Moving to Spain from the UK: 8 Things to Do and Know
Spain is a beautiful place to move if you want to enjoy delicious food and beautiful weather. It is also less expensive than many Western European countries. It is undeniable that many British nationals are moving to Spain from the UK in search of a simple lifestyle where they can get a daily dose of sunshine.
You may want to know the things needed and the steps on how to relocate to this beautiful place! For your convenience, MovingWaldo gathered in this article 8 things to do and know before moving from the UK to Spain.
Important things to know before moving from the UK to Spain
1. First steps before moving to Spain from the UK
Spain visa requirements and permits
Prior to moving, it is important to ensure that all visas and other required documentation for the move have been completed. Spain is a member of the Schengen area. If you plan on moving to Spain from the UK for more than 90 days, you must apply for a residency permit, not a Spain Schengen visa.
Since Brexit has ended free movement between the UK and EU nations, British citizens in need of a national residence visa or visado nacionale (long-term visa) should get in touch with the Spanish consulate as soon as possible or may also try to apply online. The standard application process can take anything from 3 to 6 months.
Here are the requirements to apply for residence visa:
- Passport or national identity card that is valid
- Copies of valid passports and national identification cards
- Two pictures sized for a passport
- Evidence of residency in Spain
- A completed EX18 request form (Solicitud de certificado de registro de residencia comunitaria)
- Evidence of fee payment
Spain's Investment Residency Permit Program or Golden Visa
Under Spain’s Investment Resident Permit Program, British nationals and citizens can get a residency visa. It allows qualified investors and their families to obtain Spanish residency by making investments in Spain. You can submit a visa application to the nearest Spanish Embassy or Consulate.
The Golden Visa you will be granted at the Embassy will be good for one-year. After the one year period, you must be in Spain to exchange your visa for a two-year residence permit.
As long as you maintain your investment, the residence permit can be extended forever with no stay limits, and to renew your residence permit, you must be physically present in Spain. If you plan to live in Spain, you can apply for permanent residency after five years of continuous residency (at least six months out of the year).
Visado de trabajo y residencia (work visa)
To legally work and live in Spain, you need a Visado de trabajo y residencia. It is recommended to secure a job before moving to Spain because your employer would then be responsible for your visa and health insurance.
You must complete out the appropriate application form for the type of work permit visa you need. The right form can be found on the Foreigner’s Office website. After completing the application, you must bring it to the Foreigner’s Office, or Oficina de Extranjera, along with the necessary documents stated below:
- a copy of your passport
- a criminal record
- a medical certificate
- three passport-sized photographs
- your NIE (if you are already in the country)
- your employer’s social security number
- a job offer with labor conditions
- a full description of the job and the company’s activity
- proof of your employer’s financial assets (if necessary)
- the corresponding Spain work permit visa application form
Visado de estudios (student visa)
This Visado de estudios is for students who are enrolled in a recognized program of higher education or vocational training and will be staying in the country for that length of time. Keep in mind that this is not a standard residency permit. Hence, student visa years do not count toward permanent residency or Spanish nationality. Student visas are divided by course length, such as a short-term student visa for 91–180-day students and a long-term student visa for students staying longer than six months.
You can now apply for your student visa at your nearest Spanish consulate. Application should be at least 30 days before starting your Spanish education and no more than 90 days prior. Your application will be processed within a month.
Visado de residencia (family or retirement visa)
Visado de residencia is a family reunification or retirement visa. It is the legal immigration procedure by which any foreigner who lives in Spain with their renewed residence card can bring their relatives to the country.
In the United Kingdom, you can begin the process of family reunification by visiting any Spanish embassy. If you have a valid resident permit in Spain, you can apply for family reunification residence, and the following are the lists of eligible family members you can bring with you. After that you must make an appointment with your local Foreigner’s Office in Spain.
- Legal parents
- Your civil partner or spouse
- Your son or daughter, if they are under the age of 18; your spouse’s or civil partner’s parents (your mother and father-in-law).
