(Editor’s note: this is a guest post from American entrepreneur Mary Clare Bland, about how she obtained an entrepreneur visa to start up her own business in Spain. We’ve written about the massive potential of entrepreneur visas in Europe before).

The first time anyone called me a serial entrepreneur happened last January, in Madrid. The truth is I was pleasantly shocked at how proud it made me feel about myself.

I had flown in from New York City for five days to look for apartments and decide if I really wanted to move to Spain. Although I attended school in Madrid for a semester when I was an undergraduate, moving from New York City was a big step- especially since I had no visa, few friends and wanted to start another business.

Over coffee, I told a Madrileña friend of mine my plan.  She said, “You’re a serial entrepreneur! You could live anywhere. Why here?”

The Spanish Entrepreneurial Visa

Most Spaniards ask me the same question. They think of the United States, and New York City, as an entrepreneurial haven.  The truth is being an entrepreneur is often a struggle.

I started, and operated, two successful small businesses in the city but after 10+ years, the cost structure became unsustainable. This, coupled with New York City taxes and an almost Byzantine permitting process for new business construction, sent me in search of greener pastures.

My third (or fourth, depending how you count consulting opportunities) venture is in the tech space. I want to create an online app for yoga classes. For lifestyle reasons I wish to live in Europe, so I set about determining the optical location. I wanted a place with: (1) a reasonable cost structure, (2) a qualified labor pool and (3) high smart phone penetration. I needed a place that would give me a visa.

In autumn 2014* I researched the matter, and discovered Spain had recently introduced a new entrepreneur visa program. It didn’t require any initial investment- just a good idea in either a strategic area (tech being one of them), or a business that would create a number of jobs. This was very different than the entrepreneur visas offered by Italy and the UK, which required minimum 50.000 or 200.000 euro/sterling investments. Since I spoke a fair amount of Spanish, the decision was made.

The only information I had about how to obtain a Spanish entrepreneurial visa was from a New York Times article, published in November, 2014. It didn’t contain any details but since I’m an entrepreneur, I was willing to take the risk. I signed a lease and decided I’d figure it out in situ.

I’m in Spain, now what?

I asked a number of Spaniards what they knew about the program. They were immensely discouraging. They either knew nothing, or didn’t think the program really existed. This leads to:

Rule #1 in navigating the Spanish Bureaucracy: Don’t ever ask a Spaniard for advice. All they will do is de-moralize you. They assume non-Spaniards simply can’t handle it. I have four words for them (my fellow Americans reading this will understand): Department of Motor Vehicles. Compared to the DMV on 34th Street, the Spanish Bureaucracy is positively delightful.

I floundered around a bit, and at one point even toyed with the idea of staying in the country illegally. Then I stumbled upon a presentation led by a prestigious Madrid based law firm about how to obtain an entrepreneurial visa. I attended it, and was dismayed at the pessimism. Even though the presentation topic was about how to obtain an entrepreneurial visa, their advice was simple: don’t try. Their logic: there isn’t a 100% guarantee of receiving one and only a few have been awarded. The lead lawyer gave me her business card and suggested that I, “sign up for a class.” This leads to:

Rule #1 in Life: Lawyers are there to help themselves first- you’re a distant second. This is true even outside America.

Soul Searching

I went home and thought about the matter deeply. I understood that there were risks, but finally I thought to myself, “Aside from Bill Gates wanting to start a business here, I can’t think of many people that are better qualified than me. I have experience, a good idea, I work very hard, I’m no stranger to writing a business plan and I have an amazing looking Hugo Boss suit.” I decided to go for it.

I wasn’t sure where to begin, so I went to the Internet. I immediately came up with a number of websites that contained information. I called one and they were ultimately quite helpful. Truth is they gave me some erroneous advice at first but, when pressed, sent me an email with the exact procedures laid out, step-by-step.

