Moving to Spain from the UK

Did you know that Spain is ranked the second most popular destination in the world for British expats? According to official data, around 370,000 British expats are currently living permanently in Spain ☀, excluding temporary stays in holiday homes or tourist rentals.

Even Brexit has had no impact on this steady growth of British population in Spain 📈, causing a notable 10% surge as Britons make their Spanish residency official.

It is no surprise why these figures continue to grow. According to Maria Soledad Sala, a Tejada Solicitors specialized immigration lawyer, the main attractions for British expats to move to Spain include:

  • Good weather
  • Enriched culture
  • Quality of food and wine
  • International schools
  • Excellent communications
  • Great healthcare system
  • Low cost of living

In her experience, the most popular areas to reside are found on the Costa del Sol; Marbella, Malaga, Mijas, Nerja and Fuengirola amongst many others.

From 01 January 2021, the United Kingdom is no longer part of the European Union and is considered a third state. This status has caused changes to certain procedures, in particular, the process to obtain residency in Spain. On 30 December 2020, the Royal Decree-Law 38/2020 was approved, which regulates, among other things, healthcare. This law aims to counteract the undesirable effects caused by the end of the transitional period as much as possible, as long as a reciprocal relationship between the UK and Spanish citizens is maintained.

However, it is important to note that these regulations are temporary measures, as it is expected that the UK and Spain will reach a bilateral agreement to regulate both healthcare and other aspects concerning the relations between the citizens of both countries.

If you, like thousands of others, are interested in residing permanently in Spain from the UK, the following guide is perfect in covering the bases for everything you need to know for your exciting move.

Checklist for moving to Spain from the UK

Checklist for moving to Spain from the UK

This checklist highlights all of the steps that are absolutely necessary in order to move to Spain, regardless of whether it is for pleasure or otherwise. There are several steps which must be taken either before or at the very beginning of your arrival in Spain. These make up the initial and transitional phase of your move to Spain, during which you are subject to legal and tax obligations in both the UK and Spain, as an official British citizen. This can be tricky, and so it is often recommended to seek professional advice to aid you.

The necessities checklist has been specially devised by the Tejada Solicitors team to help you complete these necessary steps in order to make your move to Spain as smooth as possible.

1. Spanish NIE Number (Número de Identificación de Extranjería)

Your NIE is the Spanish identification for foreigners. It is recommended that this should be completed before you travel to Spain to ensure your process is as easy as possible.

In order to register for an NIE, you must:

  • Download the application form EX-15
  • Fill out the form
  • Submit it through your nearest Spanish consulate

If you are unable to apply beforehand, you can also apply for it when you are in Spain, where it is processed through your immigration office or a police station.

2. Spanish Residency

Since 1st January 2021, the United Kingdom has now considered a third state, changing the circumstance for obtaining residence in Spain. From this date onwards, there will be a range of options to acquire residency in Spain, including:

  • Tie Card – If you are a resident in Spain before 31 December 2020 but do not have a European Union citizen’s registration certificate or TIE card, you are allowed to continue to reside in Spain, but you must prove that you have been a resident in Spain since before that date. Therefore, any British expatriates that fulfill the above criteria may apply for the NIE card as from 01 January 2021, in accordance with the Withdrawal Agreement, demonstrating proof of residence from 31 December 2020. Obtaining the TIE card is a document that guarantees your rights in terms of residence, free movement, and social security in Spain.
  • Visa Residence – For British nationals entering Spain from 01 January 2021, the General Foreigners Scheme will apply. The following visas are available for you to choose from:
    • The Residence Visa or Non-Lucrative Residence Visa: if you would like to learn more about the details of this procedure, you can get all of the information on this page: Non lucrative Visa.
    • The Golden Visa: The Golden Visa is part of the Law of Entrepreneurs, encouraging investment in Spain with the return of Spanish residency. As non-EU buyers from 01 January 2021, British citizens have the possibility to apply for the Golden Visa, granting residence for the buyer and their dependents as long as an investment of real-estate on Spanish territory with a value of €500,000 or more.

