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1st March, 2020


How to move to Spain from the UK

Wanting to move to Spain, but don’t know where to begin? Read our guide on moving to Spain to find the right way for you

With its superb cultural heritage, wonderful climate and low cost of living, anyone thinking of moving to Spain from the UK will find a country that should suit all tastes and budgets. Whether you choose one of the popular seaside resorts or decide to relocate to one of the country’s large cities, you’ll enjoy a fantastic experience when living in Spain.

Starting the adventure

If you’re a UK citizen and you’re thinking of moving to Spain after Brexit, the current rules are going to change. The UK government states that you’ll have to ‘meet the requirements of the general immigration regime’ should the UK leave the EU without a deal. Madrid’s British Embassy and the UK government have the most current advice.

Documents are essential

Before you do anything else, you’ll need to ensure that your passport is up to date. It’s a good idea to check that your UK passport has more than six months left before it expires. If you’re dreaming of living in Spain post-Brexit, you may need to prove that you have sufficient funds to support yourself until you find work, or your business is up and running. You might also have to apply for a work permit and a visa. This also applies if you’re thinking of retiring in Spain.

If you’re interested in emigrating to Spain, you should apply for residency after living there for three months. You should also carry out some research before you move to Spain about how to get a Número de Identidad de Extranjero (NIE) – this translates to Identification Number for Foreigners. You’ll need one to open a bank account, buy a property and work in the country. Those coming from non-EU countries will have to apply for a Tarjeta de Identidad de Extranjero (TIE). In general, a useful rule of thumb is that you can never have too many documents that will prove your identity and finances. Take all of these with you on your Spanish adventure.

Funding your new life

Maybe you need some additional funding for your new life. If you have any worries about how you’re going to send or receive money without having to pay hefty commission fees, Santander’s international money transfer app, PagoFX, might be the solution you’re looking for. The app is secure, as it’s operated by a payment institution supervised by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), and you don’t need a Santander bank account to use it. It also converts currency in real-time so you can rest assured that you’ll have access to very competitive exchange rates. To use PagoFX, you simply verify your identity electronically, enter the recipient’s name, address and bank details, and your payment could be processed the same day. To find out more about PagoFX, read our FAQs here.

Living the dream

Once you’ve sorted out all of the relevant documentation, then it’s time to look at how to move to Spain. It’s wise to take out some private health insurance should you need medical assistance and you don’t have a valid European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). Current UK government provisions for healthcare in Spain will remain in place until December 2020. It’s a good idea to check out your local Social Security office if you have any doubts about healthcare eligibility.

A good way of preparing for your adventure is to learn Spanish. Some British expats proudly claim that they have never learnt the language and are doing just fine. If you’re planning on living in one of the most popular expat destinations, such as coastal Malaga on the Costa del Sol in southern Spain, you may get away without knowing the language. However, if you’re feeling more adventurous or planning to immerse in local culture or live rurally, then it’s important to learn some basic Spanish.

How to find an apartment

Whether you’re buying or renting, finding property in a foreign country can be daunting. Do you want more space in the suburbs, a villa in the countryside or an apartment in the city centre?

Sites such as thinkSPAIN, Servihabitat and idealista showcase properties for sale and renting across the country, helping you find somewhere that’s the right size, within your budget, in the perfect location.

Where to live in Spain


The largest city in the Basque Country and situated in the north-west of Spain, this destination is rapidly growing in popularity among those looking for a good quality of life. The city has easy connections to other towns and cities in the region, such as San Sebastian and Vitoria-Gasteiz. Bilbao is the fifth wealthiest city in the country, so the cost of living isn’t as cheap as other cities, but there are jobs for expats here. Mountainous, rugged and close to the Atlantic Ocean, Bilbao is an intriguing city. It’s renowned for its culture, stunning architecture – the Guggenheim comes to mind – and fantastic restaurants, such as the Michelin-starred Zortziko and Mina. The Casco Viejo quarter is regularly cited as a cool and picturesque neighbourhood to live in. A city that is popular with all age groups, Bilbao is a wonderful destination for living in Spain.


If you’re looking for the hustle and bustle of a truly international city, then Seville, to the south-west of Spain, is an ideal option. With its warm climate, multiple international schools and iconic Moorish architecture, this is a beautiful city to consider if you’re thinking of emigrating to Spain.Renowned for its part in Andalusia’s unique culture, the city offers flamenco music and local cuisine such as gazpacho and pescaíto frito.Seville is relatively small – even if you rent or buy a property on the outskirts of the city, the centre is never too far away. Bus and metro connections are good, and the city has 100 kilometres of bike lanes. With its numerous bars and restaurants as well as realistic opportunities for employment, Seville is the perfect choice for many expats, with Santa Cruz and Los Remedios being popular neighbourhoods to live in.


As the Catalonian capital, Barcelona is a vibrant city. Home to the Picasso Museum, the Joan Miró Foundation and the Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya, the city is known for its art scene. Barcelona was also home to the iconic architect Antoni Gaudí, with his buildings scattered across the city – including one of its most famous landmarks, La Sagrada Familia. Food is at the heart of the city, with tapas on every corner and La Boqueria Market located on La Rambla. With the metro connecting most of the city, it is easy to live in any neighbourhood, even the suburbs. However, the El Born and Gràcia areas are some of the most desirable.


Situated in the centre of Spain, Madrid is the political and commercial beating heart of the country. The city boasts a population of 3.3 million and is home to many expats. With easy connections to the rest of the country, Madrid is a great option if you want to truly be in the hub of Spain. The city is cosmopolitan and home to some of the finest art galleries and museums in the world, such as the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía and Museo Nacional del Prado. Famous as a centre of fashion and film, fans of award-winning director Pedro Almodóvar will recognise the many city sights as the backdrop to his films. As a capital city, Madrid has an abundance of markets, perfect for shopping for food, clothes or trinkets. Mercado de San Miguel and Mercado de San Fernando are among the most popular. If you are after a fine-dining experience, the city has plenty of Michelin-starred restaurants, including Ramon Freixa and DiverXO. Compared to many other European cities, the cost of living in Madrid isn’t exorbitant, and with the average monthly wage coming in at €1,000-€3,500 you should be able to enjoy a good social life.

Estepona, the Costa del Sol

Perennially popular with expats for its wonderful climate, its beautiful position on the coast and its opportunities for work, Estepona and the surrounding area offers numerous opportunities for those looking for an ideal location in Spain. People of all ages, tastes and cultures flock to settle in this region. The town of Estepona itself offers a more laid-back lifestyle than its ritzier neighbours, including Marbella and Malaga, and consequently the cost of living is affordable. However, Estepona also offers Michelin-starred restaurants on its doorstep, such as Kabuki Raw.

Spain has the culture and employment opportunities, as well as many perfect destinations, for those looking for an idyllic retirement or a new opportunity. With its vibrant culture, sumptuous cuisine and friendly local population, it’s not surprising that Spain is one of the most popular expat countries in the world.