If you are an expat trying to find a job in Spain, you may notice that there are currently very few jobs to go around, particularly if you are restricted to vacancies suitable only for English-speakers. However, it is still possible to secure employment in Spain, especially if you have certain skills.
As a citizen of the European Union (EU) or European Economic Area (EEA), you are eligible to find work in Spain freely and are entitled to the same employment rights and benefits as nationals. For anyone wanting to work in Spain outside of these areas, you will need both a residence visa and a valid Spanish work permit. Additionally, you will need to collect your NIE number from a police station upon your arrival, then register with the tax office (Agencia Tributaria) in order to be able to pay Spanish taxes.
If you have already secured employment, your employer will pay for your work permit; once this has been processed, you can apply for a Spanish work visa. For non-EU/EEA nationals who are intending to be self-employed, you must apply for a work permit yourself at the Spanish consulate in your home country.
Spain’s unemployment rate is one of the highest in Europe, so competition for jobs is understandably fierce. Young graduates suffer particularly when it comes to finding suitable and sustainable employment, with many choosing to widen their search to include other EU countries. Anyone looking for graduate work will find their most likely opportunity for success in the fields of I.T., industry and consulting.
Despite the current job shortages, Spain does have areas where they are desperately in need of individuals to fill vacancies. There sectors include teaching (including TEFL/TESOL), mechanical engineering, medicine, multi-media development, real estate and tourism.
Many English-speaking jobs in Spain fall under the teaching and tourism categories, though most of these jobs are seasonal or temporary. There are also plenty of opportunities to cater to the growing expat communities in coastal regions and large cities. Otherwise, being able to speak Spanish will usually be a requirement.
In the current climate, it may be easier to find a temporary or lower-paid job to begin with and then use that as leverage to find a more secure position subsequently. Self-employment and freelancing are also increasingly popular in Spain due to the current job market.
Many jobs in Spain are found through informal routes such as networking and speculative applications. Consequently, you should not restrict your search to online agencies and adverts.
To make a speculative application, simply send your CV and a covering letter to the company you wish to work for. Do your research – if the company is multinational or routinely employs English speakers, you can apply in English. Otherwise, it is best practice to send applications in Spanish. Always ensure your application is addressed to the right person and follow it up with a call or email.
Keep yourself visible on LinkedIn for networking opportunities and try meeting with individuals already employed in the area in which you are looking for work; such acquaintances can lead to word-of-mouth recommendations.
If you are applying for a job using the traditional process of responding to an advert, you will most likely be required to send a CV and covering letter, both of which should be written in Spanish unless otherwise stated. If your Spanish is rusty, ask a native speaker to read through your application before you send it. Your CV, or el curriculum, should be clear, concise and no longer than two sides of A4. Keep it professional and factual.
Start with your datos personales, including your full name, date and place of birth, current address and a contact number and email address. Include a recent passport-style photo as standard. Add your work experience and education as well as your language skills and other interests. References may be required, and it is usual to end a CV by writing that they are available upon request.
It is usual for response times to be slow in Spain, but if you don’t hear back about a vacancy within 14 days, you should call or email the company to follow up your application.
If you are selected for interview stage, you can expect as many as six interviews before final selection is made. Personal qualities are highly valued in the Spanish workplace, so the interview stage is very important. Interviews are generally face-to-face, and you may also be required to attend a group interview.
Spanish dress code tends to be more formal than casual so always dress professionally – business suits are appropriate for corporate jobs and general smart attire is suitable for anything else.
The average full-time employee in Spain works around 40 hours, between 9am and 8pm Monday-Friday, with lunch between 2pm and 4 or even 5pm in some areas. In large cities and multinational companies, however, you are more likely to find standard work hours (9am-5pm) with an hour for lunch.
If you are heading to Spain without a lot of experience in your desired field, there are opportunities to volunteer, particularly for students. It is possible to find generic part-time work whilst volunteering in your specialism, giving you an affordable way to gain necessary experience.
Citizens of the European Union (EU), the European Economic Area (EEA) and Switzerland do not need a visa to visit, live and work in Spain. Citizens of the UK, USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and a number of other countries – those that have a treaty with the Schengen area (of which Spain is a member) – do not require a visa to visit for up to 90 days in a 180-day period. This applies whether you are travelling for tourist or business purposes. However, if you want to stay longer, or if you want to take up employment or education in the country, you will need a temporary residence permit and a long-stay visa. A full list of eligible countries can be found on the Schengen Area website. Citizens of all other countries must have a valid visa before they may enter Spain.
If you come from a country that does not have a treaty with Spain or the Schengen Area, but you already hold a residence permit from another Schengen country, or from the USA, Canada, Japan, or any other country that guarantees you within the Schengen Area, you do not need to apply for a visa for a visit of up to 90 days. This is also the case if you are the spouse or child (under 21) of a Schengen Area citizen.
If you do not meet this criteria, you must apply for a visa before you can enter the country. There are several different types, depending on the nature of your visit, and these can be found on embassy websites.