Rule #2 in navigating the Spanish Bureaucracy: Use the Internet to double check everything you are told before you start running around Madrid.

Rule #3 in navigating the Spanish Bureaucracy: Never trust the person “manning” the phones, or at a junior level. They’re the human version of those annoying voice recordings that answer the phones in America and the UK. Be polite (the good news is they always are- they won’t shame you or scold you like the IRS) and move up the food chain until you find the competent person that can help you. They’re usually sitting at the top, and highly educated. You’ll recognize them when you find them. A clue: often they switch to English. Everyone else only speaks Spanish.

How to Apply for a Spanish Entrepreneurial Visa

The email came from the ICEX, a division of the Spanish Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness (http://www.investinspain.org/invest/en/index.html). It laid out the procedures to follow if one is in Spain, or abroad. For those in Spain, there are essentially two phases:

First, write a business plan. The Ministry provides a link with the outline they want you to use (http://bit.ly/1QPAg6i).

Second, submit that plan to the Registrar at the Secretaría de Estado de Comercio, located at Paseo de la Castellana, 162 for approval. You also need to submit an application (http://bit.ly/1Na2Rx3). The ICEX claims the process takes 20 business days. The good news is in Spain, Saturdays are considered business days. The bad news, there are a lot of municipal and state holidays. I encountered two. They didn’t make it in the promised 20 days but they were close: 24 days.

After about 10 days, I started getting anxious. The most comforting part of the process was that the Secretaría de Estado de Comercio was extremely responsive. There is an email listed on the website (http://bit.ly/1SJqsZ2) which I used a number of times. On every occassion, they responded within a couple hours. When I started getting pressed for time because my tourist visa was in imminent danger of expiring, someone walked my positive report through, had it signed and mailed the next day.

Rule #2 in Life: Do your own research- most people live in fear and make things sound much more difficult than they really are.

Report approved

Once your plan is approved, you will be sent a positive report via certified mail. This report is the most important thing. With the positive report in hand, you take it and the following to the nearest police station, and apply for a residence permit:

  • A copy of your passport (all pages)
  • Proof of health insurance
  • Proof that you have no criminal record in your home country
  • Proof that you have sufficient funds to sustain yourself in Spain (a relatively small number since the cost of living is low)
  • An application, downloadable via the internet
  • A 72 euro fee (you pay first at a bank and get a receipt)

If you apply in country, you apply for a two year residence permit (applying out of country is only for a one year residence permit). The Spanish Government has committed to a fast track on approval of these applications: 10 days. I’m told that they are currently running 5 days on that. As of writing this blog, I’m in Day 2. Wish me luck! If you want to hear the final outcome, check back and I will post a comment on this blog when I receive it.

*In 2015, France and the Netherlands also introduced entrepreneurial visas.

Featured image credit: Christophe Testi / Shutterstock

  • Josephine Migreat

    Thanks for sharing the fun tips and practical info! Just a little comment: not only France and the Netherlands have introduced visa for entrepreneurs but Denmark and Ireland too :) and the EU is thinking of offering a EU wide entrepreneur visa to help foreign entrepreneurs think of Europe as a single market where to start… good luck with the application!

    • Where may I read about EU wide visa?

      • Joséphine Goube

        The EU wide visa is being discussed at the commission right now :) Would you be interested in giving the EU your opinion on it? I think they would love to know what would make a EU wide Entrepreneur visa attractive and interesting.

        • The opinion is pretty straightforward—we need this VISA. I live and work in Ukraine and it’s just a mess and headache to do any startup related activity in Europe.

          • may

            Where can I sign up to find out more about this EU visa, timelines, approvals etc. The UK business visa is so out of reach and the rest of europe the information is buried so deep its hard to figure anything out. Thanks.

    • Yes, I heard about the EU wide entrepreneur visa- I think it’s an amazing idea. Thanks so much for the well wishes :)

      • Imran Ahmed

        If some one wants to open a big departmental store etc invest 200,000 euros minimum , create jobs around 3 – 4 ; will the Spanish authorities be interested or they only want internet companies etc ?

