Moving to Spain
Updated: Mar 19
Introduction to this guide
The route to moving – visas
Healthcare in Spain
Taxation in Spain
Driving in Spain
Learning more about Spain
Arriving in Spain
Where to get help
Hints and tips before you move
Age in Spain seeks to assist English speakers of all ages and nationalities live life to the full in Spain.
Many people dream of living in Spain because they are attracted by the climate, the way of life, the culture and, of course, the food and wine! Spain is a hugely popular holiday destination but there is a world of difference between visiting a country for a few weeks and living there permanently.
The experience of thousands of people who have moved to Spain shows that thorough preparation is essential if relocation to Spain is to be successful and happy.
Citizens of countries who are members of the European Union enjoy freedom of movement and may move to live and work in Spain with relative ease, although they still have to register with the Spanish authorities.
Others from countries such as the UK, USA, Australia etc need more preparation before moving.
This guide is aimed at helping you to begin that preparation.
2 THE ROUTE TO MOVING
Citizens of countries which are not members of the European Union (called third country nationals) are restricted to staying in Spain for a maximum of 90 days in any 180 day period. If you intend to live in Spain for longer than 90 days then you must apply for a visa and you need to do so in your home country.
WHY MOVE TO SPAIN?
The type of visa you apply for will be determined by what you wish to do in Spain for example: if you intend to work, set up a business or retire for a life of leisure.
These are the types of visas currently available:
Temporary stays: Many countries have a 90 day visa-free regime with the Schengen Area, of which Spain is a member. If you are from a country that does not have a visa-free regime with the EU, you will need first to obtain a Schengen visa.
Retiring to Spain: If you are planning to live in Spain for an extended period of time without working, you can apply for the Non-Lucrative Visa. This visa requires you to show you have a level of financial security that will allow you to sustain yourself (and your family) while living in Spain without working. For more information about this visa: Age in Spain’s guide on the Non-Lucrative Visa.
Working in Spain: If you intend to be employed or self-employed in Spain, you will need to apply for the work visa or the self-employed visa. To qualify for a work visa you need to have an employer in place. They will be part of the application process.
If you plan to start a business you will need to apply for the self-employed visa. This entails presenting a business plan as part of the application. For more information, check our gjuides on the working visa and self-employed visa.
Investing in Spain (Golden Visa): The golden visa is different to the others as it allows you to live and work in Spain without requiring you to stay 6 months per year in order to keep your residency rights. The golden visa requires you to make a certain investment in either real estate, Spanish businesses or Spanish public bonds. For more information about this visa, check the Age in Spain’s guide on the golden visa.
Applying for a visa
All visa applications must be made to the Spanish Consular Office in the country from which you wish to move. The exception to this is the work visa for which your prospective employer will apply. After obtaining the visa, you will be able to live in Spain and renew your residency permit at the appropriate time. In some cases, you might be able to change from one type of visa to another.
3 HEALTHCARE IN SPAIN
Being able to access healthcare is a major consideration when planning to move to Spain. This is not just vital for your health care needs but having adequate arrangements in place is also an essential part of qualifying for a visa to live in Spain.
Buying private healthcare insurance
You must have the correct type of private health insurance in place when applying for a visa. The Spanish authorities will check that your private health insurance offers cover, at least equal to the Spanish Healthcare System, without any co-payments, excess or exclusions.
Age in Spain partners with ASISA, which offers a new health insurance policy specifically for English-speakers who visit and live in Spain which meets the visa requirements. Contact our free service email@example.com for personalised information and assistance in selecting the policy that best meets your needs. Or, if you prefer, use this link for a direct quote. By using this link, you will also support Age in Spain’s important work with older people in Spain without any additional cost to yourself if you purchase a policy. Click here for more information about what we offer.
Spanish State Healthcare
The Spanish Health Service is very highly regarded throughout the world. As a foreign resident you can access the system in any of the following ways:
Working in Spain – contributory scheme
Under this scheme if you are employed or self-employed, part of your salary will be deducted as a contribution to the Spanish Social Security system. This entitles you to State Healthcare for as long as you continue working in Spain. It will also allow you to claim for unemployment benefit.
Becoming a permanent resident
Foreigners who become permanent residents in Spain after living there for 5 years will gain full access to Spanish State Healthcare, regardless of their employment status.
Paying for State Healthcare (Convenio Especial)
After a year of being a legal resident in Spain, you will have the opportunity to apply to opt into the Spanish Health system for a monthly fee of 60 euros, if you are under 65, or 157 euros if you are over 65. For some people this is an attractive option as the cost is not affected by preconditions or age.
4 TAXATION IN SPAIN
The 183 days rule
Everyone who remains in Spain for 183 days or more is considered a tax resident and must make a report on their worldwide income and assets to the Spanish Tax Authority, known as the Hacienda.
Unless the Hacienda accepts that you are a tax resident in another country, if you are moving to Spain by way of a visa, then inevitably you will become a tax resident, since normally you may only leave the country for a maximum of 6 months per year, and a total of 10 months during the period of your first residency permit.
There are double taxation agreements in place between Spain and many other countries which ensure that you do not pay tax on the same items twice. This is a complex area and we recommend that you seek professional advice.
You can find some more information on taxation in Spain here.
5 DRIVING IN SPAIN
To drive in Spain as a resident, it is necessary to exchange your driving licence for a Spanish one. Current regulations mean that any non-Spanish driving licence is valid for 6 months after arrival in Spain. You can find information on driving in Spain, including how to register your vehicle in Spain below.