You must apply at least 15 working days before you intend to travel, but it would be better to allow three to four weeks for the process if possible, and for nationals of some countries, it can take longer. You will need to book an appointment at the Spanish embassy or consulate, or authorised Spanish Visa Application Centre in your home country. You must then complete the application form, which can be downloaded from embassy websites, and must include your personal information, the reason for your visit and other details relevant to your trip.
In all cases, your application must be supported with:
• A valid passport – this must run for at least three months longer than the duration of your intended stay, and must have at least two blank pages
• A recent passport-size photograph of yourself – this must be no more that three months old, and should adhere to passport standards
• Proof of your residence in your home country or the country you are currently living in long-term
• Proof of your travel arrangements and itinerary
• Proof of your employment or student status – if you are self-employed, proof should either be in the form of a recent, official letter from a registered accountant, banker or solicitor, confirming your self-employment, or an equivalent letter from the tax authority in your country
• Proof of sufficient financial means to support yourself while in Spain
• Proof of sufficient medical insurance for the duration of your visit
Additional documentation may be required, depending on what type of visa you are applying for. For tourist visas, you will need proof of reserved accommodation. Full details of the additional materials required for different Schengen visas can be found on the Schengen visa website. At the time of writing, the fee for a short-stay visa is €80 (£67/$87).
If you are not an EU or EEA citizen, you will need a visa, and relevant permits, to live and work in Spain. You can apply in person at the Spanish embassy or consulate in your home country. You cannot apply for this visa before you have an employment contract with an employer within Spain, and your potential employer must apply on your behalf to the Spanish Immigration Office (Extranjería) for approval of your work permit and residence permit.
Alongside your completed visa application form, you must supply:
• A passport that will remain valid for at least six months
• A recent passport-size photograph of yourself
• Proof of your legal residence in your home country or current place of residence
• A letter from the Extranjería addressed to your future employer, approving your work and residence permit
• An apostilled police report from the area where you have resided for the last year
• An up-to-date medical report on official stationery, translated into Spanish
• A money order, or cash, to pay the visa fee – at the time of writing, this is €167 ($180) for US nationals, €100 (CAN$143) for Canadians, and €80 (£67) for other nationalities
You should allow around seven working days for this visa to be processed. Once you have been legally resident in Spain for a year, you can apply for a family reunification visa to allow your spouse and dependent children to join you.
Self-Employment Or Investor Visa
If you possess suitable skills or wish to set up a business in Spain, you can apply for a self-employment or investor visa. You will need to supply the usual documents regarding your citizenship, criminal record and health. You must also have a viable business plan, which should include details of your projected financial turnover and any jobs you will create. You will also need proof of your relevant skills and qualifications. You must supply evidence that you are on a sound financial footing, and you must demonstrate that you are aware of and will be applying for all relevant permits and licenses. In addition, you must obtain and complete an official form EX01 to request authorisation for you to become self-employed and reside in Spain. Your police report and certificates of qualification must be apostilled.
You should allow two to three months for your application to be processed. The fees payable vary depending on the nature of your business or self-employment proposal.
Retirement Visa (Non-Lucrative Visa)
Spain is an attractive retirement destination, and is quite welcoming to expats wishing to retire there. You may apply for a retirement visa if you have a provable and sustainable income of at least $2,500/£1910 a month or $30000/£23,200 annually. You must also arrange health insurance cover for yourself and any dependants. Retirement visas take three to five weeks to process and attract a fee of €123/ $140 for US citizens, €507/CAN $724 for Canadians, and €80/£67 for other nationals.
Many expats take out private medical insurance, even if this is not a requirement of residence, because healthcare is expensive in their destination country or because certain treatments and procedures are not available.
When taking out health insurance, be sure to check factors such as the annual and lifetime policy limits, whether there are any exclusions which are likely to affect you, whether you are limited to treatment from specific types of healthcare providers, and whether the policy covers emergency evacuation for medical treatment.
Too frequently, potential buyers of health insurance look only for the lowest cost of premiums before really considering the specific benefits and areas of cover they may actually need. Some plans are cheaper for a reason. Often they include large voluntary deductibles on any claim you might make in the future and may severely cap the benefits received under the plan. Clients should define their needs first, establish the particular area of cover they need, then determine their annual healthcare insurance budget. Only then should they look to premium comparisons, last of all.
Do not buy a plan without studying the policy wording carefully. If in doubt, ask, and only when completely satisfied complete all application forms fully, to the best of your ability.
Important questions to ask the insurance provider:
1. Does the plan allow for cooling off periods, cancellation and then repayment of premium in full?
2. Does the plan offer “Moratorium” or is it “Full underwriting” and do you need to have a medical examination before joining?
3. Does the insurer offer a 24 hour help line, 7 days a week, available from anywhere in the world (freephone)? Most insurers now offer this facility.