  • It’s great to read the experience of someone else. I went through the same procedure last year and before 10 days I got my residency card for two years. It was an amazing experience, not much info at the beginning (this was August 2014) but everything worked out great at the end.

    • Nauman Ahmad Bilytica

      Hi Juan
      Congratulations. Can you please send me business plan sample at nauman@bilytica.com


    • Ilyas Maredia

      Hi Juan, Congratulations to you !! hope your business is flourishing and showing positive signs.But can you help me with further details on how I can apply being a non EU resident.
      It would be great if you could mail me at ilyas.maredia@gmail.com

      Thanks in advance

  • Natalia Dzidziguri

    Hi! Thanks for sharing this information Mary! :) I am from Tbilisi, Georgia and I did the same thing even though I am not American, but a Spanish “Gestoría” helped me to deliver my documents to the right place, I have a contact if anyone’s interested. Under the same law, the companies can hire the residents outside EU, with a permanent contract “contrato indefinido”, with an identified position (Highly Qualified). The salary must appear numerically (a highly qualified professional charges around 20,000 € per year).

    • Hi! Yes, a Spanish Gestoria is helpful to file documents, although I found that they knew nothing about the specific Entreprenuer Visa. They are helpful with the highly qualified person visa, which is a clearer path. They’re very helpful for people that don’t speak Spanish, or are not able to file documents personally here in Madrid. And a little on the salary requirements: everything I’m told is that for a highly qualified person visa, you have to make 28k-30k euro per year. Anything lower than that would be a special case, and nothing lower than 22k.

      • Imran Ahmed

        Hi Mary
        I read some where that the business report can be approved by UPTA / is this true ? I have a company registered and business plan approved by UPTA two years back . Thinking of using those things and applying now

        • Hi! I have never heard of that, nor the UPTA. The new Entrepreneur Laws
          are quite new. Depending when they approved your business plan, the laws
          may have been completely different back then.

          • Imran Ahmed

            Thanks a lot for ur reply . Do you know any consultants / law firm etc that guide in this process ?

    • Imran Ahmed

      Hi natalia . I am interested in the personal contact you mentioned for entrepreneur visa . Plz give more info or email me at imran376728@icloud.com
      Thanks 😉

      • Natalia Dzidziguri

        Hi Imran! I have tried to send you an e-mail but unfortunately your e-mail address is incorrect :) Could you please send me an e-mail to nataliadz@icloud.com?

        • Imran Ahmed

          I send you email

    • Nauman Ahmad Bilytica

      Hi Natalia

      Congratulations. Can you please send me business plan sample and contact of that person at nauman@bilytica.com



  • Hi all! Since this blog was posted a mere two days ago, I’ve received a number of messages from people looking for advice on how to obtain an Entrepreneur Visa in Spain. Since there is so little information out there about this, I’d be happy to help anyone that needs it. You can contact me directly at mary_clare@theflyingcarpet.es, Tweet me @_theflyingcarpet, or connect with me on Likedin: https://es.linkedin.com/in/maryclarebland. Happy to help with your business plan, finding a licensed translator, filling out documents, submitting them here in Madrid, etc. Un saludo- Mary Clare

    • Sally

      Another great resource is SpainGuru.es! We specialize in helping highly qualified workers and entrepreneurs obtain residency in Spain, and our English speaking lawyers have helped more than 50 people get residency through the Ley de Emprendadores since it went into effect in 2013. We answer questions for free on our open forum, and we offer in-person consultations. More information is available at spainguru.es!