- Your spouse’s or civil partner’s children (putative children)
Non Lucrative Visa
A Non Lucrative Visa is for people who have sufficient and guaranteed means to live in Spain. The minimum amount required to apply for a Non-lucrative visa is 400% of Spain’s Public Multiple Effects Income Index (IPREM). To this amount, 100% of the IPREM for each family member under the applicant’s care must be added. It is to reside in Spain without engaging in any gainful (job or professional) activity, however, this visa does not grant you the right to work.
Requirements for getting a Non Lucrative visa
- Be over the age of 18 and have no irregular immigration status.
- Evidence of sufficient economic resources to maintain your stay and, depending on the circumstances, your family during the duration of stay you are seeking for without working.
- A negative criminal record issued in the last three months by the authorities of the country or countries where you lived in the previous five years.
- Medical insurance with a company that is legally permitted to operate in Spain.
- A notarized paper describing why you are requesting this visa, the purpose, location, and duration of your stay in Spain, as well as any other reasons you need to explain, with a certified translation into Spanish.
Documents required for a Non Lucrative visa
- Original passport
- Photocopy of medical certificate
- Original copy of police clearance
- Proof of income certificate
- Proof of health insurance
- Payment of fees received
- Notarized document stating the purpose of the stay
To make an appointment, you have two options: call the Spanish embassy, consulate, or visa service center, or fill out your application via the online form.
Translating and legalising documents
Legalization is an administrative act that validates a foreign public document by validating the authenticity of the signature and the capacity in which the document’s signatory operates. Any legal process when moving to Spain can be significantly delayed by inaccurate paperwork and it is critical to ensure that all necessary documents are translated to Spanish when moving. Here’s a step-by-step guide for your convenience.
Below are the important documents to translate and be legalised:
- Birth certificates
- Marriage certificates
- Death certificates
- Criminal records
- Police reports
- Academic records
- University certificates
- Medical records
- Government documentation
More than 6 million people who live in Spain were born elsewhere; according to recent research, about 60% of Spaniards do not speak English at all, and the remaining 35% do not speak it very well. If you wish to study the language, you may want to enroll in an online Spanish language course like Lingoda; however, this will come out of your pocket since there aren’t any free courses offered by the government as of this writing.
Benefits of learning the Spanish language when you move to Spain from the UK
- Integrate yourself into society so that you no longer have the feeling of being a foreigner.
- Most jobs in Spain will need you to know at least a little bit of Spanish. This will not only make you more attractive, but it will also give you a lot more job options in any city.
- Most government and important communication will be in Spanish. If you wish to talk to local officials or doctors, understanding Spanish can save you the cost of a translator or the hassle of finding a local friend.
Moving to Spain
How to travel to Spain from the UK?
- Plane – Flying to different parts of Spain from most major UK cities, including London and Manchester, is the fastest way to travel from the UK to Spain. The average flight duration between the UK and Madrid (the capital of Spain) is 2 hours and 30 minutes.
- Train and bus – From the UK, it is possible to get to Spain in a single day by train. The quickest method is to take the Eurostar from London St Pancras International Railway Station to Paris, then change to a high-speed train to Figueres, Girona, or Barcelona. Another option is to take a bus from London Victoria Coach Station to Zaragoza-Delicias and then a train to Barcelona.
- Ferry – There are three ferry lines between England with Spain, with a total of six sailings every week. Brittany Ferries operates three routes: Plymouth to Santander twice daily, Portsmouth to Bilbao twice daily, and Portsmouth to Santander twice daily.
How long is a flight from the UK to Spain?
The average flight duration between the UK and Madrid (the capital of Spain) is 2 hours and 30 minutes.
How to transport your belongings from the UK to Spain?
Transportation is not an easy job, which is why a removal company is your best choice if you’re moving many items to Spain. It’s important to choose experienced and reputable movers who are members of The British Association of Removers Overseas (BAR), have an excellent reputation, great online ratings, are professional, and provide the right insurance coverage. Discover MovingWaldo’s careful choice of the 5 best removal companies in London.
