Moving to Spain

Spain has long been the most popular destination for UK ex-pats, particularly for Northern Europeans who have settled here permanently and successfully in their thousands. It’s not hard to see why: Spain enjoys, on average, 315 days of sunshine a year; it is blessed with dazzling beaches and a breath taking landscape. There is a wealth of history and culture – reflected in the stunning architecture, the myriad festivals, the superb museums, historical monuments and art galleries found all over the country. Spain has an efficient healthcare system, an excellent education system at all levels and competitive property prices all these combine to create the potential for superlative quality of life.

It’s easy, on yet another cold and rainy afternoon, to start daydreaming of that Spanish holiday home and to imagine making the dream a permanent reality. A desire to escape to the sun is not enough reason to move to Spain , however. Making your home in a new country is a very different experience to enjoying a holiday there.

It’s no coincidence that the Spanish live longer than other Europeans – Spaniards tend to have a very relaxed and unworried attitude to life. The Spanish are also in general very welcoming and tolerant of incomers – holidaymakers and new residents alike. Many of them speak several foreign languages but as mentioned previously, if you are serious about a new life in Spain , learning the language is a must. If possible, try and learn the basics before the move – the average Spaniard is very willing to meet you halfway, and speaking at least a little Spanish will ease your way in any situation. Once you take up residence there are several Government run language courses available in the cities and the provinces which are very reasonably priced.

As of March 28th 2007 , changes to the law in Spain mean that EU citizens in Spain will no longer be issued with a Residencia card. This finally brings Spain in line with the European Directive (2004/38/EC) which states that Europeans can take up residence in any country within the EU without needing a residency card. Spain has dragged its heels on adopting this EU directive and, as with any major change to the law, there is still some confusion about the new system. As it is still law to carry ID at all times (Spaniards are issued with Documento National de Identidad – DNI – at age 14) any foreigner intending to stay in Spain for more than three months must register in person at the Foreigner’s Office (Oficina de Extranjeros) or at a designated police station in order to get a certificate which will carry a unique ID number and list name, address and nationality. Foreigners living in Spain who already have a residency card can continue to use it as ID until it expires – at which point they will have to apply for the new certificate. Over the course of 2007, new “smart card” DNIs are being issued to Spaniards – it is likely that something similar will be introduced for foreign residents too.

Unless you are retiring to Spain you will need to consider work opportunities. Citizens of the European Union are free to move and work wherever they want in the EU, including Spain . As a EEA national you have the right to live and work in Spain without a work permit. If you are a  EEA national working in Spain you have the same employment rights as Spanish nationals with regard to working conditions, pay and trade union membership. There are employment opportunities in Spain , although you should remember that the unemployment rate in some areas is very high. Most, but not all, European qualifications are recognised in Spain – it is vital to research this before a move. Remember that if your qualifications are recognized, then you will have to get them translated and validated and that this process can take months. Many people see Spain as the chance to set up a business of their own but it’s crucial to remember that it takes time to get a new business established and you will need sufficient funds to cover the start-up period. Generally, wages are lower in Spain but this is offset by the relatively low cost of living – it’s possible to enjoy an excellent quality of life here on a reduced income