To date, Spain remains the most attractive destination for European expats, British families and pensioners. In accordance with official data, 69% of Britons reside in the territory of the European Union and 37% of them or 370,000 UK nationals reside in Spain.
There are lots of reasons to move to Spain from UK, amongst which would be singled out the following:
- the Mediterranean climate: the salubrious air, the warm see and around 300 days of sun per year;
- the high quality of health care;
- affordable house prices;
- cheaper utilities and services;
- lower food prices: fresh fruits, vegetables, meat, fish, dairy and delicious wine;
- the pace of life with daily siesta is more relaxed.
What should be taken into account, going to continue, or to start living in Spain in the year 2020? Currently, further legal provision for UK citizens in this country is not entirely clear. In this regard, the UK government negotiates with the EU, and with Spain on a bilateral basis. The final outcome will be reached likely by the end of this year.
Choosing where to live
What to choose for living: a small picturesque town or a big city like Madrid and Barcelona depends on whether it’s necessary to be employed or just enjoy well-earned rest.
Of course, the most popular areas for moving to Spain from UK are the sunny coastal areas, such as the Costa Blanca (Alicante), which is full of magnificent beaches and inexpensive properties.
There are another obvious advantages: integration to local life here is generally facilitated by friendliness of Spaniards and lots of English-language services.
Valencia, cultural and architectural center of the Costa Blanca, is also of intense interest for Britons. And some expats prefer cozy homes in the charming mountainous neighborhoods surrounded by fruit trees and Mediterranean Sea’s views, like Javea or Denia.
By contrast, those seeking to live actively in a big city rhythm can safely choose Benidorm, «Mini-New-York of the Costa Blanca» and descend into its bright nightlife.
Three and a half years after the referendum on whether the United Kingdom should remain a member of or leave the European Union, «BREXIT» still took place. This happened at 23.00 London time on January 31, 2020. Before the end of this year, UK residents retain the right to move to Spain from UK on previous/favorable terms and conditions.
For permanent residing in Spain (longer than three months), foreigners must be registered at the local Oficina de Extranjeros for obtaining of residence certificate.
Then five years later it’s possible to apply for permanent residency in this country.
Many believe that the majority of expats in Spain are happy-go-lucky retirees sipping cocktails on their chaise lounges.
However, updated info posted by the Office for National Statistics showed that nearly 2/3 of expats living in Spain have been far from the pensionable age.
Now Spain along with the other countries is still recovering from the pandemic of the coronavirus and unemployment, especially it is widespread for young people.
Getting a job can turn out to be challenging, but not impossible.
There are many positions open in Spain for professionals, such as
- highly qualified programmers – from 60 thousand euros per year;
- heads of enterprises and private companies, energy – 50-53 thousand;
- accountants, financiers, lawyers – 34-39 thousand;
- technologists, scientists – 27-33 thousand;
- employees of the industrial sector – 26.8 thousand;
- environmentalists, engineers, teachers, nursing staff, private businessmen, sailors of the fishing fleet – 20-25 thousand,
according to the National Agency «Adecco» in the year of 2019.
Private property ownership is about 78% in Spain, higher than in the UK and considerably above the average across the EU.
A large proportion of Spanish real estate is owned by foreigners. Among these are also Britons attracted by mortgage with the most profitable terms in the coastal areas such as the Costa Blanca.
There are an extensive choice of resale properties and new buildings to please every standard and requirement, although prices may differ significantly depending on property type, size and location.
By way of illustration, average property prices on the Costa Blanca: in Altea – 2.044 €/m2, in Valencia – 1.842 €/m2, in Alicante – 1.548 €/m2, in Torrevieja – 1.390 €/m2, in Rojales – 1.124 €/m2. In comparison, prices in Barcelona – 4.163 €/m2, in Madrid – 3.726 €/m2 – according to the web-portal idealista.com.
By purchasing property in Spain the services of an experienced lawyer is to be secured.
In such cases it is tended to make use of gestor’s services. This person is not a professional solicitor or realtor but a Spanish-speaking clerk with good local contacts.
Gestor mediates between his client and the Spanish authorities to ensure the transfer of property, following all rules. For a modest sum (consultation concerning all issues of client’s interest is about 30 euros, conducting of the settling process for any cases – 300 euros, preparing a declaration on income – 40-60 euros), they can really spare lots of time, money and nerves.
For those moving to Spain from UK and looking to rent, it is worth knowing some features of local real estate market.
What’s interesting is, Spanish tenants have often more rights than lessors, what caused a chilling phenomenon such as «ocupas». Fortunately, the situation is changing for the better with respect to protect the rights of property owners in Spain. The first step was the adoption of the law 5/2018 on «express procedure» – expelling illegal occupants. The second major step in that direction is a proposal by the Head of PP Party – Pablo Casado – 48 hours for evicting of illegal occupants, but the final law has not yet been made.
Although Spanish laws don’t require rental agreements have to be put into writing mandatory but it is preferable to do so. Short-term contracts (contrato de arrendamiento de temporada), which are in place to one year, generally have less legal protections than long-term contracts (arriendo de vivienda).
With regard to costs of rented housing, as usual, the most important parameter is its location. So, in June 2020, average price of m2 in Madrid is 16.6 €/m2, in Barcelona – 16.8 €/m2, in Benidorm – 9.9 €/m2, in Valencia – 9.4 €/m2, in Alicante – 7.7 €/m2.
