Retirement visas in Europe

The 9 Best Retirement Visas in Europe for 2022

Are you looking to move to Europe and start your journey to EU citizenship? Then one of Europe’s retirement visas might be a good fit for you.

Despite the name, retirement visas aren’t just for those on a pension.

Depending on the country, most of these visas also allow applicants with different forms of passive income, as long as it comes from outside the country. These visas are sometimes known as ‘passive income visas’ or ‘visas for those of independent means’.

The basic requirement is for you to be financially self-sufficient, not necessarily a pensioner. Countries want to know you can support yourself from your own means, instead of relying on benefits from the country’s taxpayers.

What’s more, many of Europe’s retirement visas are a good option for non-EU citizens seeking accessible pathways into Europe for eventual second citizenship.

Let’s take a look at the different options, their requirements and restrictions, and who can apply.

Please note, ‘timeline to citizenship’ means the earliest point at which you can submit your application. Timelines for processing citizenship applications will vary according to the country and other factors.

Also keep in mind that retirement visa pathways require you to live full time in that country, which will mean becoming tax resident there and paying tax on your worldwide income.

If you need more flexibility and have capital to invest, then we recommend looking at one of Europe’s investor residency programs instead, such as the Portugal Golden Visa.

You should always consult a cross-border tax advisor before planning a relocation.

The 9 Best Retirement Visas in Europe

  1. The Portugal D7 Visa
  2. Spain Non-Lucrative Visa
  3. The Greece Retirement Visa
  4. The Italy Retirement Visa
  5. The Malta Retirement Visa
  6. Cyprus Category F Visa
  7. Latvia Retirement Visa
  8. Austria Retirement Visa
  9. Luxembourg Residency for Private Reasons

#1. Portugal D7 Visa

Timeline to Citizenship: 5 years
Dual Citizenship Allowed? ✅
Language Level Required: A2 Portuguese

Portugal’s retirement visa is known as the D7 visa, or passive income visa. Based on our research, it’s the most appealing retirement visa in all of Europe. Retiring in Portugal is a popular option for many.

Minimum income requirements are just €705 per month (based on the current Portugal national minimum wage).

You can apply with many different types of income, including pensions, rental income, dividends from an overseas business, investments, or royalties.

Unlike some other retirement visas, you can also use a salary from remote work outside Portugal to apply for the Portugal D7.

Please note, this depends on which Portuguese consulate you apply at. Most consulates in the UK and US accept remote work salary as a valid income type for the D7, but those in some other countries may not.

All D7 applications must begin at the Portuguese consulate in your country of citizenship or permanent residence.

Once you have residency with the D7, you can also apply for NHR tax status, which can potentially offer several interesting tax benefits on your worldwide income.

#2. Spain Non-Lucrative Visa

Timeline to Citizenship: 10 years
Dual Citizenship Allowed? ❌
Language Level Required: A2 Spanish

Spain offers another popular visa option for non-EU retirees, although we believe it’s nowhere near as good as the Portugal route.

Spain’s retirement visa is known as the ‘Non-Lucrative Visa‘. It has much higher annual income requirements compared to Portugal, with a minimum threshold of €25,816 per year. At just over €2,150 a month, that’s over three times higher than Portugal’s.

What’s more, Spain is much less flexible about remote work salary as a valid type of income. Typically, Spanish consulates won’t accept salary from remote work for a non-lucrative visa application.

For those who have EU citizenship as their ultimate goal, you should note that Spain requires 10 years of full-time residency before you can apply. Spain doesn’t recognize dual citizenship, so you’ll probably have to give up your existing passport.

#3. Greece Retirement Visa

Timeline to Citizenship: 7 years
Dual Citizenship Allowed? ✅
Language Level Required: B1 Greek

Officially called the ‘Residence Permit for Financially Independent Persons’, Greece’s retirement visa offers a reasonably appealing pathway to EU citizenship.

You’ll need a minimum passive income of €24,000 per year, and it’s possible to work remotely for non-Greek employees or clients while resident in Greece with this visa.

After living full-time in Greece for seven years, and passing a Greek language exam, you can apply for Greek citizenship. Permanent residency comes slightly earlier – you’ll be eligible at the five year mark. Keep in mind that permanent residency doesn’t grant you the right to EU freedom of movement, only citizenship can do that.

