moving to spain

Thousands of people have done it over the years, but that doesn’t mean they’ve done it right. For many, moving to Spain can be a dream come true; for others, simply failing to take a few simple, but necessary, steps means that things inevitably start off on the wrong footing and they’re left forever playing catch-up.

Here are just a few things to bear in mind before you make the big move…

Before You Go…

Don’t Burn Your Bridges

Perhaps the best advice above anything else when moving to Spain is: if you can afford to keep a property in the UK (or your country of origin) then do so, whether you decide to downsize to a smaller more manageable property or keep your original home. This gives you options in the future and a possible rental income, too.

Who to Meet

Contact a financial advisor, ideally one who has specific experience in Spain.  This person can advise you on pensions, tax liabilities and what is necessary to do in terms of fiscal responsibilities in Spain. Questions that you should be asking at this point include: if you are keeping a residence in the UK and planning to rent it out how is the income taxed? If you work part of the year in the UK how will that affect fiscal residency? These can all be answered on a case-by-case basis by an experienced Financial Advisor.

Inform the HMRC ( – there are certain forms that must be filled in including form P85 – Leaving the UK.

On a slightly less formal note, it’s a good idea to get involved with social media before you go; you’ll be surprised at how many expatriate groups exist on Facebook and Twitter. It’s a great way of learning about different areas and local customs and things to do, and possibly even meeting people who are living your dream.

Tie Up Loose Ends

In terms of your British bank accounts, ensure you have internet banking set up before you leave the country; also make sure that all your statements are being sent electronically and your debit and credit cards are up-to-date.

Have a clear-out: surprisingly enough, Spain has shops, too, so don’t be tempted to bring all your furniture over with you. Besides the cost of delivery, you might find that what looked perfect in an old cottage in an English village doesn’t quite work in a Spanish villa or that, with the temperature differences, a formal indoor dining table and chairs would go unused.

It’s often not worth importing your car, either: firstly, there’s the fact that the steering wheel is on the wrong side, while secondly, as well as the duty due, you might as well have bought a car in Spain. (Although be warned: Spanish second-hand car prices are much dearer than those in the UK and many other countries.)

Learn a Bit of Spanish

Enrol in a local college while in the UK, to learn the basics. It takes a long time to be bilingual (and many never even get close), but by starting with a conservational Spanish class at home, you will at least be able to greet people, order food, speak to your children’s teachers, and understand basic inferences. There are places in Spain, most typically on the coast, where it’s not absolutely necessary to speak Spanish, as the English communities are well-developed. However, being able to have a basic conservation with a Spaniard will help with feeling less isolated, as they are such a sociable bunch as a general rule. (Plus it takes the pain away from the day-to-day administrative tasks that will need doing!) A useful translation site for day-to-day queries is

When You’re There…


When you have moved to Spain, two things are important initially: one is obtaining a NIE (Numero de Identification de Extranjeros); this is the unique identification number that you and your family need. The second is being registered as living at your address in that municipality (Empadronamiento), which is similar to the electoral role in the UK. Your town hall (Ayuntamiento) issues the Empadronamiento certificates and the police station or comisaría issues the NIEs. To obtain an NIE you must have photocopies and originals of your passport, contract of house rental/deeds of your house in Spain, and fill in a personal details form. A certificate of Empadronamiento is needed when you buy or sell a car, register a child in school, apply for the NIE, apply for residency (Residencia), get married, vote and apply for a local health insurance card. It’s important to get an NIE – this is your identification while in Spain and it’s needed for all manner of things, in addition to the above. For more advice and assistance about NIEs and Spanish bureaucracy, visit

Rent Before Buying a Property

The fun bit is house-hunting but mistakes can be made at this early stage. There’s a huge difference between being on holiday somewhere and living there. To ensure moving abroad to Spain is for you, it’s never a bad idea to rent for a year prior to buying a property. Spain is a huge country and it will give you the opportunity to sample a few different areas until you find the perfect spot to hang your hat. Rent in Spain is relatively reasonable, too, so don’t feel as though it’s a waste. A good place to start when looking to buy or rent is, with a good selection of properties from private vendors and local estate agents, while if you’re looking to buy is an excellent bet.

Open a Bank Account

Shop around for a bank that gives the best deal. Look for things like free European transfers and check the costs of having a credit card and bank account in Spain as they’re often more expensive than in the UK (and many other countries). Also, most banks charge if you use a different bank’s cash machine, so ensure yours is convenient to where you live. Banks open only in the mornings Monday to Fridays; however, during the winter months most banks extend their opening hours to either on a Saturday or a full day during the week.

With the above having been completed, and with your NIE and Empadronamiento certificates, Spanish bank account and confidence in the knowledge that your finances are in order, you’ll be free to discover your new home. By picking up knowledge of Spanish along the way and involving yourself with the local (and cyber) communities you can make informed decisions about the rest of your life in Spain.


About the author:

Phillipa Sudron is drawing from her own experiences of living in southern Spain for more than five years. She is writing on behalf of Richard Alexander Financial Planning:



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