The ultimate guide to living in Spain

Table of contents

Are you an immigrant and thinking about Spain? Everything you need to know about documents, housing, work permits, subsidies, bank accounts, remittances, the health system, driver’s license and much more! Thanks to this practical guide, living in Spain will be much easier!


    1. Necessary documentation
      1. DNI
      2. Passport
  1. Search for accommodation
  2. Work permit in Spain
  3. Healthcare system
  4. Financial Services
    1. Sending money from Spain
    2. Open a bank account in Spain
  5. Internet and telephone service
  6. Getting married in Spain
  7. Grants and subsidies for immigrants
  8. Driving license and others


1. Necessary documentation to l ive in Spain

All immigrants who wish to live in Spain will need to obtain the corresponding documentation or visa to enter Spain. How long do you plan to stay? The residence permit in Spain can be temporary or long term:

Authorisation for temporary residence

The temporary residence will authorize you to stay in Spain for a period of more than 90 days but less than five years. This type of authorisation may be periodically renewed at the request of the person who decides to live in Spain.

Long-term residence permit

A long-term residence permit allows you to work and live in Spain indefinitely, under the same conditions as a Spanish citizen. Those immigrants who have been temporarily resident in Spain for a period of five years continuously and who also meet the regulatory conditions will also be entitled to this residence permit. Periods of prior and continuous residence in other EU Member States are also taken into account. Likewise, it is considered to be living in Spain or another State on a continuous basis even if the immigrant has left the country temporarily for holiday periods or other reasons.

Can I be refused permission to enter Spain? The official website of the Spanish Government lists the reasons why you may be denied entry and residence in Spain:

    1. Having been previously expelled or returned by Spain or any Schengen State.
    2. To have been expressly prohibited from entering because of activities contrary to the interests of Spain or human rights or because of his or her notorious connection with criminal organizations.
    3. Be internationally wanted for criminal reasons.
    4. Represent a danger to public health, public order, national security or the international relations of Spain or other States with which Spain has an agreement to that effect.
    5. To have exhausted 90 days of stay within a period of 180 days.

Thus, foreigners will be authorised to enter Spanish territory provided that they have all the valid and necessary documentation and do not fulfil any of the points mentioned above.


1.1 Passports and residence permits in Spain

You may need to apply for a visa or other permit if you want to visit, live, work or study in Spain. This essential guide will help you find the Spanish permits you need depending on your nationality and situation.

If you are a citizen of another European Union (EU) or European Economic Area (EEA) country, including Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein or Switzerland, you will be lucky enough not to need a permit to live, work or study in Spain. Everyone else will need a visa, and if you want to work, in most cases, a work permit.

Short stay

A short-stay Schengen visa allows you to stay in Spain, but not to work, for up to 90 days within a 180-day period. Nationals of the USA, Australia, Canada and New Zealand do not need a short-stay visa to enter Spain, but will need to apply for a long-stay visa to stay for more than three months.

To find out if you need a Schengen, you must complete an application form, which you can download here and apply for through the Spanish embassy or consulate in your home country. You can renew your short term visa at the Foreigners Office or at the local police station as long as you stay in Spain for a total of less than 90 days. You cannot come to Spain with a short term visa as a visitor and change your status to employee, student or resident from within Spain – you have to return to your home country and apply for a new visa from there.

Long stay

There are different types of residence and work permits, depending on the purpose of your stay, including

  • A combined work and residence visa that allows you to live and work in Spain.
  • A study visa for the duration of an education or training course;
  • A residence visa for family regrouping or retirement.

We explain each of these in detail:

Residence visa

The residence visa, which must be applied for at one of the National Police Foreigners’ Offices ( Be careful, you only have 30 days from the date of your arrival in Spain to start these procedures. If the consulate issues you a visa that specifies “Studies, total 180 days”, you will not be able to apply for this card.

The documents required to apply for a Residence Permit are:

  • The “National Visa Application” forms, Ex-01form, Form790-052.
  • A recent photo ID.
  • A valid passport.
  • Financial evidence such as a bank statement from the last 6-12 months (internet statements are not accepted). The minimum amount required is 2,151.36 euros per month, increased by 537.84 euros for each family member.
  • A medical insurance for Spain.
  • Work visa: The work visa can be applied for at the local Ministry of Labour. Your employer will submit an application for a work permit on your behalf. You must obtain a copy of this application from the Ministry of Labour, complete with a stamp and a file number to show that the application is in process. You can then send it to your local Spanish embassy along with your application for a work and residence visa.