6 LEARNING MORE ABOUT SPAIN
Spain is a very big country, divided into 17 regions called Comunidades Autónomas. Rich in history and culture, it has a huge number of interesting and beautiful places to visit. With its different climatic conditions and breathtaking nature, it can be difficult to know which part of Spain is right for you. To help you with this, have a look at the Kyero guide “Where to Live in Spain”, with lots of great information on the most popular Spanish provinces. https://www.kyero.com/en/guides/place/spain-0l55529
The official language of Spain is Spanish, also known as Castillian. There are also a number of other languages spoken in different regions of the country such as Galego in Galicia, Catalán in Valencia, Catalonia and the Balearic Islands and Euskadi in the Basque Country.
One of the first things you will notice in Spain is how different opening hours are from most other countries. Mornings are the best time to get something done in Spain, as most businesses take long lunch breaks and won’t open again until later in the afternoon. Other services, such as public administration offices or banks, are only open for a few hours in the morning.
In most places, opening hours will be as follows:
Most businesses and shops open every day at 9am, will take a lunch break from 2pm to 5pm, and then close by 9pm. This excludes most supermarkets, which are often open all day.
Bars and restaurants will normally serve lunch from 1pm to 4pm, and dinner from 8pm to 11pm. However, Spanish bars are usually open all day for snacks and drinks.
Banks and public institutions have office opening hours from 9am until 2pm, and will remain closed for the rest of the day.
Sundays most businesses are closed (except for shopping malls, big brands or small local supermarkets).
7 ARRIVING IN SPAIN
The first month
Congratulations! You have now got your visa and arrived in Spain. Now you must attend to some important administrative matters.
Register with your Town Hall
One of the first things to do is register with your Town Hall and obtain the empadronamiento also known as the padrón. The padrón is a document that officially states your address and who lives with you. It is essential for almost every other administrative procedure in Spain.
Apply for your residency card
Within the first month of your stay, it is mandatory to apply for a residency card, also known as TIE (Tarjeta de Identidad de Extranjero). This is your Spanish Identity Card which contains your photograph, fingerprints and NIE number. The NIE number is the Foreigner's Identification Number (Número de Identificación de Extranjero) which is used in most administrative processes, such as opening a bank account, or obtaining a mobile phone contract. The TIE is a biometric card so you will have to book an appointment at a police office to apply and have your fingerprints taken. You will also need to present a recent copy of your padrón and pay a small fee. For more information on this process, check our guide on how to apply for your residency card.
Open a Spanish bank account
It is recommended that you open a Spanish bank account. You will need this to enter into certain contracts and rental agreements. You will also be able to use the network of ATMs without having to pay a commission every time you want to take money from your account. Unlike many other countries, Spanish banks charge fees for their services, even if your account is in credit. You are advised to compare charges so that you can get the account that best suits your circumstances.
Apply for your medical card (TSI)
If you are relocating to Spain as an employed or self-employed person, and you are contributing to the Spanish Social Security system, you will need to apply for your medical card (TSI, Tarjeta Sanitaria Individual). The medical card will grant you access to your local primary care centre, a GP and hospital care.
Apply for a Social Security number
Having a Social Security number can be useful even if you are not currently working or are already covered by private health insurance. This number will be useful in case you get a job, need to apply for benefit or need assistance from the Spanish Social Security system in the future.
8 WHERE TO GET HELP
Your local Town Hall/Tourist Office
Many places have an Information Service about the facilities and services in the area where you live. They may also be able to provide information on local voluntary organisations or meeting points for English speakers.
Contact your Embassy
In case of emergency, such as accident or death, contact the Consular Service of the country of which you are a citizen.
English speaking lawyers and gestorías: in Spain
This list is provided by the UK government
Gestorías: what you need to know
The processes to apply for residency and arrange healthcare can seem daunting and therefore many people engage the services of a Gestoría. These are businesses that offer to provide legal and administrative assistance. Normally a gestoría is specialised in certain legal areas such as immigration, taxes, employment etc. For a fee, a gestoría can help with most of your administrative procedures.
However, if you decide to use a gestoría please ensure that you select a reputable firm. This sector is not regulated, unlike lawyers and accountants, and they might have general or specialist experience in different areas. You have to be sure that the gestoría you select has relevant experience and knowledge of the issue you need help with. This is particularly important in respect of residency applications. Many people have found that they have received a poor service from some gestorías which have advised them incorrectly.
Use the Age in Spain residency guides to help you understand what the residency requirements are, which will then mean you can make informed choices about the help you need in managing your own affairs.
9 HINTS AND TIPS BEFORE YOU MOVE
Take Spanish lessons
Being able to speak some Spanish will make life much easier and give you the best chance of integrating into the local community where you will live.
Travel before deciding where to live
You may have your heart set on living in the town or village which you visited on holiday, however Spain is a very large country with a lot to offer, so why not travel a little before deciding where you will live permanently?
Try before you buy
Before selling up and buying in Spain it may be best to rent for a while to experience your proposed new location in different seasons and weathers.
Have a contingency plan
If your move doesn’t work out as you planned, or if you are affected by the illness or even the death of a loved one, do you have a plan to deal with this?
10 Contact Age in Spain
Age is Spain is a volunteer led, charitable body with a small professional staff team. We make no charge for the information we provide. While we strive to provide the latest updates and the best information guides, they cannot cover every individual question. If you need further help, contact our free Infoline service. Our volunteers and staff will be happy to help.
Infoline and General Enquiries
Our Infoline is staffed between 11:00h and 15:00h (Spanish mainland time), Monday to Thursday. We are closed on Friday, Saturday and Sunday and Spanish national holidays.
Phone: +34 932 20 97 41