Moving From USA To Spain

Are You Sure ? section
What Visa ? section
Getting a Visa section
Moving section
After Arriving section (NIE, Padron, Residency Card,
      Digital Certificate, Bank Account, Social Security Number)
While Living In Spain section (Renew Residency, Regreso, Money Transfer)
Learning Spanish section
Miscellaneous section

My Driving in Spain page
My Health Insurance and Healthcare in Spain page
My Taxes in Spain page

Are You Sure ?

Spain is not paradise. It has high unemployment and other economic problems, bureaucracy, some corruption, crime, stresses because of immigration, tourism, racism, regional strains, air pollution. The south/interior of Spain is very hot in the summer. It's a nice place, but have realistic expectations.

There are downsides to moving to another country: The benefits of moving to another country, and the good things about Spain, are too numerous to list.

There is not one "Spain". Living in a big city (Madrid, Barcelona, etc) would be quite different from living in a small, quiet, traditional town, and both quite different from living in an expat-heavy tourist town on the Costa del Sol.

Also, living as a student, as a worker, as a business owner, as a retiree, as a tourist could be quite different experiences. Living childless versus raising a family; younger versus older people; Spanish-fluent versus not; etc. So take these differences into account as you read the experiences and advice of other people.

My story:

I grew up in New Jersey. Worked as a computer programmer for 21 years or so, in NJ and then Silicon Valley. Early-retired at age 43 to live and cruise on a sailboat (info here). Did that for 13+ years, in USA and Caribbean.

Took a 2-month vacation to Barcelona (info here), loved the place, and fell in love with a Peruvian-Spanish woman there. So, off to Spain ! I moved in October 2015. By the time of the move, I had spent a total of about 10 months over 2.5 years (on tourist visa) in Barcelona. After another 10 months in Barcelona, we moved to Jerez de la Frontera.

So, my situation probably differs from that of others. I have been through the retirement and expatriation transitions already, I have money, I have some familiarity with my destination in Spain, I have housing, I'm living with a local person who speaks about 4 languages (including English).

Barcelona is wonderful, but my Spanish ability is pathetic, and adding Catalan to the mix makes it harder.

La Vida Alcalaina's "Thinking of retiring to Spain?"
Nick Anders' "I Hate Spain"
Steve Hall's "Why Expats Struggle in Spain"
Rhiannon Davies's "Should You Retire Abroad?"
Spain Made Simple's "Advantages & Disadvantages of Living in Spain"
Spain Made Simple's "Advice From Expats Now Happily Living in Spain"
Nick Snelling's "Why Does Moving To Spain Go Wrong"
Jose Luis Barberia's "Spain - A great place to live, a terrible place to work?"
Karen Banes' "Moving Overseas - Mistakes to Avoid"
Curtis Poe's "The Young Person's Guide to Moving Abroad"
wikiHow to Move to a Foreign Country
Young Adventuress' "5 Things No One Tells You about Moving Abroad"
Jo Fraser's "I Quit My Job To Be A Travel Writer, And Now I'm Broke And Unemployed"
Sarah McArthur's "What You Need To Know Before You Move Abroad"

From /u/ajl1239 on reddit 10/2016:

> What are the DOWNSIDES to living in Europe
> as opposed to the U.S. ?

I think I can give you some pretty honest analysis, because I've also lived in America most of my life, but traveled to around 50 countries (in Europe and around the world), lived everywhere from NYC to Phoenix to small towns in America, and have lived in England, France, and Slovenia. I'm also a U.S.-EU dual citizen, meaning I can live anywhere in the USA or anywhere in Europe, as I please.

First, however, let me disabuse you of the notion that Europe is one big place: no, it's about 30 different countries, and these vary dramatically in terms of quality of life and culture.

Anyway, that said, in no particular order, here are some things you might find "annoying". Note that I don't necessarily think these are bad things -- in many cases, I think they are good things -- but I'm trying to be open-minded as to what might bother your "average American".

1.) Gas is expensive and owning a car is more expensive -- from getting a license to registering the vehicle -- so if you're someone who just loves to drive a big car everywhere as much as you want as you please, Europe may not the be the best place for you.It's even harder to drive a car in/around most cities, which often have pedestrian zones in the center and cameras that ticket you if you drive in the wrong place at the wrong time.

2.) Apartments and homes are generally smaller than in the USA. For example, families in the UK often live in about the same amount of space as your average small-ish two-bedroom apartment in suburban USA.

3.) While most apartments and homes have their own washing machine (and this is nice, since a lot of apartments in NYC, DC, SF and LA don't have washing machines at all), they often don't have dryers; so Europeans have to hang their clothes out to dry.

4.) Fewer homes and apartments have dishwashers, although this is changing to some degree, given the Ikea-ization of European kitchens.

5.) Income taxes are, generally speaking, much higher in European countries. Now, if you're a young and healthy single man or woman, maybe this is bad for you, but if you have a few health problems, maybe dream of having children, maybe want to get a college degree or master's degree, maybe you prefer taking the train to driving; you'll find that those taxes do indeed pay for "nice things" in Europe, nice things that either cost money in America (visiting a doctor when you get sick or going to college) or nice things that just don't exist in America (excellent public transportation and rail service). So, you'll have to do the math for yourself: do the benefits for you outweigh the extra tax paid? And, again, taxes vary: for example, taxes are higher in Norway and Belgium than they are in the UK and France.

6.) Countries and societies may feel less welcoming to "outsiders." Canada and the USA, for example, are pluralistic nations of French, Italians, Jews, Catholics, Germans, Chinese, Japanese, etc. In contrast, in Europe, you might feel like "France is for the French", "Italy is for the Italians", and "Slovenia is for the Slovenes". In other words, it can be hard to "fit in" for some Americans in Europe. The other side of the coin is that if you have more liberal social values (e.g. atheist, tolerant of gay rights and drug use, progressive politics), you may feel like you "fit" more in Europe than in certain parts of the USA. It all depends on where in Europe and where in the USA we're comparing and contrasting.

7.) If you get hot easily and live in Central or Southern Europe, you may be surprised by the fact that, compared to the USA, many homes and businesses don't have air-conditioning. Similarly, in the winter, many Europeans are more likely to put on a sweater than blast the heat. Year-round indoor temperatures of 68-70 degrees are less common in Europe.

