Moving to Spain as an Expat: A Comprehensive Guide
Are you planning moving to Spain as an expat? We can say that it’s a great choice! Spain has a rich culture, delicious cuisine, and sunny weather. It’s like a dream destination for many expats.
In this blog, we’ll guide you through the process of relocation to Spain. We’ll provide information to help you navigate your move. So, let’s start your Spanish adventure!
Understanding Spanish Customs
Spain, one of the Western European countries, offers many warm memories to newcomers.
Friendships in Spain
In Spain, social circles thrive on regular gatherings. And the essence of these gatherings is good food and wine.
Especially if you speak Spanish, you’ll be more than welcome in Spain. So, learning the language is a great first step to making friends.
Meeting people can happen anywhere. There might be a large group of people coming together. Or, you can try attending language exchange groups. The key to meeting new people is common interests.
In general, the Spanish people are friendly to foreigners. As an expat living in Spain, you can embrace Spanish culture. In the end, you’ll see people appreciating it.
You’ll not just be an expat in Spain; you’ll be a part of the Spanish lifestyle. Are you curious about it already?
Living in Spain as an Expat
From the Spanish healthcare system to the country’s language diversity, we’ll discover what it’s like to live in Spain.
Language in Spain
Spanish is the most widely spoken language in Spain. It’s also the official language, and Spanish people throughout the country speak the language.
However, Spanish isn’t the only local language in Spain. There’s a linguistic diversity. For instance, Catalan is the co-official language in Catalonia the Valencian Community, and the Balearic Islands. In addition, it’s spoken in the eastern strip of the Aragon region and in the Carche area of the Region of Murcia.
There are several other languages spoken in Spain, which is one of the signs of diversity in this country.
Housing in Spain for Expats
As you embark on your housing search in Spain, you’ll come across different types of houses. In mountainous and pastoral areas, you’ll often find multistory dwellings. On the other hand, in the lowlands, it’s more common to see single-story houses or low houses with courtyards.
Types of Housing in Spain
🏙️Apartments and flats: Apartments are the top choice for property in Spain. It’s especially common in cities like Madrid. These apartments usually have 2 to 3 bedrooms, a kitchen, and a small sitting area.
🏘️Villas: Villas are a luxury property option in Spain, generally located in the suburbs. These houses usually have multiple bedrooms and bathrooms, providing comfort and privacy.
🏚️Townhouses: Townhouses in Spain often have multiple rooms. You can come across townhouses in large towns and cities. The average home has 1.9 rooms per person, and houses with 3–6 rooms are the most common.
🏬Urbanizations: In Spain, you’ll find housing communities with apartments, townhouses, and villas. These housing communities also have amenities like shops, transport, and sports complexes. The buildings can be small or large. Moreover, you may need to make a significant investment in repair or upkeep. So the prices can be appealing. ecosystem.
Tax in Spain
Who has to pay tax in Spain? Will you be paying taxes in Spain when you move there as an expat? It depends on your residency status.
Many expats who earn an income or own assets in Spain need to pay taxes. Depending on your place of residence, you can be considered a resident or non-resident taxpayer in Spain.
Typically, you would be considered a tax resident in Spain if one or more of the following apply to you:
- You have spent more than 183 days in Spain.
- Your primary professional activities are conducted in Spain.
- Your main interests (for example, your spouse or children who are still dependent on you) live in Spain.
Spain’s tax rates in 2023 are as follows:
- Up to €12,450: 19%
- €12,451–€20,200: 24%
- €20,201–€35,200: 30%
- €35,201–€60,000: 37%
- €60,001–€300,000: 45%
- More than €300,000 47%
Healthcare and Insurance in Spain
In Spain, all citizens and residents have guaranteed access to universal healthcare. Expats and short-term residents who pay social security contributions are included in the healthcare program.
The National Health System provides people with free public healthcare. If you’re not eligible for the national healthcare plan, you can also purchase private health insurance.
Spain has one of the best healthcare systems in Europe. As an expat living in Spain, you’ll benefit from the healthcare system (Sistema Nacional de Salud-SNS). Plus, if you’re a legal resident, your family members also qualify for the healthcare system.
What else do you need to know about the healthcare system?
- Seeing a general practitioner for medical attention
- Visiting one of the nearest emergency centers
Expats who move to Spain have two choices regarding health insurance:
- Sign up for the national healthcare plan.
- Opt for private health insurance coverage.