4. Are pre-existing conditions excluded when joining and if so, for how long are such conditions excluded?
5. Are all and any nationalities accepted or are there restrictions which apply to local nationals? Some insurers will only take expatriates abroad and not local nationals into an overseas plan.
6. Does the plan allow you to continue cover unbroken through your lifetime? In most cases insurers will continue to offer existing clients cover year on year, irrespective of age or claims history, although premium rates charged can increase dramatically with age.
7. Does the insurer allow for any doctor or consultant or hospital within the plan? Are there any restrictions in this respect? Most international plans do not place restrictions on either hospitals or doctors, but almost all demand that their help lines are called first, prior to approval of any inpatient care.
8. Does the insurer provide for the direct settlement of bills presented by hospitals worldwide, regardless of location (or do you have to pay first)?
9. What are the insurers procedures for outpatient claims? Do these require any pre-authorization or if stated in the plan can you just pay and claim? How long before you get money back from the insurer? 14 days? 28 days?.
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In March 2019, a new set of measures regarding Spanish rental laws were implemented. La Ley de Arrendamientos Urbanos (LAU) provides extra security for tenants, makes changes to lease lengths, and places a cap on rental deposits. The average tenancy contract has been increased from three years to five years, and it’s seven years in cases where the landlord is a legal entity/business. Landlords will also no longer be able to ask tenants for more than two months’ rent as a deposit, unless the tenancy contract is longer than the five-year standard length. This also applies to any bank guarantee required from the tenant when signing their rental agreement.
It is not uncommon for landlords, particularly in larger cities, to avoid paying taxes by not declaring tenants. They may therefore request a cash deposit upfront and monthly rent payments in cash. Agreeing to this will obviously leave you with little legal cover if something goes wrong.
Lease agreements (Contrato de Arrendamiento) should include the following information:
• ID information of both the landlord and tenant
• Address and description of the property
• The contract terms and conditions, citing any liabilities, responsibilities etc.
• Amount of rent and payment terms (how the rent is to be paid and how often)
• Any other legal provisions that the parties agree
• Terms for late payment
• Terms for subletting
• Clarification on whether utilities are covered in the rental price
You will be renting on either a short-term contract or a long-term contract.
Short-term or seasonal rental contracts (contrato de arrendamiento de temporada) require that the tenant vacates the property when the specified contract date ends.
Long-term rental contracts (arriendo de vivienda) exceed one year in duration.
If you rent a room in a house or apartment, then it is highly likely to be furnished. Usually, landlords letting rooms provide basic furniture, such as beds, wardrobes, shelves, and sometimes even desks. There may be a furnished living room too, but not all shared apartments have these, as some landlords prefer to have an extra bedroom instead.
Living rooms are not a big deal, in many of the major cities at least, and you might find that they are relatively small compared to what you are used to. Many Spaniards prefer to be out socialising with friends and family, rather than sitting on the couch watching TV all evening.
When renting a private apartment, you should be able to find both furnished and unfurnished options.
Once you have an idea of where in Spain you would like to live, and the neighbourhood (barrio) that you would ideally like to be in, you will have two options. You can use a local estate agent (inmobiliaria) or a property website. Some websites may be specific to a particular city or region only. Some popular property websites include:
Rent in the larger cities, such as Barcelona and Madrid, may appear cheaper than what you are used to, but in proportion to the average wages there, they are actually quite expensive. Many young people therefore choose to rent an apartment with friends, or to rent a room in a shared house.
The cost of your rental will largely depend on location, and this will be quite evident when you are property searching. Properties in the heart of the city centre fetch hundreds more per month than those further out. Luckily, most of the main cities have great public transport, and it’s pretty uncommon to not have a bus or metro stop within walking distance of your apartment.
If you want an idea of prices more generally, statistics website Numbeo has collected the data necessary to calculate the average costs of monthly rent in Spain. These are as follows:
• One-bedroom apartment in a city centre: €679.49
• One-bedroom apartment in the suburbs: €524.78
• Three-bedroom apartment in a city centre: €1,074.94
• Three-bedroom apartment in the suburbs: €788.96
Property scams and fraud are fairly prevalent in the bigger cities, so be vigilant. For example: make sure you view properties in person; ask to see the landlord’s ID; get a binding agreement in writing; and so on.
There are absolutely no restrictions on foreigners wishing to buy property in Spain, whether that be commercial property, residential property, or land. In fact, Spain actively encourages foreign investment, regardless of whether you are a Spanish resident or not. All you will require to get the ball rolling is a financial number, which you can obtain from a Spanish police station or foreigners’ office with your passport.
If you’re looking for property to buy, the websites listed in the renting section may prove useful. Alternatively, you could enlist the services of a local estate agent.
If you are planning to obtain a mortgage for the property, you should have consultations with lenders first, so that you can find out how much you will be able to borrow. This way, you can work within your budget when house hunting. It is highly advisable to hire a reputable estate agent and/or lawyer to make sure the buying process goes smoothly and that everything is above board.
