How to retire in Spain: Things to know


Updated on May 23 • 7 minute read

Retiring in Spain can be a dream come true if you manage your expectations right. ‘Do I have enough money in my savings account?’ ‘Is there a culture fit?’ These are just a few of the questions you’ve to ask yourself.

So before you make your move we’ll walk you through:

  • pros and cons of retiring in Spain
  • costs of retiring in Spain
  • visa requirements and application process
  • pension in Spain
  • best places to retire in Spain

Once you’re familiar with the above, you can start arranging your move!

But first things first;

Is retiring to Spain a good idea?

Retiring in Spain is surely a good idea if you’re looking for a place with a warm climate, extraverted cultures, relaxed lifestyle and low prices.

Here are the main reasons why you should retire in Spain:

  1. Spain's a very safe place to live in. The crime rate is low and you can walk through the streets safely any time of the day.
  2. The Spanish are known for being very healthy, thanks to their (delicious) Mediterranean diet and outdoor lifestyle.
  3. Spain has great healthcare and you’re rarely more than 15 minutes away from a hospital or clinic.
  4. South of Spain has the warmest winters in Europe and over 3,000 hours of sunshine a year.
  5. Spanish culture is very relaxed and hassle-free.
  6. Spain has a secure banking system and dependable infrastructure.
  7. Spain has a large expat community.
  8. Once you've the visa to live in Spain, you can easily travel within the Schengen area.

What are the pitfalls of retiring to Spain?

Of course, retiring to Spain isn’t for everyone. It’s a common mistake to be blinded by the pictures of sunny beaches and forget to research whether the culture and lifestyle of Spain fit you personally.

Some of the pitfalls of retiring in Spain are:

  1. English proficiency in Spain is pretty low, so learning some basic Spanish phrases is a must.
  2. Due to the laid back lifestyle, Spain is notorious for very slow bureaucracy and long wait times in governmental agencies.
  3. It might take a while to adjust to the local routine. People like to stay up late, have dinner late, and enjoy la sobremesa — a long chat after meals.
  4. Many expats note that Spain has a complicated tax system.
  5. The weather in the southern regions of Spain can get so hot that you can barely go outside during the day.
  6. It might be tough to find vegan, vegetarian, or gluten-free options when eating out.

Can I move to Spain as a retiree?

Convinced that Spain is the place for you to retire? The good news is that anyone who meets certain criteria can choose to retire in Spain.

European citizens are free to live and work anywhere in the EU and can easily retire in Spain. As a non-EU citizen, you’ll need to get the appropriate visa, have the right resident permit, and meet the minimum requirements to retire in Spain.

Can I retire in Spain after Brexit?

Yes, you can retire in Spain after Brexit. In fact, more than 168,000 Brits received their pension in Spain in 2020! However, British citizens who wish to move to Spain need to follow the same process as any other non-EU citizen.

Can a US citizen retire in Spain?

Yes. Retirement in Spain for US citizens looks the same as for other non-EU nationals, including Brits.

Retire in Spain: requirements for non-EU citizens

The requirements to retire in Spain are simple and easy to follow. Here’re the requirements you’ll need to meet:

  1. Meet the minimum financial requirements to retire in Spain.
  2. Have private health insurance with full coverage within Spain.
  3. Apply for either of the 2 most common visas for retiring in Spain: the non-lucrative visa or the Golden visa.

How much money do you need to retire in Spain?

Thanks to relatively affordable cost of living in Spain and high quality of living, retiring in Spain won’t break the bank.

You can retire comfortably in Spain at about €20,000 – €25,000 a year.

But keep in mind that if you’re from a non-EU country, you need to make at least €27,793 of passive income a year to get a Spanish retirement visa and move to Spain.

The Spain non-lucrative visa (NLV)

The Spain non-lucrative visa (also known as a Residence Visa or visado residencia) is the most popular visa among non-EU citizens who wish to retire in Spain. Because you’re not allowed to work with this type of visa, the main requirement for obtaining the non-lucrative visa in Spain's having sufficient financial means to support yourself and your family without undertaking any type of professional activity.

In 2023, you’re required to have a passive income of at least €2,400 per month (400% IPREM) or €28,800 annually.

And for each dependent you’d like to bring along, you need to earn an additional sum of €7,200 (100% IPREM) annually.

Income such as pensions, dividends, savings, or other income-generating investments counts as a passive income.

Golden Visa or citizenship by investment in Spain

Another popular option for retiring in Spain is the Golden visa. This visa is aimed at high net worth individuals who wish to make an investment of:

  • €500,000 in real estate,
  • €2,000,000 in Spanish Government Bonds,
  • €1,000,000 in bank deposits or shares of Spanish companies, or
  • €1,000,000 in a new business in Spain that creates employment opportunities, contributes to scientific or technological innovation and has a relevant socio-economic impact in the region where it operates.

