Moving to Spain from the US

moving to Spain from US

Did you know …

  • The cost of living in Spain is up to 30% lower than in the US. 
  • Spain boasts some of the best private schools in Europe.
  • Spain has some of the most affordable healthcare in Europe.
  • Southern Spain enjoys over 300 days of sunshine a year!

Spain has been a popular vacation destination for American citizens for decades. However, recently, we have seen a big increase in people moving to Spain from the US. 

The two main groups relocating are:

  • Retirees: particularly people taking early retirement in search of a more affordable and healthier lifestyle.
  • Families: particularly those able to work remotely and wanting to spend more quality time together and outdoor living

There are so many reasons for moving to Spain and we could talk about this for hours. However, moving to a foreign country can be a daunting task, with many factors to consider. Factors such as visas, housing, healthcare, language barriers, and cultural differences. 

This guide covers several aspects you need to know about moving to Spain from the US. These include the bureaucratic challenges of relocating, as well as the cultural and social differences you may encounter.

At Move to Malaga, we have been helping US citizens relocate to southern Spain for many years. We understand the obstacles you have to overcome. We are here to make your relocation a smooth and enjoyable one! (Read what people we have helped have to say about us!)

Requirements for moving to Spain from the US:

If you are a US citizen planning to move to Spain, there are several requirements you must fulfill. These include obtaining the necessary visa prior to your arrival in Spain (with some exceptions). Also, btaining residency (your TIE card) once you arrive in Spain.

Visa Requirements:

As a US citizen, you will need a visa to enter Spain. There are several types of visas depending on the purpose of your visit. These include short-stay visas for tourism, business, or study, and long-stay visas for work, study, or residence. The type of visa you need depends on your specific situation. It is important to apply for the correct visa before traveling to Spain. (See the visa section below for the most popular options)

Residency Requirements:

On arrival in Spain, if you plan to stay for longer than 90 days, you need to apply for residency. To obtain residency, you will need to apply for a Foreigner’s Identity Card (TIE). You apply at the nearest Foreigner’s Office (Oficina de Extranjeros) or national police station (policía nacional). (See the TIE section below for more details)

The importance of understanding the process before making the move:

Understanding the process of moving to Spain is incredibly important for planning a successful relocation.

  • Firstly, it can help you avoid potential legal issues that may arise if you do not follow the correct procedures. Failing to obtain the correct visa or residency documents can result in being deported or denied entry to Spain.
  • Secondly, understanding the process can help you financially prepare for the move. Knowing the financial requirements and potential costs of obtaining visas and residency can help you plan and budget.
  • Thirdly, understanding the process can help you adjust to life in Spain more easily. Knowing what to expect in terms of language requirements, cultural differences, and other factors can help you prepare for the move and make the transition smoother.

Taking time to understand the process of moving to Spain can help you avoid legal issues, plan financially, and adjust to life in Spain more easily. It is an important step in making a successful move and starting a new life in Spain.

Visa Options (to do before you leave the US):

Applying for the correct visa, based on your own personal situation is the first step. There are several viasa options for Americans to move to Spain, the most popular are:

  1. Non-Lucrative Visa: This visa is designed for people who want to live in Spain but do not intend to work. To qualify for this visa, you must show proof of sufficient financial resources to support yourself and any dependents. Documents such as a bank statement or pension plan. (READ MORE about the NLV HERE)
  2. Retirement Visa: If you are over 65 and have a steady source of income, you can apply for this visa. This visa allows you to live in Spain for up to one year and can be renewed every year.
  3. Golden Visa: The most popular option! See more details below …
  4. Digital Nomad Visa: launched in December 2022, this is a new visa that still requires some clarification. Basically: It is a visa that was approved on 23rd December 20. It is for non-EU nationals who wish to work remotely from Spain. You can apply for this type of visa if you work for a company based outside of Spain. The visa allows for your spouse or partner and children under 18 to reside in Spain with you. The visa entitles you to a reduced non-resident tax rate: ie. 24% up to 600,000 euros. 600,000.01 euros upwards, the tax rate will be 47%. The initial visa allows 2 years of residency and work in Spain. (READ MORE HERE)

Regardless of your visa choice, you must hold a valid passport. Also, you may be required to undergo a criminal background check. You will also have to provide documentation such as birth certificates, marriage certificates, and academic transcripts. We advise you to research the requirements for each type of visa carefully. You should begin the application process well in advance of your planned move.

