How to Move to Spain: Your Relocation Guide


Updated on Aug 14 • 8 minute read

Relocating to Spain is such a wonderful idea, with so many gorgeous cities to choose from! In fact, young and adventurous expats continue to set up base in this warm and welcoming country every year.

Spain has a lot to offer. But there are a number of practical things you need to know on how to move to Spain, and this relocation checklist should:

  • help you understand a little more about Spain,
  • find the perfect housing, and
  • ensure you are prepared to apply for any required visas and permits.

So, get comfortable, because we’re going to talk all things España!

Your Relocation Checklist for Spain

When it comes to the nitty-gritty, question marks fill your head: How do you move to Spain?

After all, relocating is a new chapter in your life and you don't want to forget anything. Make sure to include these items on your relocation checklist to Spain:

  • learn the basics about Spain
  • set up your university, internship or employement placement
  • search for housing
  • know your residence permits requirements in Spain
  • check out your visa process if required
  • get your NIE number
  • understand your health insurance options

Let's delve a little deeper into things on your relocation checklist so you know exactly how to move to Spain.

1. Learn the Basics About Spain

Before you hop on that plane or buy your discounted train tickets, there’s a few things you should know about your new home.

Brushing up on your language skills, understanding the climate you need to pack for and learning about the culture of the inhabitants, is going to make settling in so much faster and simpler. As you’ve probably heard, it’s always best to “know before you go!

The Language(s)

In Spain there are four main languages: Spanish, Catalan, Galician and Basque. All are languages in their own right and spoken in different regions. Spanish is spoken everywhere, with 99% of the population speaking it as a first or second language. Catalan is spoken in Catalonia, Valencia and the Balearic Islands, whilst Galician is spoken in Galicia and Basque in the Basque Country.

You'll survive with English

And of course, English is spoken, but you’ll mostly hear it on the streets around the university and major expat neighborhoods. If you’re trying to keep up with someone’s Spanish, especially if they’re speaking fast, don’t be afraid to ask if they speak English, or if they mind speaking slower. Typically, Spanish people in big towns and cities will know enough English to at least give you directions.

Brush Up Your Spanish

However, if you have time to learn a few key phrases in Spanish, it’s always a great idea to try to do so before your arrival. Not only can it help you out in some situations where there is a language barrier, but the locals will really appreciate your efforts!

Otherwise, it might be a good idea to have a few Spanish classes when you get to your new city, to learn all the linguistic tricks and tips from the locals!

The Weather

Maybe you’re from a milder climate, like Rotterdam or Helsinki, and ready for some sun! Well, you’re in luck, because cities such as Barcelona are known for warm temperatures and bright, sunny days.

You can expect daytime temperatures of around 21°C in Barcelona, so be prepared to spend time soaking up the sun and hanging out by the sea. Yes, that’s right! There will be a number of beaches that you can visit, including Barceloneta Beach, or Marbella and Bogatell.

Why not time your arrival with the country’s delightful summer season so you can relax before the real work begins?

2. Set Up Your University, Internship or Employment Placements

Before you start planning too far in advance though, the most important thing is to make sure that all of your placements are in order. Most young expats relocating to Spain for a short time are going to attend a university or start an internship to help kickstart their careers.

However, some young internationals relocate to start a new profession after they’ve graduated. It’s often difficult to compete with some of the career opportunities that can be found abroad. So focus on securing that posting before you let yourself dream of the beach.

As soon as your university acceptance letter or a written offer for an internship or a job is secured, you can begin to think about finding the perfect spot and signing a lease agreement.

3. Search for Ideal Housing

Due to the steady influx of incoming international students and workers, housing is in high demand throughout most of Europe. However, Spain is very popular with expats, so you’ll definitely want to begin your search at least three to four months before your expected arrival date.

To help you budget when living abroad, we’ll give you an idea of what you can expect to spend on accommodation in Spain. We’ll take housing in Barcelona as an example. In that city, you can expect to spend on average:

  • €500 per month for a single room
  • €850 per month for a studio
  • €1200€ per month for a two- or three-bedroom apartment

You will also usually need one to two months of your rental price as a deposit, which will be returned to you as long as the space is in the same condition it was in when you moved into it.

Be sure to ask your landlord (and check your lease agreement) to see if utilities will be included in the monthly price. If not, you will also need to pay for:

  • Water
  • Electricity
  • Wi-Fi

Your choices for housing will usually include the following options:

  • A student dorm (should you be studying at a university)
  • An apartment that you can share with friends, students or co-workers
  • A private room

Keep in mind that, whenever possible, it’s always best to try to find a few roommates and share an apartment. That way, you can split not only the expenses but also the responsibilities, such as chores and taking turns cooking.

Plus, it also provides you with an instant set of friends and an in-house support system. There are several Facebook groups that you can join so that you can make connections before you even leave your home city!

