Moving to Spain: 12 Things to Remember

updated Summer 2018

Wondering how to move to Spain? Asking yourself how you can prepare to move to Spain?

Our biggest piece of advice to prospective expats is always the same: DO YOUR HOMEWORK! There are a number of factors that go into making the decision to move, from location to duration and everything else under the Spanish sol. As expats in Spain who have successfully helped others transition into their vida española, we want to make it easy for you.

Here’s the Cliffsnotes version of the most important steps to take when gearing up for your move to Spain and immediately after arriving to Spain:

Learn (some of) the Language

Not only will a grasp of Spanish allow you to fully immerse yourself in the culture, but it will also make day-to-day life easier. Concentrate on basic phrases, numbers, days of the week and salutations at first and the rest will eventually come. Cities around the world and online offer courses, you can also look for language exchanges or check out your local library for books. You might even pick up important words –  especially those related to food – by reading a travel guide.

Read more: The Best Language Apps for Your Mobile Phone

Check Your Passport and Visas

You’ll need a valid passport to enter Spain with at least six months left before it expires before leaving your home country. Make a few photocopies and store them in safe, separate places, leaving a copy with loved ones at home as well. Should something happen to your passport, you will need a copy of the picture page to present to both the Spanish national police and your nearest embassy or consulate for a replacement.

If you plan to be in Spain over 90 days and are not an EU passport holder, a visa will be necessary. There are visas to study, to work and to retire, among others and each require different paperwork and have different processing times. Overstaying your visa or applying for the wrong one can cause problems when trying to leave the country or applying for Spanish citizenship or long-term residency.

If you’ve got questions, contact us!

Read more: How to Apply for the Language and Culture Assistants Visa

Notify Everyone You’re Moving

If you’re moving to Spain for the foreseeable future, you’ll need to lay the groundwork for your absence at home. This includes notifying the post office so they can redirect your mail, your bank and credit card company, life and health insurance, etc. And don’t forget to sign up for Skype, Whatsapp and any other channel that will allow you to communicate with friends and family back home.

Read more: How to Defer Student Loans in Spain

Understanding the FATCA laws for Americans

Check out Banking Options

Now more than ever, banks are responding to the global market. There are countless options that allow card holders to waive commissions and foreign ATM fees, to earn points towards flights or other rewards and to move money between countries. Your new lifestyle might mean considering a new home-based back account. Charles Schwab High-Yield Checking, PNC Virtual Wallet and Bank of America’s travel credit card have outstanding options for your cash, and companies like PayPal and Transferwise can move your money for cheaper than a wire or bank transfer.

It goes without saying, but start-up costs in Spain can climb quickly. Be sure to bring enough to cover a deposit and first month’s rent, food and drink, linens and a few nights in a hotel or hostel while you look for a place to call home – at minimum, 2000 euros.

Read more: COMO’s Cost of Living Series

Understand the Spanish Health Care system

Spain has a health care system that is free to workers contributing to social security. Nevertheless, around 18% of Spaniards opt for private health care. If you are European, your EHIC card will work while in Spain in nearly all public hospitals; those from other countries will have to take out private insurance before applying for a visa. Private plans must have 30,000 euros worth of coverage and include repatriation if used for visa purposes.

If you have been on a retiree or non-lucrative visa as a non-European, you can begin to pay into the Spanish public care system after one year. As public insurance specifics are different from one autonomous community to the next, pricing and sign up may differ. Be sure to ask at an ambulatorio or clinic near your place of residence.

If you’re working with a language assistant program, you’ll receive private health care from your assigned province along with a booklet about coverage and offices.

If you’re considering taking out Spanish private insurance, use a search page like Rastreator. You can compare prices and coverage like a one-stop-stop and have the company call you. In most cases, you will need your NIE number handy; note that some larger companies do cover those with pre-existing conditions.

Read more: How to Register for a Spanish Social Security Number and Vocabulary Words for Health in Spain

Apply for your TIE Card

The first thing you’ll need upon arrival in Spain is your NIE – Número do Identificación de Extranjeros (Foreigners’ Identification Number). A NIE is for anyone who isn’t a Spanish national and is used for identification in addition to things as simple as opening a bank account to bigger hurdles such as applying for a mortgage. Most consulates now issue NIE numbers onto your Spanish visa. This will be a seven-digit number with and letter before it and a letter afterwards:


If you need a visa prior to arrival, a NIE number will be assigned to you; if you have an EU passport, you’ll have to do the legwork yourself.

Regardless, within 30 days of arrival in Spain you’ll have to head to your nearest Oficina de Extranjeros, or foreigner’s office, and present a series of documents to register yourself as legally residing in Spain. You’ll then be given a piece of paper, called a Certifiado de Residente for EU citizens, or a physical card, called a Tarjeta de Identificación de Extranjero for non-EU citizens.

