Before you make a huge decision like moving abroad, you have to do your research. And there are plenty of things to research before you move to Spain. You don’t want to move your family to another country without properly thinking everything through only to realise later that you overlooked something really important.
If you’re planning a move to Spain, make sure these things are on your list to look into before you make any life changing decisions…
A big one is obviously money. You need to be able to afford your lifestyle and in order to gain permanent residency you will need to prove that you can support your family and won’t be a burden on the Spanish system.
You will also need to be able to afford to physically carry out the move, there are so many costs associated with moving abroad and you’ll need to have this saved before you start booking things like removal companies or pet transportation as they all want a deposit upfront.
Cost of living
How much day to day living will cost you is one of the top important things to research before you move to Spain. Make a list of all the things you regularly spend money on (rent or mortgage, clothes, food, bills, pets, etc) and find out roughly what these things cost in Spain. It’s easy to look online for the cost of things like food and clothes, but you may need to join some expat groups on Facebook if you want more details about monthly costs for bills or other outgoings. Once you have your list, you’ll know how much money you will need to live on each month.
Take a look here for more information on the cost of living in Spain.
This is a really hard one to estimate as you will need to provide the removal/shipping company with a list of things you want to take or an idea of square foot needed. It’s a good idea to make a list of all the furniture you plan to take as well as working out roughly how many packing boxes you will fill. Send this list to several removal companies for quotes. You can then make the decision whether you need to sell some things instead to bring the cost down.
House sale costs
Don’t forget that if you have a property in the UK to sell, then there will be various costs associated with this such as estate agent fees and solicitor fees.
You may also need to pay Capital Gains Tax in Spain if you make a profit from your UK home and do not spend the full amount on a Spanish property. This gets complicated so we recommend reading up about this or speaking to experts.
You obviously need to be able to afford to physically get to Spain when the big day arrives.
Some people choose to drive over via the ferry and pack the car as full as possible with belongings to save money on shipping costs. If you choose this option you will need to factor in petrol and tolls as well as the cost for the ferry crossing.
Flying is obviously quicker but if you have a large family and a lot of suitcases this can soon add up.
When you arrive in Spain, there will be a lot of paperwork to get sorted in order for you and your family to legally remain in the country on a permanent basis.
There are fees associated with getting an NIE number, residencia, exchanging your driving license, registering as self-employed and so on. The Spanish love their paperwork and they don’t make it easy!
Unless you speak fluent Spanish you will probably need a translator to accompany you on any official appointments such as getting your NIE from the local police station, opening an account with the local bank, and meeting with the school. Contact a few local translators in advance to get a rough idea of costs.
Deciding whether to send your kids to an International School or a local Spanish school (more below) is an important decision you will need to make. If you choose an International School then you will have to pay a monthly fee plus usually extras for lunch, transport and uniform. Fees vary in each area but they aren’t much lower than private school fees in the UK.
If you choose a public Spanish school you won’t have to pay any fees for your children to go to school but you will have to pay for all text books and stationery which can add up to £100-200 per year. You don’t have the costs of uniform though.
If you don’t have a job in Spain or are not registered as self-employed then you must have a private health insurance policy for the whole family. You will need this in order to get residency.
Much like insurance policies for cars the costs will vary massively and will depend on the health of your family. This can cost anywhere between €50-200 per month.
If you are moving to Spain with a family then the chances are you will need to find work to support yourselves. As mentioned above, you have to prove that you have enough money when you apply for residency.
After Brexit one of the criteria to achieve residency is proof that you have around 2,130€ monthly income. If you are going to rely on savings this means you will need around 26,000€ in the bank and be able to prove it when you apply for residency. As well as proving that you have this money, you need to think about how long you can live on your savings. What will you do after that?
The current unemployment situation in Spain is not good. At the end of August 2020, it was reported that unemployment in Spain was at 16.2% – compared to 7.4% for the EU as a whole.
There aren’t many jobs available, and the jobs that are advertised tend to be more for manual work. If you don’t speak Spanish then you are likely to be limited to bar work.
Don’t let this put you off moving to Spain though, plenty of people manage to do it. Start by contacting companies in your line of work. Ask questions about salaries, vacancies, qualifications, and job prospects.
If you don’t think you will be able to find a job, then becoming self-employed is a good option if you are in a line of work that you could do from home or set up as a business.
Being self-employed in Spain is not cheap, you will have to pay a monthly social security contribution which is 60€ per month during the first year but gradually rises to the total of 280€ per month. This is on top of your tax and VAT contributions.
We recommend speaking to a company who can sort this for you as it is an extremely complicated process and you can land yourself in hot water if you miss any steps along the way. An expert will be able to tell you exactly what you will need to do and what it will cost you.