Your lawyer should conduct various background checks on the property before you place your offer. If you are buying through an estate agent, your offer will be dealt with by them. If the offer is accepted, the next step is for you and the seller to sign a preliminary contract (contrato privado de compraventa), at which point, you will put down your deposit (typically 10% of the purchase price).
When everything is in order, you can sign the title deed. The title deed needs to be signed at the notary’s office. At this stage, you will also make the final payment and receive the keys to the property. When you sign the title deed, you will not be given the original document immediately, but instead you’ll get an authorised copy referred to as the Copia Simple. If you have a mortgage, the bank keeps the original of the loan deed until the loan is cleared.
Additional costs that you have to take into consideration, alongside your estate agent and/or lawyer fees, include: property transfer tax (typically around 5% to 10%), notary costs, title deed tax, land registration fees (1% to 1.25%), and potentially VAT (or IVA), which is usually set at 10% on new properties only.
Given that Spain was thrown into a tumultuous property crisis not so long ago, it should come as no surprise that obtaining a mortgage there is still not easy. The maximum mortgage in Spain is typically around 80%. Most lenders use the annual Euribor as the base rate, adding their own profit margin on top. For example, Euribor plus 2%. However, for non-residents, it is usually more in the realm of 60% to 70%.
Most mortgages can be arranged on terms ranging from 25 years for non-residents to 30 years for residents, or up to a maximum age of 75. This largely depends on the individual lender though, and some banks may only offer a 20-year term to non-residents. In some cases, you may be better off obtaining an international mortgage loan from a bank in your home country.
Consider if you want (or are able) to transport your belongings yourself or whether you will need the services of a removals company that deals with international moves. Unless you are travelling very light, or making a fairly short move by road, you will probably need professional help to ship your possessions. Ask for quotes from several companies first, ensuring that they visit your home to carry out a survey of your requirements. It may be worth paying extra for the removals firm to pack your possessions for you, particularly if they are going to be transported to a distant country and need special protection for the long journey. Make sure you bring to their attention anything fragile or precious that needs particularly careful wrapping and packing.
Before agreeing to a quotation, ensure that you are fully aware of exactly what is covered in the price, and that the service to be provided meets all of your requirements. For example, does the service include both packing and unpacking of your household effects? What about disassembling and reassembling of furniture? If you are planning to put anything into storage in your destination country while you find accommodation, does the price include final delivery and unpacking at your home, or will you need to arrange collection of the items? Obtain a firm estimate of the likely arrival date of your items and obtain contact details for any agents that will be dealing with the removal in your destination country. Ensure that the removals company is aware in advance of any practical considerations such as the lack of an elevator to your apartment, or likely parking problems.
If using a removals company, you may be required to take out their insurance cover for your possessions. Whether or not this is the case, ensure that you have adequate insurance for anything of actual or sentimental value that could get lost or damaged during the move. Take the time to accurately complete or check an inventory of your possessions to be moved, as this will form the basis for any insurance claim for losses or damages. Find out if insurance is included in the price quoted by the removals company, or whether you are required to pay extra for this.
The removals company should arrange any customs and importation documents on your behalf, but if you are arranging the move independently you will need to find out what documents are required and what import duties and taxes are payable (and whether you are eligible for exemption from these).
Make sure that you set aside the important documents you will need for the journey, such as passports and air tickets, and keep these easily accessible in your hand luggage.
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QUICK LINK: Spain health insurance
If you are coming to Spain from the UK, you will need an S1 form, which you then need to present at your local INSS office, who will give you an accreditation letter. If you are unemployed, you will need to take your Spanish National Health System card with you to appointments, or provide documentary proof of your right to health cover by the British authorities.
You will need to register initially with Spanish social security (Dirección General de la Tesorería General de la Seguridad Social or TGSS), in order to obtain a social security number. To do this, you will need:
• your passport or ID
• your proof of residency
• proof that you have registered your address at your local town hall
Once you have registered your address, you will be given a certificate of registration (empadronamiento). You can then take your documents – including your social security number – to your local medical centre and they will sign you up. You will then be sent a health insurance card (tarjeta sanitaria individual or TSI). Note that you can choose your own GP and medical centre.
If you are British, not working, and not yet 65 (for example, if you are an early retiree) you may not be entitled to state healthcare and should take out private cover. Speak to the INSS to see if it is still possible to register you, however. For example, if you have been resident in Spain prior to April 2012 and earn below €100,000 per year, you will be entitled to public healthcare.
You can use an EHIC card up until the point where you gain residency, but not after this.
If you do not have an EHIC card, have been resident in Spain for at least a year, and are not covered by reciprocal benefits between Spain and the UK, you may be eligible in some regions of Spain for the government’s new pay-in discount scheme, Convenio Especial, which is aimed at low-income earners and which will allow you to access the state healthcare system for a monthly payment: €60 if you are under the age of 65 and €157 for those aged over 65. After 5 years you may be able to apply for permanent residency if you have been registered as a resident, and this will entail that you are entitled to national healthcare.