8.) By and large, Europeans are dramatically less religious than Americans. So, if you're a fan of "wearing God on your sleeve", you may not like living in Europe, particularly Northern Europe. The reality, though, is that even Italy is less religious than America -- let that sink in.

9.) Labor markets are much less "liberal" than the USA in many countries, which means it can be more difficult to find work as an "outsider" with education credentials from a different country. Of course, once you get a contract, it will be much harder to fire you than would be the case in the USA.

10.) Much of Europe is farther North than the continental USA, so in the winter, you will find it gets dark earlier and gets light later. In the summer, though, it will be light longer. If you like the desert climate of Phoenix or the sub-tropical climate of Florida, you won't find that in Europe. Italy's climate is a lot like California. The UK's climate is a lot like Oregon.

11.) Fewer stores are open 24/7. If you visit a small city or town in France on a Sunday (even the UK), you might wonder, "why is everything closed?". On Sundays, in many European countries, large stores and shops are closed, or only open for limited hours.

12.) Going back to #6, if you don't speak the language of the country in which you're living, life will be more difficult. Dealing with the government? Renting or buying a home or apartment? Talking to a doctor? Shopping? All of those things. Also, it goes without saying, that you will feel more isolated.

13.) Many countries have pretty restrictive immigration rules. If you're not a European citizen, getting the right to work and live in a European country is more challenging than, say, Canada or Argentina.

14.) In many countries, European professionals get paid less than U.S. professionals. That said, those in non-professional jobs (i.e. store clerks, etc.) will often make more than their U.S. colleagues in Northern Europe. In Southern Europe, almost everyone makes less money, but it's also the case that the cost of living is much lower than the U.S. and health care is still free, along with maternity and paternity benefits and paid vacation.

What Visa ?

I am a retired US citizen, little income but lots of savings, just want to live in Spain without working. Most things on this web page relate to that situation; things are different if you're an EU citizen, may be different if you want to work in Spain, etc.

Levels of permission:

Looks like what I want is "long-stay visa, temporary residence". From NY consulate's "Residing in Spain":
Residence in Spain can be temporary or permanent. Temporary residence is the situation authorizing a stay in Spain for a period longer than 90 days and shorter than five years. Authorizations for a period not exceeding five years may be renewed regularly, at the request of the person concerned, depending on the circumstances leading to their issuance.
Someone tells me that if you have a student or research or tourist visa, you don't get "residence", you get "estancia". One difference that makes: only residency time, not estancia time, counts toward getting permanent residency and then citizenship.

Types of long-stay visas:

If US citizen wants to stay in Spain full-time and not work:
KurpeDiem's "How to Get Residence in Spain as a US Citizen" (and read the comments)
The Expatriator's "Residence visa to retire in Spain (visa de Jubilados)"
Expatica's "The complete guide to Spanish visas and permits"
International Living's "Spain Visa and Residence Information"
Trevor Huxham's "How to Apply for a Student Visa for Spain at the Houston Consulate"
Rookie Notes' "How to Get Your Spanish Student Visa!"
Bucking the Trend's "How to Apply for Non Lucrative Visa for Spain as US Citizen"
Wagoners Abroad's "10 Tips for Spanish Resident Visa Application"
Aventuras en España's "The Non Lucrative Visa Process"
Aventuras en España
Mark Hendrickson's "Applying for the Spanish non-lucrative residence visa"
Tim Adams' "USA to Spain: Going Expat"

There are some e-books you can buy, about the process of getting a visa or moving abroad. I haven't bought any of them.
Wagoners Abroad's "Live in Spain"
COMO Consulting's "Moving to Spain"
Claude Acero's "Relocate, Survive And Be Successful In Crazy Spain: Families, Pensioners And Entrepreneurs Move To Spain The Easy Way" (on Amazon)

If non-EU citizen wants to stay in Spain full-time and work:
Victoria Fontana's "Freelancing in Spain; Work Permits and How to Get Them"
Expat Arrivals' "Work Permits for Spain"
SpainGuru's "Self-employment visa timeline: becoming an 'autonomo' (freelancer) in Spain"
Apparently there is a "highly-skilled worker visa" (trabajadores altamente cualificados) you can get or convert to even if you're already in Spain on another type of visa ?

Diana Edelman's "Getting student visa for Spain as an American"
Cale Gram's "How to Apply for the Spanish Student Visa at the Consulate in Chicago"

You have to apply at the consulate in USA that has jurisdiction over the US state in which you reside.

Spanish Embassy and Consulates in USA:
Los Angeles
New York City
San Francisco
San Juan PR
Washington DC

Some key documents from the Consulate web sites:
Miami consulate's "Residence Visa for Retirees"
New York consulate's "Visas New York"
San Francisco consulate's "Residence Visa for Retirees" (PDF)
San Francisco consulate's "Consular Fees" (PDF)

It's unclear if a "retiree visa" exists; it may just be the standard "non-lucrative" (not allowed to work) visa. Application form from NY consulate web site just has a "Residence without work permit" category, nothing that says "retiree". But: KurpeDiem's "How to Get Residence in Spain as a US Citizen" and The Expatriator's "Residence visa to retire in Spain (visa de Jubilados)" and Spanish Visa's "Living in Spain" talk about a retiree visa. Consular Fees New York shows separate lines for "Retirement Residence visa" and "Non-Lucrative visa". Chicago consulate has Chicago's "Residence Visa for Retirees" (PDF). San Francisco consulate has San Francisco's "Residence Visa for Retirees" (PDF). Houston consulate has Houston's "Retirement Residence Visa" (PDF).

From Carole W:

We own an apartment on the Costa del Sol and spend about 6 months / year there. We opted against residency because a) you MUST declare your world-wide investments and assets. If you have income from those assets and pay US taxes at a lower rate than would be the case in Spain for the same assets, the Spanish will tax you for the excess. If you do not declare all your assets, you could run into a huge problem and a very steep fine.

The second reason we opted against residency is the health insurance problem. They want absolute proof that you are covered in the event of health care needs or an emergency. Some companies issue travel insurance that does cover emergencies but not doctor visits. It is up to the individual Spanish Consular Officer to accept or reject your insurance as qualifying.