You must maintain that investment and meet the same financial requirements as for the non-lucrative visa until you get a permanent residence permit__.

Spanish Golden visa's a pretty straightforward way of getting a residence permit for you and your family, with all the benefits including access to the Spanish job market and hence public healthcare.

Another advantage of Golden visas is the very fast application process. This type of visa gets preferential treatment and you receive your residence permit by fast track.

Finally, if you plan to spend less than 183 days in Spain, you’ll benefit from not taxing your worldwide income. However, if your goal is to obtain Spanish citizenship, you should live in Spain full time.

The Spain non-lucrative visa vs Spain Golden Visa

Now that you know the main requirements for both types of Spanish retirement visas, let’s compare the two:

Non-lucrative visaSpain Golden Visa
Visa applicationaround 3 monthsaround 20 days
Passive income requirementat least €28,800/ yearat least €28,800/ year
Investment required?noat least €500,000
Work allowed?noyes
Access to healthcare?only privatecan request public healthcare
Stay requirements per yearat least 183 days1 visit
Tax residency required?yesno
Apply from Spain?noyes

How long can I stay in Spain with a Spanish retirement visa?

With both types of visas, you get a temporary residence permit for 1 year. Once that period comes to an end, you can renew your permit for another 2 years and then for another 2 years.

When you’ve lived in Spain uninterruptedly for 5 years, you can request a permanent residence permit. That means you no longer have to meet the requirements for your visa.

After living for 5 years with a permanent residency, you can request Spanish citizenship through naturalisation.

Things to consider when retiring in Spain

Pensions in Spain

The current retirement age in Spain is 66 years and 2 months.

If you want to earn a Spanish pension as a non-EU citizen, you’ll need to have contributed to Spain’s social security for at least 15 years.

To access your foreign pension, make sure that before moving to Spain, you contact your pension provider about transferring your pension to Spain. That’s possible for all the EU/EFTA citizens, British and US nationals, as well as residents of non-EU countries that have a pension treaty with Spain.

Your pension in Spain will be taxed as general income at a progressive rate between 8%-40%.

If you can’t transfer your pension to Spain, you’ll have to rely on a private pension, occupational pension, or personal savings. It’s best to seek professional advice as there might be some tax implications to consider.

Best places to retire in Spain

When choosing a Spanish city to retire in, you should consider the lifestyle you’d like to have. Do you enjoy going to museums and visiting concerts? Or would you rather spend your day on the beach and take trips to the nearby mountains? Maybe a combination of both?

Let’s see what the most popular places to retire in Spain offer!

  1. Valencia is the third-largest city in Spain, located on the Costa de Valencia. It’s one of the healthiest cities in the world, and is internationally recognised for its efficient infrastructure and very high quality of life.

Retiring in Valencia's surely a good option if you’re looking for comfort, an urban feel and proximity to the beach.

Discover rental homes in Valencia.

  1. Málaga is a beautiful city along Costa del Sol. It’s actually one of the oldest cities in the world, with a varied architectural landscape reminiscent of its Roman and Muslim past. Besides lovely beaches and an impressive botanical garden, there’re many natural wonders and historical places you can easily visit from Málaga.

Transport links in Málaga are very efficient, the winters are some of the warmest in Europe and the cost of living is surprisingly low. That said, we highly recommend retiring in Málaga if you’re looking for a quieter place popular among other expat pensioners.

Discover rental homes in Málaga.

  1. Javea is a city in the Alicante province, on the Costa Blanca. Its highly popular among expat retirees, especially British, Dutch, Belgian and German, because of its remote location and great facilities. Thanks to that you won’t face a language barrier as rigid as in other Spanish cities.

Retiring in Javea you’ll have many fellow expats to mingle with, a great marina for afternoon walks and plenty of things to do. But prepare for the high costs of real estate and having to own a car to get to the nearby cities.

  1. [Madrid]) is the capital with one of the longest life expectancy rates (around 84 years) and one of the largest English-speaking expat communities in Spain.

Retiring in Madrid means having access to a well-developed public transportation system and plenty of cultural events. On the downside, Madrid has no shores, the winters can get pretty cold, and it’s more expensive than most of the other Spanish cities.

Discover rental homes in Madrid.

  1. Barcelona is the second-largest city in Spain. It offers a rich culture, a big international community, reliable infrastructure and a varied landscape. Whether you wish to live by the beach, near the mountains or in the city, Barcelona has a perfect neighbourhood for you and your family.

However, retiring in Barcelona might be hectic if you live close to the centre. You’d also need to get some basics of the Catalan language to be able to read the signs and information boards. And finally, the prices in Barcelona are on the higher side compared to the rest of Spain.

Discover rental homes in Barcelona.

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