Get a Quote

How to move to Spain

According to the Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD), Spain received over 291,000 new immigrants in 2015. Of these, about 5,781 were American. This is the highest number of Americans moving to Spain in the last 15 years, and it reflects a general upward trend throughout this decade. Overall, foreign-born people account for around 10 percent of the country's total population.


There are many reasons that people are choosing to relocate to Spain. The cost of living is lower than many other areas and the climate and weather is mild year-round. If you've visited Spain and fallen in love with it or are considering moving there for any other reason, here is everything you need to know about moving to Spain.

Steps to move to Spain:

Moving to a new country is a bit more complicated than simply visiting, and you will need to be prepared to jump through some bureaucratic hoops in order to obtain residency. Fortunately, the process is not unduly difficult, and with a bit of preparation you can obtain the appropriate visa.

  1. Step 1: Obtain a Visa: People, who live in any European Union countries, including Iceland, Norway and Switzerland, do not need to apply for a visa in order to live in Spain. Those of us from the United States, however, will need to file the appropriate paperwork for duration longer than a few months. There are three types of visa that you can obtain:
    • Work visa
    • Student visa
    • Retirement visa

    You can apply for these online or in person by visiting a Spanish Embassy. To apply online, you need to find the appropriate consulate for your area. This information can be found here. You will need to submit a processing fee of EUR 60, but this fee will be paid for by your employer if you already have a contract of employment or formal job offer in place.

    Multiple types of work visa exist for different types of job. Teachers, for example, will have different visa requirements than military personnel or entrepreneurs.

    To apply for a visa, you will need:

    • A valid passport
    • A letter from a doctor stating you are physically fit to work in your chosen job
    • A character reference from your local police department stating you are not a criminal
    • Photos of yourself
    • Your marriage certificate and birth certificates for your children if you wish for your spouse and children to be included in the visa

    All documents must be accompanied by official translations.

    If you are applying as a retiree, you will need to provide proof of income. In most cases, this means submitting a form certifying that you receive social security and will continue to receive social security payments and medical insurance coverage while in Spain.

  2. Step 2: Obtain a Residence Card: Your visa may take up to six months to process and be approved. Once you have it, you are granted entry into Spain. However, this initial visa will be good for only 90 days; within that time period, you will need to obtain a residence card from the local Spanish police department.
  3. Step 3: Get a Foreigner's Identity Number (NIE): This is necessary for getting paid, opening a bank account, paying taxes and other such tasks. Obtaining an NIE and residence card may take several hours, so be prepared to be patient when you visit the police station. Having all relevant paperwork on hand will speed up the process. Alternatively, you can apply for your NIE at a Spanish Consulate in the United States before you leave the country.

Once all of this paperwork is completed, you will be able to live and work in Spain. However, bear in mind that both your visa and your residency card can expire, and you will need to pay attention to how often you need to renew them and what will be required in order to renew them. Any change in employment status can affect your residency, so it's important to carefully review the rules of your specific visa so that you'll know what to do if your circumstances change.

Reasons to Move to Spain

Spain-ToledoSpain's cost of living is almost 18 percent lower than the United States, and rent is 45 percent lower. That alone can make moving to Spain an attractive option.

The pleasant climate, too, makes Spain an appealing choice. Summers are warm and dry, but winters are mild and rainy thanks to the Mediterranean climate. The average annual temperature hovers around room temperature, fluctuating between about 49°F in winter and 74°F in summer.

After a long economic crisis, Spain is recovering once more, providing greater opportunities for finding work. The lower cost of living and increased opportunities for entrepreneurship make Spain a great choice for anyone looking for a fresh start. The pleasant climate and proximity to so many beautiful beaches also makes Spain a popular retirement destination for some people.