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Living and Working in Spain

The "Residencia"

If you are visiting Spain and you have a permanent address in Spain and you are an EU national, you can spend up to 90 days in succession and a total of 183 days in any one year without the need for any visa or permit.

NEW REGULATIONS GOVERNING THE ISSUE OF RESIDENCE CARDS. From 1 March 2003, British and other EU citizens, intending to remain in Spain for a continuous period of more than 90 days and who come under the following categories, no longer need to apply for a residence card and are able to reside in Spain with a valid passport (or DNI where applicable): Employees, Self-employed, Students and EU national dependants of a EU or Spanish national. Dependants who are non EU nationals will continue to require a residence card and may have to obtain a special visa before travelling to Spain. Also all non EU nationals need a residence permit (residencia) to live permanently in Spain

PENSIONERS AND PERSONS OF INDEPENDENT MEANS. The new regulations do not apply in the vast majority of cases to EU citizens who have retired to Spain and persons of independent means. However, a minority of applicants falling into these two categories may be exempt from the necessity of possessing a residence card and advice should be sought directly from the appropriate Spanish authorities. So if you intend to retire permanently to Spain you will require the residencia. Also it is important when applying for this that you can furnish proof that you have adequate income or financial resources to live in Spain without working.

If you intend to work in Spain, from 1 March 2003, British Citizens and other EU nationals intending to take up employment or self-employment no longer need to apply for the residencia.

Applications for the residencia must be accompanied by:

  • three passport sized colour photographs
  • valid passport and photocopies of the details pages

    Jobs & Wages

    Finding a job in Spain should not be considered easy. Unemployment is around 11% generally in Spain. It can be hard to find work if you are not able to speak Spanish, although this is much less of a problem on the the Costa del Sol where English is widely spoken - mainly by the expatriote British! Also, on the Costas, plentiful, if not well paid opportunities exist in the tourist related industries.
    Do your research first. Consult the main recruitment organisations (use the Internet)and for a guide to job vacancies on the coast look at the jobs section on www.surinenglish.com.

    Average Wages in Spain are below the EU average - around 11.000 Euros (just under £8000 p.a.).The Minimum Wage is 506 Euros per month (about £360). Wages are rising but do not expect comparable earnings to those in the UK for the same set of skills.

    If you are self employed then you need to ensure that you have applied for all the necessary documentation to secure authorisation to engage in your chosen activity and have proved that you have sufficient funds. You would be advised to employ a 'gestor'(see below)to ensure this is undertaken correctly.

    Persons merely looking for work are not subject to any formalities but would normally be expected to support themselves while doing so. Unemployment benefit may be transferable to Spain for a limited period and health cover may be obtained using form E111, or in some cases E106, otherwise, Spanish benefits are not usually payable to non-Spanish nationals who have not previously paid contributions in Spain.

    Gestor: The role of the Spanish "Gestor" is peculiar to Spain. he is a person who can carry out most of the more standard bureaucratic procedures for you, thanks to his knowledge of Spanish bureaucracy. He is not a lawyer as such but, for a usually reasonable fee, he will take your paperwork and produce the final result with minimum stress to you. Most of the work that a gestor carries out can be done by you personally but if you have little time or find yourself confused by documents and procedures, he can be very useful. However, do not expect immediate results and always obtain an estimate of costs before engaging his services. It is not uncommon for the gestor to require a down payment which would normally cover his whole fee.Your lawyer will often employ a 'gestor in his/her offices.

    Transfers of Capital

    For transfers from the UK to Spain it is advisable to check with a bank or the Bank of England in case any special formalities are necessary. There is generally no restriction on the import of capital into Spain, but persons who make such transfers are advised to keep records showing that the funds are transferred from abroad and not derived from income earned in Spain. Transfers of capital from Spain are governed by the Spanish Foreign Exchange Regulations. Residents who wish to travel abroad are entitled to take out up to 6010 Euros per person per trip. Anyone wishing to take out more than this would have to make a customs declaration. Travellers may bring up to 6010 Euros in cash without having to declare it at entry. Sums in excess of this amount should be declared on the standard B1 form available on entry into Spain.