Types of Visas for Moving to Spain as an Expat
Embarking on your journey as an expat in Spain begins with selecting the right visa. In this section, you’ll find the keys to unlock your Spanish adventure.
Let’s discover the types of visas in Spain for expats.
- Golden Visa in Spain
- Family Reunification Visa
- Student Visa
- Non-Lucrative Visa
- Job Search Visa
- Highly Skilled Visa
- Permanent Residency Visa
Golden Visa in Spain
The Golden Visa in Spain provides the right to residency and visa-free travel. It’s one of the options for expats moving to Spain.
Let’s check here if you can apply for a Golden Visa in Spain.
- At least 18 years old
- Legal resident of Spain
- A clean criminal record in the last five years
- Not on the list of undesirable people
- Private healthcare to cover your stay
- Proof of sufficient funds to live on without working in Spain
- Not been rejected for residence from certain other countries or from Spain.
- Not having any of the illnesses, according to a 2005 regulation.
If you’re willing to apply, you’ll have several investment options to choose from.
- €500,000 in property
- €2 million in Spanish Government Bonds
- €1 million in shares in Spanish companies
When you have a Golden Visa in Spain, you can reside, study, or work in Spain. And enjoy being an expat.
What else is possible by getting a Spain Golden Visa?
- Permanent residency
After five years of temporary residence, you may apply for permanent residency in Spain. Following 10 years of permanent residency, you may apply for citizenship.
Family Reunification Visa in Spain
Are you a foreigner, and do you have legal resident status in Spain? Then you can apply for a Family Reunification Visa for your family members.
The following family members can apply for a family reunification visa.
- The spouse or the person who maintains a partnership with the applicant
- The children of the applicant, the children of the spouse or partner
- The applicant’s parents (mother or father)
How can you apply? Here are the documents to apply for Family Reunification in Spain:
- A national visa application form
- A recent, passport-size, color photograph
- Valid, unexpired passport
- Initial family reunification permit
- Residence card of the applicant
- Documents proving family relationships
Moving to Spain to Study
First, you’ll need to be enrolled in an accredited educational institution in Spain. Once you’re enrolled, you can apply for a student visa in Spain.
Student Visa in Spain
After arriving in Spain with your student visa, don’t forget to obtain a Foreigner Identity Card (TIE). It’ll be proof of your legal stay in Spain for more than six months.
If you’re considering working at the same time, then start looking for a part-time job in Spain. You can also apply for a temporary position and make sure it doesn’t interfere with your studies.
Here are the steps to apply for a student visa:
- Choose your preferred university and course
- Get accepted by the university and receive an acceptance letter
- Check the visa requirements
- Prepare your documents
- Complete the visa application form
- Pay the visa application fee
- Schedule a visa interview
- Attend the visa interview
What are the Benefits of Studying in Spain?
Quality Education: Some of the best universities in Europe and the world are in Spain. The school system is organized and provides students with practice in the real world.
Cultural Diversity: Spain is a culturally varied country because of its long past and many customs. As an international student, you can fully experience this rich culture while you study in Spain.
Affordable Living Costs: The cost of living in Spain is usually lower than in the US and other European countries. This makes it an affordable place for foreign students.
Multilingual Experience: Did you know that Spanish is the second most spoken language in the world? It’ll be an advantage to improve your Spanish if you study in Spain.
Job Opportunities: The Spanish economy is strong, and there is a big need for skilled workers, especially in business management, marketing, and communication. If you study in Spain, you might be able to get useful internships and jobs after you graduate.
Strong International Connections: As a European Union country, Spain has good international connections. So you can have the option to travel to other EU countries or to the Middle East and North Africa.
Great Climate: The nice climate in Spain will make you enjoy the country more. The sunny weather makes Spain a popular place for foreign students.
Retirement Visa in Spain
The most popular retirement options for the expats are the Spain Golden Visa and Spain Non-Lucrative Visa.
Retiring in Spain as an expat involves considering options like the Spain Golden Visa, and the Spain Non-Lucrative Visa. There’s no specific retirement visa.
Spain Non-Lucrative Visa
This visa allows you to reside in Spain without working.
To apply, schedule an embassy appointment, gather the required documents, attend your visa appointment, and complete payment requirements.
- The visa fees vary depending on your nationality.
- If successful, you can expect feedback within 2–3 months.
Remember, this visa requires you to have enough money to support yourself without needing to work in Spain. It’s a popular option for retirees.
