This guide about moving to Spain is for both EU and non-EU citizens, but before you start reading…
Are you from the United Kingdom?
Brexit is coming, please read any of these articles:
- Spanish residency card: your final chance to obtain it
- On Spanish residency, Brexit and Parachuting
- Spanish residency after Brexit: The aftermath
Otherwise, please keep reading.
There are two families thinking about moving to Spain:
- Family Uno
- Family Dos
Both of them love Spain.
Both of them have the financial resources.
Both of them are ready for the big leap.
However, Family Uno will be severely hit along the way with two things: money and health.
On the other hand, Family Dos will move to Spain without any bad experiences.
Family Uno’s Nightmare
Family Uno are nice people.
They have always worked hard, paid their taxes, respected the law (does it sound familiar?).
Family Uno have always wanted to move to Spain.
It has always been their dream.
The Spanish language.
The old architecture.
So, they collect as much information as possible from the Internet.
They spend months going round in circles.
A big list of versions for the same procedure.
No problem, Family Uno are optimistic.
So, they move on and make the biggest mistake one can make when moving to Spain: doing things on their own.
They collect the wrong requirements to obtain their residency cards and lose several appointments (months wasted).
They get scammed buying property because they were trying to save some money on solicitors (€30,000 deposit paid to a real estate company that does not exist).
A year down the road, the Spanish taxman knocks on their door because they did not know anything about resident and non-resident tax.
Finally, Mr Uno has a broken foot. He goes to the emergency room at a public hospital. He gets a cast. All at no cost. But he can’t get any follow up appointments at no cost because he has not sorted his healthcare in Spain.
What a nightmare.
Their soul crushed.
I’m afraid Familia Uno read too much misleading information on the Internet… they believed it all; everything that they learned about moving to Spain was wrong.
(To the left: Familia Uno. To the right: Familia Dos)
Family Dos’s success story
Family Dos are nice people too and share the exact background: worked hard, paid their taxes, respected the law.
Family Dos read a few articles on the Internet, post a few times in Facebook groups, and try a few forums. They quickly realise that they will never be able to accomplish the move on their own.
As Family Uno, they have been going round in circles. But Family Dos finally understand the reality of moving to a foreign country.
That Spain is not their country of origin.
Family Dos does not speak Spanish.
Family Dos does not have an understanding of Spanish law.
So, they hire the right specialists, and everything goes well:
- Visas and residency = Relocation advisers
- Tax = fiscal advisers
- Property purchase = solicitors, lawyers
End of the story.
Family Dos starts a happy life in Spain.
Zero untreated health issues.
A big smile on their face.
Peace of mind.
Moving to Spain: what really matters
I could have written a never-ending guide full of examples and possible scenarios for moving to Spain, as many articles you can read on the Internet.
Maybe I could have written a few paragraphs about sunny Spain (perhaps not mentioning that there are areas where it’s not so sunny).
About the cost of living (a very abstract subject, as I don’t know where you are from, whether the exchange rate will be good or bad, or where you will live in Spain).
My favourite Spanish dishes (besides me, probably only my mum and grandma would be proud to read this. Nobody else).
Where to travel in Spain (I would do a horrible job on this subject. Instead, you have wonderful resources, such as the Travel Spain! Facebook community, run my travel consultant friend Karen).
But, you know what? This would not apply to you.
Because you don’t belong to all groups at the same time (I will explain this in a moment).
Because you don’t have the same expectations for living in Spain.
Because you might be in a unique situation (personal, financial, health) which would require a unique approach.
When it comes to moving to Spain, there are three variables you will not read anywhere on the Earth.
Variable #1: the group you belong to
There are two main groups, EU and non-EU citizen + four subgroups within:
- State pensioner (you have a state pension and/or private pension)
- Workers (employed abroad or in Spain)
- Business (you run your own business abroad or want to create one in Spain)
- Savings (you have your own financial resources, investments, streams of income, etc.)
In short, the group you belong to will determine the strategy for moving to Spain one way or another (including whether you have children, if your partner does not work and/or has a pension).
Then, we have another set of variables that will be determinant: the area where you will live in Spain.
Variable #2: The Spanish regions
There are 17 regions in Spain:
Regions are divided into “provinces”. There are 50 provinces all over Spain.
Each province has cities, small towns, villages.
Furthermore, there are two autonomous cities:
Every region has their own laws and regulations; the cities within too.
The way I see it, Spain is a bit as “The United States of Spain” (we don’t have the unique driving license per state though).
Do you still think that moving to Spain will be as easy as putting a few t-shirts and trousers in a bag to spend the weekend in a city a few miles away from home?
It is not so easy.
I can guarantee so.
I have witnessed countless of people making the same mistakes over and over again since 2010.
- Getting scammed.
- Having health issues (another topic I’ll comment a few paragraphs below).
- Hitting walls because of the Spanish bureaucracy, totally convinced everybody will speak English in Spain.
One day, at the social security office, I heard somebody from an EU country saying that it was the seventh visit to get nowhere, trying to blame the Spanish system.
Why try seven times for something that could have been solved in one time through an experienced professional?
You may not know the procedure in that office.
You may not know the requirements.
You may not speak Spanish.
Solution: Hire somebody.
You get the idea 😊
(Are you moving to Spain? Great… but where?)
Variable #3: The requirements
Believe me, things change in Spain… sometimes, overnight.
One day, you need A and B. The next day… A and C.
The reaction from some people:
- Make silly complaints about Spain in Facebook groups and other online communities.
But things change.
Everything is moving… always, from the beginning of time.
Spain is not an exception.
Just accept it as it is, and get the problem solved.
I was recently with some clients doing residencies. Out of the blue, the police said we needed an official translation of a pension certificate… before they closed at 2:00 pm.