Validity of the TIE card depends on the visa scheme you’re on. The cards can last one, two, five or ten years; if you are on a short-term program that is not longer than 183 days, you will not be issued a TIE card.

Find a Place to Live

Next up on the docket is finding a place to live. You might have already started looking online using websites such as Idealista (which also has a great mobile app!), but you’ll do most of the real work on arrival. You can choose to use a rental agency, called inmobiliarias in Spanish, the internet or go old school by hitting the pavement and looking for signs with “se alquila” in big black letters. No one way is better than the next but remember, if you go the agency route it can cost you – usually a full month’s rent in fees.

We recommend zeroing in on potential neighborhoods and pricing out what you can afford. Also consider public transportation access, proximity to parks, gyms or supermarkets, and whether or not you want to live alone or with roommates. If you’re interested in sharing, look for ads on Facebook or sites such as PisoCompartido or EasyPiso.

The housing market can get cutthroat in the weeks leading up to the school year, especially in larger cities or those popular for study abroad students. You’ll be competing with students, teachers and Erasmus students. Our advice is to set up notification emails to be pushed straight to your inbox whenever a property that meets your specifications and to call rather than email or text.

Read more: 8 Questions to Ask Your Spanish Landlord

Register with your Local Town Hall

After settling on a place to live, you’ll need to register at your local town hall with your address, called an empadronamiento. This will help you apply for a TIE card in some cities, get assigned a doctor at your nearest health center and register a child for school among many other trámites or formalities. Note that only fully-fledged Spanish citizens can vote in national elections; EU passport holders can register to vote in local and regional elections.

Read more: How to Register Your Empadronamiento

Set up Phone and Internet

Perhaps even more vital to your health than a doctor will be your connection to the world-at-large. Don’t miss a single post, snap or insta story by getting your internet and phone connection sorted ASAP.

For cellular devices, you’ll want to check that you have an unlocked GSM phone if you plan on using it in Europe. It not, you’ll have to invest in an entirely new device. You can get a basic phone for making calls and sending texts for around 20€ or a smartphone starting at around 100€.

Internet is usually coupled with a landline, called fijos in Spanish, but a few smaller companies offer without. ADSL is standard in much of Spain and fiber optic service is ever growing.

Usually both phone and internet is tied to permanenia, or minimum contract lengths, but you can get service without. If you’re planning on staying in Spain for less than 12 months look for prepaid phone options and internet sin permanenia, but be aware that the best deals are reserved for customers who commit to a year or more of service.

Read more: Moving to Spain eBook


Buy Our eBook

This post is merely the tip of the iceberg – your first few weeks in Spain are frightening and sometimes frustrating but all-together exhilarating. We had our fair share of tear-your-hair-out moments and are still here, nine years later!

That’s why we started COMO Consulting – to help you move to Spain successfully – and wrote our eBook last summer as a tell-all guide to the Hows, Wheres and What The Hells when you land in Iberia. After more than 500 copies sold, the response has been overwhelming: our clients have even called it their safety blanket!

Moving to Spain COVER 2015 English


What is Moving to Spain? Your one-stop source on moving to and working as an English teacher in Spain. We’ve compiled 22 years of experience into an easy-to-read, sometimes funny but ultimately helpful eBook that details everything from packing, paperwork, to teaching private classes and more!

We’ve beefed up the contents and added a few extras so that you can make your move to Spain as smooth as possible. You can purchase Moving to Spain right now for 10 euros. Sign up for email updates and look out for special promotions on our Facebook and Twitter pages.

Saludos y’all.

Have you bought or used Moving to Spain? We’d love to hear what you think about it! Please write us, tweet us or add us!

Author: Cat Gaa

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  1. thanks for info. do you know if Spainish colleges, universities or language schools prefer the TESOL (teaching english as a 2nd language) or TEFL, or does it matter?

    Post a Reply
    • Hi, Maria. Spanish universities will require a teaching degree to teach classes other than language school classes. A CELTA is generally preferred over a CELTA in Europe, but it’s up to the person hiring to decide. Good luck!

      Post a Reply
  2. I couldn’t find a blog post of yours that could help me. I read that when you apply for residency, they want either proof of financial stability OR proof of working. You will see why the last condition is confusing:

    Now, for a US citizen who intends to apply for Tarjeta de Communitaria, is it correct that I can’t even legally BEGIN working until I get this card (work permission)? Or can I use a NIE only to begin working without yet having a TdC, thus showing PROOF of employment?
    I dont understand how I could prove employment to apply for a visa if I cant get a job without the visa!

    Hope you can understand my confusion. And what documents DO I need for legal employment (not for work visa)?

    Post a Reply

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