If you are self-employed (autónomo), and you earn above the Spanish minimum wage (€10,303 per year), you will need to make contributions into the system yourself: there is a state scheme specifically for the self-employed (régimen especial trabajadores autonómos). You will need to contact your local social security office about registration and subsequent contributions.
The entitlement to healthcare for both the insured person and their dependents begins on the day you sign up with the Social Security System and becomes activated on the day after you apply for active contributor status in the appropriate scheme.
Everyday banking for the average person in Spain is broken down into two types of institutions: bancos and cajas. Bancos are public limited companies or privately owned and are usually found in the form of national chains, widely found. Cajas have the local touch with an emphasis on ethics, trust and a more sociable approach to their customers. They are owned by the state with some cajas consisting of many branches over a region and others only a sparse amount. Both bancos and cajas are easy to find locally with over 170 financial institutions located over the country. ATMs (cajeros automáticos) are also frequent throughout Spain and with 24 hour accessibility. To withdraw euros for your travels they take Cirrus, Citibank, American Express and VISA cards. The main local banks in Spain are Banco Popular, BBVA, La Caixa, Banco de Sabadell, ING Direct and Santander.
The following are four frequently used banks by expats which offer free current accounts with debit cards.
This bank is online only though it has 600 consultants or ‘Family Bankers’ who are assigned to each client as their manager and point of contact. There are also offices clients can visit. Ensure you have a banker which speaks English and they can help you with any queries. Expats often choose the Cuenta Unica current account with the necessity that the client pays two bills from that account or sets it up as direct deposit. In the first 6 months of having the account the interest rate is 1.8%. Your Residency card is necessary to open this account. Internet banking is not yet in English, but online translation tools can help.
Available accounts are Cuenta Sin Nomina whereby the individual pays a €600 deposit with the same amount being paid in monthly plus a minimum balance of €2000. Alternatively, the Cuenta Nomina account can be opened with no minimum balance but a direct deposit is in place. The accounts don’t have interest rates on them, but there is a Cuenta Naranja savings account which does. The accounts are a great idea for expats who are residing in Spain already and have their residency card as this is required to open an account. Online banking is not in English but ATMs are widely available.
Offers Cuenta joven for individuals aged from 18-28 years of age where the individual can open this current account with no annual fees. Offers Cuenta Intelligente account for individuals over 28 years of age if 5 bills are paid via this account through immediate payment or direct debit. If the accounts hold more than €3000 then a 1.5% interest is applied and 0.5%. Expats can go into the branch to set either account up with just a passport. The accounts are a great idea for expats who are residing in Spain and have their residency card as this is required to open an account. Online banking is in English.
When it comes to UK and US banks in Spain although they share the same bank name you will find they operate almost entirely differently to your home bank so don’t go in expecting the same service.
UK and US banks operating in Spain are as follows.
Barclays Bank plc (corporate and investment)
Phone: (+34) 91 336 07 79
Range of corporate advisory services, banking and investment accounts for corporate, government and institutional clients
Phone: (+34) 91 538 41 00
48 branches throughout Spain. The bank offers free international money transfers from a Citibank account to another in any of 26 countries. English online banking. Citibank offers both savings and current accounts used by expats.
Generally, banks are open from 8.30am- 1.30pm/2pm from Monday to Friday depending on each branch of bank and the location. City and town located banks may have longer opening hours whilst more remote banks may not open in the afternoon.
The accounts offered in banks vary due to your status so you will either be applying for an account as a resident or non resident. When opening a bank account the individual will need to go to the bank and conduct the procedure in person. If you aren’t confident in your Spanish skills and if the members of staff don’t have an English speaker on site, book an appointment with a consultant who speaks English. Once you are face to face with a consultant you can show your paperwork for your resident or non resident status as found below.
Resident Account (Cuenta para Residentes)
Resident Accounts for those who have a DNI number or NIE see lower fees charges on their account and consequently the client is able to open their account in a foreign currency or in euros. Photo identification will be needed to show upon opening an account (Passport) and bring along documents such as an Empadronamiento, proof of address, your NIE and evidence of employment status.
Non Resident Account
Fees for opening and maintaining a Non Resident Account are higher than a Resident Account and every 2 years the bank will run a check to see if you are still a non resident. Those applying for this account need to visit the local police office with their passport to hand and make an application for a certificate of non residency (Certificados de No Residencia). Once it has been completed in around 10 days time, the individual returns to the station to collect it. It is then presented to the bank. It should be a fast and easy process just be aware that you understand the terms and conditions of the account you are opening ie. the bank charges, fees or deposits necessary. Cheque Books are not issued automatically so if you do wish for one, request it. Almost all banks charge a fee each year which covers administration costs for current accounts. It usually amounts to €15–30.
Generally, personal banking accounts come in the following types.
