Sunny weather, vibrant and cultural cities, Mediterranean food, relaxed lifestyle and friendly locals – that is what Spain is about.
If you’ve been dreaming about moving to Spain from UK, it’s never too late to make your dreams come true. Of course, Brexit has changed things a bit, but it’s still possible to move to Spain.
In this blog post, I’m going to tell you the process of moving to Spain, the reasons why you may want to move to Spain and other useful information you need to know before making the move.
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Moving to Spain from UK – How to move to Spain after Brexit
Checklist for moving to Spain
Obtain the NIE
Something you must do when you move to Spain is to apply for the NIE, the Foreigner’s Identification number, known as Número de Identificación de Extranjero in Spanish.
The NIE is the legal number assigned to foreign residents that don’t have Spanish citizenship. This is mandatory for anyone who wants to work or start a business in Spain, buy a property in Spain or become a resident for tax purposes.
You can apply for the NIE in person in Spain, in person via a Spanish Consulate in the UK or through a representative in Spain.
Applying in person in Spain is often the most straightforward option, however, be prepared to wait several hours in a queue to submit your application.
Here is a summary of the documentation you need to take with you:
- EX-15 form completed and signed by you.
- Your passport and a copy of your passport or identity national card.
- The reasons why you want to have the NIE.
If you apply for an NIE via a representative, the representative needs to be accredited to provide the application on your behalf.
Visit the Ministerio del Interior website to learn more about the NIE.
Residency in Spain
Temporary or permanent residency
A visa is required to live, work or study in Spain unless you are a citizen of the European Union, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway or Switzerland.
If you need a visa, there is an established fee of 60 euros for long-term visas, and you must check any other requirements depending on the reason you are travelling and the country you are applying from.
You can get a short-term or long-term residence permit in Spain through employment. To obtain this, you need an employment offer and contract from a Spanish company.
If you’re planning to move to Spain from the UK based on a residence permit, you must be aware that they can take between 6 and 8 months.
Types of visas for British nationals who want to immigrate to Spain
If you’re British and don’t have a residence permit or didn’t start the immigration process before Brexit, you’ll have to apply for a visa the same way non-EU citizens do.
These are some of the visas you want to know about:
This visa is available for you if you’re a UK student that wants to complete your studies in Spain.
This visa is for you if you wish to move and work in Spain.
Family reunification visa
If some of your family members live in Spain, you can apply for this visa as it will help you move there.
If you’d love to start your own business in Spain, this is the type of visa you want to apply for.
If you’re a student, have a look at these six amazing tips to plan your study year abroad.
However, there are other ways to get your Spanish residency too:
The Spain Golden Visa program
The Golden Visa program has become very popular among non-EU citizens. This visa allows you to obtain permanent residence and citizenship in Spain, however, you must make a big investment to be approved.
These investments can be:
- 500,000 € in a property in Spain;
- 1 million euros in a bank deposit;
- 1 million euros in company shares;
- business projects of special interest to Spain.
It isn’t an affordable visa for everyone, but it’s perfect if your plan is to buy a property, live and maybe retire in Spain.
Another way to obtain residence in Spain is by the TIE card. If you’re a resident in Spain before the 31st of December 2020 but don’t have a TIE card, you’re allowed to continue your residence in Spain, but you need to prove you’ve been a resident since before that date.
This means that any British expat that fulfils the above criteria can apply for the NIE card ad from the 1st of January 2021.
By obtaining the TIE, you guarantee your residence, free movement and social security rights in Spain.
If you would like to get Spanish citizenship, you must have continuously worked and lived for 10 years in Spain. However, you can get Spanish citizenship earlier if you meet any of the following requirements:
- 5 years. If you have obtained refugee status.
- 2 years. If you are from Iberian American countries such as Argentina, Colombia, Andorra, the Philipines, Equatorial Guinea, Portugal or have Sephardi Jews origins.
- 1 year. If you have been married to a Spanish national for more than a year, you’re a widower or widow of a Spanish person, if you were born outside Spain but have a family with Spanish origins.
Inform the NHS about moving to Spain
Something that you must do if you’re thinking about moving permanently to Spain is to notify the NHS. By doing this, you’ll no longer be entitled to medical treatment under the NHS.
You’ll need to let your GP practice know so they can remove you from the NHS register.
Healthcare in Spain consists of public and private services, however, the majority of Spaniards use the public healthcare system.
As an expat, you’ll get access to free healthcare, but you need to register first. For this, you need a social security number and the following documents:
- A valid passport or ID card;
- your residency certificate;
- proof of address.