The reason you find conflicting info on different web-sites is because practically no one inside Spanish immigration offices or in the Consulates know the latest rules or are in any way consistent. Living in Spain is just that: everyone will tell you something different. And the reality of living there doesn't always coincide with the legalities that you might read online.

A dodge, supposedly:

While I was in Barcelona, a Pakistani guy told me a trick that he swears works, if I have a local partner.

Enter Spain on a tourist visa. Rent an apartment in a small town 30-50 KM outside Barcelona. Have the partner move her padron to there, and write a letter saying that you are living there with her. Apply there for NIE, padron, residencia. All of the processes will be complete in a month or so. Terminate the apartment rental and both of you get on the padron in Barcelona (where my partner lives and I want to live).

He says Barcelona (and other big cities) have tough, long processes because many immigrants apply there.

I don't think this trick would work. I think if you try to apply for residencia with no long-stay visa in your passport, they will tell you to go back to your country and apply for a long-stay visa. But I could be wrong, or you could get lucky.

And even if it works, you still need most of the same things (criminal record check, health insurance, assets, medical examination) to apply for residencia as you need to apply for long-stay visa.

Getting a Visa

Documents needed in my particular case (non-lucrative retiree visa, single person, US citizen, not buying property, will live with citizen in Spain):

From CIEE's "Spanish Visa Application Guidelines" (PDF):
Specific visa application procedures vary from Consulate to Consulate, so for up-to-date and accurate instructions, it is IMPERATIVE that you check directly with the Consulate having jurisdiction over your place of residence. You must follow the instructions the Consulate provides with the application you request (or their web-site instructions).

[List omits some things that don't apply to me: marriage certificate, birth certificates for children, school or work letter.]

Can you get an NIE before going to Spain, by filing EX-15 form (PDF) at consulate along with your visa application ? Probably yes, but I'm not sure it's worth doing unless you really have to, and it will be a pain if anything goes wrong with the paperwork.
Spanish Property Insight's "Spanish NIE numbers: Why you need one, and how to get one in or outside of Spain"

Don't need it, but found readable EX-09 form here.

When I received my long-stay visa, stamped into my passport, it had an NIE on it, so they did that automatically.

Other document requirements:

Still unclear on the process; is this it ?
  1. If a document is an official US government document (birth certificate, marriage license, FBI criminal record check, state criminal record check, etc), it must be apostilled. Then:

  2. All English-language documents, apostilled or not, must be translated and certified by a Certified Translator (AKA "Official Sworn Translator"). Then:

  3. Originals and photocopies of the Spanish-language documents are submitted along with the application form.

  4. You keep the English-language originals (birth cert, marriage license, apostilled FBI criminal record check, doctor's letter, medical insurance letter, etc); don't submit them.

  5. Probably a good idea to take everything, and more, with you to the consulate appointment, just in case. English-language versions of documents, birth certificate even though you have passport, etc. Just in case.

From /u/alaninsitges:
There is going to be a lot (a lot) of paperwork and red tape and rubber stamps and oh-no-this-one-isn't-right-start-all-over-again. Welcome to Spain.

Sounds like I'm going to have to visit the consulate in person and ask about each specific document:
Or maybe it's better to just follow the consulate web page blindly, do the simplest thing, give it a shot, play dumb. But if I need something else, things I already have could expire while I'm getting the additional thing.

Well, I went to the NYC consulate 11/2014 to ask questions:

Since I didn't have an appointment, they wouldn't let me in through Security. But the guard got someone knowledgable to come out and I had a rushed conversation with him across the Security desk.

Amazingly, he said everything is simpler than the web site and other reading had led me to believe. Nothing has to be translated into Spanish, except for diplomas and such (not relevant to me). Nothing has to be notarized. No criminal record check from Spain, just one from FBI (they don't really like State Police check, would rather have FBI check). Black-and-white photocopies; color not needed. Copy only ID page of passport, not the whole passport. Don't have to show a travel reservation for going to Spain.

One new thing: I said I was going to have my lady in Spain write a one-sentence invitation letter to show I had somewhere to live in Spain: "[NAME] is invited to reside with me in my home at [ADDRESS]." Instead, he said they'd like it if she went to the police station in Spain, got some kind of letter from them saying she invites me to live with her, and then I give the letter to the consulate when I apply. He said the police would have the letter she needs to sign.
[I think this is a "Carta de Invitacion". But the application form says it's for maximum stay of 90 days; it's really for tourists not staying in a hotel. And cost is unclear; may be €77 !
Ministerio del Interior's "Carta de Invitacion"
National Police's "Requisitos, Resolucion, Tramitacion y Denegacion de la Carta de Invitacion"
National Police's "Solicitud de Expedicion de Carta de Invitacion" (PDF)
Ana Torres's "Carta de Invitacion"

The man said something like this a couple of times: "you are applying from USA, you are US citizen, so things have to be from here". Doctor has to be in USA. Criminal record check only from USA; he didn't seem to care about the "lived 6 months in any other country in last 5 years". I mentioned visiting Spain as a tourist for total of more than 6 months, but he said I don't need a record check from there. Perhaps you need criminal record checks from other countries if you officially were a resident there, not just a tourist.

And he seemed to say one main concern of the process is to make sure the applicant is taking the change of residence seriously, that you'll be a responsible resident of Spain, that it's a serious step. I may have to make my "letter of intent" a little more flowery.

I am a retiree with lots of assets (savings) but no monthly income. That's okay, but he's completely unable to give me a number for "minimum assets required".

For the doctor's letter, I showed him example text and asked if it was acceptable, and he kind of waved it away, saying "we just want something that says you're healthy".

For medical insurance, you must show a receipt showing that you paid for it. Not really a letter from the insurance company, certainly not anything notarized or translated.

He gave me the email address for the head person who will be doing the actual application interview, and encouraged me to gather the documents, then email this person before making the appointment, to confirm that I have everything the interviewer wants. I said that the main consulate email address never gets answered, but he assured me this person WILL answer his email. [I sent email to that address 6 months later, when I was ready to apply; no answer.]