The required documents you will need to apply for a work visa are:

  • A valid passport.
  • A certified copy of your employment contract.
  • A medical certificate that you do not suffer from any quarantined disease according to the International Health Regulations.
  • Criminal record check (last five years).

If the embassy has any questions about your application, you will be asked to attend an interview in person.Visas take time to issue, so be sure to do so two to three months in advance.

Student visa

You need to find a course to study in Spain before applying for a visa.

Before you can apply for a study visa you need to find a course or program with an officially recognized institution in Spain. You must then obtain official confirmation from the organization that you have been accepted into the course or program, in the form of a certificate or letter of acceptance. Once you have this, you can contact the Spanish embassy or consulate in your home country and apply for a student visa.

Different regulations apply depending on the duration of your studies, research or related activities in Spain.

1.2 National Identity Card

The Foreigner’s Identity Number (NIE) is an essential and necessary document for almost everything in Spain, and applying for it should be one of your priorities when you land in Spain as a newcomer.

But what is a NIE and how can you get one in Spain? NIE – translated as Número de Identificación de Extranjero – is the legal number assigned by the Spanish National Police to people who do not have Spanish citizenship, so that you can carry out legal or fiscal activities while living in Spain. Some of the most common procedures for which you will need a Spanish NIE are: opening a bank account, working legally, studying in Spain, registering with the Spanish Social Security, contracting a telephone fee, obtaining a Spanish driving licence, managing public services… You can submit your NIE application while you live in or visit Spain at the corresponding Spanish National Police station dedicated to documentation for foreigners. Just search for the nearest police station on Google and make an appointment by phone.

But we also have some good news for you: you can even apply for an NIE number from your home country! Just find the Spanish embassy nearest to you on Google. The type of requirements may vary from one office to another, although you will generally need the following documents:

  • The NIE application form.
  • A valid passport.
  • Two recent identification photos.
  • Government fee (9.64 euros in 2018)

It is important to know that the NIE number certificate does not prove your residence in Spain. That requires separate documents and procedures, although the Spanish residence card shows your NIE number.

On the other hand, unemployed immigrants in Spain will have to prove that they have sufficient resources and are covered by health insurance during the time of their residence in order to obtain the NIE.


In Spain, there are many real estate agencies that will help you find accommodation in Spain both before and after your arrival. The disadvantage is usually the high commissions charged for the search of such accommodation. In this sense, we recommend that you get in touch with immigrant groups on social networks, either nationally or locally, so that they can help you choose the best real estate agency. In addition, being attentive to the comments on their website or networks is always positive. And above all, compare prices!

On the other side if you prefer to find your own accommodation in Spain without the help of real estate agencies, you have the option of browsing specialized and safe websites. Below is a list of accommodation websites in Spain that we hope will be of great help to you:


These sites allow you to search available rentals by price range and district to find the accommodation in Spain that best suits your needs. In addition, you can filter by number of rooms and other complements to take into account. To rent, you will be asked for a deposit: 1 or 2 months rent, as well as guarantees: “nómina” or “aval” which often correspond to a guarantee from your bank or employer.

On the other hand, it is important to know that the price of rent is uneven throughout all Spanish provinces and also depends on the Spanish economy. Although there are no public rental statistics in Spain, the Ministry of Public Works published data for 2018. The provinces with the most expensive rentals are Madrid where the average rent is 819€ per month , followed by Barcelona with 769€ euros per month and Guipúzcoa in third place with 730€ On the other hand, the Spanish provinces with the lowest rents are Lugo with a rent of 336 Euros, Teruel with 376€ and Lleida or Ourense with 384€ per month. However, it must be taken into account that within each province prices may vary depending on the area of residence.

In this graphic, you can see the average rentals per province in Spain -although there are no representative data for all provinces-. However, if you are thinking of living in Spain and are looking for accommodation, it is important to take this data into account. This map will give you an overview of accommodation in Spain and the standard of living.


