If you’re thinking of moving overseas to Spain, it can feel quite overwhelming. There are so many things to consider, plan and prepare. You might feel a mixture of emotions, excitement about this big move but worry if everything will work out ok.
I moved to Madrid just over a year ago and people often ask me how easy it was moving to Spain. Luckily with my UK passport still allowing full access to the European Union it was quite simple for me to move to Spain.
This guide will go through the most important things to consider when moving to Spain, wherever you’re from.
I will share my practical tips for moving to Spain. Things you can do to help make the move easier and some advice on how to best prepare for the move. Plus the essential things you need to do when you arrive in Spain.
I’m not a lawyer or expert on residency requirements in Spain, I just wanted to share my experience and what I have learnt about moving to Spain for a long-stay. Where needed I will link to companies and government websites that can offer further services and advice.
**If you are planning to move to Spain get our FREE Moving to Spain to do list It will help you to plan your move and make sure everything is organised.
Who can move to Spain?
Citizens of EU member countries
Moving to Spain is very simple if you have a passport from one of the European Union Member states or the EEA. Part of the mutual agreement is that as an EU National you can live in any EU country. You would therefore not need to get a visa and have no restriction on the number of days spent in the country.
Including UK Citizens – Pre Brexit
Obviously following Brexit there will be significant changes to the procedure for UK citizens who want to move to Spain and other European countries. At the moment the UK is still a member of the EU, we are scheduled to leave the European Union on 29th March 2019 and it is likely that a 21 month transition period will follow.
Currently, anyone with a UK passport who wants to live in Spain can still do so, up until Brexit takes full affect and the UK leaves the European Union. Once negotiations have finished and the post-Brexit rules are clear I will write an article to update the procedure for UK citizens.
Citizens of Schengen Agreement countries
If you have a passport from one of the Schengen Agreement countries you can apply for the Schengen visa and stay in Spain for up to 90 days.
Citizens of Canada, New Zealand and Australia
If you have a Canadian, New Zealand or Australian passport and aged 18-30 you can apply for the 1-year Spain Youth Mobility Program also known as “working holiday”.
Citizens of all other countries
If you have a passport that does not fall in one of the above special agreements you have 3 long-stay visa options for living in Spain; Student visa, work visa or retirement visa.
For all the above, contact your nearest Spanish Embassy for more information.
Things to consider before you move to Spain
Do you need a visa?
To find out if you need a visa to live in Spain for an extended stay contact your nearest Spanish Embassy or visit this website. You must determine which type of visa you need, make sure you meet the requirements and complete all necessary steps to apply.
Do you have enough money?
The general cost of living in Spain is low compared to the UK or United States. The price of food, utilities, leisure activities and eating out can be significantly lower than average across Europe.
Living costs differ from place to place in Spain. For example, if you want to live in rural Southern Spain or one of the Spanish Islands your accommodation rental will be significantly lower than in Madrid or Barcelona city centre.
Be aware that most Spain visas will require you to have sufficient funds in the bank to support yourself while in the country.
For current examples of the cost of living in Spain check out Expatistan.
Will you be able to find a job?
If your visa or country agreement allows you to work in Spain (and you’re not on a work visa) you will also need to think about finding a job.
Finding work is not easy in Spain and again will really depend on where you choose to move to. The unemployment rate in Spain is one of the highest in Europe but the job market is in recovery. There has been an increase in job opportunities particularly for those industries that require skilled workers.
Before you head out to Spain take a look at job boards to see if there is a demand for the skills and experience you have. Try to line up a job or at least make some contacts in advance. Be aware that most companies will require that you speak Spanish unless you are looking for seasonal or tourism work.
The Local and Think Spain advertise English speaking jobs in Spain.
Things to do before you move to Spain
Choose where you want to live
Spain is a huge country, so it’s a good idea to narrow down what area of Spain you want to live in. It helps if you have been there before so that you can get an idea of whether it’s the kind of place you will be happy living in for longer than a few months.
Be aware that the weather, language and local customs differ from region to region across Spain.
*RELATED article: A quick guide to the different regions of Spain
Research the area
Once you have chosen your perfect location to live in Spain do as much research on the area as possible. Read guide books, blogs and any information you can get your hands on.
Think about what day to day life will be like and make sure everything you might need is easy to reach. For example if you have medical needs is there and doctor that specialises nearby, if you are moving with children are there suitable schools nearby.
Learn some Spanish
Learning some Spanish will put you in a great position and make sorting out the local paperwork so much easier. You’ll need just the basics to get you started and can always continue with lessons locally.
Having a rental property already lined up to move straight into makes the move much easier. It’s surprisingly easy to do this from home using websites like Airbnb or Spotahome who over short-long term rental.
You can sign up to just a short-term rental and search for the perfect place to live once you get settled in through a local estate agent. But having a base straight away will help with the shipping of belongings from home, sorting out bank accounts and finding a job.
If you are a student or moving overseas alone and want to find a house share to rent a room Room lala and Gabino Home are good websites.
Make sure a rental contract is provided and signed by both you and the landlord (unless using airbnb, they have their own rules and rental agreements). Translate it into English before signing so that you know exactly what it says and make sure it includes the tenancy end date, termination rules, the payment of utility bills and deposit required.
*RELATED article: What is happening with Airbnb in Spain?
Pack only what you need
You really don’t need to take everything with you, pack only what you will need and be likely to use in Spain. It’s best to have a big clear out and give away clothes you wont be wearing in Spain or sell furniture you no longer need or wont fit in your new home.