An odd moment: he asked "just out of curiosity, where are you going to live in Spain ?", I said "Barcelona", and he said "Aha, I guessed so !". Hmm.
Occurred to me: the consulate may not require anything translated into Spanish for the visa, but later in Spain, when applying for the residencia card, translations may be required. [Answer turned out to be: no.]

A month before applying, I found an email address at NYC consulate that DID respond:

> Are documents in English acceptable ?

We accept all the documentation in English but since you would have to submit some of them in Spain I recommend you to get a translation into Spanish.

> When I apply for the long-stay visa,
> may I leave a copy of my passport, and keep my actual
> passport with me for travel while the visa application
> is pending ?

You can take your passport with you after the interview and travel to Spain for 90 days but have in mind that once you apply your visa should be ready in about 1 month and you have another month to pick it up since it is approved.

> For an invitation letter from the lady I will be living with,
> do I need a "Carta de Invitacion" through the Spanish police,
> or will a simple notarized letter from my lady in Spain
> be adequate ?

You don't need Carta de Invitacion.


Yes, you have to submit EX01 and 790 code 052. The fee, in total, is $151.


> Do you require any specific provisions in the
> medical insurance, or just require that I have
> paid for some insurance that is effective in Spain ?

Your medical insurance must cover at least $30,000 in medical expense and repatriation/evacuation.

My experience:

For visa application at NYC consulate, I submitted: apostilled FBI criminal record check (in English), doctor's letter (in Spanish written by Spanish-speaking doctor), bank account statement (in English), medical insurance letter (in English), invitation letter (in Spanish written by Spanish notary and notarized in Spain), my "letter of intent" (in English), and photocopies of passport ID page and driver's license.

I didn't have anything translated into Spanish.

I submitted originals of FBI criminal check, doctor's letter, and invitation letter, and asked to have them returned to me when the visa was approved, so I can use them when applying for residency. [They were not returned, but I did not need them in Spain.]

(Of course, US visa bureaucracy is no better: Colleen Hennessy's "Horrendous lessons I learned on a mission to get my husband a US visa").

Order and timing of doing things:


From International Living's "Spain Visa and Residence Information":
All documents must be submitted to the consulate within 90 days of the issue date (except for marriage and birth certificates, if applicable). Processing the application [for non-lucrative visa] may take up to three months.

Chicago consulate page says "Visa applications are accepted 3 months prior to the departure date, not before."

From /u/AidenTai on reddit:
[When the visa is granted, you have been approved for residency.] In your home country you applied for residency and the Secretary of State of Public Administrations' government delegation in the province that you requested to live in made a decision as to allow you or not based on your application as presented in one of the consulates. From that point on, their decision to allow you or not into their province became an official decision to grant or not grant residency. If you were granted residency by them, the decision was then sent to your local consulate where they, noting that you had been granted residency, processed the additional paperwork to also grant you a visa. A visa in Spain is merely a sticker attached to your passport that is needed to enter the country from abroad. It grants no rights of residency, but rather is freely given when you have already previously acquired the right of residency associated with the visa type (as you already had by that point in the process).

Money I paid:

Timing of my application:

My experience:

When I received my passport back, the visa was stamped into one page (about 3" x 5"), and a small paper notice was clipped on with a paperclip.

The notice says "Take notice. Once you arrive to Spain you should go to the Police Station, within the FIRST MONTH, to request your Studies Card, which is valid for the duration of your program."

But I applied for a long-stay non-lucrative visa ! Did they give me the wrong visa ? Or is this just a standard notice they add to every visa ?

The visa says Type "D", Number of Entries "Mult", Duration of Stay "90 days", Remarks "Residencia", and gives an NIE. Start date is a month earlier than I requested, but the 3-month window to use the visa will work fine for me.

Explanation of some of the terms here: SchengenVisaEU's "Como leer y entender facilmente la etiqueta de tu Visado Schengen". "A" is transit visa, "C" is tourist visa, "D" is long-stay visa. Looks like I have the right visa.

Others who received long-stay visas say theirs are type "D" also. I think it's making sense now. The visa allows me to come in and to stay long enough to get the residencia. And the "Remarks: Residencia" must signal that to the Extranjero office. Consulate says my visa is correct type, and after arriving I must start applying for residency within first month.

Anti-climax: when I entered Spain with my shiny new visa in the passport, they ignored it ! As I handed the passport to the Immigration officer, I said "I have a long-stay visa", but he just looked at the ID page of the passport, found a free space on another page, and stamped the usual entry stamp. I pointed out again that I had a long-stay visa, he glanced at it, said something like "you don't need this to come in". I said "I'm going to apply for residency", he shrugged and handed my passport back. (I assume the visa will matter when I start applying for residency.)


As with any move, everything is easier if you first simplify your life. Sell things, give things away, donate things, throw things away. Do not rent a storage locker and store things ! (You won't want half of it if/when you come back, storage costs money, your stuff might get damaged during storage, if you miss a payment they'll auction off your stuff.)

Fix any legal/financial/paperwork issues you have in USA (missing documents, divorce not finalized, child custody issues, sale of business not complete, inheritance probate not complete, legal dispute, pension about to kick in, about to cash in bonds, will not up-to-date, accounts you've been meaning to close, etc) before complicating things by moving to another country. Give up any signing authority or power of attorney you have over someone else's affairs, so their accounts don't have to be reported on your Spanish tax forms.

One idea: move from a high-income-tax state to a low-income-tax state, before moving to Spain ? And maybe give up anything that ties you to any state.
Taxes for Expats' "State Taxes and American Expats"

Before leaving for Spain, what has to be done ?

[Note: retaining US address and driver's license etc may have tax implications.]

From /u/degroves on reddit:
[Re: moving USA to UK:]

Advice: Take nothing. Seriously. Your electronics will not work for the most part (save computers with adapters). [Formal business suits are different.] Your furniture is too large for small UK flats. etc ... Plus, it costs a lot of money to move all that stuff you need to replace - oh, and it is not even possible to donate to charity because it violates UK safety laws (the "do not remove under penalty of law" tags are not valid in the UK).

In short, we took everything, had to get rid of it all, after paying to move it. ...

After Arriving

Don't be surprised if you have a lot of mental stress after moving. A big change in your life is stressful, and more so if you're changing from one culture/country/language to another. If you start feeling a lot of anxiety and remorse, be aware of why you feel that way, and give it some time.

