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Getting out of the U.S.

Hello Expats, I am a U.S. Citizen and have been considering getting out of the U.S. for some time. I am a retired Civil Engineer and have a retirement income. Just wondering how things are for Folks from the U.S. In Spain. Not sure at this time where I would like to settle in Spain, I would have to be there for a while to decide that. The obvious challenges are learning the language and getting honest legal advice and setting up an initial living situation. I have also been looking at Slovenia, Uruguay and Portugal.

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Firstly, I would recommend that you contact your Spanish Embassy in the US to enquire what type of visas you would require to either travel temporarily, long-term travel or move totally to Spain. Perhaps it would be a good idea to travel around Spain initially to find out which area you would like to be living in and whilst doing that learn the basics of the language.

On a retirement income, Portugal is more advantageous in general. Also, the tax system may be more in your favor. Plus ... it's a really nice place to be. And you still have easy access to all of Europe. When I lived in Lisbon, no matter where I had traveled to out of the country, anytime I returned I felt an immediate sigh of relief upon re-entering Portugal.

likely there are 2 different visa programs which would fit your needs.  The non lucrative visa or the retirement visa.  neither allow you to work in Spain for the first 5 years.  They are very similar, but the retirement you show you have a monthly income. the other is a lump sum.   I highly recommend a scoping trip to see what you like.  Things look different "on paper" than in real life, plus weather and surrounding make a difference. 

There are many areas where you can settle near other English speakers, but it is a good idea to embrace the culture and start to learn the language.  It is likely less expensive in the other countries you mentioned, but we find Spain to be very affordable.  The USD is strong right now, so good exchange but always be prepared for it to change. 

We first moved here 4 years ago and it was $1.40 to a Euro and now it is $1.11 to the Euro, so that makes a big difference.

Hi , if interested in a visit to the Algarve,Portugal -feel free to contact me .
Regards
Veronica

I have been living in Spain off and on for 21 years and I am married to a Spanish national and have a son who will be going to the University of Valencia or Granada next year. I am totally satisfied with my life here. My family is great, lots of free/cheap stuff to do, great food, good prices for almost everything and great weather in Alicante. BUT, I speak Spanish and am totally immersed in life here - I am more of a Spaniard than an American. I have no American friends in Spain, only a couple of Brits, also married to Spaniards.

There are three big problems for expats. The first is the job. Outside the US the pay is a lot less. That appears to no be a problem since you have retirement pay. Next is health care. For the most part, countries with public health care systems, like Spain, have become hip to retirees moving to places  I have public health care because I worked here and because I am married to a Spanish national, but if you don't have that benefit it will be difficult to get health care. Private insurance may be expensive and may not cover major illnesses. Finally, there is the language. Learning a language is difficult and requires years of hard work. Most expats give up and just learn the minimum. There are, of course, in many countries, "colonies" of expats who never learn the language and live in separate communities, and that is an option.

Hi! Your tourist visa gives you 3 months to think about staying in Spain.
If you decide to stay, there are many kind of visas. If you are retired, you can ask for the non -lucrative visa, so you only have to show your monthly income.
Spanish people are very friendly and I am sure that you will be very welcomed anywhere around Spain! Many of our clients choose Málaga or Granada for their retirement.
If you have any question about settle down in Spain, do not hesitate to contact us.

Regards,

Rocío Torres (Spain in the Bag)