3. How to get a work permit in Spain

Immigrants who want to live and work in Spain need to obtain a residence and work permit. In Spain, there are several types of work permits in Spain:

Work permit in Spain for EU citizens

EU or community immigrants and family members must apply for and obtain the CERTIFICATE OF REGISTRATION AS A CITIZEN OF THE UNION, while family members of community members must apply for the Residence Card for Family Members of a Citizen of the Union, also known as a community card.

Work permit in Spain for non-EU citizens.

The main ones are:

  • Authorization for temporary residence and work for others.
  • Authorisation for temporary residence and work by highly qualified professionals.
  • Authorisation for temporary residence and work for others of a fixed duration.
  • Authorization for temporary residence and work in the framework of transnational provision of services, among others.

The most common is the authorization for temporary residence and work for others or as it is also known: Work permit in Spain. But what is it? It is an authorisation that the employer offers you work and which is granted by the Public Administration. Through this work permit, immigrants – over 16 years of age and not in Spain in an irregular situation – are authorised to reside in Spain (for more than 90 days and less than 5 years) and carry out work for others.


  • Passport or equivalent document in your country
  • Documents proving your ability and professional qualification to carry out the work activity.

Procedure for obtaining a work permit in Spain

The Immigration Regulations divide the procedure into 4 phases, which are

  • Applying for a residence and work permit for employees.

The employer must apply for it at the Aliens Office. The Public Administration has a maximum period of 3 months to communicate the decision.

  • Apply for a work visa in Spain.

The immigrant who is going to come to Spain to work must apply for this visa at the Spanish Consulate or Embassy in the country where he or she is legally resident. It must be collected within one month of notification of its granting. Once collected, the worker must travel to Spain within 3 months.

  • Requirements for a work visa in Spain.
      • Be the holder of an initial authorization for temporary residence and work for others.
      • To have no criminal record in the foreigner’s country of origin or in their previous countries of residence during the last five years.
      • Medical or health certificate.
      • Fee paid. * 10.50 euros for the authorization of temporary residence.


  • Affiliation, registration and contribution to the Social Security of the immigrant worker.

Once in Spain, the immigrant worker must register with the Spanish Social Security within a maximum period of 3 months. Otherwise, he or she would be in Spain illegally. This is requested from the nearest State Treasury Office.

  • Processing the Foreigners’ Identity Card (TIE).

The TIE is processed at the Foreigners’ Office or at the Police Station in the town where you live.


4. Health system for immigrants

In Spain, the National Health System provides health care to citizens through an extensive network of public health centres, although certain types of services (dentistry, optometry, etc.) are only offered in private clinics.

If you are from one of the member countries of the European Union or from Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway or Switzerland, you must apply for the European Health Insurance Card from your local public health authority before travelling to Spain. You can use this card in public health centres, but it will not be accepted in private hospitals. If you forget to bring the European Health Insurance Card or other official documents, you will have to pay in advance for the cost of the medical care you receive. You will be reimbursed when you return home when you submit a legitimate bill for the expenses incurred. If you are from another country, before coming to Spain you should find out if your country has signed a reciprocal agreement with Spain on matters relating to Social Security and health care.

If so, you should contact your local public health authority to obtain the document that will allow you to receive medical care in Spain without complications.

Social Security registration if you are a foreigner

In order to use the public health system (National Health System) expatriates would first have to obtain a social security card from the Social Security Treasury. They would then need to obtain a medical card from their local clinic, which would entitle them to use the services of the national public health network. Expatriates should note that they can only obtain a social security number if they have registered with the empadronamiento, the municipal registry.

Registration in the Municipal Register of Inhabitants is compulsory for anyone planning to reside in Spain for more than six months of the year. Residents may register individually or as a family. To be registered is to be “empadronado”. Thus, the padrón is a local certificate that is obtained by registering with the town hall where you live in Spain.

To register, you will need the following documents:

  • A completed application form (available from your local registration office).
  • Identification such as a passport and a photocopy; if you are registering as a family, you will need identification for each individual.
  • Proof of address, such as a utility bill, rental agreement, or copies of property deeds.

If you are renting a room in an apartment but your name is not on the lease:

  • A completed Registration Authorization (available at the city hall) that requires the person who has the lease to also be registered on the municipal census.
  • A photocopy of the tenant’s identification.