2. Upon your arrival in Spain
There are numerous things to accomplish and fix upon your arrival in Spain to ensure a smooth and trouble-free move. Here are some of the first things to sort out upon your arrival:
Setting up a bank account in Spain
If you wish to open an account after moving to Spain from the UK, you’ll need proof of identity and address, employment status or unemployment documentation, proof of studentship (if you’re a student) and your NIE certificate (foreigner identity).
There are Spanish banks that are preferred for British customers due to their English proficiency and user-friendliness. They are the BBVA Bank Spain, Banco Popular, Santander Bank, and Sabadell Bank Spain.
How healthcare works in Spain
The National Healthcare System in Spain (Sistema Nacional de Salud) is similar to the UK’s NHS. It is tax-funded and offers free healthcare at the basic level. Every town in Spain has a national health centre for frontline medical care. To benefit, you need to first register your address with your town council.
Healthcare costs not covered by public insurance depend on the resident category you fall into i.e. employed, unemployed or retired. With a valid official work visa, you can fully access the Spanish social security system and your dependents can also be covered. Moreover, you would be eligible for a Spanish health card that would give you access to healthcare when you are temporarily in another EU member state.
Can Brits move to Spain and claim benefits?
If you are planning to move to Spain from the UK, you may still be eligible for some benefits. You can continue to get your UK State Pension if you move to Spain, and you can still make a claim for it. Your UK State Pension will increase annually in these countries at the same rate as in the United Kingdom.
How to get a Spanish driving license to drive in Spain
To drive in Spain as a resident, you must exchange your driving license within 2 years of residency. After 2 years, it is illegal to drive with your foreign license in Spain and you may get penalized if caught.
You must also register with the traffic authorities within six months after moving to Spain to drive with your foreign license. Visit the Directorate-General for Traffic’s traffic office (DGT). The approved driver’s examination facility (Centro de Reconocimiento de Conductores Autorizado) will conduct a medical exam to determine your fitness to drive.
Exchange your driving license at your local DGT with these documents.
- Passport Form
- Residence card
- Valid international driving license (original and copy).
- 2-passport-size photographs
- Writing that you haven’t been prohibited or suspended from driving
- Written confirmation that you do not have a foreign driving license.
You are not required to wait for years before exchanging your license for a Spanish one. However, you must be a legal resident of Spain to take the Spanish driving test and you can only apply for a driving test at the DGT office in the province where you live. The exam is divided into two parts: written theory and practical driving.
What is NIE and its importance
Foreigner Identity Number (NIE) is an acronym that stands for “número de identidad del extranjero” – Foreigner Identification Number. This document is required to get a residency permit, start a business, open a bank account, and buy a property or car. Please note that a foreigner living in Spain without an NIE is regarded as legally irregular, including EU nationals. This must be obtained as well before house hunting.
3. Living in Spain
Finding a place to live
Recently, Spanish real estate seems to be slowing down after having one of its best years ever. Both sales and prices seem to be slowing down a bit, but the numbers are still high.
The Instituto Nacional de Estadistica, a Spanish statistics organization, says that during the latter part of 2021, more than 24% of Spanish households are renting, which is one of the highest numbers seen in the last 10 years. Compared to 2010 and 2011, the profitability of renting out homes increased by 2.5 percentage points. The valuation of the property at sale and the yearly revenue from rent determined the profitability of such an investment.
If you are looking for a property to rent in Spain or even buying one, you may want to consider these top sites online to find a place to stay in Spain:
- Housing Anywhere
- Study Abroad Apartments
How to set up utilities at home in Spain
If you plan to rent a property in Spain, your landlord or property owner will have basic utilities installed before you arrive. But, if you plan to buy a home in Spain, you should arrange for utilities as soon as you get your new address to prevent being without them for the first few days.
