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Guide to Moving to Spain – There’re so many wonderful reasons to move to Spain, such as the gorgeous cities, rich culture, high quality of life, comparably low cost of living, top-notch healthcare, and a big expat community.
Once you’ve decided that relocating to Spain is an option for you, it’s time to arm yourself with practical tips about:
Moving abroad takes a lot of hard work, planning, and commitment. It can also be stressful and often costly. To make relocation to Spain a smooth process, use this checklist.
Setting aside time to learn about the country and its culture is only going to reduce culture shocks and make settling in faster and simpler. Here’re some things you should know before you move to Spain:
Spanish culture is rich in traditions, and it influences how the Spanish live their life, from how they greet each other to how they approach dating, what they eat across the different regions, or how they celebrate local festivities. Overall, learning about Spanish culture and traditions is only going to help you understand the locals better and ease into life in Spain with little to no culture shocks.
Spain has 4 main languages: Spanish, Catalan, Galician, and Basque. 99% of the population speaks Spanish as a first or second language. Catalan is spoken in Catalonia, Valencia and the Balearic Islands, Galician in Galicia, and Basque in the Basque Country.
Although English is spoken in the bigger cities by the younger generation and expats, the overall proficiency is low. It’s best you learn Spanish at one of the many language schools or at least learn basic Spanish phrases to get by.
Yes, Spain is known for its sunny weather, but the climate varies depending on the season and across the different regions. Since this will impact how you pack for your life in Spain, it’s something you should know before you go.
Having a basic understanding of the Spanish governmental system and political parties will help as their decisions will impact you in terms of financial support, tax reductions, access to healthcare, and more.
The only way to know if moving to Spain is a good idea for you is to research how easy is it to move to Spain, what opportunities are there, how easy is it to get a job or university placement, etc.
If you’re a student, find out about what’s it like to study at Spanish universities and how to get an internship. If you’re moving for work, explore the top Spanish companies to work for and the average salary in Spain. If you want to be self-employed, learn what it takes to open your own business in Spain as a foreigner. If you’re a parent, learn more about the Spanish education system for children. If you’re planning on retiring in Spain as a foreigner, learn more about pensions and the best cities to live in
For most internationals, this will be pre-determined by the city they got a job in or are studying in. But if you’re more interested in a particular city, you can also plan your job, study, or retirement around it. Either way, it’s worth reading up about the best Spanish cities to live in to know what to expect from each place.
To know if you can live abroad comfortably, you need to set up a realistic budget based on Spain’s cost of living. Financial sufficiency is also an important requirement for a successful visa application.
Once you know what you want to move to Spain for, where you want to live, and if you can afford it, it’s time to find out if you meet the requirements to move to Spain.
Unless you’re an EU/EEA citizen who has the freedom to move and live anywhere in the Schengen area, moving abroad is not that easy for foreigners. Most non-Europeans need to get a job in Spain or get accepted to one of the universities in Spain to get residency for a year or more. Alternatively, they must have huge savings or sustainable passive income to move to Spain.
Depending on why you’re moving, you’ll have to pick the appropriate visa option. For a list of documents and steps, have a look below:
While you await your visa approval, it’s time to search for housing. Start looking 3 – 4 months in advance because the influx of foreigners has led to high demand for housing in Spain.
To find the ideal rental house, investigate the various neighbourhoods in the city and whether it has good public transport connections. Finally, know the average rent in Spanish cities to set a realistic budget and speak to the team at Property in Malaga (propertyinmalaga.com) for help and advice.
Be sure to ask your landlord (and check your lease agreement) to see if utilities will be included in the monthly price. If not, you will also need to arrange and pay for utilities in Spain yourself.
Before you depart for Spain, get your birth certificate or marriage certificate translated into Spanish and apostilled as you’ll need this for important paperwork in Spain. It’s often difficult and time-consuming to obtain this once you’ve left your home country, so set yourself a reminder!
A few weeks before your move, you’ll likely need to cancel your current rental and utility contract, cancel any subscriptions, shut down your bank account, and de-register (if applicable). Once you’ve done that, ship your things to Spain, if you need to, and hop on the train or plane to España!
Once you arrive in Spain, you’ll need to apply for a residence permit within 30 days to legally live in the country.
If you’re staying between 3 and 6 months, apply for Tarjeta de Residencia. If you’re staying longer than 6 months, you’ll need to apply for your TIE card — Tarjeta de Identidad de Extanjero.
Anyone living in Spain for longer than 6 months is required to register their address at the town hall. Once you register, you’ll get your certificado de empadronamiento. With your empadronamiento you’ll be able to do lots of things, such as apply for your NIE number (tax number), buy a house, get health insurance, etc.
