How to claim a pension in Spain if you’ve never worked or not worked a lot

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If you’re living in Spain and of a certain age, you may be wondering about claiming a pension.

The minimum number of years you must have worked in Spain (the minimum period of social security contributions) before you can retire and access a state pension in Spain is 15 years. 

To claim a full Spanish pension, you must have worked and contributed for at least 36 years, although this figure will increase to 37 years by 2027.

READ MORE: How many years do I have to work in Spain to get a pension?

But what if you’ve never worked in Spain or haven’t reached the minimum 15 years of contributions? Can you still claim something?

Yes, there are options available to older people in need of financial assistance, even if they aren’t Spanish nationals and even if they haven’t worked in Spain.

But who is eligible for this type of pension in Spain, how much is it worth, and how do you apply?

Non-contributory pension

Non-contributory pensions (pensiones no contributivas) are for people ineligible for the normal contribution-based Spanish pension.

In other words, those who haven’t worked at all or enough in Spain to get a full pension, and can demonstrate they do not have sufficient income to support themselves once they’ve reached retirement age.

If that’s you, you may be entitled to a basic pension through the Compulsory Old Age and Disability Insurance (or Seguro Obligatorio de Vejez e Invalidez – SOVI), which is a non-contributory system. In other words, you aren’t expected to have paid into the pot, instead it’s a means-tested system which depends on your income.

This is available to all Spanish citizens aged over 65 (60 in the case of those with disabilities) who earned below a certain level.

Foreign residents can also claim if they have lived in Spain for at least 10 of the last 15 years (including the two years prior to making a claim). They’ll also have to meet all other requirements.

As this is a means-tested pension, other income streams such as savings and family or partner income are also factored in when you apply. 

How much is Spain’s non-contributory pension?

Like normal contributory pensions, in Spain non-contributory pensions are tied to inflation and the Consumer Price Index (CPI), to ensure older people don’t lose any purchasing power. 

However, as has been the case across Europe and the world in recent months, crippling inflationary pressures on prices have meant that salaries and pensions have struggled to keep up. 

With such financial pressures, both the contributory and non-contributory pension rates were increased by 15 percent mid year to mitigate the impact of the war on Ukraine. 

This temporary increase of 15 percent is set to last until the end of the year.

The general non-contributory pension rates in Spain in 2022 are:

  • 421.40 per month for a full non-contributory pension, or 5,899.60 per year.
  • 105.35 per month as a minimum if the applicant doesn’t fulfill all the conditions, or 1,474.90 per year.

Beneficiaries 

If you live with another pensioner claiming a non-contributory pension, the amount for each claim would decreases slightly: each pension would be 358.19 per month (5,014.66 per year), and for households with three or more claimants, the payout would be 337.12 (4,719.68 per year).

If a person claiming a non-contributory pension doesn’t own a property or living a relatives’ home and rents instead, they can claim an extra €525 a year.

Claimants with a disability level of 75 percent or higher can receive €632.10 a month, equal to €8,849 a year.

€421.40 per month is what retirees in Spain can receive as a full non-contributory pension. Photo: Cristina Gottardi/Unsplash

Eligibility

Are you eligible to claim a non-contributory pension in Spain? In order to claim, you must be:

  • At least 65 years old (60 if disabled). 
  • Be a resident in Spain for a minimum of 10 years.
  • Of those 10 years, at least two of them must have been consecutive and in the years immediately before making your application.
  • Able to demonstrate that your annual financial income is less than:
    • €5,899.60 per year if you live alone.
    • 10,029.32 per year for two people
    • 14,159.04 for three people
    • 18,288.76 for four or more people. 

However, if there are parents or children in the household, the income income thresholds are slightly lower: 25,073 per year for two people; 35,397 per year for three people and 45,721.90 per year for four or more people.

How do I apply?

As with many things in Spain, responsibility for pension schemes has been delegated to Spain’s autonomous communities from the Instituto de Mayores y Servicios Sociales (IMSERSO). Each region is responsible for managing and awarding its non-contributory pension claims. 

In order to apply, you must visit your Ministerio de Inclusión, Seguridad Social y Migraciones (INSS) office and complete the application with all the necessary documents within three months before or after your last day of work. 

You can access application forms on the government pensions website, and the Spanish government’s Instituto de Mayores y Servicios Sociales has a very useful tool with all the addresses and contact details for each office broken down by region and province here.

Documents

You will need to provide the following documents along with your application:

  • ID
  • valid NIE or TIE
  • proof that you meet the eligibility requirements
  • tax ID number of card
  • marriage certificate, if necessary
  • identity documents of any spouse or relatives over the age of 14 that live with the applicant.