Mistakes to avoid when moving to Spain

The key to a successful move to Spain lies in meticulous planning. Devoting plenty of time to organise all aspects beforehand significantly streamlines the transition.

Avoid underestimating the cost of living and the time required for paperwork processes. Essential steps such as opening a Spanish bank account, registering with local authorities, immersing yourself in the local culture and embracing the language are crucial for a smoother integration.

Not researching the visa and residency requirements

Moving to a foreign country involves a series of challenges and one of the most common mistakes is not properly researching the necessary procedures, which can result in prolonged and complicated processes. It is crucial to emphasize the importance of knowing the requirements for obtaining visas and residency when relocating to Spain, both for European citizens and those from outside the European Union. Distinguishing between their origins will dictate the subsequent steps.

European citizens moving to Spain must submit a residency application at the police station within the first 90 days of their arrival and have the possibility of obtaining permanent residency after 5 years of stay.

Interesting read: Spanish residency

Non-EU citizens must obtain a visa to enter the country.  Options include the Golden Visa, Non-Lucrative Visa and Digital Nomad Visa. It’s worth noting that some visas can be applied for directly in Spain, potentially saving costs and expediting the process, such as with the Golden Visa. Therefore, before embarking on the journey to Spain, it’s crucial to verify both the possibility of initiating the process directly here and ensuring all necessary documentation is in order.

It is imperative to avoid the mistake of attempting to handle visa and/or residency applications independently without the support of a specialised lawyer. Despite the abundance of information available online, not all cases are the same and even the slightest error could result in the rejection of the application, leading to wasted time and resources by having to restart the process from scratch. At Tejada Solicitors, we boast extensive experience in these areas and provide comprehensive guidance from the beginning, ultimately saving time, money and effort.

Upon establishing residency in Spain, promptly registering with the Municipal Registry (Padrón Municipal) is crucial, as this registration is necessary for all subsequent administrative procedures in the country. Furthermore, it’s important to keep this registry consistently updated to avoid complications in future administrative dealings.

Interesting read: Long-term residency in Spain | EU Citizens

Underestimating the cost of living.

Spain excels in work-life balance, health, social connections, and safety according to the Better Life Index but lags in jobs, education, and life satisfaction. When asked to rate their general satisfaction with life on a scale from 0 to 10, Spaniards provided an average score of 6.5, slightly below the OECD average of 6.7.

Money, while it cannot buy happiness, is an important means to achieving higher living standards. In Spain, the average household net-adjusted disposable income per capita is less than the OECD average. This is primarily attributed to notably low salaries relative to inflation. Spain’s minimum wage and average salaries remain comparatively low when compared to certain other European nations.

Despite these economic challenges, living in Madrid proves to be cost-effective, with expenses being 53% lower than in New York, 43% lower than in London, 40% lower than in Los Angeles, 27% lower than in Munich, and 16% lower than in Brussels.

When relocating to Spain, it’s crucial to consider the diverse cost of living across its regions.

Overlooking language barriers.

In numerous regions of Spain, especially those with sizable expat communities, English is widely used, allowing for a comfortable lifestyle without the need for Spanish proficiency. However, acquiring a basic knowledge of Spanish can significantly enhance your experience. While approximately 56% of the population can communicate in English to some extent, fluency levels vary, making English less prevalent. The southern regions and main tourist areas tend to have a higher incidence of English speakers.

To navigate language barriers effectively, consider improving language skills, incorporating cultural understanding into your learning, exploring alternative communication methods, using straightforward language, and embracing the learning process without fear of making mistakes.

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Failing to understand the tax system

According to a study by PwC’s Paying Taxes and the World Bank, Spain ranks among the eight most efficient administrations globally, scoring 93.6%, well above the average of 59.6%.

The first aspect to consider is the tax impact expatriates will face in Spain, in accordance with Article 9 of the Personal Income Tax Law, to determine their tax residency status.

