Moving to Spain From the USA

In this article

Spain is a beautiful country with a beautiful culture, economy, and lifestyle. Its climate is fascinating in Southwestern Europe as it is incredibly diverse and blessed with a Mediterranean feel. It is important to note that over 1.5 million Americans reside in the European country, enjoying its high standard and low cost of living.
Spain is included in the list of countries with mouth-watering cuisines, eye-catching landscapes, robust history, and relaxed social life. But while this country is a delightful one to travel to, there are specific facts you should know before moving to Spain from the USA. Before traveling, you would want to understand the Spanish healthcare system, taxation policies, cost of living, and educational system. This article explains life in Spain and how you can adapt to its environment. Let's dive in and explore Spain together.

Moving to Spain from the USA: The Checklist

What does life in Spain seem like? Is it so different from the American style? Read below to find out.

Get a Residency Visa for Spain

You do not need a visa to enter Spain for up to 90 days for tourism or business if you are an American citizen. However, there are different kinds of visas available to US travelers to Spain. There is the student visa, the c-type visa (also known as the short-stay visa), the golden visa, the permanent residency visa, the non-lucrative visa, the work permit visa, the tourist visa, the entrepreneur visa, the investor visa, and the digital nomad visa.
Aside from these, there are also the B1 business visa and the B2 tourism visa. The former is for those who want to travel to Spain for official assignments (or other work-related purposes) like conferences, meetings, etc. The B2 visa is for tourism purposes in Spain from the US.
It is important to note that if you are traveling to Spain from the US, you must get an appropriate visa from the Spanish consulate in the US.

Buy Private Spanish Health Insurance

Spain has a commendable health system, as it ranks among the first seven globally. The country offers free primary healthcare for all registered residents and workers. As an American visitor, you may not be mandated to get health insurance in Spain if you stay for less than 90 days. But if you will exceed 90 days, you must have Spanish health insurance.
Spain offers two types of health insurance: public health insurance (the national healthcare insurance scheme) and private health insurance. You should note that you may not be eligible for public health insurance as an American visitor (if you don't pay Spanish taxes). On this note, your best option is private health insurance.
Private insurance in Spain costs between $55 and $230 monthly, depending on the company. Most times, the bigger companies have lesser premiums.

Banking Options

US citizens and travelers can own a bank account in Spain. There are two major types of accounts in Spain-- resident account and non-resident account. You can open a resident account if you live in Spain or a non-resident account if you only live abroad.
Aside from owning a resident or non-resident account, there are four sub-account types.
-There is the Cuenta Corriente-- a checking account for regular payments.
-The Cuenta de ahorros is a savings account for deposits and withdrawals. You can get a bank card with this account.
-The Cuenta de depósito is an interest-accruing savings account.
-The Cuenta nomina is used for pension payments, salary deposits, and other benefit payments. This account has low deposit fees.
As a Spanish resident, you will need the following documents to open a Spanish account:
  • A valid passport (or means of identification)
  • Your residential address in Spain
  • Your NIE (Número de Identificación de Extranjero)
  • Proof of your employment status (student, employed, unemployed, etc.)

If you are a non-resident, you will need the following documents to open a non-resident Spanish account:
  • A document that shows your Spanish address
  • A document that shows your employment status
  • A certificate of non-residency. You may have to submit this document if the bank cannot create one for you.

Figure Out Your Taxes

Residents and non-residents from the US pay income taxes in Spain. However, the tax rates are different for both residency conditions. US citizens (or passport and visa holders) who stay up to 183 days in the country, or have major financial activities in Spain are regarded as tax residents. As a tax resident, you will be mandated to declare your assets over €50,000 and file a Spanish return if your annual income is over €22,000.
While non-tax residents have a flat tax rate of 24%, every US tax resident in Spain pays:
  • 19% on revenues between €1 and €12,450
  • 24% on revenues between €12,451 and €20,200
  • 30% on revenues between €20,201 and €35,200
  • 37% for revenues between €35,201 and €60,000
  • 45% for revenues over €60,000

However, as a tax resident from the US, you can reduce your tax payment by claiming deductions for your assets, investments, and revenues.
It is important to note that the US and Spanish governments have a pact for tax-paying individuals from the US. The agreement ensures that US citizens (and passport or visa holders) do not pay double taxes.

