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Immigration Lawyer in Andorra. The key benefits of having a good and expert attorney in the process.

By
Jose Maria ALFIN
on
June 14, 2022

Immigration is the first step of many things that the clients can do, once located in this small but beautiful and privileged country

Immigration is the first step of many things that the clients can do, once located in this small but beautiful and privileged country

Have you ever dreamed of packing up your life to go and live in an exotic destination?

You want to escape from your routine, retire in comfort, or expand your business. You want access to Europe but don't want to live in a massive city. You would like to live somewhere with nature on your doorstep.

But, it would help if you were in a place with a thriving economy and good opportunities for your children.

An immigration lawyer for Andorra can help you access your dream life in southern Europe.

This tiny European state is the 17th smallest country in the world. The whole country is the size of San Jose in California, or slightly bigger than Dublin.

But it offers outsize economic opportunities.

From its attractive tax system to the access it gives you to Europe, Andorra is becoming a popular location for expats. There are various options for residency, which you can get via investment or working for a local company.

This article will discuss everything you need to know about Andorra. You will learn about the different ways to get residency and the benefits you get if you hire an immigration lawyer.

Everything to Know About Andorra

Andorra is a landlocked microstate between France and Spain. Squeezed amid the Pyrenees, it is a mountainous nation famous for being an excellent ski destination.

It is also home to the Madriu-Perafita-Claror Valley, which takes up almost 10 per cent of its territory and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This vast area of glacial landscapes and pasture has evidence of hundreds of years of human life.

The medieval emperor Charlemagne founded the country in the 9th century. The state came under the power of the elite and bishops of a southwestern Spanish town called Urgel until the late 13th century.

A dispute between the Spanish and French gave Andorra the unique system of government it maintains until this day.

Andorra is a principality governed by two princes it does not elect. One is the president of France, and the other is the Bishop of Urgel. However, since 1993, a new constitution has removed much of their power.

A prime minister is now the head of the government.

An essential thing to know if you are thinking of moving to Andorra is that the official language is Catalan. However, most of the population of 77,000 people speak Spanish, French, or Portuguese.

The government has set up free language centres to promote the official language and assist foreigners to feel more at home.

Despite its tiny size of 468 km2, Andorra attracts an average of 8 million tourists every year.

Benefits of Living in Andorra

You may wonder why anyone would want to live in a tiny, mountainous country in southern Europe.

For decades people knew Andorra as a winter-ski destination, an excellent place for tax-free shopping, and a tax haven for the wealthy.

However, in recent years Andorra has worked to shake up its economy. It has eliminated banking secrecy to improve its international standing. The state's efforts to open up to the outside world and modernise its economy make it an attractive destination for expats.

Here are some of the key reasons to live in Andorra:

1) It Has a Thriving Economy

Andorra has diversified its economy away from ski tourism and duty-free shopping. It now boasts a vibrant financial sector which accounts for about 21 per cent of gross domestic product. The state's GDP is currently at about $3.7 billion.

Like many countries, Andorra was hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the economy is recovering, and it grew at 8.9 per cent in the second half of 2021. The banking system plays a vital role in the economy and has come out of the pandemic in a strong position.

The International Monetary Fund notes that inflation is lower than in many other countries in Europe. So too is the unemployment rate. In Andorra, 85 per cent of the population is employed.

Tourism has remained strong even as the Omicron variant has spread. Tourism is still the primary earner for the economy, but the government is opening up to other economic sectors.

These include research and development, the technology sector, and the digital economy.

A new air route from Madrid to the nearest airport to Andorra has made it easier for foreigners to get into the microstate. This is encouraging investors from outside.

Andorra has a GDP of $3.7 billion, and it is opening up to economic sectors that do not need extensive infrastructure.

2) Technological Innovation

Despite its small size, Andorra has become a hub for technological innovation.

For several years researchers have used the state as a "living lab" to test out ideas for urban innovation. Using augmented reality, they have tested a variety of scenarios around self-driving vehicles and the ideal make-up of a city.

This can include building sizes, how many parks you need, and how humans experience an urban environment.

Andorra's government is carrying out a large-scale digital transformation project. This will revolutionise how the government serves its citizens, give them new skills, and promote foreign investment.

New laws are being adopted to cover the digital economy, digital assets, data protection and even e-sports.

One of the many initiatives underway is regulation to govern the use of blockchain and cryptocurrencies.

Foreign investment has grown 500 per cent since Andorra opened up about a decade ago.

The main opportunities for investment in Andorra are biotech, the digital economy, real estate, retail, and the services sector. A Spanish pharmaceutical company is opening a major research centre in Andorra in 2023.

