Americans in Spain

With retirement just around the corner we have been looking at various locations and Spain continues to draw our attention. I would welcome information from US expats about the process of relocating and obtaining a residency visa. We will not be seeking the residency permit through investment.

therv is a big american navy base in puerto de santa maria just half an hour south of seville ther are many americans there IYou could try contact some of them through a facebook page maybe justa thought for you

You might need to live in spain for five years to qualify for a visa, must have a certain amount of money in your account (not sure of the amount as it changes often) etc

I’m in a different position because I have a French passport so it makes visas, work permits, etc irrelevant...

There are two good Facebook groups; Expats Valencia and Expats in Valencia.
Obviously aimed at living in Valencia but there are many Americans living in Valencia and asking a question on these forums will get you numerous knowledgeable answers from them.

Getting a long-term (non-lucrative i.e. non-working) visa  is not difficult if you can demonstrate a certain annual income and a certain financial wherewithal. Last I checked, the income was somewhere around EUR 27K/year. Plus you have to demonstrate that you have health insurance and a place to live. I helped a friend a couple of years ago and it was a relatively easy matter. You have to apply via an embassy in the US. The embassy in Washington DC was helpful and can guide you through the process.

Make sure to get a good private health insurance, either in the US (international) or i n Spain (local).
The state run healthcare is of poor quality and has long wait lines. The ;local private system is limited too, given that most docs there also work for government run clinics. Probably best to get a US insurer to cover you, so you can also go to other than Spanish clinics in Europe plus that you can then head for the US for major health issues.
No, Medicare doe snot cover you abroad, so you will basically be paying double health care insurance premiums, Medicare and International (or Spanish).
If you are a military retire, so using Tricare, things get even more complicated.
Then one can get about a 75% restitution upon submitting bills from here but it takes months to be paid.
As to the visa, that has already been well discussed above. Just bear in mind that things are going now very slowly in Spain because the virus craziness here is one of worst in Europe and we are almost all virtually locked up in our towns and many government agencies are barely manned. Sort of the same as in the US with the SSA offices now.
Also bear in mind that your ocverall tax burden here will be higher than in the US and will be going even higher soon as the country is virtually bankrupt. And consider that you will be taxable with your world income and any property anywhere in the world is taxes as of 50,000 euro.
As to living around Valencia, great place to be but has the worst virus measures for a long time.
It depends alos on yoru retirement income if you can afford it.
Galicia is the least expensive region.
Beware though that here in Spain the more rural you go the more isolated you are the lower in quality and further away even the health care is if it is available at all.
Advantage of rural areas is of course very affordable housing as there are thousands of abandoned villages and over a million abandoned homes.
Knowing the language is a must as very few Spaniards speak English.
The three things to have ready upon arrival or within days are:
- tax ID (called NIE number) - can be requested at the embassy in the US and provided often via email in 14 days
- local bank account (although they rob you blind with fees) or get instead a N26 fintech account that offers a Spanish bank account number included and charges no fee (requires proof you live there though like a rental agreement)
- local cell phone sim card (can be bought locally upon arrival upon presentation of passport)
You will need these three items a lot.
Following arrival immediately get registered at thw local town hall and get the proof (called empadronamiento) as it is also a document you may need a lot in the beginning, even with immigration authorities.
Another document you will need in the beginning is a copy of your local rental agreement (right before you get the empadronamiento where they require you show it the first time).
Lastly, get an accountant here as soo n as possible to handle many of your paper work issues with government. They protect you in a way against authorities and can be hired at a reasonable monthly fee. They are called asesores and their office is called asesoria.
We have been living here now for 5 years and speak Spanish fluently so we were able to arrange things ourselves but otherwise get help.