    Income tax in Spain is below the EU average, although taxation has increased significantly in the last few years. As at January 2003, Single person's Income Tax is payable on any income over 13000 Euros p.a.at a rate of 28.3%. The marginal rate is on income above 40460 Euros p.a at 45%.

    You become liable for income tax once you become a fiscal resident, which occurs when you spend more than 183 days in Spain.

    If you receive an allowance from the UK from UK taxed income, you will not pay double tax as there exists a tax treaty between UK and Spain.

    Indirect Taxation is based around IVA (the Spanish VAT) which is 16% for most items, 7% on food and housing, 0% on water, medicines, and books.


    British nationals are entitled to draw their State pensions in Spain. They can be paid directly into a Spanish bank account. Alternatively they may arrange to have it paid in the UK and make a regular transfer into their Spanish bank account. This will depend on your tax position and, of course, cost of banking. The UK Government's Pension Service has an International Pension Centre, where you can obtain further information; telephone 0191 218 7777.


    If you are resident in Spain and working you will pay into the Spanish equivalent of National Insurance (Seguridad Social). It is around 6% of income. This entitles you and your family to free or subsidised free medical and dental treatment under the Spanish National Health Scheme (INSULAD).

    If you are an EU citizen living in retirement in Spain and in receipt of any form of State Pension, then you are entitled to free State health benefits in Spain.

    If you are an EU citizen who has paid regular social security contributions for over two years in another EU country then you are entitled to State health cover for a limited period.

    Once you have your Social Security Card you will be assigned to a GP. Those GPs operating under the State health scheme are free. Of course there is no guarantee that your GP will speak English.

    Private Medical Insurance is available. BUPA International can advise 01273 323 563.

    We all (should)take our E111 forms when we travel to Spain. This entitles you to only emergency treatment and to remain valid you must still be making payments to your home country's Social security scheme (unless a pensioner). If you become a resident in Spain your E111 becomes invalid.

    Business Hours

    Business hours do vary in Spain, however traditional working hours are from 08.30/09.30 to 13.30, siesta, then 16.30 to 19.30. Small shops and offices tend to retain this working day, however these days most commercial enterprises operate a 'normal' '8 to 4' or '9 to 5' working day.

    In the hotter summer months many companies adopt the horario intensivo which entails working from 08.00/09.00 to 15.00, five days a week.

    Shopping Hours

    The main departmental stores and supermarkets will open from 09.00/10.00 to 20.00/22.00. Smaller independent shops will open from 09.00 to 20.00 with 2/3 hours around 13.00 for siesta.


    Café society is very much part of living in Spain, cafes are open long hours and restaurants will stay open into the early hours.

    Cost of Living

    Overall the cost of living is lower than in the UK estimated at around 30% less for a typical household.

    As a property owner you will find that charges for water, light and heat are lower than in the UK, rates (Council tax in the UK) will be lower. Many foodstuffs and clothing items are significantly lower in price. Cars are cheaper than in the UK. Petrol is around two thirds of UK prices. A wide range of different styles of furniture is available at competitive prices and consumer durables (TVs, washing machines, etc) are comparably priced to the UK.

    As a guide to the cost of living in Spain, if you allowed around 1400 Euros (£1000) per month for a couple in their own 2 bed apartment, this would be a reasonable minimum figure for the basics.

    This would cover repaying the mortgage (or paying rent), food and drink (not alcohol or luxuries), utilities (light, heat, power), clothing, transport (running an average family car), insurances (not private medical insurance), and leisure (a nominal 140 Euros per month).

    Without the mortgage, or rent costs, this would be around 1000 Euros (£700) per month in this example.

    We would recommend you find out as much as possible about living, either in retirement, or working before you make your final decision.

    Useful books include:

    Living and Working in Spain & Buying a Home in Spain , both by David Hampshire and published by Survival books.

    Living and Working in Spain by Robert Richards and published by How To Books.

    Movingplaces Espana ...
    finding you the home you want on the Costa del Sol.

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