There seems to be a significant difference between the Golden Visa regulations, and the high-handed way bureaucrats interpret them, so best be on the safe side, and get your application for a Spanish Golden Visa in early after completion, if you can.
How long do you have to apply for a Spanish Golden Visa after investing in real estate in Spain to the tune of €500,000 or more of your own funds?
Some say, as long as you like. After all, the law seems to suggest there is no time limit after completion before a notary – an event known in Spanish as the escritura. So, whether you invest your cash in one Spanish property worth €500,000 or more, or several properties over time that together add up to €500,000 or more, once you have reached the investment threshold of €500,000, you can go ahead and submit your Golden Visa application to the officials, known as funcionarios, in Madrid, anytime you like. There is no deadline, right? Wrong! It turns out that the office in charge of Golden Visa applications has other ideas, and uses its own criteria for accepting or rejecting Spanish Golden Visa applications. This high-handed treatment of investors is in keeping with the behaviour of other areas of the Spanish bureaucracy, and echoes Spain’s not so distant, authoritarian past.
Spanish Golden Visa Law
What does the law actually say on the question of how long you have after escritura to apply for a Spanish Golden Visa? As far as I can tell, nothing.
The Spanish Golden Visa regulations, part of the ‘Ley 14/2013, de 27 de septiembre, de apoyo a los emprendedores y su internacionalización’ (Law in support of entrepreneurship and its globalisation), were published in 2013, in the depths of Spain’s post-real-estate-crash and economic crisis, with the goal of attracting capital to Spain, and helping mop up Spain’s property glut. In the original law, and the latest version, updated in 2015 then 2018, in both article 64 (Accreditation of investment) and article 66 (residency authorisation for investors), there is no mention of any deadline or time-frame for application after escritura.
In article 64, where it defines the investment accreditation criteria, it simply says you have to demonstrate your investment by producing a Certificate of Ownership and Encumbrances (Certificado de Dominio y Cargas) from the Land Registry, which is a document signed off (now electronically) by a registrar, or, in some cases, by producing a valid copy of the escritura (title deeds). It says nothing about how long after escritura you can do this.
In article 66, where it defines the residency authorisation criteria, as far as real estate goes, it simply says you must produce a registry certificate dated within 90 days of the application, once again, no mention of the date of escritura.
In the summary English document published by the Spanish Government, referring to the documents you have to produce for a real estate investment, it says nothing more than a “certificate of property registration and real estate purchase deeds.” No mention of any dates or deadlines.
If you think about it, it makes sense, if you drafted this bill, not to set the clock ticking from the date of escitura, because Golden Visa investors are allowed to invest in multiple properties, so long as the total cumulative investment is €500,000 or more. So when does the clock start to tick? From the date of the first escritura, or the last? Perhaps just avoid the question.
Anyway, from what I can tell, the articles of Spanish law regulating Golden Visa applications make no mention whatsoever of any time limit after escritura for submitting applications.
I also checked this with a notary, admittedly on holiday by the pool. He was of the opinion there is no time limit after completion, so long as the property was purchased after the law was introduced in 2013.
90-day deadline after escritura for Spanish Golden Visa applications
But, it seems, the funcionarios, or at least the officials that call the shots in the Large Business Unit of what is now called the Ministry of Inclusion, Social Security, and Migration, don’t see it that way. I’m told they are minded to reject applications for Spanish Golden Visas based on real estate investments if the escritura is more than 90 days past.
“Golden Visa applications get turned down regularly in Madrid,” explains a Spanish lawyer friend I consulted on the subject, as to why he takes no chances, and always advises his clients to get their applications filed within 90 days of escritura. “You know how it goes, the law says one thing, funcionarios say otherwise. Bless their hearts.”
He then explained why it doesn’t pay to take chances. “Thank God I’ve never gone through the ordeal of handling an application that gets turned down,” he told me. “How do you tell a client who’s just spent a minimum of €600,000 (when you factor taxes and expenses on top) on a property, that they’ve been turned down? It’s a very tough situation to be in. You could even be sued by them for negligence or malpractice. And before you know it you are facing an €800,000 lawsuit.”
It’s a typically Spanish problem of vaguely drafted law, and its high-handed application by unaccountable bureaucrats.
“One must really tread carefully when dealing with the Administration, especially with Madrid, as they are fickle,” continues my lawyer friend, who has dealt with Golden Visa investors, but wishes to remain anonymous. “The bottom line of the Golden Visa is that they want new, fresh money coming into the country. If they reject a visa application, that’s it, there is no legal recourse. It’s a huge responsibility of which the notary will not take part, and if it goes wrong, it’ll be up to the lawyer to pick up the pieces and deal with it.
So, why are notaries unreliable authorities on the subject, you might wonder?
“I have every day notaries swearing on the bible something can be done and then the Land Registry, or whomever, knocks it down and we spend the next 7 years litigating,” explains my lawyer friend.
“I also remember discussing with other lawyers, notaries etc. why properties bought in 2005 (for example) could not benefit from this 2013 law, and they also swore on the bile it was possible, and lost miserably,” he goes on
“Notaries are fallible. In my experience, notaries say yes to many things so that we sign with them, and then they shrug their shoulders when it is turned down by the Land Registry, Administration or law courts. Notaries don’t fight these things later on; it is left to us the lawyers who must then appeal when something is turned down or goes wrong. Notaries just wash their hands after they pocket their fees, which are non-refundable, by the way.
When applying for a Spanish Golden Visa, be on the safe side
When the law was first published, lawyers told me there was no deadline. But today, if I was going to apply for a Golden Visa, I would take no chances, and get my Golden Visa application filed in Madrid within 90 days of escritura, regardless of what the law says.
But what if you didn’t know about this 90-day deadline applied by officials in Madrid, and missed the window, especially if the Covid-19 travel restrictions messed up all your plans?
In that case, you could go ahead and apply anyway, as you don’t have much to lose. Arguably the law is on your side, even if the bureaucrats in Madrid aren’t, and your application might be approved. My lawyer friend says he would definitely help clients with “late” applications, so long as the client signs a Spanish & English waiver making crystal clear they understand the risks, and absolving him of any responsibility if the application is turned down.
Returning to the question of how long you have after buying Spanish real estate to apply for a Golden Visa (residency by investment permit), the answer seems to be, file your application within 90 days of your escritura, to be on the safe side. And, as you don’t get any chance of appeal if your application is turned down, you can’t really afford not to be on the safe side.
IMPORTANT NOTE. This article is not to be taken as legal advice. It’s just my point of view, which I hope will provide a broader perspective of the subject at hand. If you need legal advice regarding a Spanish Golden Visa, please consult a lawyer qualified to practise in Spain.