3. Tax Residence in Spain

As you will be residing permanently in Spain, you will need to pay your tax as a Spanish tax resident – this is essential in order to obtain your TIE. Article 9 of the Personal Tax Income Law states that if an individual resides in Spain territory for more than 183 days, or whose primary financial interests are located in Spain, they must become a tax resident in Spain. In order to do this, you must ensure that you comply with the following tax obligations:

  • Personal Income Tax (IRPF) – Model 100: Your worldwide income will be taxed in Spain. In order to avoid double taxation, you must ensure that a double- taxation agreement is signed between Spain and your country of origin.
  • Declaration of Assets – Form 720: All individuals and legal entities must complete a 720 form in order to declare overseas assets outside of Spain that exceeds €50,000. This is needed in order to ensure you are not accused of tax evasion.

4. Informing the British Healthcare System

In accordance with the Royal Decree Law (RDL) 38/2020, for British citizens who are temporarily visiting Spain (less than 90 days in a 180 day period), your current European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) will cover your healthcare. This card will be valid until 30 June 2021, or until its expiry date if it exceeds this deadline. Once your EHIC card has expired, you must apply for the Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC) instead.

After this date, it is expected that the United Kingdom and Spain will sign a bilateral agreement that will provide healthcare protection for citizens carrying out this process. For British expatriates residing in Spain, there will be no impact on your rights – you retain the same rights regarding healthcare and other aspects as you did before Brexit.

However, when choosing to permanently move to Spain, you must step out of the UK’s National Health System (NHS). You must inform your GP practise of your move so that you can be removed from the NHS register. However, in becoming a resident in Spain, you will be able to access the free healthcare system like any other Spanish citizen, as long as you meet the following requirements:

  • If you are a pensioner and receive a pension from your country of origin (State or Government Pension), you will be able to access Spanish healthcare by submitting the S-1 Form issued by your country of origin.
  • If you are either self-employed or employed, you and your family members are entitled to the free public healthcare offered by Spain.
  • If you do not apply to any of the above, you can apply to join the Convenio Especial – a monthly-fee scheme which gives you access to the Spanish health system (other rules apply), or you can take out private health insurance. You can read more about the requirements for the Convenio Especial here.

If you would like to learn more about the different ways you can access Spanish healthcare as either a British expatriate living in Spain or as a British citizen temporarily visiting Spain, please visit this page: Healthcare in Spain.

5. Validate your passport and driving license

When applying for the more specific legalities, it is often easy to forget the most basic ones. There are many reasons to ensure both your passport and driving license are valid (some more obvious than others!). For example, if you want to continue using your car in Spain, you will have to apply for a Spanish driving license, which can often take up to 6 months. Once you have received your census certificate (certificado de empadronamiento), it is highly recommended you then complete this procedure as soon as possible.

From 01 January 2021, if you do not choose to exchange your UK driving license for a Spanish license, you will be able to continue driving using your UK license for 6 months (until 30 June 2021). After this period, UK driving licenses will no longer be valid and you will have to apply for a new Spanish license. You can read more about exchanging your driving license here.

6. Register your new Spanish address

Once you have arrived in Spain, and you have secured a Spanish property, we recommend that you immediately go to your local Town Hall Office to notify of your new address. This process is known as the ‘padrón’ – once registered to this, you start to earn certain rights in Spain, even if you haven’t yet received full Spanish nationality.

7. Set up a bank account

Depending on the bank you choose, the documentation required to open a Spanish bank account will vary. However, the following are the basic documents that are required:

  • Passport
  • Personal and financial information; P60, Personal Income Tax or pension certificate
  • Your Spanish NIE number 

Need a professional consultation for preparing your moving to Spain from the UK?

    Moving to Spain from the UK and buy a property

    Buying your new home in Spain is inarguably one of the most important and exciting steps in achieving permanent residence in Spain.

    Because of this, we aim to ensure that this step is as efficient and as smooth as possible, by establishing regular communication between you and our Law Firm.

    Moving to Spain from the UK

    Our team of experts in property conveyancing will advise you from the very beginning of the procedure, ensuring that we cover every aspect of the conveyancing process. Our team and solicitors will cover all relevant paperwork and safeguard your interests in the best possible way. Once the paperwork and process has been reviewed, your contract will be signed, ready for completion. Our Tax advisor will notify you of all the relevant tax implications before and after completion.

