBA) and extensive career in the IT field, we kind of fall in to these options:

  1. Highly Skilled Worker VISA - this is initiated by the employer in Spain, so we needed to get confirmation and an offer from the Odoo Spanish office (Valencia) that we could do this with their support.  Odoo Valencia would be responsible for the work visa and would actually need to show proof that Ray would be filling a spot that would not be taking away from an able bodied Spanish citizen.
  2. Digital Nomad VISA and/or Self Employed VISA - we could set up Ray, or myself, as our own business and work on the new Digital Nomad VISAs that many countries are now offering.  
  3. EU Blue Card - this would seem very similar to the USA GreenCard.  This VISA provides a pathway to permanent residency, like the USA GreenCard, but the Blue Card is universal for many European Countries, not just the issuing country.  So once you have the Blue Card you can move and work in any participating countries.

Besides learning all of this along the way, what I found very interesting was how many friends and acquaintances I spoke with who had no idea that we couldn't just pack up and move to Spain.  There is a legal pathway.  Worldwide, there are rules and paths to follow to legally live, work and even travel as a tourist.   To be participating legally in the workforce, and most other things like: banking, tax system, health care, housing... you would need to eventually show some form of legal documentation that allows you to be there.  With that being said, the main times this would show up in Spain would be when leaving or entering Europe via plane - say if we left to go on vacation back the USA, we would be need to show passports and VISAS to re-enter Europe.   

This is a process that we have already been through here in the States with Ray.  He initially came to the USA on a work visa which lasted about 4 years and then was issued a one-time renewal of that.  After that renewal the USA would not approve his particular type of work VISA and he would need to apply for a different kind (think of it as a kind of 'shit or get off the pot' the USA does not issue 4 year work VISAS over and over and over....eventually you need to make a different commitment or leave)  - we ended up getting married and thus the Green Card, so it wasn't an issue.  But, even with his Green Card we would need to re-apply (or re-submit papers and 'proof') every 11 years or so.  The system may be broken in many, many places.... but it is set up in certain areas to manage who comes through with correct paperwork and it is VERY daunting.  We still remember sitting in the offices with stacks and stacks of paperwork for his Green Card.  Both of us with higher education of 4+ years and having difficulty managing it all and making sure we were doing it correctly.  It's not easy.  Sometimes, when you are on the inside and actually have to participate in a piece of our government that is new and different, you start to understand why people take short cuts and try and figure out different ways.  

And now to start the daunting process of navigating and WAITING for the United States Federal Government.   Last check (at the time of writing this blog entry), the State Department can take up to 10+ weeks to approve your FBI Fingerprint checks and return them to you.  Contrast that to the Spanish Government who may have a reputation of being a little more laid back and slow.... they have internal laws requiring them to confirm or deny your VISA request within 21 days... interesting.  


On a side note, for those who were surprised to find out you can't just pack up and move to a different part of the world to live.... you also can't necessarily do that here in the United States when moving from one State to another.  I guess for me having already moved and lived in 5+ States, it was obvious... but if you have only lived in one State, you wouldn't even think about it.  The big things are car & health insurances, car registrations and those silly things like 'taxes'.  lol.  Most of those types of areas are STATE related, not Federal.... so it eventually catches up with you if you don't update in the system with your new residential information.  

Stephanie Carnes June 15, 2023
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