WRF, in regards to the response, "Getting a long-term (non-lucrative i.e. non-working) visa is not difficult if you can demonstrate a certain annual income and a certain financial wherewithal. Last I checked, the income was somewhere around EUR 27K/year." 
I'm just verifying; therefore, does this mean 'non-lucrative' as in having a prescribed income of over a half-million to get the non-working visa?  Or will the Spanish gov't accept an international working income (for example, USA) of over EUR 27K/year as non-lucrative for the long-term visa?  Also, for the NIE number, will the Spanish Consulate consider a U.S. annual income for the long-term visa (working abroad, basically) to allow one to get an NIE number?  I do understand that one would be paying Spanish income taxes if allowed a long-term visa in Spain, yes?   ~Appreciate your feedback...thanks!

Not true

Ñ hi

Richardm777, what is  not true?

1.  Ive had rapid and  excellent service at the state run hospitals.  Spain has one of the top 3 healthcare systems in Europe along with France and Italy.
2.  Ive been at the BBVA bank for 6 years and the fees are no different than any bank anywhere.
3.  You don’t need an accountant for paperwork, it is doable even if you don’t speak Spanish.
These are just a few experiences I’ve had so far.

We moved to Valencia five years ago, on a non-lucrative visa.  I used a service to obtain NIE, open bank account and advise us as to paperwork requirements.  In hindsight, we could have done all of those ourselves, although with some required research and effort.
We were told it would take about a month for the visa application to be approved, but it could take longer, no guarantees.  It was approved in 24 days (this was before Covid...)
The process, once we arrived, wasn't too difficult; getting "empadronamiento",  fingerprints, residence card, etc.  First, second, and third renewals also very easy. 

However, I spoke Spanish well before we came and that helped immensely.  It can be frustrating when you are at a government office, no one speaks English and you don't speak Spanish.

Good luck and regards

By way of introduction, I'm a retired American living in Alicante since the end of 2018. There seems to be misleading [and, in my experience, inaccurate] information in a few of the comments above, so I'll try to keep in simple and confine my comments to the first things you need to be concerned with.

A non-lucrataive visa means you can't be a paid employee in Spain. It's essentially a retirement visa. My wife and I live comfortably on our combined US Social Security, something we could hardly do in the US. The 27K figure mentioned earlier seems about right as the qualifying annual income for a non-lucrataive visa, although it changes from time to time.

You need to process your visa application through the Spanish Consulate serving your state of residence. Oddly, specific requirements and acceptable documentation differs between the consulates so be sure the information you're working with applies to the one you're using. For example, we lived in Washington State and had to process through the San Francisco consulate. Local expat friends got their visas through the Boston consulate using health insurance documentation the SF consulate would not have accepted.

Once you know the consulate you'll need to use, check their website for their application requirements. I’d start getting your paperwork together about six months before you'd like to leave the US. It took us about three months to get an appointment to submit our visa application. You don't need to have all the documentation in hand to get the appointment [which you make online, BTW], but it will probably take longer than three months to get what you need ready to submit.

Also be sure any information you get about procedures in Spain applies specifically to Americans or non-EU citizens. Many of the processes that work for Brits don’t apply to Americans and I got tripped up on my initial residencia application by following the wrong trail of breadcrumbs. The Spanish DO love their paperwork!

A few more specifics since they were mentioned above:

Yes, you will need health insurance but it will need to be through a company that operates in Spain. All the policies I saw from US companies were prohibitively expensive. I can tell you who we used, but they may not be the best choice if you locate to a different part of the country.

There’s still no double taxation, so what you pay income tax on in the US won’t be taxed again in Spain.

Your Spanish NIE will be on your visa when it’s issued, so one less bit of bureaucracy to be concerned with. Just be aware your visa is only valid for 90 days after you enter the country, during which time you’ll have to apply for your residencia (residency card). You likely won’t have the physical card by the time the visa expires, but if your application is in process, you’re good.

When you get the photos for your visa application, get 10-20 extras to bring with you. You’ll need two of them for most every Spanish government form!

There’s lots more to know (housing, moving logistics, banking, driving, etc.) -- and I’ll be glad to help as best I can -- but first things first. Figure out what you’ll need for the visa, then we can discuss your specific questions.