The cost of living in Spain is traditionally much lower than in the UK and in neighbouring countries. But let’s not forget that salary level here is also lower.
When comparing the costs of living after moving to Spain from UK, it is obviously that almost all is cheaper in Spain.
For example, according to data for July 2020 of the web-site traveltables.com, total cost of living in London for two person with average consumption will be 1546.2 € per month vs 1027.75 € per month in Barcelona. Some costs in more detail for clarity:
- meal for 2 persons mid-range restaurant, three-course – 61.94 € (London) and 41.20 € (Barcelona);
- average monthly net salary, after tax – 2,579.54 € (London) and 1,412.50 € (Barcelona);
- mortgage interest rate, yearly, fixed-rate – 2.68% (London) and 2.19% (Barcelona);
- fitness club, monthly fee for 1 adult – 53.01 € (London) and 46.30 € (Barcelona);
- monthly pass, local transport – 148.65 € (London) and 51.50 € (Barcelona);
- taxi, price for 1 km, basic tariff – 4.96 € (London) and 1.14 € (Barcelona);
- basic utilities for 85m2 apartment including electricity, heating or cooling, water and garbage disposal – 157.27 € (London) and 134.30 € (Barcelona).
Of course, in large cities like Valencia or Alicante, not to mention Madrid and Barcelona, everybody could easily explain yourself both in English and Spanish. In addition, there are whole neighborhoods in Spain with an English-speaking population. However, it would be helpful to brush up on Spanish language skills before moving. Expats who are fluent in Spanish have a higher level of satisfaction and easily integrate into Spanish life.
In addition, a good knowledge of foreign languages contributes to find a high-paying job, facilitates the process of renting or buying a home, including engagement with local authorities.
Language schools can be found all over Spain, and the best known of them placed in Valencia, Alicante, Madrid and Barcelona.
There are also plenty of various online courses and usable mobile apps that allow to upgrade language skills in short time.
Customs and culture
By moving to any foreign country, there are cultural specificities and rules inevitable, which should be always taken into account.
The relaxing lifestyle through the coastal Spain implies that the morning (la mañana) lasts roughly until 2 p.m. Lunch time can run 2-4 hours, including the famous Spanish siesta. Dinner rarely starts before 8 p.m. and may extend long after midnight.
Now, the slight fly in the ointment is this: if it’s required to get some service, slowness and bureaucracies will often be unavoidable and it should be taken for granted – «don’t worry be happy»!
In view of the above, there will be not a good idea to plan buying property during the holiday season.
The 2019 Healthiest Country Index by the Bloomberg ranked Spain as the world’s healthiest country, followed by Italy and Iceland. Experts attribute part of the positive health trend to a Mediterranean diet, rich in extra-virgin olive oil, fresh vegetables, juicy fruits and nutritious nuts.
Such factors as access to hygiene products and clean drinking water, reduce obesity, anti-smoking, the overall environmental situation and the quality of the health system were also taken into account.
So, 4 more European countries were included in the 10 top countries in 2019: Iceland took the third place, Switzerland is in the fifth, Sweden is in the sixth, and Norway is in the ninth one.
Japan and Singapore ranked fourth and eighth in the top 10, respectively. Australia ranked seventh, and Israel was last on the list.
The cost of private health insurance with full coverage is about 40-70 euros for people of working age and 90-120 euros for retirees. The latter are also provided with an opportunity to use significant discounts in pharmacies.
Taxes, NIE, bank accounts
Going to receive salaries or other types of income in Spain, in the first place it’s necessary to open a bank account. Those who can live off their British pension, need to check having access to their funds and also monitor the exchange rate of the Pound (£) and the Euro (€). Credit cards such as Visa and Mastercard are acceptable in all hotels, restaurants, shops and supermarkets.
To open a bank account, purchase a car, pay fees and taxes in Spain requires an NIE number, which is desirable to get immediately upon arrival. This document is issued by the Spanish National Police and is obliged in this country for all persons who are employed, or planning to buy property, or a vehicle.
To request a NIE it is necessary to go to the Comisaria General de Extranjeria and bring the following documents:
- ID-card or passport, including 2 copies and photos;
- a duly completed EX-15 form – 2 copies;
- all documents pointing to the need for obtaining an NIE.
Moving by own car
Foreigners are allowed to drive own car for six months on arrival. Then, when the length of stay in the country will exceed the 183 days limit, a vehicle must be driven with the correct registration plate.
Some logistical companies offer vehicle shipping services, they can provide with export documentation and even simplify customs formalities with the observance of all local laws and regulations.
After receiving the residence permit there is up to 30 days to register a car. The vehicle must be submitted for ITV (the equivalent to the UK MOT). After passing the test, a Spanish licence plate will be issued and the relevant import tax will be calculated.
All pets moving in Spain should be over three months old and have the require inoculations. Pets must be inoculated for rabies and provided with 15-digit pet microchip according to an ISO 11784/11785.
If this is the first rabies inoculation after being chipped, a pet will need to wait 3 weeks before a trip. An EU pet passport certified by vet for each animal will be also necessary to carry it abroad. This is all a big hassle, but a little faithful friend will always cheer up even in such stressful enterprise as moving in a foreign beautiful country.