These are the utility bills you’ll face when you move to Spain from the UK:
- Waste management – In most locations of Spain, garbage removal is charged on an annual basis. Waste disposal may be included in your water bill depending on where you live so you have to check with your local government.
- Electricity – In Spain, large cities have several electricity suppliers, including Endesa, Iberdrola, Viesgo, and others, while smaller towns have monopolies. This year, Spain’s wholesale power price fell about 65% to 70 euros per megawatt-hour. To set up your electricity, all you need to do is call an electric company of your choice and provide them with the required documents, such as your NIE and address. Payment for the bills is made from Spanish bank accounts through transferencia and is also accepted at post offices, banks, and electrical providers.
- Water – The majority of Spain’s water is supplied by commercial and government organizations. Just 25% utilize private suppliers, 50% use public suppliers, and the rest uses a combination of both. To set up your water supply, go to the town hall in your town or city and provide your ID, NIE, bank account information, and proof of your new residence.
- Gas – In Spain, selecting a gas supplier is similar to selecting an electricity supplier. Each region in Spain has a big provider, but you can also choose from others. Naturgy (Gas Natural), Endesa, and Enagas are the three main gas suppliers in Spain. Even better, several suppliers offer a combined gas and electricity tariff.
Best places to live in Spain
To choose these best places to live in Spain we considered the following criteria: easy integration (British expats and English language is fairly common), easy access to amenities and good weather year round.
The region of Andalusia
As of 2022, there were 92,180 British expats living in the region of Andalusia. English is commonly understood in the cities of Torremolinos, Estepona, Marbella, Benalmadena, and Fuengirola where many British expats have settled down. In these cities, it is hot and sunny in the summer and winters are mild and a bit rainy.
The coastal Region of Valencia (Costa Blanca)
As of 2022, there were 87,700 British expats living in the coastal Region of Valencia. In the cities of Alicante, Benidorm, Denia, Calpe, and Jaeva English is on the rise as many British expats have settled down. In these cities, it is warm during the summer season and winters are cool, windy, and partly cloudy.
How many hours is the time difference between Spain and the UK?
- Spain is one hour ahead of United Kingdom
4. Cost of living in Spain vs UK
This section displays the average monthly cost of living for an individual based on Numbeo statistics. It also compares the monthly cost of living in Spain (1,499.40€) to the monthly cost of living in the United Kingdom (2,314.10£).
Average cost in Spain
Average cost in
Buying a property
(per square meter outside city center)
1-bedroom outside city centre
(Numbeo’s costs of groceries multiplied by 4)
(electricity, heating, cooling, water, garbage) for 85m2 Apartment
Public transport (monthly pass)
Meal at mid-range restaurant
Clothing ( 2 items)
Monthly gym membership
How much is the average cost of living for one person in Spain?
- The average cost of living of one person in Spain is approximately 1,499.40€
5. Cell phone and Broadband in Spain
How to use your cell phone in Spain
The GSM network is used by Spain, along with other countries in Europe, for mobile communications. The majority of people can connect right away thanks to this. However, your smartphone will probably still function in Spain even if you’re traveling from a country that makes use of the CDMA network. Once you move to Spain from the UK, if you are not yet ready to get a phone plan, prepaid sim cards are available in a variety of locations, including mobile operator retail outlets, selected convenience stores, and online.
Some of the biggest names in Spanish telecoms are Vodafone España, Movistar, Orange España, Jazztel, and Yoigo.
How to set up your broadband in Spain
Having a broadband connection when you move is also necessary so you should be aware of this and you can create a contract with any of them. The main broadband providers in Spain are Movistar, Vodafone, Orange, MasMovil, Yoigo, Jazztel, Lowi, and O2. Their services are similar, but prices and quality vary. Consider all options carefully to decide which works best for your broadband needs.
Depending on your internet provider, installations or phone lines can take weeks. Signing up requires verification of your identity, residence ID number (e.g., NIE number), and bank details for payments. Sometimes a setup or activation cost may be required depending on the broadband policies.