IMPORTANT: Please be advised that we collaborate with expert immigration lawyers who can assist you with applying for the correct Spanish Visa in preparation for your relocation.

The Spanish Golden Visa: Benefits for US citizens moving to Spain

The Spain Golden Visa is a residency-by-investment program that allows non-European Union citizens, including US citizens, to obtain a residency permit in Spain by investing in Spanish real estate. To qualify for the visa, the investor must make a minimum investment of €500,000 in Spanish property. Once the visa is granted, the investor and their family members can live, work, and study in Spain. You can also travel freely within the Schengen area.

 Benefits of the Spanish Golden Visa for US Citizens include:

  1. Easy access to the EU: The visa provides a path to permanent residency in Spain, which in turn allows the investor and their family members to travel freely within the Schengen area. This can be beneficial for US citizens who want to travel to other European countries for business or leisure.
  2. Residency and work permit: The visa allows the investor and their family members to live and work in Spain, which can be particularly useful for those who plan to start a business or work for a Spanish company.
  3. Potential for long-term investment returns: Spanish real estate is considered a relatively stable and secure investment. The investor has the potential to earn rental income and capital gains on their property investment over time.
  4. High standard of living: Spain is known for its high standard of living, with a warm climate, vibrant culture, and excellent healthcare system. Moving to Spain can offer a more relaxed and enjoyable lifestyle compared to the fast-paced environment of the US.

Overall, the Spain Golden Visa offers US citizens an opportunity to obtain residency in Spain through a secure and reliable investment in Spanish real estate. It also provides a path to permanent residency and the benefits that come with it.

IMPORTANT: The Spain Golden Visa does not grant Spanish citizenship or the right to vote. It does offer a path to permanent residency and eventual citizenship. The application process can be complex. It is recommended to work with a lawyer or immigration specialist to ensure a smooth and successful application.

How to Apply for your TIE (residence) card once in Spain:

How do you make an appointment for your TIE application?

Please note that the TIE application must be made in person in the province in which you are residing. 

All appointments are made via the official government website. Use this link

Follow the instructions on each page to book your appointment.

NOTE: One appointment must be made per application. i.e. a family with 2 adults and 2 children must book 4 appointments.

Minors must be accompanied by their duly accredited legal representative and with original and current identity documentation, or by the person empowered by them.

What documents do you need to make your TIE application?

  • A duly completed application form EX17  Original and copy.
  • A valid passport.  (Original and copy of) *In the event that the passport is expired, you must provide a copy of it and the renewal application. At the time of collecting the card, the Passport must be valid (original and copy of the biometric page).
  • Proof of payment of the fee Model 790 Code 012 of the Ministry of the Interior. The current tax is 12€. The copy must be correctly printed in its entirety, not admitting in any case prints in which the bottom of the document does not appear, in which the annotation “Copy for the Administration” appears. Download the form here Model 790, code 12 . The option that must be checked to pay the amount corresponding to this Foreigner Identity Card is “Tarjetas de identidad de extranjeros (TIE) y certificados de registro de residentes comunitarios.”.
  • A photograph, in accordance with the requirements established in the regulations for a national identity document. A recent color photograph of the applicant’s face, size 32×26 millimeters, with a smooth white background, taken from the front with the head completely uncovered and without dark glass glasses or any other garment that may prevent or hinder the identification of the person. (The photograph must clearly show the oval of the face, which includes eyebrows, eyes, nose, mouth, and chin, and it must be of high resolution and on good quality photographic paper).
  • A current padron certificate, issued by your local town hall (issued in the last three months). Original and copy. (NOTE: This is only required if your address is not the same as on your residence document)

When will you receive your TIE card?

