MADRID – Spain’s countryside is slowly dying after a long exile of its rural population but Sernago is hoping to avoid this fate – for now.
Located in the mountainous region of Syria north of Madrid, it reached its peak in 1950 when there were 462 permanent residents, mostly living in agriculture.
But the temptation of urban life and a well-paying job finally took its toll when the last resident left in 1979.
Campaigners have now saved the village by attracting five permanent residents, many working from a distance or coming for a short time.
Spain hopes to help save struggling populations like Sarnago by providing visas and tax incentives to digital nomads, who work around the world from their laptops, encouraging them to live in what many here describe as Espana Vacia or “empty Spain”. ”
Under the draft start-up law, non-EU residents will be issued 12-month visas.
Spain, like many other countries that have introduced nomadic visas, wants to lure foreign workers with lower tax rates.
They will be eligible for a 24% Spanish non-resident tax rate on income up to 11 711,000 per year. In comparison, according to the Spanish Ministry of Treasury, the Spanish residential tax rate is up to 45%, depending on the income.
Once a person lives and works in Spain, they can apply for a residence permit to extend their stay for two years, which can be renewed for another two years.
The law, which could be amended but has the support of all major political parties, is an attempt to address Spain’s rural decline.
Of the 8,131 Spanish municipalities, 3,403 are classified as at risk of death – about 43%, according to the country’s National Statistical Institute.
Spain also wants to encourage companies and entrepreneurs to make much-needed investments in rural areas of economically struggling countries.
So, will digital nomads be drawn to live in small remote villages like Sernago?
“I hope we can attract foreigners to come here and live here for at least a while,” Jose Maria Carrascosa, president of the Friends of Sernago Association, told VOA.
The village is 200 km north of Madrid and most of the people in the area work as farmers.
“We have a reasonably good internet connection for rural areas – 4G – so you can send emails but it’s a little more of a problem when you want to have a zoom meeting. We also have a co-worker. ”
A quiet life
Carrascosa revealed that anyone who wants to spend time in his village must be prepared for a quiet social life.
The only bar was closed a few years ago and the nearest school and shops are 5 km away in a large village.
Sernago is among 300 more dead villagers who have joined the RNPAT, the Remote Workers for Welcome Villages National Network, a group working with the Spanish government to attract workers to rural areas.
“We have seen that people are much more enthusiastic about working online because of the epidemic. We have seen more people move from the city to the small village, ”Ricardo Ortega, RNPAT president, told VOA in an interview.
“We believe this visa can entice people and enjoy the Spanish way of life away from the city and the coast. They will get to see the real Spain.
In a bid to defuse decades of rural unrest, Spain’s left-wing government launched a .9 11.9 billion plan in March that includes plans to improve the country’s Internet connectivity and work together in smaller villages.
Alejandro Macaron Larumbe, head of Spain’s Demographic Renaissance Foundation, which seeks to alleviate the rural population, said the government must address the practical problem of connecting to weak Wi-Fi, infrastructure and facilities.
“This visa scheme can help attract foreign talent and create dynamism,” McCarron said in an interview with VOA.
“We have many rural villages which are beautiful. But we must be realistic so it is very unlikely that people will want to live far away from the airport. ”
Tim Acheson could be the poster boy for Spain’s digital nomad scheme.
The British fintech expert recently bought a town house in Maria with his wife, a village of one thousand inhabitants in southeastern Spain.
The couple, who travel from London to Spain once a month, are now permanently considering moving to their new home.
“The internet in Maria is better than in London – and I live next to an internet exchange in London,” he told VOA.
“Our home is about two hours drive from Alicante Airport, so it is well connected. No one there speaks English, but we are learning the language fast and everyone is friendly with us. ”
Acheson and his wife became residents of Spain last year, which means they cannot take full advantage of the nomadic visa.
“I really hope Spain does this nomadic visa. They have one of the best internet systems in Europe and a great standard of living.