Many Americans love the idea of retiring in Spain.
The old Europe.
The ancient culture.
The United Kingdom is around the corner.
And so many other EU countries are just one or two hours away…
You will learn Spanish.
You will love the architecture.
The friendly culture.
But if you are beginning to research how to retire in Spain, here are the top 7 tips you should keep in mind.
1. About free information on the Internet
It might come as a surprise that I am about to write about not trusting the information you get from Facebook groups and communities. Especially, as my own Travel Spain! Facebook Community continues to grow and be recognized as a great resource for those who want to travel to Spain.
But the truth is, as much as I love Facebook groups (and other online sources) to gain information, using them as a be all/end all to source information to plan you retirement in Spain is a big mistake.
That is why it is always best to enlist the help of a professional in the end to help you tie everything together.
In the Travel Spain! community, I encourage my members who need help tying it all together to contact me so I can work with them personally to plan the trip to Spain of their dreams.
While I am an expert about traveling in Spain, I am not at all an expert in Spanish immigration.
When I made the decision to move to Spain from California, I consulted many Facebook groups and other online forums for advice and information.
These groups were a great starting ground. However, trusting them completely to have the correct information about Spain immigration laws would have been a big mistake.
When it comes to retiring in Spain, you must keep in mind that there are lots of variables.
The Spanish visas and residencies.
The official translations.
Whether you are applying on your own or with your spouse.
The Spanish regions.
People on these forums only can speak to their specific situation.
Therefore, it’s a good idea to consult a professional when it comes to things pertaining to Spanish immigration and residency.
Anyone who has lived in Spain for any period of time knows that laws vary from region to region and province to province.
The best place to live in Spain for Americans could be the most complicated one to book immigration appointments.
The requirements to renew my visa in Madrid, where I live, may be completely different than the requirements to renew a visa in Andalucía or Valencia.
This also goes for the initial visa application. The requirements at the San Francisco Consulate are different than the requirements at the Spanish consulate in Chicago.
You never really know if the responses you see on the internet totally pertain to your situation when it comes to location.
(Spain is not as small as many people think)
3. Retiring in Spain: the Visa Type
We all know there are student visas, working visas, non lucrative visas, and golden visas. And not only do these visas each have different requirements both for the initial application and renewal, but there are different types of visas within these visa categories.
And of course, each has its own requirements.
For example, where and how you apply and renew a non-lucrative visa can be really different.
You never really know exactly what kind of visa the people making suggestions based on their experiences have.
4. Surprise: changed laws
This is a big one.
Here in Spain, laws change all the time.
And often with zero public notification.
Just because another US citizen retiring in Spain applied for the exact same visa you are applying for, and from the same consulate, does not mean that they have the current information, even if it was within the past year.
The San Francisco, Los Angeles, Houston, and Chicago Spanish consulates drastically changed their requirements within a span of just a few months, just to give an example.
And of course, the foreign affairs office here in Spain change their renewal and residency requirements often too.
5. The wrong forms
Let’s get back to Spanish red tape for a second.
There are so many different forms to fill out.
So many different government fees to pay for each process (called “tasa” in Spanish).
I’ve heard stories of renewals being denied due to filling out the wrong form or paying the wrong “tasa”.
While the “tasa” is usually less than 20 Euros, that is money down the drain.
And if you need to start the whole process over because you paid the wrong “tasa”, that is even more time and money.
Retiring in Spain is not equal to no red tape.
Therefore, get a professional to make sure you have the right forms and are paying the correct tax for specifically what you need.
(The Spanish system can be complex)
6. Tiny mistakes that could create a big impact
So, imagine you’ve planned everything to retire in Spain.
All this time working on applying for a visa or residency.
Then, you make one small mistake which rejects the whole application.
In many cases, tiny mistakes force applicants to start the process over again.
What might have been just a small piece of advice from an expat forum turned out to be incorrect.
Waste of time.
Waste of money.
Mr Free Adviser won’t come back to pay for it.
Spanish authorities will not accept “but I read it on the internet” as a reason for a miniscule mistake.
If you are going to retire in Spain, it’s better to just get it right the first time so you don’t leave the consulate or the foreign affairs office going back to square one.
7. Do it right from the beginning
See why it’s still just as important to consult a professional before retiring to Spain?
Following the free advice on the Internet can be the real path to disaster.
I am so glad that in the end I asked David to help me with my Spanish visa and residency. Because if I had not, I too might have taken some bad internet advice. Because of David, the process of moving to Spain for me was seamless.
Karen is a travel consultant specializing in Spain, from California. She has 20 years of travel industry experience with travel companies like Airbnb and STA Travel. Karen now lives in Spain and through her, Spain Less Traveled site, she helps clients who want to experience Spain more authentically with personalized itineraries and individual travel consulting. Additionally, she founded and administers fast-growing Travel Spain! Facebook Community.
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