4. Residency Requirements for Spain

It’s imperative that you check the individual residency requirements for each country. Even if you’re based in Europe, not every country follows the same set of residency rules for Spain.

Thankfully, the residency requirements for Spain are fairly easy to understand. As long as you know exactly which categories your particular situation falls into, you can fill out the forms and submit the required documentation.

5. Get your NIE (Número de Identidad de Extranjero)

If you plan to be in Spain for more than three months, it is a requirement to get a Número de Identidad de Extranjero, otherwise known as an NIE. To do so, you must visit Secretaria De Estado De Administraciones Publicas online and make an appointment, which is typically set within two weeks.

You will need the following documents:

  • A valid passport
  • Passport photographs
  • A completed and printed NIE form
  • Your address in Spain
  • Confirmation from your university or employer to justify your time living in Spain
  • Proof of income and evidence that you can financially support yourself

Be sure that you have these documents before you leave home, as obtaining them after you’ve relocated can be very difficult and time-consuming. Additionally, it can be wise to have them translated into Spanish to speed things along.

Your meeting will occur at the foreign office in your immediate area. After your meeting, you will need to make payment at a local bank and return with the receipt. Then you will receive your official NIE certificate, which will include the following:

  • NIE number, which consists of two letters and seven digits
  • Your name
  • Country of permanent residence
  • Date and place of birth
  • Registration date
  • Address
  • Issue date

6. More on Student Visas and Work Permits

Spain offers several different visas and work permits for both students and workers. While there may be others, these are the most common for incoming internationals.


If you come from the EU, EEA or Switzerland, then you will not need a visa. However, if you hail from elsewhere and plan to stay more than three months, you will need to apply for a student visa (type D). This is almost always the case, as the typical semester will last for six months. You’ll also need a student’s residence card or a Foreign Identity Card. For the student visa, you will need the following documents:

  • A passport
  • Confirmation of your place of study
  • Proof of medical insurance
  • A medical certificate showing that you have no diseases requiring quarantine
  • Proof of financial support
  • Housing information
  • A clean criminal record certificate
  • For the residence permit, you will need:
  • A passport valid for at least six months
  • A completed application form
  • Copy of the passport stamp from Spain
  • Proof of university acceptance
  • Three passport-sized photos
  • Letter of residency

Schengen Visa

Schengen is a grouping of countries that are a part of the European Union, but enables easy travel from one country to another within the area, all without requiring a passport.

If you are in possession of a visa from Schengen, you can stay in Spain for a set time without the need for other visas or applications.

The documents that you will need to apply for a Schengen Visa are:

  • Two completed Schengen visa applications - Be sure they are both signed, and answer all of the questions as truthfully as possible.
  • Payment Visa (fee of €60.)
  • A passport (Must be issued within the last 10 years and have at least three months until it expires.)
  • Two copies of a passport photo - Must have been taken in the past three months.
  • Copy of passport data - Add your passport’s biometric data.
  • Previous passports - Include any previous passports.
  • Proof of residency - That you are a current resident of your home country.
  • Proof of transportation - Provide your roundtrip flight information.
  • Insurance - Submit proof of travel medical insurance up to €30,000.
  • Proof of accommodation - Must have a letter that you’ll be staying with a relative or at a dorm, or a rental agreement.
  • Financial verification - Proof that can include a scholarship of €631 a month, three months’ of bank statements or sponsorship.
  • Acceptance letter from an EU university - Must include your name, length of stay and university program.
  • Academic qualifications - Records or a diploma to show that you meet the university’s requirements.

Remember: This is a short-term visa that will last for up to three months. It’s the best option for short stays, but understand that it will not cover an entire university semester.

Work or Paid Internship Permits

If you hail from a country that is part of the EU, EEA or Switzerland, you won’t need to apply for a work permit. For UK citizens moving to Spain after Brexit, new conditions apply.

If you do come from a country beyond these areas, then you must first have a position with a company, who will need to request a work permit in Spain for you from the Ministry of Labour. It will be valid for one year, and it is easily renewable as long as you continue to meet the qualifications.

7. Check Out the Health Insurance Options

While it is important to always take preventative measures and stay healthy while you’re at home, it’s arguably even more important to do so when living abroad. In fact, it’s a legal requirement to be covered by a valid health insurance plan.

Health insurance in Spain is fairly straightforward. If you come from a country in the EU, EEA or Switzerland, then you will be covered by your current insurance plan. If not and you’re a student, then you will need to purchase private health insurance, which can be costly. So, be sure to budget that into your expenses. If you’re working in Spain, public health insurance will be included in your social security deductions, but you’ll need to register for it.

There you have it! Moving to Spain can be super simple if you plan ahead and follow the tips in this relocation checklist. So, book a place in Spain through a trusted housing platform, and get ready for your big move! Enjoy your time in this unforgettable destination!

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