I'm also a US citizen (and dual nationality European) who left the USA a few years ago.
Now I live in Galicia. Never regretted it.
The cost of living is a third of the one in the USA and in Galicia most people leave you alone instead of meddling, something that has changed a lot in the USA.
You can usually get easily allowed in if you are retired or have outside the country income in some other way, which needs to be proven. A health insurance is also mandatory if you want to stay beyond the 3 months as a tourist.
Spanish immigration is not as anal as US immigration and they often like Americans. You're not considered an invader.
Make sure NOT to close your US bank accounts but keep them on and also credit cards. They can be useful for out of country purchases and also for use here in country, since local cards and banks often put holds of up to  weeks on on car and accommodation rentals while US issuers only allow holds of 5 days. The three weeks can be very annoying, as the holds are often large, more than we are used to.
Renting a large complete single family home with garden and beautiful views of mountains or sea will set you back a ridiculous $ 400 to $650 a month. Food is dirt cheap and very fresh and much more tasteful than in the USA. In small towns people in Galicia are kind, chatty and helpful without being too nosy. There are quite a number of Americas here, but they keep their presence unnoticed. It is very private here.
If you look for a job in Spain, I'm sorry to say you came to the wrong place. There is an enormous unemployment here. There is also a huge black market of services.
Health care insurance is also ridiculously cheap ($55 to $110 a month depending on age, of course no preexisting conditions). It allows one to access private providers here which are often excellent.
Otherwise there is the underfunded state health care which can only be accessed as an employee or an independent contractor. The latter pays about $275 a month.
Spanish skills are indispensable, so do not wait till you are here. Otherwise you will get charged more, will have bad business deals, bad terms, even some people who do not want to deal with foreigners. Very few here speak English.
If you have a pension or retirement benefit keep it paying out in the USA. Do not transfer it here. It is easier and cheaper to occasionally transfer money through Transferwise or Paypal and use ATM withdrawals.
Also do not open a bank account with a major bank but with a small or midsized one for starters. They will not scrutinize your US passport, which is a pariah passport due to the IRS FATCA law. Small and midsized banks have no US presence so run no risk. They are also often more customer friendly.
Also establish a mail forwarding account with a real US address before leaving (you need to show proof of US residence now due to new postal US law). Once you have it, it doe snot get checked again. It may cost $10-15 a month but is worth it.
Take into account that eventually you will need to report your income here and Spain now has a law that above 50,000 in assets your income gets taxed worldwide. So if you own more than that, this is a tricky place to be, unless you can put what you own in a trust abroad like in Panama.
Also take into account that packages often get lost/stolen or heavily taxed by default (even private stuff) in Spain. So get another forwarding address in a different European country and have packages mailed through that one.
The weather is often superb. In Galicia it never snows on the coast. The average temperature is 14 degrees but for at least 6-7 months in the year it is above 20 degrees Celsius, in the summer months even around 25-30.
Here in Galicia there is virtually no rush hour traffic. Highways are deserted when compared to US highways.
All in all it is still worth it by far! More freedom, lower costs.
Oh, and if you are looking for fixer uppers as a civil engineer) to create your own home, they abound here in such houses for as little as $10,000 and many below $40,000. Just make sure you do the bulk of the work yourself. And regardless of what you buy, make sure to establish that ownership is indeed with the seller. Many Spaniards sell properties that later turn out not to b fully owned by them.
Also get a 'gestor' sort of a  CPA/personal representative, who can open lots of doors and protects you against the local tax man and other authorities. They are worth the little monthly subscription fee of about $70.

Just a correction on the health care.  Major diseases are covered with private insurers who also cater to expats, like DKB and Sanitas, even care in the USA! My wife pays 54 Euro and is fully insured.
The only thing Americans need to realize is that almost no Spanish insurer will accept them here with a pre-existing condition, only a few small local ones will.
However, if you are a retired American, you will have Medicare forced on you anyway. If you just get part A AND B, you will not be covered here, but you will have coverage for major diseases indirectly as you can then fly back to the USA to get treated for those.
Anyway, if you are reasonably healthy, private insurance is really dirt cheap here by the exorbitant US premium standards.
Just bar in mind that dentist insurance is limited to prevention and check ups, not major interventions.
Also, if you still get insured through your past employer in the USA, check if their insurer has an expat insurance. Several major insurers like Blue Cross and Cigna have that now and employers may allow using those.
Otherwise consider taking an international insurance through Axa, Bupa etc. They are often still far cheaper than US insurers as long as you stick to covering care in Europe only.

Excellent advice from paper detective. A few comments. as he recommends you should maintain an account in the US. I have one in a credit union. I recommend either a Chase BA credit card or a Citi platinum. Either of these cards are Euro cards that transfer funds at approximate bank rates. The best choice depends in where you fly. The cards are a bit more expensive than a normal card but they pay for themselves with the FX transfer rate and freq flight miles. You will need to transfer funds and I have found for large quantities, $10000 or more, you should be able to transfer for a 1% fee (commission and difference between the interbank rate or x-rates online). If anyone can do better let me know. My tax home is in Spain and I have an accountant do my taxes here - cheap about 80 euros. There is a tax treaty so for my retirement earnings, I usually do not pay anything in the USA, but figuring out how to do my US return was a chore. I pay more in taxes in Spain, but I also getting far more in return.

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