Spain is a big place so if you haven’t already decided where you want to live then this is something you need to start looking into earlier on in your decision!
Things to consider when deciding on a location are:
Town or city
What kind of location do you picture yourself in? Do you want to be in a bustling city, a medium sized town, or a quiet Spanish village?
Inland or coast
The Costas tend to be where most Brits moving to Spain end up but there are also some amazing place inland where properties are cheaper and bigger. You could live in the mountains, the countryside, or near the beach.
While all of Spain is generally hotter than England, some places can get very cold during the winter. If you are in the north or on higher land you are very likely to get snow. Whereas if you are on the coast further south then you hardly need to wear a coat even in the winter. In the summer the temperatures in the South can be unbearable so you may decide that you can put up with a cold winter so you don’t get the 40 degree summer months!
Traditional Spanish or English speaking
There are many lovely traditional Spanish towns and villages where you will really feel that you are living the Spanish life, however you won’t find many people speaking English so you may feel more comfortable living near other expats.
Whatever your requirements, it’s a good idea to pick a few areas and make some visits to see them for yourself before you move over permanently.
What style of Spanish property are you dreaming of? It’s a good idea to look at some estate agent websites to see what’s available in your chosen area. Some towns will be mainly apartment blocks, while others will be full of super modern new builds. Some areas have typical Spanish whitewashed houses and others don’t look very Spanish at all. Do your research first so you can both get an idea of costs and also make sure you’ll be able to find a property that suits your family.
If you are moving to Spain with children then schools will be a big consideration in your plans. It can be very worrying to put your child in a school in a foreign country, especially if they don’t speak the language.
International or Spanish state school
The big question that most parents looking at schools in Spain have is whether to go with an International school or a Spanish state school.
International schools will mostly teach in English and will follow the UK curriculum. The benefit of this is that you don’t have to stress about your child learning a new language and they will continue with the curriculum they have already been working on. There are obviously high costs of sending your child to an International school as these are similar to private schools in the UK.
Spanish state schools obviously teach completely in Spanish though they have an obligation to help foreign students integrate and must provide help for them to do this. This may include extra Spanish lessons during or after school. The Spanish curriculum is different to the UK but if you intend to remain in Spain while your children are in school this isn’t really a problem. Spanish state school is also free, though you will probably have to buy books and materials.
Are there any other foreign children
Whether you are bothered about there being other English children in the school or not will depend on your child, however if they don’t speak Spanish most parents will feel better if there are a few other English speaking children in the school. You can find this out my emailing the school and asking any questions you have, or by booking an appointment to look around if you are in the area.
If you have family pets you will need to think about what you plan to do when you move. Will you re-home them or take them with you to your new home?
There are a few different options if you decide that you’re going to take your pets to Spain with you when you move. You can drive them over via the ferry or Channel Tunnel, you can fly them over on certain airlines, or you can use a pet transportation company who will drive them over for you.
Your pet will need a valid passport to travel to Spain. This can be sorted by your vet, costs around £80, and can be done within a couple of days.
Cats and dogs must have a microchip before they can be moved to Spain, this is done by the vet and costs around £16.
All dogs and cats must have a rabies vaccination before they can be taken to Spain. They will need to be at least 12 weeks old before they can have the vaccine and costs around £50. Animals won’t be allowed into Spain until 21 days after the rabies vaccination.
Language is a big concern for anyone moving to a foreign country and is something that you definitely need to address. If you want to integrate into the local Spanish community you need to be able to get by speaking Spanish.
Do you have time to learn Spanish before you move to Spain? If you don’t have a lot of time then a crash course of lessons with a private tutor could be the quickest way to learn Spanish. You can have lessons by yourself or as a family.
There are also tons of great apps, websites and books to help you to teach yourself Spanish. Spanish lessons for kids are vital if you are planning on putting them into a Spanish speaking school.
How will you get by?
If you won’t be able to speak Spanish by the time you move how will you get by at appointments with banks, the doctors, the school, and so on? It’s worth learning some important phrases before you move and you might also want to find a contact for a translator who can accompany you.
Is there a local language?
As well as learning to speak Spanish you might also have to consider learning a second language in some areas. In the Valencian community on the Costa Blanca you will also come across many signs written in Valencian and this language is also taught in schools, which could be a lot for your kids to cope with. In Barcelona Catalan is the dominant language and schools are predominantly taught in Catalan rather than Spanish. Valencian and Catalan are more like French than Spanish.
As you can see there is a lot to think about before you move to Spain! It may seem daunting now, but if you do your research properly you’ll thank yourself later.