    • Imran Ahmed


  • Just a follow-up since people have asked . . . I did receive my two year
    residence permit- it took 22 days, an email to the Unidad de Grandes Empresas, and a trip to Plaza de la Remonta. Turns out there was a problem with my criminal report. It had been translated in the US by the agency that helped me obtain it. So I had to furnish a new translation. Once I obtained that I was told to drop it personally at Plaza de la Remonta and my application was approved the next day. I found the Unidad de Grandes Empresas, and the officials at the police station on Calle San Felipe, to be exceptionally responsive and helpful. Please note . . . There was actually an intermediate step that didn’t make it into this blog. I have written about it, and other tips for people living in Spain and dealing with the bureaucracy (like how to get a temporary NIE), on my travel blog: thoughtsfromtheflyingcarpet.wordpress.com. Finally . . some people are required interviews. I never had one, although at one point I was told to make an appointment for one (which is tricky given the form on the website). But then my visa application was expedited and I received the visa before the appointment date.

    • Nauman Ahmad Bilytica

      Hi Mary

      Congratulations. Can you please send me business plan sample at nauman@bilytica.com



    • J Chow

      Hi Mary
      Can i please get a copy of your business plan, i too wish to start up in Spain but am unsure how much i need to write


  • Moral Max

    They are helpful with the highly qualified person visa, which is a clearer path. They’re very helpful for people that don’t speak Spanish, or are not able to file documents personally here in Madrid. And a little on the salary requirements.Casquette Huf

  • Carlos I. Peña

    Hey Mary, it would be great to have more details about your business plan. What was it about?

  • first i want to thank you Mary for sharing your experiences with us! so much helpful. after deciding on get Entrepreneur Visa for Spain, i read so many articles on internet. i read about facts on starting a business in Spain, since my business plan has actually a start up website form, can i run it without establish a company and pay those taxes? and i have to hire at least on person in my company? can i hire my wife at first steps to save my money? is there any money or sponsorship offer to get from country?
    thank you

  • Nauman Ahmad Bilytica

    Hi All
    Thanks for sharing such great information. My name is Nauman Ahmad and i am Founder of IT startups in Australia , Pakistan, Turkey and Canada. I am resident in Pakistan

    can Someone please share with me how i can contact Ministry of Development for my business proposal approval as we do not have this department available in Pakistan.

    Thanks in advance

    • Hi! If you connect with me on LinkedIn, I’ll send you a private message with the email of the people you need to send the plan to. But you need to know . . . they only speak Spanish

      • Ryno Enslin

        Hi Mary, I’ve send you a request to connect on Linkedin.
        I’ve also tried to send you an email but it was returned undelivered.
        Connect me as i would like to send you a message. I have questions for you.

        Thank you

  • Shannon

    I’m curious about what happens after the 2 years; as the visa nears expiration, are you able to extend it or be granted a permanent residence visa if the business is succeeding? And thanks for the informative, helpful and well written article – it’s the best I’ve found on the topic! :-)

    • You’re most welcome! My understanding is you get an automatic renewal. But it’s too new of a program to have data on this yet, and the rules do change. I’ll keep you posted when I elarn more . . .

  • Zander Le Bel

    Hi Mary this is an excellent article. I tried to send you an email asking you some questions however the email bounced. Could we connect on linkedin?

  • Hi everyone! There have been some small changes in the application process. I have written a new blog detailing them, and answering the most frequently asked questions I’ve received. Here’s a link:


    • David John Dally

      Hi Mary

      Great post. I am an Architect from South Africa, I’v been try to get a work permit for the last 4 months without success. Your post has got me excited to try the entrepreneur visa, as i have a great bussiness plan that i what to try in spain.

      Please can you send me a copy of your business plan in order to use as a referance.
      Would be much appreciated. davidjohndally@gmail.com


  • Simona Dameska

    Hi Mary! Thank you for sharing this information. I was wondering, if you write a business plan and apply for the Entrepreneur visa, can you apply only as an individual or there can be more people, let’s say if the business plan is done by 3 people that set up a mutual business and invest together? And if so, do you think the chances are less to obtain the Visa under these conditions?

  • najam ali