How to move to Spain…
March 3, 2019 | By: High50


Amidst the Brexit confusion, more and more people are looking to move abroad before the deadline hits.

If you fancy joining over 300,000 Brits that call Spain home, then there are a number of factors you need to take into account:


Before you do anything in Spain you will need a  Número de Identidad de Extranjero or N.I.E.

It’s essentially a personal number, and without it, you will have a tough time setting up your new life in the sun. To get a bank account, buy a house or a car, or apply for your residency, you will need an N.I.E. You could even be asked for it when buying higher-priced goods, such as a fridge-freezer.

They are very simple to obtain, you can either do it yourself at a local police station or Oficina de Extranjeros. Outside of Spain, you can go to your nearest Spanish Consulate, or employ a Spanish lawyer to do it for you. This can be particularly helpful if you grant them power of attorney as it means you can get this sorted in absentia before you arrive and not have to worry about the paperwork.


The Padron is short for empadronamiento and is a register of those living permanently in Spain. It’s not a proof of residency, but issued by the local Town Hall and used as a measure of how many people are living in an area, and thus aids in the calculation of how much government funding that town might get from Madrid. Anyone staying in Spain for more than 6 months should obtain a Padron and it’s vital for signing up at a health centre, getting children into school or registering your car.

The Padron certificate is valid for 30-90 days, but it only has to be updated when you need to show it to the authorities.

Driving licences

At the time of writing, if you have a British driving licence you can convert it to a Spanish one by filling out a form and undergoing a basic medical check. Post-Brexit, who knows what will happen, so best to do it sooner rather than later.


Many expats have been keen to sign up for official residency in Spain. This means that Spain is your primary domicile and you are registered to pay tax. It is also the first step to permanent residency, which can be obtained after 5 years. To get your residency certificate or residencia you will need your N.I.E, valid Padron certificate, and evidence that you can look after yourself without being a burden on the state. In other words, if you are of working age, then you must have enough income to support yourself, and health insurance. Companies such as Sanitas (the same company as Bupa) offer English language services and doctors should you need them.


Long-term property rentals are usually for 11 months, with a 6-month break clause. Some of the best sites to use to find rental properties are: Fotocasa.esIdealista.com and Enalquiler.com.

Buying a property

Buying a property is often a very straightforward affair, with less of the argy-bargy and legal wrangling seen in the UK. Conveyancy fees are similar to the UK, but state tax can raise the cost of buying to 13-14% of the total value, so factor this in when you’ve spotted that bargain finca.

Property ownership tax – “impuesto sobre bienes inmuebles”, or I.B.I. is due every year and is a local tax. It is based on your property’s ”cadastral” value, which is the price attached to your property by the Spanish authorities. Sometimes this hasn’t been updated in over 20 years and therefore can vary dramatically from what you paid for your house.

The I.B.I. is usually 0.3% to 0.5% of the cadastral value, so can often be quite low when compared with British council tax.


Simply put: electricity is expensive, water is cheap, gas usually comes in bottles and broadband is pretty good.

On the subject of the internet; Spain is forging ahead with fibre optic and often small towns have much better access to super-high-speed connections than equivalent locations in the UK.


Spanish bureaucracy is legendary. It is best to assume that they will want every bit of paperwork you have ever been issued with, including that 25-metre swimming badge, and work backwards. Also, beware documents coming back with the wrong information on them. This is quite common, so check everything is correct when you get them, rather than realising at the last minute that your N.I.E. has the wrong information on it when you are in the process of buying a house.