PS: If you don’t already speak or understand European Spanish, you might want to take a study course before you come. It will show the consulate you’re serious and help smooth your adjustment once you get here.

There is one other point of misinformation out there, regarding income requirement.
The income requirement for the 1st person is 3 times the IPRM, which is "indicador publico de renta de efectos multiple", and 1x IPRM for each subsequent family member.

IPRM changes slightly year to year, but for 2021 it is Eu 564.90/month, or Eu 6778/year.
3 x IPRM would then be  Eu 20,334, with spouse that would then become Eu 27,112.

When I was applying I was told this had to be from durable income sources, eg, pensions, annuity, property rental; it could not be from stock dividends as those can fall with the market.

Since I've been in Spain, I've heard of other locations only requiring that you have that much money in the bank (in Spain), sufficient to cover the visa length.  For the first year, you would need EU 27k in the bank.  After the first renewal, the visa is good for 2 years, so upon that visa renewal application, you'd need to show a bank balance of Eu 54k.

I obtained insurance for my family from a provider that does business in Spain, and rest of Europe.  Not a fly by night company; they have offices and even a clinic in our city.  I pay Eu 240/month for 4 people; me, wife, 19 year old son, 11 year old girl.  I consider that quite affordable.  My policy is NOT the cheapest one that they have, either.  I found them by looking on the internet.  I'm not sure the site allows mentioning of companies else I would state which one it is.

I think the most difficult thing for me was that they wanted to see an apartment rental agreement for the application!!!  For me, that meant going to Spain (not a problem, I combined that with a check-out-the-city visit); but I ended up paying 4 months rent without using the apartment.  There must be a way around this...


I think you will find the income / savings is 4 x IPRM. which is 27,000.  Each additional family member is 1x IPRM more.

Oops, sorry.  Johncar is correct, it is 4x IPRM for first person.  Not sure why I thought that, I was concerned and went back to review my paperwork, and I've always used 4x.

But I did find out something interesting, not related to non-lucrative visa.  The IPRM if you are coming to work is 1.5X IPRM for first person, and 0.5 IPRM for each additional person (see at … index.html)

I've always previously thought "how can someone immigrate to Spain with such a high income requirement" (ie, 4x IPRM).   And they don't need as much

Thanks Johncar for setting this right


The housing certification requirements may vary depending on the consulate. For my original visa application, the SF consulate accepted a letter (in Spanish, of course) verifying we had a confirmed AirBnB rental for our first 30 days [and therefore a Spanish address] while we searched for more permanent quarters.

To do it this way you'd just need a rough idea of where in the country you think you want to settle. We thought we'd end up on the Costa Blanca somewhere between Valencia and Alicante so we rented an apartment in between while we looked around. As we narrowed in on Alicante, we did another short term rental down here to save driving time while we made a final decision.

We did all our searching through The site makes it easy to search for places with all the features you want. You learn what you pay for what you get and where you should center your search. We were surprised to discover each listing was handled by a different agent and unlike in the US, the agents didn't have a range of other properties to show us.

The site also has listings of sale properties but I recommend you rent a furnished place for awhile a) to help you decide if you like the area and b) to give you a reasonably comfortable lifestyle while you wait for your household goods shipment to be delivered, which can often be months after you arrive.

Personally, I don't recommend buying. Rents are much less than you'd pay for comparable accomodations in the US. For Americans, there's no particular tax advantage in owning, the process is a paper chase and the resale market is lousy.

We met a British couple with a house and an apartment they'd tried to sell for five years without even a nibble. Why tie up all your cash that way? if you're retiring. It only [eventually] complicates settling your estate.

The economics of buying a house in Spain don't work out so well.  I had a house in Florida, which I paid $240k for.  Rentals on that house ran $1200-1400/month.

In contrast, I rent an apartment in Valencia for Eu 1200 (maybe $1400-1500 depending on the exchange rate).  Market value on that apartment is Eu 400-425k.  That's a lot of money tied up and lost opportunity cost. 