Upon completion of a successful TIE application, you will be issued a document that you must keep safe until you return to collect your original TIE card. This process is currently taking around 3 to 4 weeks.

Please note that your fingerprints are required to collect your TIE so you must collect it in person. You cannot authorise anybody to collect it on your behalf.

This TIE residence document will be valid for 1 or 2 years subject to the type of visa you have been awarded.

Cost of Moving to Spain from US

Moving to Spain from the US involves a variety costs, including:

  1. Visa fees: Depending on the type of visa you apply for, there may be visa application fees, which can range from several hundred to several thousand dollars.
  2. Travel costs: Travel costs include airfare, transportation to and from the airport, and shipping costs for any belongings or documents that you need to send to Spain.
  3. Accommodation costs: You will need to secure accommodation in Spain, either by renting or purchasing property. Rent prices can vary depending on the location and type of accommodation, while property prices can range from several hundred thousand to several million dollars.
  4. Moving costs: If you plan to bring your belongings with you, you will need to hire a moving company to transport your items. This can cost several thousand dollars depending on the amount of belongings and the distance involved.
  5. Health insurance: As a non-EU citizen, you will need to purchase private health insurance in order to obtain Spanish residency. Health insurance premiums can vary depending on the level of coverage and any pre-existing conditions. We have worked with this company for many years, REQUEST A NO OBLIGATION QUOTE HERE.
  6. Language courses: If you do not speak Spanish, it is highly advisable to take a language course to improve your language skills. Even speaking a few words will make a huge difference to your enjoyment of life in Spain.
  7. Daily expenses: Budget for daily expenses such as food, transportation, and entertainment. This amount obviously varies depending on your lifestyle and location in Spain.

It’s important to note that the costs of moving to Spain can vary depending on individual circumstances. Careful budgeting and planning can be improved by consulting with a financial advisor or immigration lawyer.

Here are some tips on how to minimize costs and make the move to Spain more affordable:

  1. Plan ahead: Planning ahead can help you avoid last-minute expenses and allow you to budget your expenses more effectively. Research the costs involved in moving to Spain and create a budget that includes all of the necessary expenses (see the previous section on costs).
  2. Look for deals on flights and shipping: You can save money on flights by booking early or looking for deals on airline websites. When shipping your belongings, consider using a shared container to reduce costs.
  3. Use a currency transfer company to send funds from the US to Spain. You will be surprised how much you can save, compared to using your usual bank. Contact Us for more details!
  4. Consider alternative accommodations: Renting and purchasing property can be expensive. Consider choosing a more affordable temporary home whilst carrying out your search for your ideal, permanent home.
  5. Take advantage of free resources: Many Spanish cities offer free events and activities, such as festivals, concerts, and cultural exhibits. Take advantage of these free resources to reduce entertainment expenses. Some towns even offer free Spanish classes for foreigners.
  6. Use public transportation: Public transportation in Spain is generally affordable and reliable and can help you save on transportation costs. It is generally much cheaper to purchase a vehicle once settled in Spain than to import a car from the US.
  7. Negotiate costs: When purchasing property or hiring moving services, consider negotiating to get a better deal. However, be careful not to offend. (Read our article on this)
  8. Sell unnecessary belongings: Selling unnecessary belongings before you move can help you save on shipping costs and provide extra cash for expenses. Customs import tax in Spain can be extremely expensive. Unless something is indispensable, consider leaving it behind and purchasing once settled in Spain. Generally, if you are taking up residence in Spain, may household goods and furnishings and personal effects free from duty and VAT if the items have been used for at least six months for a citizen of a non-EU country.

By following these tips and being mindful of your expenses, you can make the move to Spain more affordable and reduce your overall costs.