Otherwise, book another appointment.
Yes, book a new appointment on a different day.
We booked the initial appointment around a month before… and now we were about to lose the appointment.
It was 12:30 pm.
But I don’t complain or worry.
I am a problem solver.
I phoned my official translator and pushed him to get a super urgent translation.
Problem solved before 2:00 pm.
The Spanish residency was in my clients’ hands that day.
It is the only thing that matters to me: solving my clients’ problems, standing up on the Spanish surf board to ride the Spanish obstacles.
Family Uno would have lost the appointment. And, who knows, maybe in two months’ time, at the new appointment, there would have been new requirements that Familia Uno never learned… losing the appointment again.
Can you read between the lines?
Hire somebody who takes care of the complex stuff.
Trying to save money moving to Spain can cost you in the end 10 times as much.
You are moving to a foreign country.
There is always cost involved when moving to a foreign country.
It’s not expenditure, but an investment.
You are investing in doing things legally in Spain. You are investing in mental peace.
I moved to the USA in 2001 and it was not free. I invested to move there. In fact, I invested all the time. I didn’t even speak English in the beginning (but French). Five years later, I graduated from university.
You are reading this article thanks to that investment
Once you are settled, you can establish a saving plan on everyday expenses.
I will go through three important aspects you must take into consideration.
Moving to Spain: NIE, visas, Spanish residency
This is the most important part, the beginning of your Spanish journey, the initial documents.
There is a big confusion between the three documents I’m going to speak about in a moment.
Many websites explain them all wrong because they simply have no idea. Their articles are ranking high on Google so that they can make some cash through adverts or promoting somebody else’s services.
Here is the clearest description you won’t see anywhere else:
NIE certificate: White A4 document which contains your NIE number. Only the NIE number. The fiscal number to buy/sell legally in Spain. It’s not the visa nor the residency card.
Visa: The starting point for most non-EU citizens. It is placed within the passport. It becomes a Spanish residency card once you are in Spain
For instance, I have one article about how to move to Spain from USA plus Canada, South Africa, Australia.
Spanish residency: The physical card, the stay permit. EU citizens have one format. Non-EU citizens have another format. Both of them show the NIE number.
(This is the one and only NIE certificate for EU and non-EU citizens)
(This is the EU Spanish residency card version, the only one for EU citizens)
These is my area of expertise:
You will need official translations produced, stamped and signed by an official translator certified by the Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
No worries, I have a team of official translators.
If you would like to use somebody else’s services, that will be fine. As long as this guide helps you avoid painful mistakes, I will be happy 😊
Are you classified as a fiscal resident? Perhaps as non-resident? Do you have to declare your assets abroad? What percentage do you have to pay?
These are the kind of questions that you must ask your fiscal adviser, not on Google, Facebook or Forums.
Remember the three variables (the group you belong to, the Spanish region, the official requirement)? It’s all connected.
Don’t try to do it on your own.
Don’t hire the cheapest option: go for the best.
The Spanish taxman is not going to accept the old excuse: sorry, I did not know.
Are you buying straight from a private user or from a real estate company?
One way or another, you are going to make a big investment, so why don’t you get an intermediate figure to make sure everything is legal?
Hire a lawyer, a good one; somebody who’s experienced in property law.
Over the years, I have met a lot of people who were scammed buying property. Paying deposits to real estate companies that did not exist, or to people who run away with the money.
Get a good lawyer to secure the purchasing process.
Many people still think that healthcare is free is Spain.
Emergencies are covered for everyone visiting or living in Spain.
But, what about ongoing treatments?
Those are not free.
Unless the health issue is life-threatening, treatments will not be free; which means you are not going to get treated without having the full coverage health card or without paying.
(Every Spanish region has its own health card)
You know for sure somebody who kept going to the hospital to see the specialist and to get new medical tests month after month… without the full coverage health card.
Ask them the health problem they have. Let me guess:
- Other organs that could potentially cause death
Without a proper health card, you are not going to get treated for any health issues that are not a risk for your life… most health issues, by the way.
This is a subject I know a lot, because this website you are visiting right now was in the beginning part of my medical interpreting career.
I was both things at the same time: medical interpreter and relocation adviser… until the relocation adviser took over the business.
I could write a book about all the things I witnessed connected to health issues:
- And of course, success stories where people survived
Please take protecting your health very seriously in Spain.
I met a lot of people who were not able to get ongoing treatments because they did not have their health card.
Some of them thought healthcare was free in Spain, unlimited.
Some of them through that the European Union blue card would be enough.
The European Union blue card is only for emergencies, not enough to apply for residency or to cover ongoing non-life-threatening treatments.
You won’t be able to obtain your Spanish residency card with any form of public/private health insurance. It’s 100% guaranteed.
(Remember: not full coverage)
It’s time to do things right
Here is the best advice I can give you:
Stop giving credit to Mr and Mrs Anonymous on Facebook and forums. They may want to genuinely help, but chances are they are only sharing experiences relevant to their situation (which, now you know, there are many variables).
Stop giving credit to sources of information that don’t know anything about the three variables (the group you belong to, the Spanish region, the official requirements). By the way, many of these sources of information can even be your country of origin’s official websites because they don’t know about the three variables.
The Spanish weather, the architecture, the culture, the History, the gastronomy, the flamenco dancing, the paella… they are all part of your personal path living in Spain.
Your unique interests.
They can be done in many different ways.
However, what really matters, the visas, the Spanish residency, tax, buying property… relocating the right way in short, can only be done in one way.
Only one way.
The right way.
Are you thinking about moving to Spain?
Nothing makes me happier than helping EU and non-EU citizens getting settled in Spain.
Shall we speak?
Just put your name and email address on the two fields below. I will get back to you shortly 😊