Post-COVID-19 changes in Spain

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Updated 2020-08-27 13:09

One of the world's top expat destinations, Spain has lifted its travel restrictions, making it possible for many nationalities to travel there for a solid reason. But if you're looking to relocate there after the COVID-19 crisis, you will have to meet specific conditions and follow some strict regulations. Here's an insight into current and forthcoming changes in Spain regarding entry conditions, work, real estate, lifestyle, etc.

What are the current regulations for entering Spain?

Citizens of the European Union and the Schengen area, as well as those coming from countries having a reciprocity agreement with Spain, are allowed to travel to Spain. These countries include Australia, Canada, Morocco, Thailand, New Zealand, Japan and Tunisia. However, COVID-19-infected persons are advised to avoid travelling to Spain. All travellers are required to complete a health control form that can be downloaded from the Spain Travel Health website. Once you have signed and submitted this form online, you will receive a QR code that you will have to produce upon arrival in Spain, whether you're coming by air or by sea. At the port of entry, a temperature check is conducted. Officers will check your documents and your state of health visually.

Have there been any visa changes recently?

Spain is issuing visas even though non-essential travel is not recommended. Note that the cancellation of flights and the reintroduction of restriction measures are still possible as the situation in the country evolves. But if you have already obtained a visa and have not been able to travel to Spain, you can request a change of date free of charge. You can also cancel an existing visa and apply for a new one. Note that the Spanish government chose to extend the duration of permits, visas and foreigners' identity cards and to renew long-term visas that expired while travel restrictions were in effect. When the state of emergency is lifted, the holders of these visas have three months to regularise their situation. Spain residents and long-term visa holders who were not in the country during the state of emergency or whose visa expired during this period are thus allowed to re-enter the country with their expired visa when all the travel restrictions have been lifted. Find out more on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the European Union and Cooperation website.

Is it easy to find work in Spain following the crisis?

The COVID-19 has almost crushed the Spanish labour market, as is the case in most countries. In the second quarter of 2020, more than one million workers had lost their jobs, which makes a total of 3.37 million unemployed, according to the National Institute of Statistics. The unemployment rate rose from 14.4% in the first quarter to 15.3% in the second quarter. However, it's worth noting many job seekers were not able to find a job during the lockdown. Besides, many employees have been temporarily laid off while others are facing reduced working hours, coupled with salary cuts. You might have understood by now that finding a job in Spain as an expat after the COVID-19 crisis will not be an easy task. According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the unemployment rate in Spain will go beyond 20% by the end of 2020. The services sector, with tourism, accommodation and hospitality, in particular, has been affected the most due to border closures. Industry, automotive manufacturing and textile have also been heavily impacted. Many small and medium-sized businesses also had to close down and lay off their employees due to loss of income. According to international organizations, the effects of the COVID-19 crisis on Spain are apparently much more significant than those of the 2008 economic crisis.

How has the local healthcare system performed during the crisis?

With more than 405,000 positive cases and some 29,000 deaths, Spain was clearly not prepared for this type of health crisis. However, Spanish authorities reacted promptly by increasing the capacity of hospitals and the number of ICU beds. Flexible and efficient strategies were set up, although the Spanish health system is divided into 17 regions. For example, temporary hospitals were built in record time in different Spanish cities. Thousands of healthcare professionals, including the Spanish Army, contributed to the fight against COVID-19. However, the lack of personal protective equipment at the onset of the crisis led to the infection of some 50,000 healthcare professionals, which resulted in 70 deaths. The government was urged towards more investment in the health sector so that all health professionals have access to not only personal protective equipment but also to regular COVID-19 screening tests. COVID-19 tests were also made available to the population so as to accelerate detection and treatment of COVID-19 cases. On the other hand, telehealth is growing increasingly popular in Spain in spite of some resistance at the start. Today, most appointment bookings, general medical consultations and prescriptions are being done virtually. This is helping to contain the pandemic to a large extent.

Has anything changed regarding universities and schools?

Most schools in Spain are reopening in September 2020. It's worth noting that the start of the new academic year has been postponed a couple of times due to parents' concerns for their children's health. The Ministry of Education has set up a flexible strategy to reduce the risk of contamination at school with the collaboration of regional authorities. Thus, the primary classes will host a maximum of 25 students, while secondary classes will have 35 students maximum. Also, educators are required to pay particular attention to children with COVID-19 symptoms. Regarding higher education in Spain, besides social distancing, the duplication of classes and the wearing of masks, arrangements have been made for hybrid courses, that is, a mix of face-to-face classes and distance learning. The use of common areas such as gyms and cafeteria will also be redefined.

How is the real estate market following the crisis?

If you had a dream of becoming a homeowner in Spain, do not wait anymore. The COVID-19 crisis has had a considerable impact on the Spanish real estate market, with a price drop of 39.2% compared to the same period in 2019. According to real estate professionals, prices should drop by 30% to 40% by the end of 2020, followed by a gradual recovery in 2021. It's worth noting that in 2019, 12.5% of properties in Spain were purchased by expats. However, keep in mind that prices not only depend on the type of property but also vary from one region to another. In some regions, a 30% price drop is expected! Barcelona, Valencia, Alicante, or the Canary Islands are cities to consider when it comes to buying a property in Spain. Currently, the housing supply is greater than demand, given the rising unemployment rate and wage cuts. The number of real estate transactions fell by 37% in March 2020, and there was a 28% drop in mortgage applications. On the other hand, real estate specialists are expecting a 13% drop in rental prices in Spain.

Has the cost of living in Spain changed because of the crisis?

Spain is a top expat destination thanks to its low cost of living, especially for foreign retiring who are keen on investing in property. As indicated above, falling property prices turns out to be a boon for those who are looking to become homeowners in Spain. On the other hand, prices of food and services have hardly changed. However, with the rising unemployment rate and salary cuts, the population is losing their purchasing power. So far, only the prices of lemons have risen. Organic lemons and yellow lemons are 16% and 6% more expensive, respectively. In fact, the supply is lower than the demand since the start of the COVID-19 crisis.

How about lifestyle? Have there been major changes in habits following the sanitary crisis?

The COVID-19 crisis has dramatically transformed the lifestyle in Spain. Social distancing and the wearing of masks have become part of the daily life of Spaniards. In fact, the wearing of masks is compulsory in all public and closed spaces, including shops, when social distancing is not possible. In Catalonia, it is also compulsory to wear a mask in the street. When travelling by car, the wearing of masks is compulsory unless all the passengers live under the same roof. In Barcelona and surrounding cities, gatherings cannot exceed 10 people. In several areas, museums, bars and restaurants, hotels, and libraries only allow a limited number of people. Another strict regulation is the ban on smoking in public places and outdoors when social distancing of two meters minimum is not possible. Find out more on the official Spain Tourism portal.

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