Residential Moving

Relocating tips for moving from the US to Spain

Spanish flag

Moving internationally is exciting but requires careful planning. It means adjusting to a new culture, language, and legal system. A popular destination for expatriates, Spain is known for its vibrant culture, great climate, beautiful landscapes, and high quality of life. Spain combines modern amenities with historic charm and offers a variety of living environments, from cities like Madrid and Barcelona to coastal towns on the Costa del Sol.

Start with thorough research and preparation and create a moving checklist. Gather all necessary documents to proceed with the visa application process. Plan your relocation process, ensuring you have housing and a job lined up if needed. Finally, coordinate the international moving logistics, such as hiring a reputable moving company and arranging for the transport of your belongings.

What to expect when moving to Spain

What cultural differences should you be aware of when moving to Spain?

Spaniards value social interactions, family, and work-life balance. Meal times are later than in many other countries, with lunch typically being the main meal. Understanding these cultural nuances will help with cultural adaptation and integration into your new community.

How do you navigate the language barrier in Spain?

Spanish (Castilian) is the primary language in Spain, with regional tongues like Catalan, Galician, and Basque. Although English is partially spoken, particularly in cities, learning Spanish can improve your experience and community integration. Look for Spanish classes or try language apps to enhance your communication skills before moving.

What is the cost of living in Spain compared to other European countries?

The cost of living in Spain is generally lower than in many other European countries. Expenses such as housing, food, and transportation are typically more affordable in Spain, making budget planning more manageable. However, costs can vary depending on the city or region, with larger cities like Madrid and Barcelona being more expensive than smaller towns and rural areas.

What are the best cities or regions to live in Spain as an expat?

The Living in Spainbest places to live in Spain for expats include cities like Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia, and Seville. These expat-friendly cities offer a high quality of life, vibrant culture, and numerous amenities. Each region has its own unique characteristics and regional differences, so consider factors like climate, cost of living, and job opportunities when choosing your new home.

How can you find housing in Spain?

Finding accommodation in Spain involves researching the rental market and exploring your housing options. Start by browsing online real estate websites and local classifieds and consider working with a real estate agent who specializes in helping expats. When securing a rental, be prepared to provide documentation such as your NIE (foreign identification number) and proof of income.

What job opportunities are available for expats in Spain?

Spain offers various employment opportunities for expats, particularly in industries such as tourism, education, technology, and healthcare. The job market can be competitive, so it’s beneficial to network and utilize job search platforms. Ensure you have the necessary work permits and qualifications for working in Spain.

What are the main steps to move to Spain?

Apply for a visa

When moving to Spain for the long term, US citizens have a couple of primary visa options. Review the Spain visa requirements to determine which residency permits you qualify for.

  1. A Work Visa is for individuals who have secured employment in Spain. This visa requires a job offer from a Spanish employer and is linked to the specific job and employer.
  2. A Retirement Visa (Non-Lucrative Visa) is for retirees or individuals with sufficient financial means who do not plan to work in Spain. It allows for long-term residency based on proof of financial self-sufficiency.

Required documentation

  • Valid passport: Must be valid for at least six months beyond your planned entry date into Spain and have at least two blank pages.
  • Visa application form: Completed and signed.
  • Passport-sized photos: Usually, two recent photos meeting specific size and format requirements.
  • Proof of financial means: Bank statements, pension statements, or proof of regular income to demonstrate financial self-sufficiency.
  • Health insurance: Proof of health insurance coverage valid in Spain for your stay.
  • Criminal background check: A background check from the FBI or local police department.
  • Proof of accommodation: Documentation showing where you will stay in Spain, such as a lease agreement or property deed.
  • Additional documents for work visas: Job offer letter, work contract, and sometimes proof of the employer’s authorization to hire foreign workers.

Submit applications through the Spanish consulate or embassy in the US. Follow the specific consulate’s procedures, as the visa application process may vary slightly. Some visa types may require an interview at the consulate, so be prepared to discuss your plans and provide additional documentation if requested. Check with the consulate for expected timelines, and once approved, you’ll receive your visa to enter Spain legally.

Navigating customs and regulations

Understanding Spain’s customs regulations will help ensure a smooth transition. Spain follows EU customs regulations. Items for personal use, household goods, and vehicles can be imported duty-free if they have been owned and used for at least six months before moving. You’ll need documentation proving you are moving to Spain, such as a rental contract or property deed. You’ll also need a detailed list of items being imported, with their estimated value.

Import duties and taxes

Certain items may be subject to import duties and taxes:

  • Household goods: Generally exempt if part of a permanent move.
  • Vehicles: Importing a car requires additional documentation and may incur taxes. Ensure compliance with Spanish vehicle regulations and registration.
  • Restricted items: Some items, such as alcohol, tobacco, and certain electronics, may face restrictions or higher taxes. Check with Spanish customs for specific regulations.

After you arrive in Spain

Register with local authorities

The NIE (Número de Identificación de Extranjero) is a unique identification number required for all foreigners conducting legal or financial activities in Spain. To obtain your NIE:

  1. Schedule an appointment at a police station or foreigners’ office online or visit the nearest office that handles NIE applications.
  2. Complete the EX-15 form, available online or at the office.
  3. Bring your passport, a copy of your passport, and a document explaining why you need an NIE (e.g., job contract, lease agreement).
  4. A small fee is required, which can be paid at a bank using a form provided at the office.
  5. The process can take a few days to a few weeks. You’ll receive your NIE on a paper certificate.

Register with the local town hall

Town hall of Laguardia, Rioja Alavesa province, SpainEmpadronamiento is the process of registering your residence with the local town hall. This registration is crucial for accessing local services and benefits:

  1. Go to the ayuntamiento (town hall) in your area.
  2. Fill out the padrón registration form provided at the town hall.
  3. Bring your passport, NIE, proof of address (such as a lease agreement or utility bill), and sometimes a birth certificate.
  4. Once registered, you’ll receive a certificate (certificado de empadronamiento) confirming your residence.

What should you know about the healthcare system in Spain?

Spain offers a high-quality healthcare system that includes both public and private options. The public healthcare system (Seguridad Social) is funded through taxes and provides comprehensive coverage to residents. Private healthcare is also widely available and often used to supplement public services. Expats may need private health insurance, especially if they are not employed in Spain.

How do you set up essential services like banking, internet, and utilities in Spain?

To start banking in Spain, visit a local bank branch with the following documents:

  • Valid passport: Identification is required.
  • NIE (Número de Identificación de Extranjero): Your foreigner identification number.
  • Proof of address: A utility bill or rental contract.
  • Employment information: If applicable, proof of income or employment.

Most banks offer online banking services and accounts in both euros (€) and other currencies. Popular banks include Santander, BBVA, and CaixaBank. Setting up utilities should be easy once you have a Spanish bank account; simply contact local utility providers. For internet services, choose an internet provider and arrange for installation.

Managing US financial obligations

Next step: Find an international move partner

By creating a plan to set up your banking and utilities, fulfill US financial obligations, and understand customs requirements, you can ensure a smooth and well-organized relocation to Spain.

For expert assistance with your international move, consider partnering with JK Moving. Our comprehensive services and experienced team can help you navigate the complexities of moving abroad, making your relocation as seamless and stress-free as possible. Trust JK Moving to support you every step of the way as you embark on this exciting new chapter of settling in Spain.