The Ultimate Guide for Moving to Spain from the UK

Are you thinking about moving to Spain from the UK? This is your guide!

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 the 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’ll 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 a move.

moving to spain from uk

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Checklist for Moving to Spain from the UK

1. 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.  

NIE documentation

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 must be accredited to provide the application on your behalf. 

Visit the Ministerio del Interior website to learn more about the NIE.

2. Residency in Spain

Temporary or permanent residency

A visa is required to live, work or study in Spain unless you are a citizen of 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. You need an employment offer and contract from a Spanish company to obtain this.

If you plan to move to Spain from the UK based on a residence permit, you must know 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:

Student visa

This visa is available for you if you’re a UK student that wants to complete your studies in Spain.

Work visa

If you wish to move and work in Spain, this visa is for you.

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.

Investment visa

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 € for 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.

TIE card

Another way to obtain residence in Spain is by the TIE card. If you were a resident in Spain before the 31st of December 2020 but didn’t have a TIE card, you were allowed to continue your residence in Spain, but you needed to prove you’d been a resident since before that date.

This means that any British expat that fulfils the above criteria can apply for the NIE card from the 1st of January 2021.

By obtaining the TIE, you guarantee your residence, free movement and social security rights in Spain.

Spanish citizenship

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, and Portugal or have Sephardi Jews origins.
  • 1 year. If you have been married to a Spanish national and lived in Spain for more than a year, you’re a widower or widow of a Spanish person, or you were born outside Spain but had a family with Spanish origins. 
passport travel essential

3. Inform the NHS about moving to Spain

If you’re thinking about moving permanently to Spain, you must notify the NHS. By doing this, you’ll no longer be entitled to medical treatment under the NHS.

You’ll need to inform your GP practice 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. 

4. Tax residence in Spain

If you’ve been living in Spain for six months or more or are interested 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.

5. Validate your driving license

If you’re a British national, due to Brexit, the non-European citizen rules apply to you. Therefore, driving with your current driving license for the first six months is fine. 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.

6. 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, so 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.

7. Set up a bank account

If you plan to stay in Spain for a while, opening a bank account will be a hassle-free option for 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. 

In terms of banks, the banks that are worth checking out are Santander , BBVA, Banco Sabadell and CaixaBank. These banks offer good service for nationals and ex-pats too.

For example, CaixaBank has a dedicated service called HolaBank Club, which 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 to set up a Spanish bank account are:

  • Passport.
  • Your NIE number.
  • Personal and financial information, P60, Persona Income Tax or pension certificate.

5 Great Reasons to Move to Spain

Cost of living

Undoubtedly, 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.

a beautiful white-painted house in the south of Spain

Transport

Bus monthly pass – 40 €

Rent

1 bedroom apartment in the city centre – 600 €

1 bedroom apartment outside the city centre – 400 €

Food

1 month of food shopping for two people – 200 €

A meal for two in a good restaurant – 30-40 €

Basic utilities

Electricity, heating, water, etc. – 115 €

Salary

Average monthly net salary – 1,300 €

Food

Pil Pil prawns, garlic and chilli prawns in a small dish

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, which can be seen in different regions. From Spain’s most famous dish, paella comes from Valencia to gazpacho from Andalusia and pintxos from the Basque country.

Many people won’t tell you how different mealtimes and portions are. 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 took 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. 

Friendly locals

mijas pueblo at night

Locals are often welcoming and friendly to travellers and expats. They want you to feel at home and will try to communicate with you if they aren’t very good at English or don’t know any English.

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 invite you to their houses or introduce you to their friends in no time.

Lifestyle

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 track of time, etc.

They’re very close to family and friends and even live close to them. Socialisation is a big part of Spanish culture.

Although this lifestyle may sound amazing, you won’t agree with or fully understand some things. 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.

Weather

a photo of Nerja beach

Spain is a sunny country in comparison to the UK or Scandinavian countries. No matter whether summer or winter, there will be many sunny days.

Depending on which part of Spain you plan to move to, 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.

You want to have this in mind if you’re looking for a warmer and sunnier place than the UK. 

Best cities to live in Spain as an expat

a street in Malaga in the evening

If you’re looking for big cities that are ideal for expats, you want to consider moving to any of these cities: 

  • Madrid
  • Alicante
  • Malaga
  • Sevilla
  • Valencia
  • 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 in 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.


Moving to Spain planning checklists banner

Frequently asked questions about moving to Spain

Is moving to Spain a good idea?