#4. Italy Retirement Visa

Timeline to Citizenship: 10 years
Dual Citizenship Allowed? ✅
Language Level Required: B1 Italian

Known as the Elective Residence Visa, Italy’s retirement visa has a high passive income requirement of €31,000 per year minimum. What’s more, you can’t work while resident with this visa, not even for an overseas employer.

After five years of full-time residency in Italy, you can apply for a permanent residence permit. For citizenship, you’ll need to live there for 10 years before applying.

There’s also an Italian language exam to pass. You’ll need a B1 level on the Common European Framework for Languages.

#5. Malta Retirement Visa

Timeline to Citizenship: 5 years
Dual Citizenship Allowed? ✅
Language Level Required: Only English

You can retire in Malta using the Global Residence Program, which acts as Malta’s retirement visa. One of the main requirements is to buy property with a minimum value of at least €220,000, or rent for a minimum of €8,750 per year. Thresholds differ slightly depending on the exact location.

Officially, you can submit a citizenship application in Malta after five years of temporary residency. There’s also no need to pass a language exam, as English is one of the country’s official languages.

But we’ve asked around among expat communities in Malta, and, in practice, very few people on the retirement visa route get accepted as citizens after just five years.

In reality, the fastest way to get citizenship of Malta is by investing in its citizenship by investment program. With this route, you can get an EU passport after just 12 months.

#6. Cyprus Category F Visa

Dual Citizenship Allowed? ✅
Timeline to Citizenship: 7 years
Language Level Required: None

Cyprus has one of the lowest minimum income requirements among retirement visas in Europe.

You’ll need just €9,568 annually to be eligible to apply. This income can come from a pension, but also from overseas rentals, dividends, royalties, or investments.

Another advantage of Cyprus is that English is widely spoken, and you won’t need to pass a language exam or undergo an interview to apply for citizenship.

You can submit a citizenship application after at least seven years of full-time residency in Cyprus.

#7. Latvia Retirement Visa

Dual Citizenship Allowed? Depends on current nationality
Timeline to Citizenship: 10 years
Language Level Required: B1 Latvian

Latvia has the lowest minimum income requirement among all of Europe’s retirement visas. You’ll need just €8,160 to be eligible. Latvia allows you to work remotely for non-Latvian employers or clients during your residency period.

Latvia has a long timeline to citizenship of 10 years, and you’ll also need to pass a Latvian language exam.

What’s more, Latvia doesn’t always recognize dual citizenship. Depending on your country of origin, you may need to give up your original passport to naturalize in Latvia.

#8. Austria Retirement Visa

Dual Citizenship Allowed? ❌
Timeline to Citizenship: 10 years
Language Level Required: B1 German

Austria has one of Europe’s best standards of living, and one of the highest income thresholds for its retirement visa (officially known as the “gainful employment excepted visa”)

You’ll need a minimum annual income of €23,199, from passive sources including pensions, rentals, dividends, or investments.

It’s not easy to get Austrian citizenship.You can apply after 10 years of full-time residency, and passing a German language exam at B1 level.

While waiting for citizenship, you can apply for permanent residency after five years. Austria doesn’t recognize dual citizenship.

#9. Luxembourg Residency for Private Reasons

Dual Citizenship Allowed? ✅
Timeline to Citizenship: 5 years
Language Level Required: A2 level spoken, B1 comprehension in Luxembourgish

The small country of Luxembourg offers a fast pathway to citizenship.

If you have enough income to support yourself, this is the pathway to choose, you can apply for Luxembourg residency for private reasons.

This residency permit can be renewed after three years, to cover the minimum of five years necessary for gaining Luxembourg citizenship.  

When you apply, the Ministry will evaluate your resources based on their nature and regularity. They will also compare the amount to Luxembourg’s monthly minimum wage for unskilled workers (which is currently set at EUR 2,313.38, as of April 2022)

You can prove your resources by showing a pension certificate, a bank certificate, or similar documentation. 

Conclusion

Getting an Europe retirement visa is an interesting pathway to EU citizenship for those with independent means.

As we’ve discussed in this article, requirements for getting these visas vary a great deal according to each country.

It’s important to analyze and compare the different options and choose the best fit for your individual situation.

For most cases, we recommend Portugal’s D7 visa as the best and most flexible pathway for retirement in Europe.

Portugal is also the best option for getting EU citizenship. It offers a fast timeline to citizenship (5 years), low language requirements, and the possibility to benefit from preferential tax situation along the way.

Portugal recognizes dual citizenship, so you won’t need to give up your original passport.


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