Consider arranging storage for any large items that you cannot take on the initial flight/drive to Spain and maybe hire a long-haul removal company for the things you just cant leave behind.
Things to do when you arrive in Spain
Every foreigner must get an identity number when they plan to stay in Spain for longer than a holiday. It’s called an NIE number “Número de Identificación de Extranjero”. This is the first thing you should organise when you arrive in Spain.
Without an NIE you can’t open a bank account, get paid, apply for a driving license or install wifi.
The way that you obtain the NIE differs across Spain so it’s best to check the procedure in your local area. Some parts of Spain you need to go to a designated council office and others you go to the police station.
In most cases you will need to prepare all the necessary paperwork in advance. Print the correct forms from the government website, complete them and make photocopies. Take your passport, visa, work contract, course acceptance, rental contract etc and photocopies. If in doubt photocopy everything twice.
Be prepared to fill out more forms when you get there and pay local taxes, so take some change or you might need to go to a nearby back to pay and get a receipt.
The whole process does take a while, often you are expected to queue and wait your turn. Getting an NIE can be boring and confusing but the piece of paper (or card in some cases) with your assigned NIE number is very important.
For more info about NIE in Spain check out this article on Spanish Property Insight.
Once you have your NIE you can open a bank account. Choose any Spanish high street bank and make an appointment with a personal banker. Take all your id and paperwork with you to fill out the forms and set up an account. You might well be sent away and told to come back a few days later for a 2nd appointment to finalize the account opening.
All banks in Spain will issue a contactless payment card, give you access to online banking and telephone assistance. In my experience Sabadell offer the most services in English. Some accounts will require a minimum deposit each month or charge monthly fees so do some research to choose the bank and account that is best for you.
Visa renewal and extensions
Be aware of any requirement to renew your visa or to apply for extensions.
Make sure you know what is required of you from a tax point of view. Get all the necessary paperwork in order and if you’re not sure seek advice from an accountant.
Getting settled in once you move to Spain
Find other people who are new to the area, interact with locals, join groups and local events. The more you socialise the quicker you will settle in.
Keep learning Spanish
Aim to become fluent if you want to live in Spain long-term, it takes time and patience but will be worth it. Have confidence, keep practicing and peak in Spanish as much as you can.
Explore the area you have moved to as much as you can. For the first few weeks you will feel like a tourist but wander around, have fun, make friends and before you know you will know your way around like the back of your hand.
*RELATED article: My experience when I first moved to Spain – The reality of adjusting to Spanish life
I hope that this article has given you some useful information and practical tips for moving to Spain. Spain is an amazing place to life and we really enjoy life here. Our plan is to move here permanently in the next few years and a buy a house.
I will keep you updated with how things work out for us here and anything I learn that might be helpful for anyone thinking of moving to Spain.
*RELATED article: Things I love about Spain vs Things I find annoying
Seeking the Spanish Sun share lots of useful travel guides and information about different destinations in Spain, check out our other articles…
We also have a FREE “moving to Spain to-do list” available when you join our mailing list. Click on the link below to receive it and get planning your move 🙂
Thanks for writing this! I’m in the process of moving to Valencia and I’m super excited. I’ll use your tips on the bank stuff. That’s what I’m most nervous about right now.
Good luck with your move to Valencia Lauren 🙂
This is great and comprehensive info – thank you so much for putting it together!
No problem at all, I hope the info is helpful to you!
I’ve always wanted to pick up and move to another country. These are great tips, some that can certainly be applied to anywhere in the world! Good for you for making the change, and I hope it is everything you’d hoped it would be!
Hi Lauren! Thanks, it does feel daunting at the beginning but well worth it if it’s something you really want to do. Everything is going great for us so far, fingers crossed it stays that way.
Nice article. We’re full time travellers but last year we took a break and obtained a 1 year Temporary Stay in Croatia. Was great and we considered renewing, but conditions onerous and we decided that it wasn’t the place for us. But we’re considering Spain: we both speak Spanish and spent a few months in Sevilla a few years ago and enjoyed it. We’d like to work towards permanent residency somewhere in Europe and Spain makes sense to us. Now we just have to figure out where we would want to live and go through the paperwork (we’re Canadian, so a bit more complicated for us than it was for you.)
Good luck with it all Frank! I spent years traveling and searching for a place I felt most happy to settle in. Spain just feels right and I hope to have my permanent residency soon. I hope it all works out for you guys too 🙂
I don’t plan to move to Spain but have definitely thought about the prospects of partly living there when I get much older. The Brexit issue doesn’t make me feel good about how easy it will be to live there in 10 years or so. I believe it will be a lot harder to move around if you have a British passport. Very useful information!
The Spanish lifestyle and climate is certainly very tempting. I’m still confident that we will be able to buy property in Spain after Brexit but we might not be able to come and go as we please, like we do now. I will follow what happens closely and post updates here. Thanks for reading and commenting.
Thank you for the valuable tips! I am considering moving to Barcelona and was glad to get my fingers onto the work search sites already :))
How was the issue of work for you? Have you shared about it on your blog already? It would be lovely to read how it functions in real life :))
Thanks Marina, glad you enjoyed the post and the information was useful to you! My boyfriends work offered him a job move from London to Madrid and I work for them part-time, so we were lucky to have jobs lined up already. Those job advertising sites will help you see what sort of positions are available in Barcelona. Good luck with it all!
That was a happy arrangement of things 😊 Enjoy Madrid!
My man is from Bcn and it looks he will make it in terms of money. While I have to learn the language and plunge into job searching asap. A bit scary and very exciting perspective))
Keep on sharing!