NIE number or Número de Identidad de Extranjero refers to your unique tax number. It’s an essential document for setting up your life in Spain and it’s a requirement for anyone living here for more than 3 months. The steps to getting your NIE number are simple.
It’s a legal requirement to have valid health insurance in Spain. For a quick overview:
International students need to apply for private health insurance with full coverage in Spain.
If you’re working in Spain, you and your dependents will get free access to public healthcare as you’ll be making social security contributions every month from your salary. To get healthcare, you just need to apply for your health card (Tarjeta Sanitaria Individual).
If you’re from the EU, EEA or Switzerland, you can use your EHIC for the first 3 months. After that, you’ll need to apply for Spanish public health insurance. Optionally, you can also apply for private health insurance in Spain if you want to avoid long waiting lines and have access to English-speaking doctors.
Opening a bank account in Spain will be very useful because you’ll easily be able to pay rent, withdraw money, pay at shops and restaurants, and transfer money to friends in Spain or within the EU with 0 to minimal costs. Don’t lose your hard-earned money to conversion rates and bank charges by using your foreign card!
Getting a Spanish SIM card will save you a lot of money, especially if you’re not from the EU. Not only will you be able to make local calls for free or cheap but you’ll also be able to use the internet with no roaming charges within the EU.
Unless you’re unemployed, you need to register with Spain’s tax agency — Agencia Tributaria — to pay taxes. Taxes in Spain can be complicated and we recommend reading the guide to learn more about the tax rates, how to register, and how to reduce taxes.
When you’re living abroad, especially on your own, it’s important to stay safe and be covered for unexpected costs. If you’re a car or homeowner in Spain, it’s mandatory to get insurance — even for expats. Other optional but recommended insurance include life, liability, and contents insurance.
Spain has agreements with several non-European countries, which allow you to exchange your foreign driver’s licence within 6 months. You simply have to register with Spain’s traffic authority — Directorate-General for Traffic (DGT). If you miss this window, you’ll need to take the Spanish driving theory and practical exam.
If you’re an EU or EEA national, you can use your original licence for 2 years. After that, you need to exchange it for a Spanish licence.
There’s a lot to think about when you’re planning your relocation to Spain. Moving permanently means that you’ll need to know about everything from residency, visas, schooling (English Schools in Malaga), healthcare and more. – There’s a lot to think about. We have put together some information for you but remember we’re always here for a chat.
Spain is the most popular European country for British expats, with well over 400,000 making the move and officially registering as living in Spain. With its relaxing lifestyle, cheap cost of living and an average of 310 days of sunshine per year the pull of Spanish life is unsurprising.
Since 1st January 2021, the UK is now considered a “third country”. Any British citizen who wants to emigrate to Spain (or stay for longer than three months in the country) will need to apply for a visado nacionale (long-term visa). This includes those who have a second home in Spain, but no form of residency.
The main visas/residence permits are as follows:
A British citizen can move to Spain through the following routes:
There are several different work visas within the Visado de trabajo y residencia category. Your employer will need to request the relevant work permit for the type of job you will be doing and submit the application to the Ministry of Labour in Spain.
Usually, you will receive a copy of the application with a stamp from the office and a file number after the application has been submitted.
For standard Spanish work visa applications, the processing time can be as long as eight months. The work permit is valid for one year and can be extended. After five years of residence in Spain, you can apply for long-term residency. Other Spanish work visas include:
It is possible to move to Spain as a self-employed person either by registering as an ‘Autonomo’ or through registering your own limited company. More than three million people are currently registered as self-employed in Spain.
First, you will need to apply for a work and residency permit from the Spanish embassy in the UK. When you apply for the permit, you will need to provide certain documents and information.
This might include:
You may also need to apply for a freelance visa to become a self-employed person in Spain.
Firstly, you will need to register your business for the Impuesto sobre actividades economicas (tax for economic activities) with a tax authority office. You will need to provide your passport and NIE number to complete the application.
You will also need to be either an independent professional (profesional autonomo) or sole trader (empresario individual) to register for tax purposes. You will be asked to complete Modelo 036 or 037 (declaracion censal), after which you will be given a personal tax certificate (Impuesto sobre la Renta de las Personas Fiscas or IRPF).
As an Autonomo, you will need to contact the Spanish social security authority to inform them that you are freelancing in Spain. Autonomos need to register with the Spanish social security system under the Special Regime for Autonomous Workers (Regimen Especial de Trabajadores Autonomos).
At your appointment, you may need to provide the following information:
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