Getting a Spanish Driver's License

US citizens (and passport and visa holders) can drive in Spain with their American-registered driving license so far they have an International Driving Permit (IDP) and do not plan to stay beyond six months. You can get the IDP at the AATA for $20, which stays valid for one year. However, US license holders under 18 cannot drive in Spain.
You must get a Spanish license if you intend to stay beyond six months in the country. Follow these steps to get a Spanish driver's permit:
  • You must pass the medical test: The medical test checks your sight and hearing quality.
  • Take the written test: The examen teórico is available in different languages, including English and German (and Spanish if you can speak Spanish fluently). It has 30 questions and requires you to pass at least 27 questions.
  • Enroll in a driving school: You must take driving school lessons and complete more than five practical sessions behind the wheel. Registering in a driving school in Spain is mandatory irrespective of your driving experience.
  • Pass the practical test: The test requires that you practice driving with your instructor while your examiner takes scores. The essence is to ensure that you can drive according to Spanish rules.

Once you have passed these stages, you can get your Spanish driving license.

Moving Your Pets to Spain

Pets make up a big part of our social lives, and it is cool to travel around with them. However, there are important things to know when traveling with a pet from the US to Spain.
Your pet, whether a ferret, dog, cat, etc., must have a microchip for identification. The chip must be administered before the rabies vaccine and must be in line with International Standards Organization's Standard 11784 or Annex A to ISO Standard 11785. AVID 9 & 10 are also allowed.
It is important that your pet receives the vaccine within three weeks of its health exam and endorsement. Also, you must get a Rabies Certificate signed by an authorized veterinary doctor.
The Spanish government has stated that your incoming pet must be at most three months and three weeks old, and you can't bring in more than five animals. If your animal will participate in an event, it must be older than 24 weeks, and you must provide its proof of event registration.
One good thing about traveling with a pet to Spain is that it doesn't need to be quarantined on entry.
Remember that Spain does not allow poisonous or dangerous animals above 2 kilograms as pets. There are also restrictions against adult mammals that weigh more than 10 kilograms.

Enrolling Kids in Spain Schools

Spain has a 5-level educational structure comprising preschool, elementary, secondary, higher education preparatory, and tertiary. All public elementary and secondary schools are free in Spain because these educational levels are compulsory for every child. Private schools can cost up to €9,800 yearly.
Before registering your child in any school in the country, you must record and verify your child's educational status. This process is regarded as homologation and requires careful analysis of your child's academic records. It is advised that your child conducts this process before moving to Spain, as it often consumes time.
Once you have passed through the homologation (or convalidation process), submit these documents:
  • Your child's passport or birth certificate (you may also have to provide a Spanish translation).
  • Proof of residence. You can submit a utility bill receipt, rent receipt, lease, etc. Whatever you submit, let it be as Padròn.
  • Proof of immunization.
  • Proof of homologation.

Costs of Living in Spain

Spain is relatively affordable compared to high-end EU countries like the UK and non-EU states like the US. Averagely, it costs about €645 monthly for one person to live in Spain and €2,281 for a family of four-- all excluding rent. According to studies, the cost of living in Spain is about 23% less than in the UK, aside from rent.
It costs about €12.5 to get a decent meal in an average Spanish restaurant. However, a couple will spend between €48-€51 for a 3-course meal in an affordable restaurant. Speaking of groceries, one kilogram of local cheese costs €10.29, 1 liter of regular milk costs €0.84, while a 500-gram loaf of white bread costs €1.06. A can of water doesn't cost much also, as 1.5 liters of bottled water costs €0.66.
Paying for utility in Spain would not be much of a headache as basic bills like electric power, water, heating, cooling, and waste for an 85 square meter house cost about €126 monthly. Household goods do not cost so much in Spain as the government is trying to keep them affordable.
If you need to get around Spain, a "taxi start" at regular tariff costs €3.5 while a monthly pass average costs €40.
Accommodation in the country is often within budget, as you can get a single-room apartment for €734. There are more details about Spanish flats below.

Finding Accommodation in Spain

You can source for apartments in Spain through resource websites or real estate agents.
You can live in Spanish cities like Barcelona and Madrid, the country's capital. Compared to several major cities in Europe, Madrid is particularly known for its budget-friendliness and massive job opportunities.
The cost of one bedroom apartment in the city center starts from €1000 monthly, while outside the city center, you can get a 1-bedroom accommodation for €795. If you want family-size accommodation, a three-bedroom begins at €1,700 at the city center and €1,200 outside the city center.
Other regions in Spain have varying prices for single-bedroom apartments and three-bedroom spaces. However, generally, single-bedroom houses rent from €600 and above, while three-bedroom spaces rent from €820 and above.
Property prices differ with regions in Spain. While the average cost of a home in Spain starts from €1,900, specific locations like Barcelona start from €2,900, Madrid begins at €3,535, Elche starts at €1,510, and Valencia begins at €1,590.