Tax residence in Spain
If you’ve been living in Spain for six months or more, or you have an interest in opening a business in the country, you’re considered a Spanish resident for tax purposes.
As a Spanish resident, you must submit a tax return and pay income tax on your worldwide income in the following scenarios:
- Your annual income is more than 22,000 €.
- You’re self-employed in Spain.
- You have your own business in Spain.
- It’s your first year declaring tax residency in Spain.
- You have capital gains and savings of more than 1,600 € a year.
Validate your driving license
If you’re a British national, due to Brexit, the non-European citizen rules apply to you, therefore, you’re fine to drive with your current driving license for the first six months. After this, you must get a Spanish driver’s license.
If you’re from the EU or EEA, you can use your driving license for up to two years.
Register your Spanish address
Anyone who lives in Spain must register on the padrón municipal, this is the town hall register of all the people who live in that city or town.
You need to register at the address you normally live, and you can’t register at more than one address. If you’re wondering whether you need to own a property to register, you don’t. You can still register if you’re renting or living with other people.
The registration process varies from town to town, this is why you must check your town hall website. Whether you’re applying in person or online, you need to provide the following documentation.
Documentation for registering in the padrón
- Valid passport;
- your NIE or residence certificate or card;
- a copy of your rental contract;
- a recent utility bill in your name or proof of payment of municipal taxes.
So, what are the benefits of registering at the padrón?
- Access to income-related benefits and social care.
- A reduction in taxes.
- Enrolment of children in school.
- Registration of your car with a Spanish number plate.
- And much more.
Set up a bank account
If you’re planning to stay in Spain for a while, opening a bank account will be a hassle-free option when it comes to banking and payments.
It isn’t a legal requirement, but it’ll make things easier, especially if you’re looking into buying a property and getting a mortgage.
Spanish banks offer different types of accounts to suit everyone’s circumstances. Some of the main types of accounts are:
- Current account. This type of account is often offered to young people as well as students as it’s just for everyday banking purposes.
- Savings account. If you want to save money or make investments in funds or shares, this account is the most suitable for you.
- Deposit account. Similar to a savings account but with more restrictions. This is your best option if you want to hold funds securely.
For example, CaixaBank has a dedicated service, called HolaBank Club, that gives you access to complimentary relocation services such as translations, help with paperwork, discounts and much more.
The key documents you’ll need to provide in order to set up a Spanish bank account are:
- Your NIE number.
- Personal and financial information, P60, Persona Income Tax or pension certificate.
📌 Related blog post: The Ultimate Checklist for Moving Abroad
5 Great reasons to move to Spain
Cost of living
There’s no doubt that the cost of living in Spain is cheaper than in the UK. You’ll find that the price of many things is lower – from transport and rent to food and leisure.
Prices can vary from city to city, but they’ll definitely be lower than in the UK. Generally, Southern Spain is cheaper than Northern Spain or popular cities like Barcelona or Madrid. The cost of living is even lower if you decide to move to a smaller town or village.
Cost of living in Spain
Here is a breakdown of the average cost of living in Spain. Be aware that these prices will vary from city to city.
Bus monthly pass – 40 €
1 bedroom apartment in the city centre – 600 €
1 bedroom apartment outside the city centre – 400 €
1 month food shopping for two people – 200 €
A meal for two in a good restaurant – 30-40 €
Electricity, heating, water, etc. – 115 €
Average monthly net salary – 1,300 €
If you’re a fan of Mediterranean food, you’ll appreciate living in Spain – the freshness of fruit and vegetables, the flavour of common spices like paprika or saffron and the taste of fish and seafood.
Spanish cuisine is very diverse and this can be seen in the different regions too. From Spain’s most famous dish, paella, which comes from Valencia to gazpacho from Andalusia and pintxos from the Basque country.
Something that many people won’t tell you is how different mealtimes and portions is. Spanish people have breakfast around 8-9 am, a snack at 12ish, lunch at 2-3 pm, merienda (a small meal that consists of a sandwich or a sweet treat) and dinner at 9 pm or later in the summertime.
Having lived in both countries, and when I travelled from the UK to Spain, it takes me a while to adapt to more and bigger meals.
A negative aspect of food in Spain is the lack of variety of international food. Whereas you can find almost any type of food from around the world in the UK, it isn’t the same in Spain. That doesn’t mean there’s nothing at all, but the options are limited or not as good as in the UK.