Job Search Visa
The job search visa stands as a residence permit for non-EU citizens who have successfully completed their studies in Spain. This visa extends their stay in the country by an additional year. It provides a crucial window for these graduates to seek employment or initiate their entrepreneurial ventures.
The Spain Job Search Visa is a residence permit for non-EU citizens. It allows one to stay in Spain for up to 24 months to seek employment or start a business.
Here’s a summary of the criteria:
- Non-EU students who have completed their studies in Spain.
- Family members of EU citizens may not need this permit but should check for other necessary authorizations.
- If a student’s immediate family has accompanied them during their course, they are covered by the permit while the applicant seeks work.
Requirements for Job Search Visa in Spain:
- Private health insurance
- Medical certificate
- Legal stay
- Financial proof
- Qualification certificate
Highly Skilled Visa
Non-EU citizens can benefit from the Highly Qualified Visa or Highly Skilled Professional Visa. This type of visa gives non-EU citizens the right to live and work in Spain legally. It’s important to secure a job offer in a Spanish company and in a qualified, technical, or managerial position.
Here are some of the requirements required for Highly Skilled Visa:
- Managers and chief officers manage a large group of people within a company.
- Individuals in highly technical and specialized job positions require prior knowledge and training.
- Non-EU citizens who completed their higher studies at a prestigious business school or university.
- This is a two-year residency authorization that can be renewed successively until achieving permanent or long-term residency. However, this visa is not aimed at freelancers, entrepreneurs, or “autónomos”.
To work in Spain as a highly qualified worker, pay attention to obtaining these first:
- A work and residence permit.
- A work and residence visa.
You can also apply for the highly-qualified professionals permit, a national residence permit parallel to the EU Blue Card.
Permanent Residency Visa
You can apply for a temporary or long-term residence permit in Spain as an expat.
What are the benefits of applying for permanent residence in Spain?
- Living and working legally in Spain for five years.
- Status similar to that of a Spanish citizen.
- Paths to permanent residency differ for EU and non-EU citizens.
Apply for permanent residency three months before your existing visa or permit expires. Then follow the steps below:
- Submit the application form (EX-17), current passport, residence permit, health insurance, medical certificate, and proof of residency in Spain.
- In some cases, you may also need to present criminal record certificates and marriage or divorce documents.
- The application fee is €80.
- After approval, submit your fingerprints at your local police station.
- Pick up your permanent residency card after a month.
Best Places to Live in Spain for Expats
Here are the most popular Spanish cities for expats: You can consider moving to one of the major cities in Spain as an expat.
Moving to Barcelona as an Expat
Barcelona is an ideal place for expats. The reason lies behind its culture, history, and job opportunities. It’s also a hub for business, education, and tourism.
It’s important to understand the unique cultural and linguistic landscape of Barcelona. Catalan is the primary official language. You’ll see Catalan rather than Spanish on public signs or metro instructions.
It’s a sunny city, and temperatures stay between 60°F and 80°F (15°C and 26°C) almost all year. Even in the winter months, temperatures only drop to 50°F (10°C).
You’ll enjoy stunning views and access to the Mediterranean coast in Barcelona.
It’s also close to other cities like Tarragona, Madrid, and Valencia. Moving to Barcelona as an expat can make you closer to many short train rides and allow you to explore the neighboring cities.
What’s more attractive than exploring a city on foot? Meeting with locals on the streets and discovering hidden places on your own is priceless. You’ll be able to walk a lot in Barcelona and go anywhere.
Barcelona can be extremely affordable. However, it depends on the city where you’re coming from.
We compare it with the USA, for example. The result is that Spain is significantly more affordable than the US.
On average, rent in Barcelona can cost anywhere from €800/month to €1500/month (approximately $850 to $1600).
Moving to Madrid as an Expat
Madrid has many reasons for expats to move in. Many foreign nationals come from Latin America to Madrid. One of the reasons is the employment opportunities for relocation to Madrid.
The location of the Spanish city is preferable for transportation. Accessibility gives you the freedom to locate anywhere. Madrid Barajas Airport is only 20 minutes away from the city center by car. And there’s a metro line to get there in one hour. You can travel easily when you move to Madrid as an expat.
Madrid offers a variety of neighborhoods to choose from. Most housing comes in the form of apartments. Housing options can be pricey, but they’re relatively affordable compared to other European capitals.
In Madrid, the average price to rent an apartment is between 600€ for a small apartment and 1200€ for a luxurious penthouse.