Tips for official procedures:

Getting paid help:
Some of these chores can be done for you by an agency (for a fee) before you arrive in Spain:
Spanish Visa (will do NIE, bank account, medical insurance)
Expat Agency Spain

Another agency, for helping once you're in Spain: NIE Barcelona.

If you have NIE and address etc, perhaps you can do some things, such as making residencia appointment online, before you arrive in Spain.

You can go to a gestoria, a private company which assists you with various kinds of official paperwork. You'd still have to go to the government offices in person to accomplish the procedures, I think (maybe not for NIE). What are typical prices ? Huge, I think.
Lanzarote Relocation's "What is the difference between a Gestoria and a Lawyer?"
Metropolitan Barcelona's "Q&A with a gestor"
algrif's "The Gestor / Gestoria"
Inmobiliaria LAS ANCLAS Ibiza's "Gestorias In Ibiza"
Colegio Oficial de Gestores Administrativos de Catalunya (find gestor in Catalunya)
Expat Agency Spain

One translation service in Barcelona:

Official numbers and cards and agencies in Spain:
Numbers: Strong Abogados' "Understanding the terms in Spain"

Just Landed's "The legal system"

[Procedures have changed a bit over the years, and will continue to change, so not all sources give exactly the same info. Procedures differ for EU and non-EU people. And procedures may vary from region to region, office to office, or even official to official.]

[Some confusion about the order of these things. Do you have to do padron before residence card ? NIE and padron seem easy; do them before residence card, which is harder ?]

From Barrington Homes' "New Foreign Residents Law, NIE and Padron Lecture Information" (edited a bit):
You may have noticed that to get the Padron you need an NIE or residencia, and to get the residencia you need the Padron, so for those of you applying for the first time the procedure is as follows:
  1. Go to local police station or Foreigner's Office (Oficina de Extranjeros) and obtain provisional NIE number (which will be the same number when you apply for residency).
  2. Take the white provisional NIE document to Town Hall and register on the Padron.
  3. Take the Padron document back to local police station or Foreigner's Office (Oficina de Extranjeros) and apply for residencia.
  4. Take the green residencia certificate to Town Hall and update register on the Padron.
But now if you have a long-stay visa, the NIE is automatically assigned and printed right in the visa, so no need to do that first step.

Finding a national police station (comisaria) or Foreigner's Office (Oficina de Extranjeros) in your area: Policia Nacional's "Oficinas de tramitacion para ciudadanos extranjeros".

Cale Gram's "How the f*ck does the Spanish appointment system work?"

[List omits some things that don't apply to me: housing, utilities, school, car, employment, pet.]

  1. Must have a permanent residence address before you can do just about anything else.

    In some places, your legal address may be different from your mailing address.

  2. Get a phone ?

    May have to have a Spanish bank account to get a phone. Will have to show a passport and/or NIE.

    Ask locals what service is best, especially if you're in a small town or rural area.

    Some people recommend prepaid phone with Lebara.

    Mejor Inglés's "Phone Plans and Using your Smartphone"
    Meggrblog's "The techie expat's guide to smartphones in Spain"
    Rick Steves' "Travel Tips: Phones & Technology"

  3. Get internet access ?

    Free Wi-Fi if you buy a drink or meal in most restaurants and fast-food places, and in malls. Some cities also provide free Wi-Fi near govt buildings and museums and libraries and such. Or rent a mobile/Wi-Fi hotspot (Tep, Xcom Global, Cellular Abroad, etc) ?

    Ask locals what service is best, especially if you're in a small town or rural area.

    Living and Working in Spain's "Internet/Banking/Etc"
    Sergio Uceda's "Broadband in Spain"

  4. Get an NIE (Numero de Identidad de Extranjero - Foreigner's Identification Number).

    When I received my long-stay visa, stamped into my passport, it had an NIE on it, so they did that automatically.

    From /u/AidenTai on reddit:
    The Foreigner Identification Number (NIE in Spanish) is created for foreign nationals who either request it explicitly for some legitimate purpose, or for foreign nationals when some government body processing them requests it due to the necessity of being able to uniquely identify a foreign individual who has links to Spain. Therefore, if you were, for instance, a Polish citizen (EU citizen) who wished to buy property in Spain while not living there, you could request a NIE and the government would provide one to fulfill your need for an identity number while doing business in Spain. If you were a foreign national wishing to reside in Spain, the appropriate government bodies would request one for you in the event your application was approved, as they internally need an identification number for all individuals they process who are Spanish residents. Therefore, if you applied and were granted Spanish residency, a NIE was created for you already in order for the right of residency to be associated with you, and for further paperwork such as the visa, residency card, etc. to be processed internally. Foreign companies and individuals who require a NIE who but who are not residents nor plan on becoming residents are the main persons that request NIEs through the independent NIE request procedure.

    EX-15 form (PDF) or is it supposed to be EX-17 form (PDF) ? Perhaps EX-15 if you don't have NIE, EX-17 if you have NIE but just need residency card ?

    Strong Abogados' "Guide to the NIE number"
    Rechtsanwalt Dominic Porta's "NIE, TIE, residency or nationality"
    SpainAdvisor's "How To Get A NIE in Spain"
    AngloINFO's "Obtaining an NIE Number"
    NIE Barcelona's "Frequently Asked Questions"
    /r/Barcelona's "NIE"
    Expats in Spain's "How to get your N.I E. number in Spain" (PDF)
    BarcelonaYellow's "Barcelona residency papers and NIE number"
    A Texan in Spain's "How to Apply for Your NIE in Jaen (and Get Your TIE)"
    A Texan in Spain's "How to Apply for Your NIE in Santiago de Compostela (and Get Your TIE)"
    Mejor Inglés's "The 7 Documents for your NIE Appointment"
    Cale Gram's "How to Apply for the Spanish NIE/TIE in Barcelona"
    Barcelona Life's "The NIE Nightmare Made Easy"

    From /u/kihaku1974: [in my case] "reason for NIE" will be something like "relationship with citizen".