Spain's Climate

Spain has a lovely and diverse climate across its geographic space. In its diversity, it enjoys a Mediterranean climate, with not-so-extreme hot and cold periods, alongside autumn and spring. Most times, the northern and southern regions at elevated ground levels experience the extreme sides of the country's weather conditions (although their occurrences are only sometimes predictable).
During the sunny weather, the atmospheric temperature can go as high as 30˚C, and the cold periods can take the temperature as low as 4˚C. Spain experiences its hottest periods during June, July, and August. During these periods, the nights often stay within the 20˚C mark. From September, the temperature reduces from its highs causing the mornings to begin with chills till the afternoon when the cold fades off. This weather pattern occurs till early December.
The coldest months are from December to early March. From March, the weather becomes adorable again as steady sunshine begins to trickle. Averagely, Spain enjoys up to 2,970 hours of sunshine annually.

Language in Spain

Most people in Spain speak Spanish (they account for over 80% of the population). Other dominant languages include Catalan, Galician, and Basque. While these statistics exist, you can still get around the country as an English-speaking US citizen. However, only a few individuals predominantly speak English or make proper English sentences.

Americans Living in Spain: Things to Keep in Mind

Spain is an amazing country with a considerably low cost and high standard of living. It has a diverse climate with beautiful scenery and interesting social life. It is no surprise that Spain is a popular destination for expats. As a US citizen, you may only be able to stay for 90 days within six months with your ETIAS, except if you get a permanent residence permit or gain Spanish citizenship by investment.
Spain has impressive and affordable healthcare options for visitors and tax residents. It also has an excellent educational structure, making it easy for your kids to continue their education. While Spain has impressive qualities, you should be aware that there are few palatial job opportunities in the country, and many have meager and stagnant salaries. Also, English is not their lingua franca, so you may have to learn Spanish.
Living in Spain is a relatively easy endeavor. All you need is a stable income and the required permits.

Pros and Cons of Moving to Spain From the USA

Spain has its beauties, as well as its downsides. Check below to see the pros and cons of moving to Spain from the United States.
Benefits
  • Spain has an awe-inspiring healthcare system. It ranks as one of the best in the world.
  • The EU country has lively towns and cities, so your social life will not suffer.
  • Need to get around the Spanish cities? Spain has good road networks and affordable transport costs.
  • How well do you appreciate nature's gift (Climate)? The country has a fair and diverse climate. Every bit of it will catch your fancy.

Drawbacks
  • Spain is majorly confined to flats as living spaces. You might not be so pleased if you love other kinds of apartment structures.
  • Salaries in Spain are low compared to other countries. Also, they hardly improve.
  • Spain has a few natural spaces.

Do You Need ETIAS Visa Waiver to Enter Spain?

ETIAS, also known as the European Travel Information and Authorization System, is a visa waiver program that allows citizens from eligible non-EU countries to travel into Schengen territories without a visa, for up to 90 days. As a US citizen, you are eligible to get ETIAS for Spain, and starting in 2023, you will have to show your ETIAS on entry into Spain.
So, if you want to explore the country before settling there permanently, or to find appropriate accommodation and gather the necessary documentation for your move, make sure to submit your online ETIAS application too.
Written by: Fikayomi Abisola
Abisola is an ETIAS Travel and Immigration writer with several years of writing experience in the industry. Abisola has a unique enthusiasm for travels, tours, and tourism and loves to educate travellers about the criteria involved in international travelling.

FAQs

  • 1. Can a US citizen move to Spain?

    Yes, a US citizen can move to Spain if they submit every vital document and follow up every procedure at the necessary Spanish office. You can get residency for life with the Golden visa program.
  • 2. How much money do you need to move to Spain?

    As a US citizen, you need an average monthly income of €2,500 to live in Spain. However, you are good to go if you have €3,000 for your movement.
  • 3. How long can I live in Spain as a US citizen?

    You can live in Spain as a US citizen for three months, after which you must get a residency permit that lasts two years before renewal. You can get permanent residency after five years of holding a temporary residency permit. However, after ten years, you can become a citizen through naturalization.
  • 4. What are the pitfalls of moving to Spain?

    It's not easy to get a job in Spain, and the salaries are not impressive. Also, you might not enjoy conversing in Spain as only a few people speak English.
  • 5. Is healthcare free in Spain?

    Every Spanish citizen enjoys free healthcare because they pay taxes. However, as a US citizen, you must be a taxpayer to enjoy free health services.
  • 6. Is Spain friendly to foreigners?

    Spanish citizens are generally friendly to foreigners. They have a cheerful and relaxed social life.

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