Moving to Valencia as an Expat
Valencia is a very popular city among expats. You’ll most probably make new expat friends in Valencia. It’s a very popular city among expats. Thanks to its lower cost of living, mild climate, and urban beaches.
Valencia offers a welcoming environment for foreigners. In 2019, around 13% of its population was made up of foreigners.
Community and Culture in Madrid: What the City Offers to Expats
- Locals are friendly and open to conversations.
- Expats can connect with each other online.
- Learning Spanish can help deepen connections with locals.
- Urban Development
Are you a bike enthusiast? You’ll find stunning bike paths in this ecological city.
Valencia is known for its ecological and urban mobility initiatives, including new bike paths and an efficient public transportation system.
The city promotes a healthy work-life balance. This contributes to an average life expectancy of 83.5 years. Furthermore, the city is safe, day and night.
The cost of living is relatively low, with monthly expenses (excluding rent) averaging €657.
The housing market is affordable and versatile, with an average apartment costing €1,300 and a private room costing around €350.
Valencia has a warm Mediterranean climate. That’s another reason for the city’s expats to move to Spain permanently.
Moving to Seville as an Expat
Seville is an ideal place for expats to experience the country’s charms. The straightforward, laid-back lifestyle in Seville frequently draws people to live there.
Public transportation in Seville allows you to get to all parts of the city. However, it has its downsides, like everything in life. and has a lot of room for improvement.
Especially those related to the metro, as the city needs more lines.
On the positive side, the metro is very clean and very easy to use.
A single person’s estimated monthly costs are 718.0$ (671.9€) without rent. Seville is 51.6% less expensive than New York (without rent).
Moving to Málaga as an Expat
Malaga is the third-largest city in Spain. It offers a perfect blend of cosmopolitan lifestyles as an attractive destination for expats and digital nomads.
Tourism is a vital industry, with approximately six million visitors each year.
The city also serves as a significant transportation hub, thanks to investment in new port development.
Spanish is the dominant language, but many locals in Spain speak English. This is one of the benefits of Málaga for expats moving into the city.
The Contemporary Art Center Trade Fair and Congress are worth visiting. Also, living in Málaga and being an expert means you’ll have numerous music and dance festivals to attend.
It’s another city in Spain where you can make the most of a Mediterranean climate with long summers and mild winters.
The city’s housing market is versatile and affordable, with an average apartment costing €1,300 and a private room costing around €350.
How to Get Spanish Citizenship
If you have lived in Spain for ten years with Spanish residence, you meet one of the main requirements for Spanish citizenship.
Short holidays and work trips abroad are not a problem for getting citizenship. However, during your residency process, they expect you not to travel abroad for long periods of time.
Here are the options to get Spanish citizenship:
- If you have a residence for ten years or more
- If you’re married to a Spanish national
- If one of your parents are Spanish citizen
Moving to Spain for Work
Spain offers a variety of work visas. The country is always in search of highly skilled individuals for professions due to an employee shortage.
Let’s see some options for the expats working in Spain.
Entrepreneurship in Spain
Entrepreneurship sounds exciting, right? In Spain, the government introduced the Spain Entrepreneurial Nation Strategy to transform the country into a leading hub for technology startups.
The Spanish government is also busy working to diminish the gender pay gap in business. The working culture in Spain is not exactly the same as in other European countries. It has a more relaxed approach with extended work hours.
When it comes to being an expat and an entrepreneur in Spain, you’ll have a lively scene. Expats can connect with fellow internationals online and meet with new people in the business landscape.
How to Get Self-employed in Spain
Becoming self-employed, or “autónomo,” in Spain involves several steps. Non-citizens can also become self-employed in Spain. Here are the steps:
- Apply for a self-employed work visa if you’re a non-EU citizen
- Obtain a foreigner’s entity number (NIE)
- Register as an autónomo with the Spanish tax authority
- Open a Spanish bank account
- Register with the social security authority
Opening a Bank Account in Spain
Expats in Spain have several local and international banking options. Here are the steps to open a bank account:
Choose Your Bank: BBVA, Santander, CaixaBank, Sabadell, and Bankia are some of the top choices. Online banks like Revolut, N26, and Wise are also popular.
Prepare Your Documents: You’ll need a valid passport or ID, proof of address, proof of employment status, and your Spanish foreigner identification number (NIE).
Open Your Account: You can open a non-resident account before becoming a resident. Once you receive your Certificate of Residency, you can convert your non-resident account to a resident account.
Mobile Apps to Download as an Expat in Spain
Before your journey as an expat in Spain, know that there are several mobile apps that can make your life easier.