3) Very Low Crime Levels

Andorra's sense of pacifism is renowned. While numerous wars raged around it in the past few hundred years, the tiny state has remained neutral. These include the Spanish Civil War and both World Wars.

The country is one of the safest in Europe. It has people from dozens of countries living peacefully side-by-side, and its small territory is easy to police.

In some years, there has not been one murder. There are less than 50 people in the country's prison system.

And, with 90 per cent of the country made up of mountains and only two border ports, authorities can control the flow of drugs and other illegal items.

With many people from different countries living side by side in peace, there will be no need to worry about crime when living in Andorra.

4) An Attractive Tax System

There is no denying that one of Andorra's main attractions to foreigners is its tax system.

For decades international institutions criticised Andorra for being a tax haven. This is because of secrecy around banking and because it did not share tax information with other countries. Wealthy people were able to hide money in Andorra without having to pay any tax on it.

However, the OECD has removed Andorra from its list of tax havens.

Tax levels are still very favourable compared to other European countries. However, the state has committed to being more transparent and to share information with other nations.

Income tax is a maximum of 10 per cent after a certain threshold.

If you earn up to 24,000 euros a year, you will not have to pay any income tax. Up to 40,000 euros, you will pay 5 per cent, and thereafter everyone pays 10 per cent no matter how high their salary.

Property taxes are low, and VAT is only 4.5 per cent. Many items are still sold without any taxes attached.

In neighbouring France, VAT is as high as 20 per cent. If you earn more than 26,000 euros a year, your income tax will be around 30 per cent. This can go as high as 45 per cent if you earn over 160,000 euros per year.

As Andorra invests in the digital economy, it has also set low taxes for the sale of cryptocurrency, which is not more than 10 per cent.

There is also a corporate income tax for companies of 10 per cent.

Andorra does not charge any tax for inheritance or receiving money or property as a gift. There is also no wealth tax in the country.

All of these benefits mean it is much cheaper to live in Andorra than in many other countries.

5) A Door to Europe

Andorra is not a member of the European Union. However, in 2011, it signed a monetary deal with the bloc to adopt the euro as its currency.

Andorra is part of a customs union with the EU, which treats it as a member when it comes to the trade of manufactured goods.

The European Union has been working to consider wider agreements with the micro-states in recent years. Andorra has been negotiating with the EU for an association agreement since 2015.

Andorra is not a member of the Schengen Agreement, which allows visa-free travel. However, residents of Andorra may travel in Europe as if they were a resident of France or Spain.

This means that while living in Andorra, you will be able to travel to any of the EU states.

6) Health and Education

Andorrans have one of the highest life expectancies on the planet. On average, an Andorran lives to 83-years-old.

Some people attribute this to the outdoors lifestyle in the principality. The mountains are ideal for hiking and other physical activities. Residents of Andorra are also lucky enough to have access to one of the best healthcare systems in the world.

Andorra has a government-run healthcare system called Caixa Andorrana de Seguretat Social (CASS). Any resident employed in the country who holds an Active Residency permit will be able to access this system.

If you have a Passive Residency permit or are a tourist, you will require private insurance.

Andorra receives praise for its high-tech and world-class medical facilities. For those covered by CASS, general doctor visits will be covered 100 per cent, while the patient will have to contribute to see other specialists.

CASS will cover 75 per cent of a visit to a specialist, 65 per cent to see a physiotherapist, and 90 per cent of a hospital stay. Andorra has agreements with France and Spain, allowing residents to seek healthcare in those countries if necessary.

Andorra has one main hospital, Nostra Senyora de Meritxell, and several medical centres around the principality.

If you are planning to move to Andorra with your children, it is good to know that education is free. Because of the state's history, it began with French and Spanish schools run by those countries.

About 20 years ago, a free Andorran system was set up. The main language in these schools is Catalan. However, there are also classes given in Spanish, French, and English.

There are also several international schools available for which you have to pay fees.

How to Get Residency in Andorra

Now that we have shown you some excellent reasons to move to Andorra, you might be excited to make your move. You are probably wondering how to get started.

To be eligible for residency in Andorra, you must either make an economic contribution to the country or get a job with a company in Andorra. Your residency card can allow you to live for several years in the country as it is renewable.

There are several classes of residency permits that you can apply for. You can also hire an immigration lawyer to assist you with this application.

(I) Active Residence in Andorra With Employment

The Andorran government set up the option of active residency for those who want to live in the state permanently. This permit is a good option for people who have a job offer or are looking for work.

However, the Andorran government only issues 900 work permits per year. They will only issue these when they can not fill a job with one of their own citizens. Next, they will prioritise residents of France, Spain, and Portugal.