If you love cooking international food, Carrefour is probably the best supermarket for you. They have an international section with popular ingredients from some countries such as Japan, South America and the UK.
Locals are often welcoming and friendly to travellers and expats. They want you to feel at home and will make an effort to communicate with you if they aren’t very good at English or don’t know any English at all.
There are many ways you can make friends with the locals. From an expat perspective, the easiest is to look for language exchanges. Not only will you find locals who want to learn English but other expats like you that want to make friends.
Attending these exchanges is a great way to make connections, improve your Spanish and make friends. Locals will be inviting you to their houses or introducing you to their friends in no time.
This is probably one of the reasons why you’re looking into moving to Spain. The lifestyle in Spain is known for being one of the best in Europe.
Spaniards take things easier! Taking their time to eat a meal with family and friends, arranging a last-minute meeting, spending hours talking to friends losing the track of time, etc.
They’re very close to family and friends, and they even live close to them too. Socialisation is a big part of Spanish culture.
Although this lifestyle may sound amazing, there are things you won’t agree with or fully understand. One of the most annoying things is when you have a Spanish friend who is always late, and yes, they’ll always find an excuse.
Another thing is not saying “thank you” or “sorry” in many cases, especially between friends and family. If I say “thank you” to my mum, she’ll answer by saying “why are you saying thank you? I am your mum, so of course, I am doing this for you”.
This is completely different in a British family, and I know this because of my friends and my boyfriend.
Spain is a sunny country in comparison to the UK or Scandinavian countries. No matter if it’s summer or winter, there will be many sunny days.
Depending on which part of Spain you’re planning to move you’ll have warm or cold temperatures.
Many people associate the weather in Southern Spain or the Canary Islands with the rest of Spain. However, this isn’t comparable.
Northern Spain has low temperatures, rain and snow during the winter months.
This is something you want to have in mind if you’re looking for a warmer and sunnier place than the UK.
Best cities to live in Spain as an expat
If you’re looking for big cities that are ideal for expats, you want to consider moving to any of these cities:
- San Sebastian
They’re considered the best cities in Spain for expats because there is an expat community, they offer a great variety of activities and events, and the locals are welcoming.
If big cities aren’t for you, a good option is to move to nearby towns to these cities. This will mean rent and transport will likely be cheaper.
On the other hand, Spain is for you if you’re looking for a variety of cities to move to – Valencia, Sevilla, Madrid, Málaga, etc; you speak Spanish and love culture and festivals.
As you’ve read above, there are a couple of things you must prepare before and after moving to Spain, however, it’ll be all worth it. Just take it easy and ask for help if you’re feeling overwhelmed with the moving process.
If you have any questions or want any advice on moving to Spain or Spanish culture, reach me via email at cristina[at]mylittleworldoftravelling.com or on Instagram. I’m always happy to help.
Also, if you want an easy to use moving to Spain from the UK checklist with all the things you need, have a look at my checklist here.
Good luck with moving to Spain!
P.S. Do you know any friend who’s moving to Spain soon? Share the blog with them 🙂
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Frequently asked questions about moving to Spain
Is moving to Spain a good idea?
Moving to Spain is for you if you love the Spanish lifestyle and culture. One of my top pieces of advice is to visit the country or city you’d like to move to before you take the step of moving there. This will give you the opportunity to discover if you’d see yourself in the place or not.
However, one of the downsides of moving to Spain is career and job opportunities. Spain has been hit by the economic crisis as well as the pandemic. Finding a job isn’t easy in Spain, and salaries are lower than in the UK or other countries.
If this makes you doubt moving to Spain, a good idea is to find work remotely while living in Spain.
Can I move to Spain after Brexit?
Yes, however, you must check the latest information about residency and rights as a foreigner in Spain.
How long can I stay in Spain after Brexit?
If you’re a UK citizen, you’ll be able to stay in Spain for a period of 3 months at a time, if you’re staying longer than 3 months, you must obtain a visa.
How much money do you need to move to Spain?
If you don’t have a job, you want to have at least 3 to 6 months’ worth of savings to avoid stressful situations. The average cost of living in Spain is between 900 and 1,200 € for a single person per month.
What is a better place to live, Portugal or Spain?
It really depends on your preference. Spain and Portugal have always been chosen as great countries to live in.
Portugal is best for you if you’re looking for the cheapest cost of living. Although Spain isn’t an expensive country, Portugal is even cheaper as big cities such as Porto and Lisbon also offer affordable options. This is another reason why Portugal has recently seen an increase in digital nomads and expats.