Non-residents, unfortunately, are not entitled to universal health care; however, there is a payment plan for those who cannot access state health care, called the Special Agreement. Keep this guide in mind as you travel so you can have fun and stay healthy!

Private health insurance

If your country does not have a reciprocal health care agreement with Spain, you are required to take out private health insurance and you will need to provide proof of insurance when you apply for your work visa. The policy can be issued by a Spanish or foreign company, but it is very important to obtain full coverage.

Once you have registered with the private insurance of your choice, you will need to register with a general practitioner to obtain an appointment. You can easily find doctors near you through the SNS public catalogue of primary care providers or through the list of providers approved by your private insurer. You can request an appointment from your private insurer. Because most Spaniards have SNS coverage, public doctors will have a much longer list of patients, so be prepared to wait. Most hospitals and health centers have English-speaking staff on hand.

As an unemployed non-citizen, you can pay a monthly premium for a private plan. Here are some estimated costs you may experience in Spain:

Prescription costs will vary depending on your financial situation. You are expected to contribute a certain percentage based on your status. Here is a table with the breakdown of what you can expect to pay:

For more information:

  • You can buy medicines in Spain in pharmacies. They are easy to find: just look for a bright neon green sign in the shape of a cross. And always go to a licensed pharmacy.
  • As soon as you land in Spain, contact the public health centre nearest to where you are staying. If you have an emergency, call 112.


5. Bank accounts and money transfers

Every year thousands of immigrants arrive in Spain to embark on a new path in life. Upon arrival, the most important thing is to accelerate the process of being accredited as a resident in Spain and to manage our financial situation. But how do you manage your financial situation in Spain? Starting out in administrative or financial matters in a new country can be a headache. But don’t worry, in this definitive guide to living in Spain we will explain in detail how to open a bank account in Spain, what conditions you have to take into account and compare, or which are the main banks in Spanish territory.

On the other hand, if you are an immigrant and need to send money to your country, we want you to be informed about how to send remittances in Spain and choose the most secured method. We know how important your remittances are. Every year billions of euros are sent by more than 270 million immigrants to their countries of origin. Millions of heroes who leave their homes in search of a better future for themselves and their families. Thanks to them, homes are built, families are fed, education is helped, access to healthcare is made possible for those who need it, or investment is made in a small business that will keep an entire family afloat. For all these reasons, it is essential that you have at your disposal all the information on remittances from Spain. The more informed you are, the more you will be able to choose. That is why, in the following section, we will detail in depth what the methods of sending money from Spain are and, above all, what is preferred by the immigrant community. We have also included some recommendations that may be very useful for you!

So, if you are thinking of sending money from Spain or opening an account in the country, below you will find all the information so that you can choose the option that best suits your needs.


5.1 How to send money to your family abroad

These are the most common ways to send money from Spain:

1. Postal order

The postal order is a money service offered by the public postal service company Correos. You can do it at the nearest Post Office. You must bear in mind that it is not the cheapest system and no more than 2,500-3,000€ can be sent.

2. Bank transaction

Sending money through a bank is a safe way to send funds to other countries. To do so, you must provide your home bank account details as well as your overseas destination account details.

For a transfer within Europe to a country that uses the Euro, you can look for banks that do not charge fees for this type of transfer outside of the country. If you want to send to countries outside the EU or countries that do not have the euro as their currency, you should be aware that the fees that some large banks charge can be very high or the exchange rates unfavourable. Thus, bank transfers for small amounts of money are an expensive method. However, for larger amounts – such as from 10,000€ – it is a cheaper way.

3. Sending or remittance agencies

The procedure for sending money through remittance companies or sending agencies is fast, easy and secure. You can pay with cash or debit card and you only need to identify yourself and fill in the sending form. There is also the option of sending your money online through these same financial services companies. This is one of the most widely used methods of sending money by immigrants. In fact, 84% of immigrants who send remittances choose to do so with a money transfer company because of its speed, according to the study “Remittances and Financial Inclusion: Analysis of a survey of migrants from Latin America and the Caribbean in Spain”. At a low cost, the report also indicates that about 50% of remittance senders were able to save some money, compared to non-remitters where the figure drops to 22%. However, when choosing your money transfer company you should also take into account other factors such as security or proximity, which are fundamental to prevent or help you in everything you need.