To fulfil this requirement, adherence to the following tax obligations is essential:

Personal Income Tax (IRPF) – Model 100: Your worldwide income is subject to taxation in Spain. To mitigate the risk of double taxation, it’s crucial to establish a double taxation agreement between Spain and your country of origin.
Declaration of Assets – Form 720: Completion of Form 720 is mandatory for both individuals and legal entities to declare overseas assets exceeding €50,000 outside of Spain. This step is pivotal to prevent any allegations of tax evasion.
Wealth Tax: This tax applies to worldwide net assets exceeding 3,700,000 euros.

Additionally, expatriates may be subject to other taxes such as the Beckham Law or Inheritance Tax.

Don’t forget that as a resident in Spain, you are subject to taxation on your worldwide income, where the application of double taxation treaties signed between Spain and the country of income source comes into play.

As an example, we will mention some of the most common incomes we usually study for clients who come to our office.

  • Regarding incomes from the United Kingdom, Article 6 of the Double Taxation Convention (DTC) between both countries applies. Spanish tax residents must declare and pay taxes on their rental income in both the United Kingdom and Spain. To avoid double taxation, the tax paid in the United Kingdom can be offset in the Spanish resident’s tax return following the terms established in the treaty and national regulations.
  • As for the treaties to avoid double taxation signed between Spain and Canada, as well as between Spain and the USA, this type of income is also regulated in Article 6. As a tax resident in Spain, if you receive income from renting properties located in Spain or abroad, you may benefit from tax deductions.

Not opening a Spanish bank account.

While living in Spain doesn’t imply needing a bank account, having one can simplify various aspects of life. For instance, managing finances remotely or seeking assistance while abroad becomes more convenient with a local bank.

There are many situations in which you will need to open a bank account in Spain, such as:

If you decide to buy a property in Spain (property conveyancing in Spain).
In relation to taxes, if you decide to rent out your property in Spain.
Due to the use of your property in Spain, you will have to pay the Non-Resident Tax.
If you have fallen in love with Spain and decide to reside permanently, you will need to declare your worldwide income through the Personal Income Tax

Opt for a bank with excellent customer service, preferably one that accommodates English or other foreign languages for seamless communication, especially for addressing concerns over the phone.

Select a bank offering favourable exchange rates for currency services like “cambio” (exchange). This ensures that converting money into euros, whether at an airport kiosk or a local bank branch, doesn’t incur unnecessary costs due to subpar rates, making it worthwhile to explore alternatives such as Travelex or Moneycorp.

Consider a bank with competitive interest rates on savings accounts. Regardless of the savings amount, even a modest €1 saved monthly can accrue significant interest over time, potentially leading to substantial gains when managed wisely.

Rushing into property purchases

Regardless of the Real Estate climate, it is crucial to understand what you are purchasing before finalising the deal. Prioritising prudence over emotion is key to making sound investment decisions, as property purchase is a serious business that warrants careful deliberation. Assess whether the property’s layout meets your needs and conduct thorough research on the area, including historical data.

Taking the time to find a property at an affordable price, even with current interest rates, is vital and given the substantial financial commitment involved, it’s essential not to over-invest, as this could result in being unable to recoup costs if you decide to sell. Price is not just of the property but also the true cost of buying a property in Spain, like legal representation or the taxes that apply


Resist the urge to overpack when making the move. Carrying excess baggage can weigh you down during the journey and lead to unnecessary expenses. Instead, focus on packing only the essentials and contemplate acquiring larger items upon your arrival.

While the temptation may be strong to bring everything when relocating to Spain, shipping costs can be steep, and not everything may find a place in your new home.

Take the opportunity to declutter, bringing only items with sentimental value or those challenging to replace. Consider options like selling, donating, or storing the non-essential items. This approach not only saves money but also streamlines the moving process.

We want to take this opportunity to inform the reader that if they decide to reside in Spain through a Temporary Residency as Non-EU citizens and wish to relocate their furniture, personal belongings, or vehicles to Spain, the tariff rates and procedures may vary depending on the country of origin. Therefore, to avoid unpleasant surprises, we advise you, prior to the move, to contact a specialised customs tax company where they can provide information on the requirements, deadlines, and, if applicable, the taxes to be paid.