Savings Account (Cuenta de Ahorro) is an account with limited access to your money but higher interest rates than other types of accounts. There may be more charges for additional account holder. Comes with cheques/cheque books.
Deposit Account (Cuenta de Depósito) is a useful types of savings accounts which are similar to ISAs whereby the customer doesn’t use the account like a normal savings account but has a sum of money in there earning high interest. They cannot easily access or withdraw the funds with immediate effect.
Current/checking account (cuenta corriente) is the most common account for everyday use. Current accounts don’t have a great deal of interest, if any at all.
Credit cards and debit cards can be used in ATM machines and for transactions in most hotels, restaurants and shops. Credit cards are being accepted and used more and more in retail shops too. Cheques are generally not accepted tender. When carrying out any transaction such as at an ATM or shop make sure any charge is in euros and not in your home currency as this can cost more. The phrase Quiero pagar en euros, por favor (I want to pay in euros please) can help. Contactless is an up and coming payment system with Spain in the top 3 countries in Europe to use this method. Android Pay and Apple Pay are rare. Be realistic, cities will have far more developed payment methods and acceptance than tiny villages. Cash is often commonly used by tourists and locals particularly in rural areas.
Banking in Spain is generally considered to be efficient and accessible in day to day exchanges. ATMs have received some negative press for making money by offering to charge the user in their home currency (for example GBP) meaning the fees will be higher and reliant on the ATMs own currency conversation.This is known as Dynamic Currency Conversion (DCC). It is advised to always select euros whilst in Spain.In recent years the preferentes scandal saw Banco Popular stand accused of lending customers money and then using these funds to buy shares for the bank; the bank which has amounted a large amount of debt itself.
Expats applying for an overdraft or loan need to be a resident of Spain with their resident card, bank statements, employment status, residency status and potentially their NIE to hand. Banks also look at your credit rating so do bring along evidence from your home country and if this isn’t accepted you’ll need to do a Spanish credit check instead. With loans, a guarantor is almost always required and the bank manager will require a business plan when the customer requests a commercial loan. The bank will also require examples which show that the business which the customer is requesting a loan for has already been making some money, which understandably isn’t always possible. Usually as non residents do not have evidence of income they will not be considered for applying for an overdraft or loan.
It is possible for both non residents and residents to request a Spanish mortgage. Check out the Spanish Mortgages and Legal Support website to check out the options.
There are many ways of sending money from one country to another. As always, expats can save themselves a lot of trouble and expense if they do a little research and shop around for the best deal.
International Bank Transfers
For most expats, currency transfer involves transferring small to medium sized amounts regularly from an existing bank account back home into a new overseas bank account in the local currency. These may be pension payments, benefits, or any other form of income.
Your home bank will usually be glad to oblige. You can set up facilities with them “on demand” whereby you fax or call them on the phone, provide a secret code or two, tell them the amount in question, and they will transfer it to your new bank, automatically converting it into the relevant local currency. Some banks also allow you to make international payments online. Whatever method you choose, transfers normally take between 3-7 days although 1-2 day transfers are often available but be prepared to pay more for these.
You can also set up regular transactions that are processed automatically on a fixed day of each month. Many state pensions and benefits can be paid directly into your new bank abroad without going through your home bank at all. Some private pension organisations may also offer the same facility.
When you first set up a transfer of funds abroad, the sending bank or institution will ask you for various codes that identify the destination bank. Often they will ask for IBAN (International Bank Account Number), BIC (Bank Identifier Code) or SWIFT codes but don?t panic – your new bank will give these to you and they may even already be listed in your new chequebook or bank statements.
As far as charges are concerned, you will probably be required to pay a flat fee per transaction. Additionally a percentage fee is often charged for the currency conversion itself. You may also find that your receiving bank charges you for receiving the transfer. Charges vary by bank but can quickly add up – ask your bank(s) for an indication of the fees involved.
As a general rule, transferring larger sums less frequently usually works out cheaper than transferring smaller amounts more often. However, if you need to transfer regular amounts of at least a few hundred pounds/dollars or need to make a larger one-off payment (e.g. for a house purchase) you should consider the services of a currency broker.
Cash Machine/ATM Withdrawals
Thanks to modern technology, most people abroad can go to a cash machine/ATM and withdraw local currency funds directly from their home bank account. This is a useful option to have for expats but exercise caution – many banks make hefty charges for using this type of facility. You may also find that withdrawal limits are in place (as a security measure) even if you significant funds in your account back home.
You can also use VISA or Mastercard credit cards to obtain cash in this fashion and if you pay the amount off quickly and avoid interest charges then fine – but once again credit card charges for cash withdrawals can be high. Check the rates carefully.
Currency brokers (also called foreign exchange brokers) offer significant advantages over traditional banks. Firstly, brokers will often be able to offer you a better rate than your bank. Secondly, the entire process is more transparent – many banks require you to accept the exchange rate available on the day they process your transaction, whatever and whenever that may be, but a specialist broker will offer greater flexibility, even allowing you to specify the rate you want in advance.