    From /u/GlobalTumbleweed:
    Your NIE is on par with perhaps your [US] Social Security number in terms of how you should guard it but is used for many day to day activities in the country. It is required for renting an apartment, opening a cellphone or internet account, and opening a bank account. My visa is a bit different than the one you're applying for, but on mine the NIE is printed on my Residence Card. It seems from above that you will not be working so I would think that, like myself, the primary function for your NIE will just be identification.

    From /u/kihaku1974:
    NIE is needed for social healthcare, opening bank accounts, etc. You can get private health care and bank accounts without it, but it's more money and a lot of hassle.

    From Strong Abogados' "Guide to the NIE number":
    When applying, you must bring:
    • The filled-out EX-15 form.
    • A supporting document (such as a notarised letter) showing why you need a NIE.
    • A copy of your passport (all pages).
    • A passport photo.
    • Approximately €12 to pay Tax Form 790.

    That's Spanish passport-sized; size of photograph is 40 mm x 30 mm.

  5. Get a Certificado de Empadronamiento ("Padron Municipal de Habitantes") by registering on the census register (the padron) at your local Town Hall.

    /r/Barcelona's "Residency aka EMPADRONAMENT"
    MumAbroad's "Certificado de Empadronamiento"
    NIE Barcelona's "Empadronamiento"
    SpainExpat forum's "Empadronamiento in Spain: Registering in Your Community"
    Lemon in my Coke's "Get Your Empadronamiento On!" (Barcelona)
    Lemon in my Coke's "Making your Padron Appointment" (Barcelona)
    See section 7 of Mejor Inglés's "The 7 Documents for your NIE Appointment"

    From /u/kihaku1974: if "living with citizen, not renting", "You will need a letter from them stating you are living there, and a copy of their lease/documents". (May also need a copy of their DNI certificate ?)

    From Esencial Blog's "NIE and Residency Card":
    You must submit: your passport, your birth certificate, a photocopy of your birth certificate, two passport photos, and the original and photocopy of the rental agreement of the flat or of a document certifying that you live at that address.
    Other sources don't say birth certificate is required, and I didn't have to show birth certificate.

    My experience, in Nou Barris in Barcelona 10/2015:

    It was very easy to get an appointment for the next day, online.

    I went with my lady, who is the owner of the apartment where I am staying. She speaks Spanish and Catalan, so she handled everything.

    We submitted my passport and copies of the ID page and visa page, and her DNI card and copies of it. My NIE is on my visa, so no card needed for that. Filled out a couple of paper forms. No photos needed, no birth certificate needed. The apartment owner was there in person, so no need to show a lease or other proof of address or a letter.

    No charge. Received a pink paper that shows the padron has been applied for. The padron certficate will come in the mail in 2-3 weeks.

    Padron came in the mail 7-8 days later. It's just 5 pages on government letterhead paper, saying that I'm on the padron and repeating lots of my information and the address and info about the other people registered at the same apartment.

    When I received my residency card later, I went back and had that info added to the padron.

    My experience later, when we moved to Jerez de la Frontera 9/2016:

    No cita possible or needed.

    My lady's name is on the rental contract. We handed in a copy of the rental contract, and copy of front and back of her DNI and my Permiso de Residencia. Showed my passport, but I think the agent didn't even look at it.

    Lots of typing; I guess the info from a computer system in one region (Catalunya) does not carry over to another region (Andalucia).

    An oddity: my NIE is of the form "YnnnnnnnL", but on the printed padron page here it shows up without the "L". The guy said that's no problem, in the computer the "L" is there. Seems weird to me.

    No charge for my padron, since it's the first time I've lived in this region, but about €5 charge for my lady's padron, since she's lived here before.

    We each got one original of our padron; just make photocopies if you need more (such as for National Police). [This is different from Barcelona, where we each got 3 originals, and photocopies are not valid, I think.] Some places here (banks, mainly ?) will demand an original, and each additional original will cost about €5.

    My experience again in Jerez de la Frontera 4/2017:

    I needed to update my padron with new residency card, and get a newly-valid padron so I can go apply for convenio especial healthcare. My lady needed to change her padron from Barcelona to here (again).

    I handed over residency card and passport, my lady handed over her DNI, lots of typing and printing, we signed, forms were stamped. We each got one set of forms with "Efecto para el que se expide" set to "Asistencia Sanitaria", and another with it set to "Informacion padronal".

    This time the forms have my complete NIE, not missing the letter on the end as the previous forms did. I guess they've fixed that problem.

    No charge for anything, which surprised me. I thought there was going to be a charge of about €5 each.

  6. Must apply for a Residency Permit/Card (Tarjeta de Residencia) within 30 days of arriving in the EU on long-stay visa.

    There used to be a "TIE" card instead of or in addition to the Residency card, so you still will see the term "TIE" in various places. But "Tarjeta de Residencia" or "Permiso de Residencia" or Residency card are the right terms now.

    AngloINFO's "Non-EU Citizens Moving to Spain"
    MumAbroad's "NIE Numbers & Residency Certificates"
    Tumbit Spain's "Applying for Residential Status (Residencia) - Non-EU Citizens"
    Just Landed's "Residency and NIE"

    Best to apply immediately upon arrival in Spain; almost certainly you will have to wait for an appointment, might have to get additional documentation. Note I received with my visa says I must apply for residency within my first month in Spain.

    The office may be called "Extranjeria" or "Comisaria de Policia" or "National Police" or "Policia Nacional".

    From Esencial Blog's "NIE and Residency Card":
    Waiting times at the office and waiting times to receive the residency card may vary greatly from one office to another even in the same city. As a result, it is a good idea to ask people who have recently applied for a residency card about their experiences. [In Barcelona, there are different offices for EU applicants and non-EU applicants, and different offices for first-time cards and renewals.]

    Below is a list of some of the documents that must be presented to apply for residency. However, there is no official list with these procedures, so the necessary documents may vary from one location to another. It is best to confirm at your local office which documents are required.

    Documents required for applicants (EU and non-EU nationals):
    • Valid passport: Original and copy.
    • 3 passport size photos with your name clearly written on the back.
    • The census or padron document.
    • The corresponding visa.
    • Properly completed application form: Original and three copies.