If you love the Spanish lifestyle and culture, moving to Spain is for you. One of my top pieces of advice is to visit the country or city you’d like to move to before you move there. This will give you the opportunity to discover if you’d see yourself in the place or not.

What are the cons of moving to Spain?

One of the downsides of moving to Spain is the lack of 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, finding work remotely while living in Spain is a good idea.

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 can stay in Spain for 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 expensive, 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.

Conclusion on moving to Spain from UK

As you’ve read above, you must prepare a few things before and after moving to Spain; however, it’ll all be worth it. Take it easy and ask for help if you’re 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. I’m always happy to help.

Good luck with moving to Spain!

Cristina xx

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Mini Guide to Living Abroad

Should I get expat travel insurance?

ABSOLUTELY! — For your peace of mind, get your expat travel insurance with SafetyWing!

How do I get a job in Spain as an expat?

You can find work in Spain via job boards, word of mouth, or agencies. If you plan to work remotely, look for jobs on websites like FlexJobs.com. They offer 100% remote roles.

What’s the best way to open a bank account in Spain?

I’ve been using La Caixa Bank for many years. However, I love visiting other countries and spending some time there. So I found Wise, which offers free global accounts. It’s super convenient, and you won’t have to open accounts everywhere you move! You’re also guaranteed the cheapest money transfers. 

How do you make friends in Spain?

I highly recommend using Facebook to connect with people. There are many Facebook Groups for expats in each city. Also, you can use Meetup.com. It’s free to join, and you can meet people who share a similar hobby as you! 

What’s the best way to learn Spanish?

Go to language exchanges, use apps like Duolingo or sign up for online lessons in Preply. They’ll help you learn some Spanish before moving.

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20 Comments

  1. What a helpful article! I always have on my mind to move out of country, but rarely think of the logistic and legal things involved. Spain is definitely at the top of places I would love to move to. My husband lived there a couple years and loved it!

    1. Cristina Reina says:

      I am glad you found it useful. There are many things to do consider when moving abroad, so having a checklist do help 🙂

  2. Jen Nilsson says:

    Good to know! I’ve always dreamed of moving from the states to Spain to set up an albergue on the Camino de Santiago. Maybe I’ll just do it now! Thank you!

    1. Cristina Reina says:

      I hope you do it one day 🙂

  3. A great guide for moving to Spain. We have continued to contemplate moving to Europe and Spain is always high on the list. There are so many reasons why Spain makes the list. Good to know there are several different ways to get residency. It looks interesting although the tax situation would require more consideration for us.

    1. Cristina Reina says:

      Thank you, Linda! I am glad you agree Spain is a good option, and you’ve considered moving there.

  4. i love your edits – your pictures are all so beautiful!

    1. Cristina Reina says:

      Thank you, Shafina.

  5. Charu Goyal says:

    This is such an extensive guide, Cristina. I might move to Spain sometime in the future, so definitely saving it for later!

    1. Cristina Reina says:

      That’s amazing to hear, Charu 🙂

  6. Nina Bosken says:

    This is very informative! The catch about the work visa in Spain for people who aren’t from the EU is that the company would basically have to prove why you’re the best candidate above all the other applicants. It’s super difficult. The easiest way to move to Spain as an English speaker from outside the EU is to become a language assistant because they put you on a student visa.

    1. Cristina Reina says:

      Thank you, Nina! I didn’t know that but thank you for sharing. It’s useful for people from outside the EU that wants to move to Spain.

  7. Such a detailed guide with so many useful tips. Hope you are happy there.

    1. Cristina Reina says:

      Thank you, Alma. I don’t live in Spain anymore, but I often go to Spain as it’s my home country.

  8. Ashlee Fechino says:

    Wow – such helpful tips for moving to Spain. I love that it seems doable for lots of different types of situations. It is definitely not like that moving to the USA! I thought it was cool that if you want to start a business in Spain, you can, and apply for residency. Thanks for sharing. Posts like these are extremely helpful!

    1. Cristina Reina says:

      Thank you, Ashlee. I’m very happy to hear you found it very helpful 🙂

  9. Elena Pappalardo says:

    Always love reading about expat journeys, so this was a great read for me! Thanks for all of the detail.

    1. Cristina Reina says:

      That’s amazing!! I love reading other expat experiences too.

  10. Wow, this is such a great and helpfull guide. I’ve been thinking about moving from my country and I’m saving this post for sure. Thank you for all the information.

    1. Cristina Reina says:

      Thanks, Jasmina.

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