Currency brokers are smaller companies than major banks so always check their background carefully. Ask existing expats for their own experiences and recommendations before choosing a firm to handle your own foreign exchange requirements.
A good broker will discuss all the options with you and enable you to make the best decision for your circumstances. Using a broker will typically off the following advantages:
1) Currency brokers generally provide superior exchange rates to the high street banks. The currency brokers have access to the interbank rate and do not have the high costs that the banks have. This means that they can usually offer better exchange rates.
2) Use of a free Market Watch/Order Service: This allows you to tell your currency broker your target or budget exchange rate and they will ring you if that exchange rate level is reached. As the rate moves every few seconds, currency brokers can act as your eyes and ears on the market.
3) Ability to fix the exchange rate in advance using a Forward Contract. If you know you need to convert/move funds in the future but don?t yet have the money you can reserve a rate in advance using a Forward Contract. During this period, you are exposed to exchange rate movements and therefore, a forward contract is ideal if, for example, you have agreed to buy a house and want to fix the rate now but will not be making payment for a couple of months.
Savings from currency brokers can vary from between 1 and 4 per cent on the exchange rate alone, and specialists do not typically charge any fees for transmitting the funds abroad, unlike banks which often levy expensive fees or charges. If you are emigrating and transferring a large sum of money – such as the proceeds of a property – a foreign exchange company could potentially save you thousands.
Compare quotes from leading foreign exchange currency brokers
If you are intending to relocate to Spain, you will be going to the home of one of the world’s great languages, spoken by an estimated 437 million people across the world, not just in Spain itself but in much of Central and South America, and elsewhere. Spain, as a European colonial power, has left a huge linguistic legacy: Spanish is the fourth most widely spoken language globally. However, if you are moving here, will you need to learn Spanish? Or can you navigate your time in the country with English alone? We will look at some of your options below.
Although we think of Castilian Spanish (castellano) as being the primary language of Spain, there are actually five official languages spoken in the country:
• Basque (Euskarian): the first Pre-Roman language in the country, spoken in the North of Spain, in the Basque Country
• Catalan: spoken across Spain and also in Andorra, France and Italy (Sardinia)
• Galician-Portuguese: spoken in Galicia and the West fringe of Asturias and León
• Spanish (Castilian)
• Occitan (aranès): spoken in Val d’Aran, in the Pyrenees, this is a dialect of the Occitan language
In addition, you will also hear other languages spoken in the country, such as Portuguese, French and German.
Castilian derives from the Medieval kingdom of Castile. It is a Romance language, which has its roots in Latin, but it has been influenced by other languages, including Arabic. Catalan, spoken by some 10 million people, is quite different, resembling a combination of Spanish and Italian. Its origins lie in the Middle Ages and it stems from Vulgar Latin. It is also the official language of the little mountain state of Andorra.
Basque is a completely different language and bears little resemblance to other European tongues. It is spoken by 750,000 people and Basque language rights have been a hot political issue in the north of the country.
Just under 28% of Spanish citizens say that they speak English and it is estimated to be the second most widely-spoken language in the country. If you are in one of the cities, such as Madrid, or one of the coastal tourist areas, you should experience few difficulties in communicating, particularly with young people. However, a recent poll undertaken by Spain’s CIS state research institute suggests that nearly 60% of Spaniards recognize that they can’t speak, read or write fluently in English. Of the English speakers interviewed, around 47% said that they learned English in school.
Whether or not you find English spoken in your workplace will depend to a degree on the type of company you work for: if it is a big multinational, your lingua franca is likely to be English, but some companies will primarily use Spanish. Most international business negotiations will be in English.
You will find a great deal of language provision in Spain, in addition to many resources online. Private language schools are found in all towns and cities across Spain, catering to all levels from elementary students to advanced speakers, and for all purposes, from brush-up conversational Spanish to advanced business communication.
You may want to check that your chosen language provider is a Cervantes-accredited school: Instituto Cervantes is the international authority for Spanish language learning worldwide.
However, there are many other good providers of language training. For example, International House in Madrid offers basic Spanish courses, plus courses for those aged 50+ related to learning the language and culture. They also run a ‘seven cities‘ course, in which you will be able to travel through seven of Spain’s major cities while learning the language. Some schools will organise homestays. If you are working in the country, ask your employer if they are affiliated to a language training centre or if they offer in-house provision.
Spain has long been a popular destination for teachers of English and it remains a TEFL stronghold. It is always easier to get work in international education if you have at least a certificate in either TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) or TESOL (Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages).
It is also preferable if you have experience in teaching schemes such as the Cambridge English exams or IELTS (International English Language Testing System): the English test for study, migration or work. Some teaching experience in the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) will also be helpful. This assesses analytical, writing, quantitative, verbal, and reading skills in written English for use in admission to graduate management programs, such as the MBA. You may also find work more easily if you are experienced in teaching English for particular sectors, such as tourism and hospitality, or in summer schools.