You’ll be walking around and discovering places a lot. Citymapper and TMB Metro are great supporters of public transit. Or else, you’ll need a ride sometimes. Also, sometimes the app you’re using will be busy for the time being. So, it’s better to have options for mobility apps like Lime, Cabify, and Bicing.
Hungry and lazy to go out or cook at home? For food delivery, try Glovo, Uber Eats, or Just Eat.
These apps will help you navigate your new life in Spain as an expat.
How to Move to Spain as an EU Citizen
- EU citizens have the right to live and work in Spain without a visa or permit.
- If staying longer than three months, you’ll need to register with the authorities.
- The next step is finding a permanent residence.
- Once a permanent address is secured, you can register with the local town hall and get a padron certificate.
- The final step is to get your NIE (número de identidad de extranjero).
How to Move to Spain as a Non-EU Citizen
Here are the key steps for a non-EU citizen moving to Spain:
- Obtain a visa to enter Spain, such as a Schengen visa, for stays under three months.
- For stays longer than three months, request and obtain a residence visa before departure.
- Upon arrival in Spain, apply for a residency permit or card within a month.
- Ensure you are over eighteen years of age and have no criminal record.
- Obtain private health insurance and demonstrate that you have sufficient funds to live in Spain.
- For stays longer than ninety days, check out the individual visa requirements.
✔️How to Move to Spain Checklist
- Prepare your passport.
- Obtain a Spanish Identification Card (D.N.I.).
- Get a residence visa and work permit.
- Obtain a certificate of origin or a certificate of residence change.
- Secure a rental lease or property purchase contract.
- Register at the consulate.
- Get an NIE Number (Identification Number for Foreigners).
- Apply for customs duty-free import authorization.
- Authorize a destination agent to clear the shipment.
- Decide where you want to live.
- Prepare a budget.
- Arrange your Spanish visa.
- Move your belongings to Spain.
- Arrange your pet’s move to Spain.
- Think about health insurance.
- Sort out your finances.
- Find somewhere to stay.
- Learn some Spanish.
Moving to Spain as an expat is an exciting journey filled with opportunities. The vibrant culture, the warm climate, and the friendly locals make it a wonderful place. In the end, the rewards are immense. You’ll find yourself enjoying delicious cuisine, and discovering a new lifestyle.
As an expat, you might be open to experiencing change. Let’s start the new beginning in Spain with an open mind. Enjoy the new chapter in your life.
If you want to know about the financial part of moving to Spain as an expat, check out our article: Cost of Living in Spain.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is Spain a good place for expats?
Absolutely! Spain is renowned for its warm climate, rich culture, and affordable living costs. As an expat, you'll enjoy a high quality of life, vibrant social scenes, and diverse landscapes. Spain has a welcoming attitude towards newcomers.
How much income do I need to emigrate to Spain?
To comfortably emigrate to Spain, it's better to have a monthly income of around €2,000 to €2,500. This amount varies depending on your lifestyle and the region you choose.
Is Spain friendly to foreigners?
Yes, Spain is known for its hospitality and friendliness towards foreigners. Spaniards are generally open and sociable, making it easier for expats to integrate and feel at home. Embracing the local culture and language can enhance your experience.
Is it hard to get a job in Spain as an expat?
Finding a job in Spain can be challenging but not impossible. It depends on your qualifications, the industry, and language skills. Proficiency in Spanish is a significant advantage. Networking and understanding the local job market are key to securing employment.
Can I move to Spain with my pets?
Yes, you can move to Spain with your pets. Ensure they are microchipped, vaccinated, and have a pet passport or veterinary certificate. Adhering to Spain's pet import regulations guarantees a smooth process for you and your furry companions.
Can Americans retire in Spain?
Americans can certainly retire in Spain. Spain offers a favorable climate, affordable healthcare, and a relaxed lifestyle. To retire here, you'll need a residency visa and proof of sufficient financial resources to support yourself without working.
Is it expensive to live in Spain compared to the US?
Generally, living in Spain is less expensive than in the US. Housing, healthcare, and daily living costs are typically lower. However, this can vary based on your lifestyle and the area you choose to live in. Overall, Spain offers a cost-effective option for expats.
Can foreigners buy Property in Spain?
Yes. It’s possible to purchase housing, or any property, in Spain. You’ll only need an NIE number (Número de Identificación de Extranjero). It’s a unique tax identification number for residents and non-residents.