How to Move to Spain

Comprehensive Guide on moving to Spain

Spain, with its rich cultural heritage and diverse landscapes, has become an appealing destination for expatriates worldwide. If you’re considering making Spain your new home, this guide will navigate you through the process.

Moving to Spain as a US citizen involves different visa options depending on your purpose of stay. Here are some key points:

Visa Requirements:

Short Stay (Less than 90 days): US citizens can visit Spain for tourism, study, or business without a visa until the end of 2022. From early 2024, a visa waiver called ETIAS will be required, valid for 3 years or until passport expiration.
Long Stay (More than 90 days): Various visa options include:
Permanent Residency Visa: Allows living and working in Spain, leading to Spanish citizenship after 10 years.
Family Reunification Visa: For those with family members in Spain.
Work Visa: Obtained through a job offer in Spain.
Highly Skilled Visa: For skilled professionals, valid for 2 years and renewable.
Self-Employment Visa: For small business owners or freelancers.

Practical Tips:

Planning Ahead: Plan early and seek professional help for a smooth relocation process.

Financial Considerations:

Investment: Golden Visa requires investing €500,000 in Spain’s economy for residency.
Banking: Set up a bank account and compare exchange rates when converting funds to euros.
Healthcare: Register for public healthcare if working in Spain; consider private insurance for additional coverage.

Additional Information:

– Popular Destinations: Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia are recommended places to live in Spain as an American.
– Moving Logistics: Budget for visa preparation costs, travel expenses, and moving costs when relocating to Spain.

Moving to Spain offers a blend of rich culture, beautiful landscapes, and a Mediterranean lifestyle attracting many expats. Ensure to research visa requirements thoroughly and plan your move effectively.

Who Can Move to Spain?

EU/EEA and Swiss Citizens

Citizens of the EU, EEA, or Switzerland enjoy free movement within Spain for up to three months. Beyond that, registration is required.

Non-EU/EEA/Swiss Citizens

Non-EU citizens must follow a structured process for extended stays, obtaining a long-stay visa and residence permit corresponding to their purpose.

Moving to Spain as an EU Citizen

EU citizens can:

  • Work and study without an entry visa.
  • Move freely but must register within three months of arrival.

Moving to Spain as a Non-EU Citizen

Non-EU citizens need a long-stay visa and permit for:

  • Work: Various visas available, prioritizing skilled workers.
  • Study: Requires enrollment and a student visa, with a Foreigner Identity Card for stays over six months.
  • Family Reunification: Joining a family member necessitates a family reunification visa.
  • Retirement: Options like the Golden Visa or Non-Lucrative Visa cater to retirees.

Advantages of Moving to Spain


  • Healthcare: High-quality universal coverage.
  • Work Opportunities: Wide range of job options.
  • Living Costs: Generally affordable.
  • Diversity: Welcoming to foreigners.
  • Free Movement: Within the EU’s Schengen Area.
  • Safety: Relatively low crime rate.


  • Bureaucracy: Can involve significant paperwork.
  • Extreme Heat: Summers can be challenging.
  • Language Barrier: Basic Spanish advisable.

Don’t navigate immigration alone. Connect with trusted professionals for expert guidance and support.

Permanent Residency and Citizenship

  • Permanent Residency: Usually after five years, with some exceptions.
  • Citizenship: After ten years of legal residence, with other paths available.
  • Dual Citizenship: Not allowed; previous citizenship must be renounced.

What are the requirements for obtaining a Long-Stay Visa in Spain


To obtain a long-stay visa in Spain, you must complete the following steps and fulfill certain requirements:

1. Choose the appropriate visa type based on your reason for staying in Spain (student visa, work visa, retirement visa, investor visa, self-employed visa, etc.).
2. Gather the necessary documentation, including:
– Completed Spain visa application form
– Passport photographs (with white background)
– Valid passport (minimum validity of the duration of the stay plus two blank pages)
– Copies of previous passports and visas
– Documentation proving the purpose of your stay (such as a letter of acceptance from a Spanish university, employment contract, or investment confirmation)
– Proof of financial means (bank statements showing sufficient funds)
– Private health insurance policy (if not covered under the Spanish National Health System)
– Criminal record certificate (issued in the past three months)
– Documents confirming your current address and residence status in your home country (if applicable)
– Other relevant documents depending on the visa type (authorization for work and residence, employment contracts, etc.)
3. Schedule an appointment at the nearest Spanish consulate or visa application center.
4. Attend the scheduled interview, presenting all original documents and answering questions about your intentions in Spain.
5. Pay the visa fee.

Keep in mind that the exact requirements might vary slightly depending on the specific visa type you are applying for. Always double-check the latest guidelines provided by the Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs or the respective consulate.

Moving to Spain With Pets

Pets must be at least 12 weeks and 21 days old.

You cannot bring more than five pets.

Microchipping and vaccination against rabies are mandatory. 

For detailed entry requirements based on your country of origin, consult the Spanish authorities and ensure compliance with all regulations.

Popular Areas in Spain for Expats

Spain offers a diverse range of regions to choose from when deciding where to live. Here are some of the most popular areas among expats:


Barcelona is a cosmopolitan city known for its vibrant culture, beautiful architecture, and excellent quality of life. It’s ideal for couples and individuals who appreciate a bustling urban environment. However, keep in mind that Barcelona’s living costs can be higher than in other Spanish cities.


As the capital and largest city, Madrid attracts expats for its healthcare services, efficient public transport, and abundant job opportunities. It’s a versatile city suitable for students, job seekers, and families.


Valencia offers a more authentic Spanish experience. It’s known for its pleasant climate, affordability, and access to healthcare. The city welcomes expats and has a lower cost of living compared to some other Spanish regions.


If you prefer a quieter lifestyle away from the coast, Granada in Southern Spain is an excellent choice. It offers a mix of mountains and sea, a relaxed environment, and affordability. Granada is known for its friendliness towards foreigners.


Seville is famous for its architecture and flamenco culture. It’s the largest city in Southern Spain, known for its Mediterranean climate and relatively low living costs. Seville is especially appealing to those seeking a sunny and peaceful retirement spot.

What is the Cost of living in Spain compared to the US

The cost of living in Spain is generally lower compared to the United States. Here are some key points based on the search results:

Overall Cost: The average cost of living in Spain is around $1373, which is 44% less expensive than in the United States, where it is approximately $2441.

Specific Expenses:

Rent: Renting in Spain is more affordable compared to the US. For example, the cost of a one-bedroom apartment in Madrid is significantly lower than in many US cities.
Food Expenses: Grocery prices in Spain are generally lower than in the US, making daily expenses more affordable.
Transportation: While transportation costs may vary, Spain tends to have lower prices for gasoline and public transit compared to the US.
Salary Comparison: The average after-tax salary in Spain is around $1877, which may be sufficient to cover living expenses for 1.4 months, whereas in the US, it covers expenses for about 2 months.

In summary, living in Spain is more cost-effective compared to the US, with lower expenses for rent, groceries, and transportation. However, it’s essential to consider factors like average salaries and personal lifestyle preferences when evaluating the overall cost of living between the two countries.

Moving to Spain is a journey full of opportunities and excitement. Whether you’re an EU citizen enjoying the perks of free movement or a non-EU citizen navigating the visa process, Spain’s diverse regions offer a variety of lifestyles to suit your preferences. From the bustling streets of Barcelona to the historic charm of Granada, Spain’s rich cultural heritage and warm climate make it a destination worth considering for your new home. Embrace the adventure, immerse yourself in Spanish culture, and start your journey to a fulfilling life in this captivating country.