6. What locals do in Spain
Like any other day, locals spend Saturday mornings on chores and housework, but during other times they enjoy spending the weekend at the beach as soon as the weather warms up, socializing entails gatherings, family visits, and a variety of other activities.
On the other hand, Sunday is a day for relaxing after a long tiring week from work, and some of them are catching up with family and friends. Aside from lotteries, a big number of locals like playing slot machines, which can be found in almost every Spanish pub. Most locals wake up late on Sundays, especially if their Saturday night has extended into the morning due to some gathering or events happening.
7. Weather in Spain
The seasonal differences in Spain’s moderate climate are preserved year-round. Temperatures aren’t too hot or cold, but they do change with the seasons and different parts of the country. Spring and fall have the most comfortable temperatures, so you can spend almost all day outside.
July and August have the highest temperatures, and the whole country is hot and dry during those months. Mostly in the north of Spain, it rains the most in December, January, and February, which are also the months with the coldest weather. The spring season in Spain is typically from March to June while summer season is between June to September. Autumn season begins from September to December and winter is from December to March.
Places in Spain with highest average summer temperatures
- Córdoba has the highest maximum average temperature in Spain, reaching 36.5 degrees Celsius throughout the month of August.
- Seville ranks second with an average temperature of 35.5 degrees Celsius in August
- Badajoz, similarly in the south-west of Spain but in the area of Extremadura, with an average temperature of 34.5 degrees Celsius in August.
- Murcia with a maximum average temperature of 34.2C in August.
- Granada has maximum average temperatures of 34.2 degrees Celsius.
Places in Spain with highest average winter temperatures
- Seville – The Andalusian capital might get a little cool in the winter, but it averages 15 degrees Celsius in December.
- Valencia – Because of its location on the Mediterranean, the eastern city averages 15 degrees Celsius in December.
- Mallorca – It may not always be beach weather in the Balearics throughout the winter, but 14 degrees Celsius on average in December is pretty tolerable.
8. The 7 biggest mistakes when moving to Spain
- Not getting started in the process of learning the language – One of the seven biggest mistakes when moving to Spain is not learning the language, which can cause long-term challenges or limit your possibilities.
- Incorrectly assuming how difficult obtaining visas, permits, and residence will be – Moving to Spain from the UK is often thought to be easy; however, after the Brexit and legislative changes, it may take months to complete your paperwork, so you must apply for your visa before booking a flight or finalizing your move.
- Assuming you can find a job in Spain as soon as you move – Before moving, job hunting will provide you with assurance that you can support a reasonable lifestyle. Due to competition, assuming you can find work in Spain quickly may be risky and might have an impact on your financial security.
- Failure to communicate with other expats – Before moving to Spain from the UK, ask others who have already done so as it will help you decide what to do and this can save you time and money.
- Purchasing a home without first getting a sense for the neighborhood – It may be tempting to buy a home before moving to Spain; however, this could be dangerous if you don’t know the place. Before moving, make sure you’re comfortable with the neighborhood, its people, and its facilities. This will save you time and effort.
- Unpreparedness in terms of financial condition – Living and working costs in Spain may differ from what you are used to in the UK. You should also keep in mind that, while grocery prices in Spain are lower than in the UK, the median earnings in Spain are also lower.
- Underestimating the cultural difference – Spanish culture emphasizes rest and family, and this can be a big change if you’re from a UK city with a busy culture. In Spain, you can enjoy yourself, take it slow, and sure enough, you’ll notice the difference.
Moving to Spain from the UK provides access to a wonderful local and expat community, as well as a lower cost of living. After the legalities, you may now start to dream about your new surroundings. Moving somewhere new can be difficult, especially due to the language barrier, but you’ll eventually appreciate the change. With proper planning and a sensible budget, moving to Spain from the UK should be easy.
There are many things to prepare before moving to Spain from your residency application to purchasing or renting a property, but don’t forget to change your address in important places like the DVLA as this will update all relevant driving records and documentation.
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