    As far as the purchasing process and paperwork required for buying a home in Spain go for British citizens after Brexit, there is no change. The process to buy a property after Brexit will be the same as it was before. This scenario does change, however, when these buyers decide to move to Spain permanently.

    Move to Spain and renting out a property

    One of the main reasons that British residents are purchasing properties in Spain is the prospect that they can double up as an additional source of income by renting out for tourist purposes. If this is the case for you, our tax advisor will be able to study your property investment and advise on any tax implications before you officially purchase the property.

    If you have decided that your Spanish property will be dedicated to tourist rental, it is extremely important that you register the property in the Andalusian Tourism Registry. Our team at Tejada Solicitors will be able to provide you with all of the relevant information required to complete this procedure. This is an extremely important step, and failure to register your property under the Tourism Registry department will result in very high penalties.

    From 01 January 2021, British expatriates who have Spanish residency or who want or receive rental incomes from renting out properties in Spain will not experience any change in taxation – it will remain the same as before Brexit.

    However, non-resident taxpayers will experience a change in taxation from 01 January 2021 after the end of the transitional period. As the UK is now considered a third state outside of the EU, taxation of rental income obtained in Spain as a non-resident, whether short or long-term rentals, will be taxed 24% (the tax rate before 31 December 2020 was 19%). In addition, no expenses can be deducted from this, i.e. you will be taxed on gross income (Before 31 December 2020, it was possible to deduct certain expenses related to rentals).

    Therefore, taxation has worsened for British citizens who are non-residents of Spain since Brexit. However, we are waiting for a bilateral agreement between the United Kingdom and Spain that may change these current circumstances. If you would like more information you can read our guide about Renting out a property in Spain or may contact us.

      Moving to Spain after brexit

      As we know, the departure of the United Kingdom from the European Union has meant that the procedures for obtaining residence for British citizens change as they are considered non-EU citizens. In this sense, the Transition Agreement reached in 2020 had effect until December 31, 2020.

      On 30 December 2020, the Royal Decree-Law 38/2020 was approved, which regulates, among other things, healthcare. This law aims to counteract the undesirable effects caused by the end of the transitional period as much as possible, as long as a reciprocal relationship between the UK and Spanish citizens is maintained.

      However, it is important to note that these regulations are temporary measures, as it is expected that the UK and Spain will reach a bilateral agreement to regulate both healthcare and other aspects concerning the relations between the citizens of both countries.

      The only difference so far will be concerning the Residence certificate that will be issued by the Authorities, since until now a temporary or permanent resident certificate is being issued according to the circumstances of the citizen, either in A4 format or green card. The objective is to start issuing another document called “TIE Certificate”, in which in addition to the identification data of the holder, it must appear that you are the beneficiary of the Withdrawal Agreement, as well as a mention to the Article 50, which regulates this and whether it is issued by a declaratory or registration system. This document has entered into force on January 1, 2021.

      Moving to Spain from the UK Maria Soledad

      Maria Soledad Sala

      Immigration Lawyer

      Following these steps will help make things easier for you and allow you to concentrate on other practical aspects, such as transporting your belongings, finding accommodation and organising your trip.

      Should you need further assistance with any of these topics, don’t hesitate to contact the Tejada Solicitors. We will be more than happy to support you.


      Author: Rosana Tejada

      Biographical Info: Rosana Tejada Crespo is a tax advisor holding a Master’s Degree in International Taxation. She specialises in companies and freelancers, tax regulations concerning foreign employees (Beckham Law Spain), non-resident tax, inheritance tax and Spanish income tax. She is one of the founders of Tejada Solicitors, which comprises a group of English speaking solicitors, economists and architects.

      Tejada Solicitors is an English-speaking law firm based in Malaga and Costa del Sol, specialised in property conveyancing, inheritance tax, residence for foreigners, self-employed tax declarations and most legal and financial aspects of relevance to foreigners and expats living in Spain. For any questions and enquiries regarding the Spanish market, don’t hesitate to contact us either by phone or e-mail.

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