Updates about moving to Spain during the COVID-19 crisis

social distancing
Updated 2021-02-25 13:55

Spain is one of the world's top destinations for tourists and expats, a captivating place of art, architecture, culture, countryside and long sandy beaches. However, it is also one of the hardest-hit countries by the pandemic. Following several years of growth and job creation, coronavirus is taking a significant toll on the economy and every aspect of life. If you're thinking of living and working in Spain, here are some key insights into how the country is coping as well as updates on changes regarding entry conditions, work, lifestyle and buying or renting a home.

Entering Spain during the pandemic

Everyone travelling to Spain must complete a Health Control Form (HCF), which can be found on the Spanish Travel Health website or app. This will generate a QR code, which must be shown on arrival in Spain.

International travellers arriving by air or sea from high-risk countries as determined by the European Centre for Disease Control must present a negative PCR test within 72 hours before entering Spain. The test must be taken in the country of origin, and upon arrival, travellers have to present an original paper or digital document (through the Spain Travel Health app) in English or Spanish, proving the negative test result. 

Airline and ferry companies have been asked to doublecheck passengers before they board. If they don't present proof of a test they could be fined and denied entry to Spain.

For EU countries and those within the Schengen area (comprising 26 European countries), risk levels will be determined by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC). Every week the ECDC publishes a map with the current risk status of regions indicated by red, orange, green and grey colours. A negative PCR test is compulsory for anyone travelling from states coloured red or grey.

On Monday, December 21, 2020, Spain joined a growing list of countries to ban all entrants from the UK following an outbreak of a mutant and more transmissible strain of the virus. This restriction is currently in place until 6pm (GMT 1) on 16 March 2021 (5pm / GMT in the Canary Islands). Spanish nationals and legal residents of Spain, however, are allowed to return home.

Countries outside the EU-EEA are deemed 'at risk' when the number of cases per 100,000 inhabitants during the previous 14 days is higher than 150. The full list is published on the Spanish Travel Health app and is updated every two weeks.

Depending on national and local restrictions, you may not be able to travel far once you are in the country.


Visa information and requirements remain the same, and Spain is issuing travel documents even though non-essential travel is not recommended. Due to COVID measures, anyone attending embassies and consulates must wear face masks. Expats already in the country applying for a residence card (TIE) may experience delays.

The real estate market

Like many other sectors of the economy, real estate has been severely impacted by the pandemic. With more people out of work and many of those in work facing uncertain futures, housing demand is sagging. During 2020, property sales in Spain fell by 17.7%, the biggest drop since 2011. Foreigners bought 46,300 properties, a 26.5% fall on the previous year.

Construction activity was directly hit during the first state of emergency but resumed quickly once restrictions were lifted. However, a significant slowdown in new building projects is highly likely.

In 2021, a fall in house prices appears inevitable, and some forecasters predict that by the end of the year, they could be 16% below their pre-COVID level in some areas.


The rental market is less affected than the real estate sector and is supported by higher demand because of difficulties faced by some people wanting to buy a home. In the first few months of the pandemic, landlords in some areas responded by raising their prices. However, currently, the average cost of renting is either stagnating or on a very slow downward trajectory. The Spanish average recorded in January was €11 per square metre, 0.1% less than the same time the previous year.

Due to the volatile financial climate, the government introduced a raft of aid packages to help struggling tenants. They include state-sponsored micro-loans, an extension on rental contracts and a suspension of evictions.


Spain has been one of the worst affected countries in Europe, with approximately 3.17 million confirmed cases as of February 24, 2021. The pandemic has placed the healthcare system under incredible strain. During the first two months of the crisis, most health workers did not have access to personal protective equipment (PPE), nor were they given instructions on managing coronavirus patients and avoiding the contagion. This probably contributed to the high rates of coronavirus infections among doctors and nurses at this time.

The country's vaccination programme started in late December 2020, although it has been hit by delays and scandals. Numerous cases have surfaced of politicians and well-connected people jumping the queue to get vaccinated before the elderly and health workers, leading to a huge public outcry.

As of February 23, 2021, 2.4% of the Spanish population has received two jabs, meaning they have full protection. Only five countries have vaccinated more people with two shots.


Schools and universities reopened in September following the summer holidays and the first countrywide state of alarm and lockdown. To safeguard pupils and staff, a series of measures was agreed upon between the national and regional governments. These included:

  • The obligatory wearing of masks by teachers and students aged six and over, whether or not social distancing can be respected.
  • No more than 20 pupils to a classroom – 15 is the desirable number.
  • Physical distancing between students is set at 1.5 metres.
  • Classrooms have to be frequently ventilated before, during and after the school day.

Social life

The café and restaurant culture is a vital part of life in Spain. However, COVID is making its mark on the country's social scene. Mask wearing is compulsory at all times outside of the home, and failure to do so can result in severe fines of several hundred euros. In October 2020, the government declared a second state of alarm, which will be extended until May 9, 2021, unless the situation improves. A night-time curfew for the whole of Spain from 11 pm-6 am is in place, although the 17 autonomous communities have a margin of one hour to bring forward or back these times.

In some parts of the country bars and restaurants must close by 6 pm, although they can serve takeaway meals up until 930 pm. Seating capacity is limited, which can vary from region to region. In some places, the limits are 50% inside and 60% outside. Numerous establishments that previously didn't offer takeaway or food delivery services now provide them to clients.

The full list of measures covered by the state of alarm is published on the Boletín Oficial del Estado (BOE).

The job market and finding a job

Getting a well-paid and secure job was challenging before the pandemic and is even more so during the current climate. The employment sector has been severely impacted by COVID. Due to strict lockdowns, a heavy reliance on tourism, and a large number of temporary contracts,

Spain shed 622,600 jobs during 2020. This did not include furloughed workers who are part of the country's ERTE scheme, which allows companies to send staff home or reduce their working hours temporarily. The current number of unemployed people is 3.71 million (a jobless rate of 16.1%).

Like many countries, Spain has witnessed a shift to increased remote working from home. One in ten people in employment work from home more than half of each working week.

We do our best to provide accurate and up to date information. However, if you have noticed any inaccuracies in this article, please let us know in the comments section below.