    From Mejor Inglés's "The 7 Documents for your NIE Appointment":
    When applying, you must bring:
    • Slip showing your appointment time (Cita Previa).
    • The filled-out EX-15 or EX-17 form.
    • A supporting document (such as a notarised letter) showing why you need a NIE (2 copies).
    • Your passport.
    • A copy of ID, visa and entry stamp pages of your passport.
    • Three passport photos.
    • Paid Tax Form Modelo 790, Codigo 12.
    • Padron certificate.

    You will walk out with "Resguardo de Solicitud de NIE", a slip of paper that says your residency card has been applied for. Don't lose it; you will need it for other processes until you get your card. You also will be given "tasa de pago", showing an amount you have to pay at a bank. Do that right away.

    Some sources say residency card certificate/letter will arrive by mail 2-4 weeks after you apply, others say you may get it immediately, or months later, or have to go pick it up.
    Can check status here ? [May have changed to here]
    Cale Gram's "Where to Pick Up Your Spanish TIE in Barcelona"

    From Wagoners Abroad's "Tips For Getting Settled In Spain":
    Go early! You will be making multiple trips to the Foreigner's Office (Oficina de Extranjeros) or police station, so don't wait until they're about to close, as it means you'll have to come back the next business day. Also remember that they will most likely close at 2 PM. So go early! Let me also set the expectation right up front that you are not going to be walking out with your final NIE Resident card today. I'll get to the why in a bit.

    When you originally obtained your Spanish Visa, you should have been provided with a bunch of other papers, to be provided to the local Spanish authorities. Not only will you need that paperwork, you will need:

    • Passport pictures - These are a different size than the passport pictures you get in the U.S., so don't be surprised if they tell you that you don't have the correct type. These are usually very easy to get. A local photo store will be able to take them for you and they often have them near the police station / foreigner's office. Get at least two per adult, and four per child (the school and local library will need them).

    • Depending on the paperwork you provided with your initial visa application, you may need to supply a complete copy of your passport, from the first page to the last for each person.

    • Bring along your rental contract or invitation letter.

    • In addition, you'll need the paper you received from the Town Hall "Padron Municipal de Habitantes".

    Once you've provided them with your paperwork, they will provide you with a piece of paper, and there will be a fee you need to pay to make it official. Unfortunately, you can't pay at the police station. You'll have to go to a nearby bank and pay the fee for each person, not just the primary. If you have a bank branch that's close to the police station, go there. Not all banks will take the payment, but if you bank with them, they most certainly will or you can go to a caja type bank.

    Once you've got the stamped documents which prove you paid the fee, head back to the police station / foreigner's office. They will then take your fingerprints, complete the paperwork and then you'll get your temporary NIE resident card, which is on a small slip of paper. If you're an adult, you'll want to carry this with you at all times. In approximately four weeks, you should receive a letter that your card(s) are ready to pick up. Make sure you bring your passport and temporary NIE.

    That's Spanish passport-sized; size of photograph is 40 mm x 30 mm.

    From CIEE's "Living in Spain 101: Applying for a Foreign Residency Card (TIE)":
    • 2 copies of the first page of your passport.
    • 2 black and white copies of your visa.
    • 2 black and white copies of the page where Spanish customs stamped your passport.

    From /u/AidenTai on reddit:
    [When the visa is granted, you have been approved for residency.] All individuals, whether visitors or residents, have a duty to be documented at all times whilst in Spain. The Ministry of the Interior, through its National Police force, is tasked with creating ID cards for all foreign nationals residing in Spain. It is your obligation to apply for one of these physical ID cards from the national police upon arriving in Spain. They can deny you a card for reasons such: lack of the right forms, improper photographs, lack of some underlying permission to be in the country long-term, or due to inadmissability of some of the submitted paperwork. But they cannot deny a valid request for an ID card from someone who legitimately needs an ID card to identify himself as a legal resident, nor deny Spanish nationals requesting their own separate ID cards. If at any point you lose the ID card they provided you, you can request another. The important thing here is that your underlying permission to be in the country as a resident is still valid and that permission was issued before any "paper documentation" was issued to you including visas, ID cards, etc. The Secretary General of Immigration and Emigration will be in charge of renewing your right to residency should you choose to apply for renewal once already in the country as a legal resident. Other government bodies such as the Ministry of the Interior, National Police, Ministry of Hacienda/Revenue, etc. play no part in making a decision as to whether or not you can stay. They are simply involved in a secondary way (providing paperwork, identification documents, etc.)

    Spanish banks charge higher fees to non-residents than to residents. So after you change status, go to your bank and get the status noted and the fees changed.

    What is application form ? EX-17 (PDF), if you have NIE already ?

    Applying online for a "cita" (appointment):

    Apply at SEDE's "Internet Cita Previa".

    You want "Expedición de Tarjeta de Identidad de Extranjero" and then "Toma De Huellas (Expedición de Tarjeta)". Abbreviation for USA on the web form is "EEUU".

    There is a mobile application as an alternative to the web page. The mobile application is the same as the web page but without the ability to remember form field values or cut and paste, so the web page is better.

    For Barcelona 10/2015, it took me a hundred attempts, over the course of a week, to finally get an appointment. Best to try in mornings, 7 AM to 9 AM. But a few citas do become available at other times, occasionally. Monday morning the system seemed choked or crashed, probably from many people trying at the same time. Often an attempt failed at the last web page; until you have a "Número de justificante de cita", you don't have a cita.

    The appointment I got is scheduled for 2 weeks later. So start trying to get an appointment as SOON as you arrive in Spain, or even before arriving.

    If you try and try and just can not get an appointment, and the deadline is fast approaching, it might help to take screen-shots of the "no appointments available" web pages. Then when you blow the deadline and finally get an appointment, you can show the screen-shots as evidence that you tried to get an appointment before the deadline.

    I've also heard that you could try just walking into the office to ask for a cita. This may be possible only in smaller offices. The building in Barcelona had security checking your cita paperwork before you could even go in to get to the desk.

    The residencia appointment:

    [My visa is for non-lucrative, and already contains an NIE, which may affect what happened.]

    My appointment was for 12:57 at National Police station in Barcelona (Rambla Guipuzcoa 74). Allow extra time because it's a big building with multiple entrances and very little signage, so it takes a while to find the right waiting room.

    I think mine was one of the last appointments of the day, and I had to wait until 2:30 to be seen.