There are several options available for jobs in Andorra. Some people come and work during the ski season. Jobs in tourism are the most common, while others may teach English. You may also be able to find employment in the growing finance or tech industries.

Remember that you will probably need knowledge of French or Spanish. Catalan is a close relative of these languages, and you will probably get by if you are fluent in one or both.

Once you have an employment contract, you will need to gather other documents to apply for residency. These can include:

  • Proof of job offer from Andorran company
  • Police certificate of criminal records
  • Proof of marital status
  • Medical examination
  • Application form
  • Rental contract or proof of property ownership
  • Curriculum Vitae
  • Diplomas and evidence of qualifications

Your employer will have to pay the necessary administrative fees.

Once you have gathered all the necessary documents, it can take as little as one week to process the residence permit. Your first permit, known as a "residencia", will be valid for one year. It is renewable for two years, and you can keep renewing it until authorities grant a 10-year residency permit.

(II) Active Self-Employed Residence

The second option for active residency is for those who are self-employed.

You will need to maintain Andorra as your primary residence for 183 days. This does not include holidays or business trips to Andorra.

To qualify for this permit, you will need foreign investment authorisation. Then you must incorporate a company in Andorra with more than 20 per cent of the share capital. You will have to be a member of the management body.

You will also have to deposit 15,000 euros as a bond to the Andorran financial regulator. In addition, you will have to show evidence you have a rental property or have bought real estate.

These are some documents you may require to apply.

  • Criminal police certificate
  • Results of medical examination
  • Proof of marital status
  • Curriculum Vitae
  • Diplomas and evidence of qualifications

It can take up to three months to issue your self-employment residency permit. It is also valid for a year with multiple options to renew. You can get Andorran citizenship after living in the country for 20 years.

As a self-employed resident, you have to contribute to the CASS healthcare system. However, you get flexibility in where you spend your time and can benefit from the favourable tax system.

(III) Passive Residence in Andorra (sometimes also known as residence by investment)

Suppose you want to spend minimal time in Andorra and are not looking to work there. In this case, a passive residence permit might be the right option for you.

With this residency permit, you only have Andorra as your main residence for 90 days per year. This does not mean you qualify for tax residency. For this, you need to stay in the country for at least 183 days.

Then you can keep your main economic activity outside the country but benefit from lower taxes.

However, you will have to invest 400,000 euros in Andorran real estate, a local company, or debt instruments issued by the authorities. This includes 47,500 euros that you will deposit with the Andorran financial authority. On top of that, you will have to deposit 9,500 euros for each dependent.

You will have to show proof of income that is 300 per cent above the Andorran minimum wage of 1,200 euros per month. Each family member will require 100 per cent extra.

There are other options for passive residency which do not require a significant investment. These can benefit businesspeople with international projects, professional sportspeople, scientists, and artists.

An international businessperson will have to form an Andorran company. However, they must conduct 85 per cent of their business outside of the country. Their application will have to include a business plan and details of their experience as well as the bond with the financial authority.

High-profile individuals can get passive residency by only paying the almost 50,000 euro bond with the financial authority. However, they will have to prove their qualifications and career achievements.

Authorities will issue a passive residency permit for two years that you can renew for another two years, then three years, and then 10 years.

Why Hire an Immigration Lawyer for Andorra?

It can be overwhelming to uproot your life and move to a new country.

You will need to navigate a long list of rules and figure out how to find a job, set up a company, or shift your tax residency. Leaving one country for another may require you to pay an exit tax.

A residence lawyer for Andorra will have plenty of experience putting in the necessary applications. They can help you prepare all the correct documentation before leaving your home country.

The list of documents may seem simple, but some might need to be translated. Others will need to carry an apostille, which is a form of international legalisation.

There can also be strict time limits on when to apply for your police certificate so that it is still valid when you arrive in Andorra.

As immigration experts, we know our way around this process. We can save you plenty of time and stress when it comes to gathering documents and knowing when you have to take a specific action.

We also know where to go to file the applications and how to make the various bond payments and investments.

The Andorran residency process can be difficult to negotiate if you still feel uncertain about the language.

Many official processes and documents are in Catalan. It can take time to adjust to the language, especially if you only have French or Spanish.

If English is your only language, it can be a massive relief to have immigration experts ease you through the process.

Start Your European Adventure Today

Suppose it is your dream to move to Europe, pay lower taxes, or set up a company in Andorra. In this case, the last thing you want is to scupper your chances by making a simple error in paperwork.

It can be thrilling to try something new, and moving abroad is the adventure of a lifetime. Having an immigration lawyer for Andorra will allow you to relax and enjoy the journey.

Contact us for advice about immigration.