As we are talking about retirees, a purchaser would most likely buy it outright rather than assume a mortgage.  DJ long term average is 7% return; over the last 15 years, I've realized closer to 9%.  So, Eu 400 invested and earning 7% should return Eu 28k, or Eu2.33k/month.  That means I would pay eu 870-970/month to own the apartment I am in, than to rent.

That could be offset if house prices are rising, but I don't see them rising that much at this time.  It may in the future

Of course there are also intangibles.  A lot of people in our building like to convert one of the 4 bedrooms to a living room extension, by taking down a dividing wall.  A renter can't really do that but an owner can.  If one wants a place just as they'd like it, owning is probably the way to go

Not at all a top health care system unless you come from a very bad one and know nothing better. The majority of doctors here do not speak English so cannot read the 99% of medical publications around teh world nor do many go to international conferences. Their level of knowledge is very poor, especially with major diseases and also even more with the rare 6000-8000 ones.
In rural areas it is worst with most local clinics not being real clinics but sort of ioffcie spaces with lots of bureaucrats work, few way too few docs, with oor opening hours, with a joke of an emergency room, with almost no medical devices, often closed when one needsds them and without any replacements if the one single emergency docs is out on a visist or with a patient, with long long wait lines up to 1 1/2 year for simple but important tests and treatments. Most docs here are expert data entry typists. Most are alsoi very rude, supruise, supruise, as they are covered by teh state and do not see one really as a patient-customer.
The few private .clinics and docs are really not that private. They usually have huge contracts with teh state and teh docs are normally even employed by teh state as well.
So beware that you do not get anty serious disease here.
This is also why the premiums of insurance here are so low. The health care here is a joke . All it buys you is a place further up the line.
Peopel with substantial preexisting conditions shoudl stay away from here.
Yes, the "tanatorios" funeral homes here are very busy, for obvious reasons.
The Spanish brag about their health care system being so great but now see how bad it really is and their view is changing. There is way too much macho bragging going on nhere in Spain while teh country is really quickly becoming a second Cuba or Venezuela. It took us 5 years to figure that out, and we can compare it with a dozen or so other countries we live in in Europe, the USA, Russia and South-America.

Thanks. Helpful information

I agree with you on the hospitals and banks. Some of the paperwork is quite complex and I need the gestorhelp

I think the healthcare system is quite good with knowledgeable professionals and the banks are informative

Sure that is why so many die of Covid here and why a simple ultrasounds scan can take up to a year to get. As I said before, most docs do not speak English. Their knowledge of such things as cancers, optic nerve disease or other eye diseases, cardiovascular issues is pitiful. I live over 18 years in the USA and in other countries like the Netherlands, Belgium, Ecuador, Israel, Paraguay and run several international patient support groups. Spanish health care is terrible. Spanish health care is socialized medicine in its worst version. Same goes for pharmacies. Many meds can simply either not be gotten here or require going through hoops to get them prescribed. One may also never get quantities greater than for a month.
If you can get an MRI scan through the state run system it will be a miracle and the pseudo-private ones usually have ancient devices and poorly schooled radiologists to assess them scans.
That the Spaniards brag that their health care system is great does not mean it is true. A lot of macho baseless bragging is done here on a daily basis.
Just check how many and what kind of clinical trials are running in Spain at any moment in time. They are few and usually ridiculously unscientific. If therr are any trials here they are by American drug companies in teh last stage of their drug release when they need approvals in Europe, not because they add anything to knowledge of a drug. Just a formailty.

Oh, well probably true for the most part.  I believe the doctors are very knowledgeable and you might need to understand the culture and odd sense of humour, picaresque.  You have to exaggerate your symptoms which is extremely annoying to people from anglosajón countries, however many many foreigners are happy going to the health centers here in Spain.  They’d rather go here than in another country, so I think you are being too severe.

You have to get the visa from your home country before you come to Spain. After 5 years of living here and keeping your temporary residency updated you can become a permanent resident.

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