It will also be helpful to have at least a Bachelor’s degree as most language schools require this: basically, the rule of thumb is that the more qualifications you have, both in TEFL and in academic subjects, the easier you will find it to get work. It will also be more straightforward if you are from an EU country: most North American teaching personnel are working for government programmes on a student visa. If you are from within the EU, however, you are likely to find work in a private language school or international school.
Your monthly salary will vary but can run from €1000 – 1500: this is low to average in comparison with Spain’s average monthly wage. Hours will vary from early morning slots to evening slots (when schools finish) so you may have a long day. In addition, most teaching terms run from September – June unless you are teaching in a summer school.
If you are seeking work in translation or interpreting, you will obviously need to be highly proficient in Castilian Spanish, and will also need the relevant qualifications.
Spanish education is free and compulsory between the ages of 6-16. You can enrol your child in pre-school (preescolar or Educación Infantil) below the age of six, but it is not mandatory.
The Spanish educational system consists of:
Six years of primary education (primaria) in three cycles:
• First Cycle: 1st and 2nd grade
• Second Cycle: 3rd and 4th grade
• Third Cycle: 5th and 6th grade
Four years of secondary education (secondaria):
• First Cycle: 1st and 2nd year (core academic subjects and basic social science)
• Second Cycle: 3rd and 4th year (core academic subjects, liberal studies and elective courses)
After the age of 16, students can stay on to take the Spanish Baccalaureate, or Bachillerato, which consists of two optional years in high school. Once students have taken their Bachillerato, they can sit the University Entrance Exam, Pruebas de Acceso a la Universidad (PAU), also known as the Selectividad.
The school year runs from September – June.
Overall, educational standards are satisfactory, with Spanish students performing slightly below the OECD PISA ranking average.
There are a number of both private and international schools in Spain. Private schools are often, despite the name, partially state funded and may be faith schools with a Catholic orientation. These are often single sex. Basically, Spanish education is in three tiers, as follows:
• state schools (colegios públicos)
• privately run schools funded by the state (colegios concertados)
• private schools (colegios privados)
Some private schools have Spanish as the language of instruction and follow the Spanish national curriculum. You may wish to opt for private schooling for your child if you are concerned about a language barrier: if you are English speaking and your child is not bilingual in Spanish, then they may find public education challenging, particularly if you are intending to return home at some point and place your child back into English-speaking education. Thus some expat parents choose to enrol their children in international schools during their time in Spain.
International schools must be approved by the embassy of their country in Spain. You will find provision teaching a variety of curricula from the British national curriculum, to the International Baccalaureate and American syllabi, among others (there is a Swedish school in Madrid, for instance). There are international schools in cities such as Madrid and Barcelona, and along the coasts, which have extensive expat communities. If you are British, you can contact the British Council or the National Association of British Schools in Spain (NABSS), who hold regular inspections. The British Council also runs a school of its own. Some alternative schooling is also available, for example in the Montessori system.
The International School of Madrid delivers the English national curriculum to students from 3 – 18. They are a NABSS member. Contact them for their list of fees.
King’s College, founded in 1969, has a number of campuses across Madrid and teaches the English national curriculum to a range of ages. Annual fees run between US$5K – 18K.
Kensington School is a founding member of NABSS and teaches pupils from the ages of 3-18 in the English curriculum, but also teaches elements of the Spanish system. You will need to contact them for their fees.
The International School of Catalunya (ISCAT) in Barcelona is an accredited British International School offering the National Curriculum of England and Wales from Nursery through to Year 13. Annual fees range from US$8K – 15K.
The International School of Costa Brava (ISCB), founded in 2020 in Platja d’Aro, Girona, is also part of the ISCAT group (British international schools based in Catalonia). ISCB offers the National Curriculum of England and Wales from nursery through to Year 6, continuing through KS3 and KS4.
The American School of Madrid teaches towards a standard American high school diploma or the International Baccalaureate (IB) program (diploma or certificate). Students seeking entrance to Spanish universities can enroll either in the IB diploma program or in a series of classes established by the Spanish Ministry of Education in preparation for the Selectividad (university entrance) exam. You will need to contact them for their fees.
The Benjamin Franklin International School in Barcelona offers an American curriculum with annual fees of between US$13K – 21K.
You may find that you need to make one-off or regular payments such as capitalisation fees or enrolment fees: these can vary so do check with the school and make sure that you are aware of what you are paying. You may be able to pay in termly instalments. Check if there are any sibling reductions.
Enrolment policies will vary from school to school, but your child may be asked to take a proficiency test (for example in English or maths). You can also check the accreditation of your selected school: for instance, with organisations such as COBIS (the Council of British International Schools) or the organisations mentioned above.
Homeschooling in Spain is not currently addressed directly under Spanish legislation and thus falls into a grey area: technically it is illegal as the law does state that some in-school education is compulsory. However, although it may not be formally recognised, there are some homeschooling groups in the country.