Failing to grasp the intricacies of bureaucracy.

A common oversight when relocating to Spain is underestimating the intricacies of the bureaucracy. Renowned for its sluggish pace, the Spanish bureaucratic process often extends over months, and in some cases, even years.

For instance, obtaining a TIE card as a non-EU citizen may entail a wait of six months or more.

Mistakes that foreigners make in Spain

Navigating through Spanish bureaucracy can be challenging, as the government doesn’t streamline processes for in-person or online transactions. Patience and persistence are paramount for expediting tasks. While bureaucracy might be time-consuming, it’s advisable not to let it hinder your pursuits, such as job applications, while awaiting approvals.

Based on our experience at Tejada Solicitors, we recommend that certain visas, such as the Golden Visa or Digital Nomad Visa in Spain, be processed from within Spain, as the procedure is more efficient and at a lower cost.

Do you need a professional help for “Mistakes to avoid when moving to Spain”?

Do not seek legal advice

Failing to seek legal advice when purchasing a property in Spain is a critical error. Our recommendation is not to delay seeking assistance until after you’ve found your property. Certain considerations are best addressed beforehand, prior to initiating the property buying process in Spain.

Before signing a reservation agreement or making any deposit, it’s strongly recommended that you consult with a Property Solicitor if you’re considering purchasing a property in Spain. Please be aware that proceeding without legal advice could potentially result in the loss of your deposit.

You can contact us by phone or schedule a video call for an initial appointment. During this first meeting with our English-speaking solicitors, we will provide a comprehensive overview of our services, outline the conveyancing process steps, and ensure you’re guided through each stage for a seamless experience.

Not having a property solicitor can result in a stressful conveyancing process for you, as without knowledge of the intricacies of the Spanish system, many mistakes can be made, ultimately leading to financial losses and concerns. The property lawyer will minimise all risks throughout the purchase process

It’s crucial to have an independent solicitor, separate from the vendor or developer, who will protect your interests entirely.

At our firm, it’s essential that clients know the upfront cost of buying a property to cover all expenses without any surprises. A comprehensive cost breakdown should encompass all expenses and concepts involved in the property buying process. Otherwise, the budget isn’t realistic. If you have multiple quotes from different property lawyers, ensure that all concepts are included to avoid unpleasant surprises.

If you’re contemplating buying a property anywhere in Spain, we invite you to explore our property conveyancing article for comprehensive information about our legal service package.

Neglecting to obtain your empadronamiento.

If you’re relocating to Spain, it’s essential to grasp the concept of empadronamiento or padron and the steps involved in obtaining it.

Empadronamiento, translated as “registration,” differs from the standard registration process in one’s home country. In Spain, it involves registering with the local town hall. While the process is relatively straightforward, some expats overlook it, either assuming it’s unnecessary or being uncertain about its requirement based on their visa status.

For EU nationals, if you decide to reside in Spain, registration is mandatory; however, European citizens with non-resident status in Spain do not need to register. Non-EU citizens fall into two categories: those requiring a visa (including residence permits, such as Non Lucrative Visa ) and those exempt (such as students).

biggest mistakes when moving to Spain

Not joining local social networks.

Immersing yourself in the local community, both with fellow expats and locals, is a valuable strategy for understanding the culture and gaining practical insights into daily life in your new home.

In Spain, building connections often revolves around shared meals and beverages, making coffee outings or trying the ‘menú del día’ at a local restaurant.

Engaging with expats who have prior experience in the country provides essential insights into expat basics, such as opening a bank account or navigating the healthcare system. Nevertheless, true integration into your new life abroad is best achieved by connecting with the locals. Consider joining a sports club, making friends at work, exploring co-working spaces, and enjoying a coffee at the local cafe as effective avenues to foster these connections.

Moving to a different country doesn’t require a complete overhaul of your identity and preferences. It’s essential to strike a balance between staying true to yourself and embracing new experiences. Integrating aspects of the new culture into your life, even in small ways, can enrich your overall experience.

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