If you don’t know which one to choose, we recommend Moneytrans. This financial services company has been working in the sector for over 20 years offering the best value for money, the latest technology in security and a multilingual customer service team to answer your questions in your own language. From their website you can calculate your remittance in agency or through the online platform Moneytrans.

4. Applications or digital platforms

Digital platforms are also a safe way to send money. You will need to register and pay with your debit or credit card. Please note that this is a useful method for sending money domestically, but not so useful for sending money internationally as fees and exchange rates are often high.


To open a bank account, you only need to present your NIE card (Foreigners’ Identity Number) if you are registered as a resident in Spain. When you open an account as an immigrant, the main thing you should take into account is the types of commissions applied by the different banks and, above all, compare them. To this end, these entities have at your disposal their advantages and commissions. You should also bear in mind that the conditions for opening a bank account may vary depending on each bank. However, there are common minimum requirements such as DNI or NIE, proof of address, contact telephone and e-mail. The main banks in Spain are: Banco Santander, BBVA, CaixaBank, Sabadell, Bankia or Bankinter, among others.

If, on the other hand, you are not registered as a resident in Spain, you must present the bank with a non-resident certificate, which can be obtained in three different ways:

  • Go directly to the bank with your passport and ask for it to be processed.
  • Ask for it at the Directorate General of Police, at the Foreigners’ Offices or at the police stations nearest you.
  • If you are not in Spain, you can request a certificate in your country of origin at the General Office for Foreigners and Borders or at any of the Spanish consular agencies. For more information, visit:

For your information, you can use your credit card in most commercial establishments in Spain. Please note that if you withdraw funds from an ATM that does not belong to your bank, you will probably be charged a commission – if it is from your own bank, no commission will be applied!

You can also exchange foreign currency at bank branches, currency exchange offices or directly online to benefit from better rates and fees. For being cheap and fast we recommend you to use iCambio.


6. How to contract Internet and buy a smartphone

Good news!

For EU citizens, from June 2017, roaming no longer entails any extra costs on European territory: in theory there are no extra costs for using your mobile phone in any of the 27 EU countries. So if your calls are within the European Union you don’t have to cancel your mobile subscription, nor do you have to disconnect your mobile data.

Here is the list of the main operators in Spain: Vodafone, Orange, Movistar, Yoigo, Pepephone, Jazztel, Ono, Amena, Lowi, Tuenti, MásMovil, República Móvil or Quantis, among others.

There are also other cheaper alternatives that will allow you to communicate with your family and friends abroad:


  • No Internet connection:
    • Elyatel
    • Toolani
    • Moneytrans Top UP: Thanks to this international mobile phone service, you can recharge your phone or your loved ones’ phone at very low prices through Moneytrans. The top up of your phone is instantaneous and you do not need to register. With over 400 local, national and international mobile phone providers, you can top up your phone worldwide – check it out here! en/moneytrans-mobiletop-up/
  • With an Internet connection:
    • Skype
    • Whatsapp *It is the most used mobile messaging system in Spain.
    • Viber
  • For landline phone and Internet:

The main landline operator in Spain is Telefónica. But there are also offers from Vodafone, Ono, Orange, Tele2, Jazztel, PepePhone, etc. The operators themselves have offers of mobile phones and methods of financing. It would be advisable to consult the different tariffs of each operator and compare them. In addition, it is important to express what our preferences are in order to choose one plan or another when contracting the Internet. On the other hand, some of the main requirements to start the registration may be :

    • DNI or NIE.
    • Name, surname and date of birth.
    • Telephone number.
    • Bank account number.


7. How to marry a foreigner in Spain

If you want to get married in Spain as an immigrant, you must make an appointment with the Civil Registry of the province or town where you live. The main documents you must present are:

  • In the case of both persons or spouses are single:
    • A photocopy of the DNI/NIE of the people who are going to get married
    • Birth certificate issued by the Civil Registry
    • Certificate of registration or residence
    • Affidavit of marital status of both parties
    • Civil Registry Office.
  • In case of residing outside Spain:

At the Consulate of the country where you currently reside, you must request a declaration of single status and documentation proving Spanish nationality.

  • If both persons of the couple are immigrants:

They can celebrate their marriage within Spanish territory without any problems as long as they comply with Spanish legislation.

  • In the case that the immigrant is divorced:


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