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8. Legislation on foreign investment and exchange control

8.2 Exchange control regulations

Exchange control and capital movements are fully deregulated and in all areas there is complete freedom of action.

The basic regulation on exchange control is contained in Law 19/2003 on the legal arrangements governing the movement of capital and economic transactions abroad and in Royal Decree 1816/1991 on Economic Transactions Abroad, which uphold the principle of deregulation of capital movements.

8.2.1 The main features of the Spanish exchange control provisions currently in force can be summarized as follows:

  1. Freedom of action

    As a general rule, all acts, businesses, transactions and operations between residents and non-residents which involve or may involve payments abroad or receipts from abroad are completely deregulated. This includes payments or receipts (made either directly or by offset), transfers to or from abroad and changes in accounts or financial debit or credit positions abroad. It also covers the import and export of means of payment.

  2. Safeguard clauses and exceptional measures

    EU rules may prohibit or restrict the performance of certain transactions, and the respective collections, payments, bank transfers or changes in accounts or financial positions, in respect of third countries.

    The Spanish government may also impose prohibitions or restrictions in respect of one state or of a group of states, a certain territory or an extra-territorial center, or suspend the deregulation system for certain acts, businesses, transactions or operations. However, the application of these prohibitions and limitations is only envisaged in especially serious scenarios.

  3. Types of bank accounts

    Non-resident individuals and legal entities can hold bank accounts on the same conditions as resident individuals and legal entities. The only requirement, on opening the bank account, is that they provide documentary evidence of the non-resident status of the account holder. Additionally, such status must be confirmed to the bank every two years. Other minor formalities are also stipulated.

    Moreover, residents may, subject to certain reporting requirements, freely open and hold bank accounts abroad either in euros or in foreign currency (when opened, they must be declared to the Bank of Spain), and foreign currency bank accounts in Spain at registered institutions (without being subject to any reporting requirement).

  4. Residence for exchange control purposes

    For exchange control purposes, individuals are deemed to be resident in Spain if they reside habitually in Spain. Legal entities with registered offices in Spain, and the establishments and branches in Spain of individuals or legal entities resident abroad, are likewise deemed resident in Spain for exchange control purposes.

    Individuals whose habitual residence is abroad, legal entities with registered offices abroad, and permanent establishments and branches abroad of Spanish resident individuals or entities are deemed non-residents for exchange control purposes.

    Habitual residence is defined in accordance with tax legislation, albeit with the adaptations established by regulations (which regulations are currently pending implementation).