Tips for Making the Move Easier

Making the transition to Spain can be challenging, here are some tips to make the process easier:

  1. Learn Spanish: Learning the Spanish language can make the transition easier and help you integrate into Spanish society. You can take Spanish classes before you move to Spain, or enroll in a language school once you arrive.
  2. Research the culture: Spain has a rich and diverse culture, and researching the culture before you move can help you understand and adapt to the new environment more easily.
  3. Establish a support network: Establishing a support network in Spain can help you adjust to the new environment and make new friends. Joining social clubs, attending events, or participating in volunteer work can help you meet new people and build a support network.
  4. Stay connected with family and friends: Moving to a new country can be lonely, but staying connected with family and friends can help you feel connected to your home country and reduce feelings of isolation. If you don’t already use Skype or Zoom for videocalls, you may want to start testing it out now, before you move.
  5. Be open-minded: Be open-minded and willing to embrace new experiences and challenges. Moving to a new country can be a great opportunity for personal growth and development.
  6. Take care of your physical and mental health: Moving to a new country can be stressful, and taking care of your physical and mental health is important. Regular exercise, healthy eating, and seeking support, if needed, can help you manage the stress of the transition.
  7. Be patient: Adjusting to a new country can take time, so be patient with yourself and the process. Give yourself time to adapt to the new environment and embrace the challenges and opportunities that come with living in Spain. It will all be worth it, for sure!

By following these tips and being mindful of your well-being, you can make the transition to Spain easier and more enjoyable.

Cultural differences and ways to adapt to life in Spain:

Adapting to life in Spain can involve navigating cultural differences. Here are some cultural differences and ways to adapt:

  1. Time: In Spain, time is viewed as more flexible and less structured than in the US. Appointments and meetings may start later than scheduled, and it’s common to take a long lunch break or siesta in the afternoon. To adapt, be prepared for a more relaxed approach to time management and plan your schedule accordingly.
  2. Communication: Spanish communication can be more direct and passionate than in the US. People may speak loudly, interrupt each other, or use physical gestures to emphasize their point. To adapt, be open to a more expressive communication style and try to match the tone and style of your Spanish colleagues or friends.
  3. Socializing: Spanish socializing often involves group activities, such as going out for tapas or attending cultural events. It’s also common to engage in lengthy conversations and establish personal connections. To adapt, be open to group activities and try to establish personal connections with your Spanish friends and colleagues.
  4. Food: Spanish cuisine is diverse and can involve strong flavors and spices. It’s also common to have a large midday meal and a lighter evening meal. To adapt, be open to trying new foods and embrace the Spanish dining customs.
  5. Family: Family is an important part of Spanish culture, and it’s common to have close relationships with extended family members. To adapt, be open to family gatherings and try to establish connections with your Spanish family members.
  6. Religion: Religion is still a significant part of Spanish culture, and Catholicism is the dominant religion. To adapt, be respectful of religious customs and traditions, and try to understand the role of religion in Spanish society.

By being open-minded, respectful, and willing to adapt, you can navigate cultural differences and embrace the rich and diverse culture of Spain.


Moving to Spain can be a wonderful opportunity for personal growth, cultural enrichment, and a new chapter in your life. With its rich history, diverse culture, and stunning landscapes, Spain offers a unique experience. An experience that is unmatched anywhere else in the world.

If you’re interested in moving to Spain, there are many resources available to help you get started. You can research different pathways for moving to Spain, such as obtaining Spanish residency or the Golden Visa. You can also explore the costs associated with moving to Spain and ways to make the move more affordable. There are many resources available to help you adapt to life in Spain. These include language schools, social clubs, and cultural events.

Here are some resources for further information:

We encourage you to take the next step and explore the opportunities that Spain has to offer. With proper planning and preparation, moving to Spain can be an exciting and rewarding experience that will enrich your life in many ways

What are your 3 steps to a successful relocation?

  1. Read this guide to moving to Spain from the US.
  2. Start your research and preparation of all the necessary documentation.
  3. CONTACT US via the form below and we will make the whole process smoother and affordable for you!
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