    I handed over the printed justificante page showing the appointment. She checked the ID page, visa page, and most recent entry stamp in my passport. I handed over the EX-17 application form, a middle page of my padron, and one Spanish-passport-sized photograph. Fingerprints of my index fingers were taken a couple of times, electronically. The clerk didn't care about any of my photocopies of passport pages.

    She did various examining and typing, then handed back everything I had given her, even the application form, keeping only the photograph.

    She gave me a stamped one-page "Resguardo de Solicitud o Renovacion de Tarjeta de Extranjero", which says I've applied for residency. It says it expires in forty-five days.

    And she gave me a tasa form (Modelo 790 Codigo 012 for €15.45) that I can go pay at a bank. Told me to take the paid tasa and my passport to a different office (Carrer de Mallorca 213) in about a month to pick up my residency card, and that was it !

    Later that day, tried checking status on SEDE page, not found. Same ever after. Never did show up.
    [Later figured out I've been using that page wrong all along: the "Cl@ve" icon is hiding ALL digital ID methods, not just Cl@ve (which I don't have). If you have a digital certificate, click on "Cl@ve", click "eidentifier", use digital certificate, and maybe get good results.] [May have changed to here]

    Apparently there will be no notification when the card is ready ? Just go about a month later to pick it up. No appointment needed.

    I went to pick it up exactly 3 weeks later, and the card was there ! Minimal wait, had to show passport, hand over tasa, do fingerprints to match them.

    Card is valid for 1 year from the date you entered Spain, not from the date you applied for the residency card or the date you got the card.

    I took the card to the local govt office the next day, and had my padron updated.

    6/2016: I'm told the procedure is changing: now you're supposed to print the 3 pages of the tasa form (Modelo 790 Codigo 012) from the internet ahead of time, and they no longer give a carbon-copy form at the office. Check to see if your local office uses old or new procedure.

    From someone on "American Expats in Spain" Facebook group:
    [If your residency card is stolen:]
    Go to the police station and report it stolen. They give you a denuncia which you then take to [foreigner's office] with the necessary paperwork to apply for a replacement. The wait time for a new card is no more than a month. Meanwhile, carry the denuncia on you and an alternative form of ID in case anyone asks for it.

    You have to inform Extranjeria if your address changes. I don't know if they give you a new card when that happens.

    Your residency card may give you discounted admission at some museums and other places.

  7. Get a Digital Certificate on your computer.

    This is used as your ID on various official web sites; you can use it to make appointments online, view your info, file tax return online, etc. Must have residence card first.

    From Richelle de Wit on "Citizens Advice Bureau Spain" Facebook group 3/2015:
    Incredibly useful, as practically all government agencies have virtual offices nowadays and there are a lot of things you do not need to leave your home for, if you have the certificate installed on your computer. And you can subscribe to automatically receive notifications, e.g. from the Tax Office, so you'll never be caught out by non-receipt of request for additional paperwork re your tax return, a fine, or worse, an embargo ...

    Peter Sauer's "Certificado Digital"
    Peter Moore and Peter Sauer's "How to Obtain a Digital Certificate For Your Computer"

    Apply for it at Sede's "Certificates" or through CERT, then you'll have to go to an office (found through Sede - Agencia Tributaria - Delegaciones y Administraciones) to show residence card, then back to your computer to download the certificate (from Sede's "Descargar Certificado").
    I applied for an FNMT certificate online, went to a TGSS office to confirm identity (only residency card needed), email to download the certificate was waiting when I got home.

    Despite some language on the application that they might revoke other similar certificates, my idCAT certificate still is valid.

    Some regions have their own equivalent of this certificate. Not sure if you should get the national certificate, too. In Barcelona, there is idCAT from CATCert; you can get it at the district govt office, with only a passport. And it seems to be recognized for operations all over the country, and to the central government. If later you want to change the email address in it, you'll have to revoke the certificate and get a new one. You can change your address and phone number in their database online.
    Lost in Sant Cugat's "IdCAT: an insecure digital certificate for foreigner living in Catalunya"

    As far as I can tell, usually the certificate itself contains only your name and ID number (NIE); Catalunya certificate also contains your email address. So if you change mailing address or phone, no need to change the certificates. But you should notify the certificate authority that your mailing address or phone has changed: update their database.

    After you install a certficate on one computer, you can save a backup copy of it and use that to install the same certificate on other computers.

    Hacienda also has a "Cl@ve PIN" online ID system (formerly PIN24H) as an alternative to digital certificate. You register, and then each time you want access, you ask for a new PIN, which has to be used within 10 minutes. Some procedures will require SMS text to your mobile phone. It seems you have to have a European (IBAN) bank account to do this ?
    Bienvenido a Cl@ve PIN
    Philip Carroll's "Applying for a CL@ve Pin. Electronic Identication PIN for the Tax Office"

  8. Get a Spanish bank account.

    MumAbroad's "Opening a bank account"
    La Vida Alcalaina's "Thinking of retiring to Spain?"'s "Money & Banking in Spain"
    NIE Barcelona's "Bank Account"
    Spotahome's "Great online bank account options for expats in Spain"
    Martina Vitali's "Current accounts in Barcelona: Which bank to choose?"
    I'm Moving To Barcelona's "Banks In Spain"
    Expat Agency Spain's "Top 5 Banks in Spain Tips for Expatriates"

    Do you really need a Spanish bank account, if you're not working in Spain, not owning or renting property, etc ? Why not just use a USA bank account, and get cash out of Spanish ATMs ? I suppose a Spanish bank account would let you avoid ATM fees and foreign transaction fees, and help you get a Spanish credit card. A Spanish bank account is one option used to pay your Spanish income tax online, but you also can pay in person at any bank with your tax return (fees ?), or pay by credit or debit card. [But: I found that to file wealth tax form (714) you absolutely MUST put an IBAN on the form, even if you pay another way. This forced me to get a Spanish bank account.]

    Perhaps it is a bad idea to keep much money in a Spanish bank account. The banks seem to feel free to take out new fees, apply new charges from vendors you contract with, or freeze your account if some piece of paper is missing, and you have little recourse. Sometimes when you open an account, a bank may insist that you also buy life insurance with them; refuse and go to a different bank or a different branch.

    From Practical Spain's "NIE / NIF Registration and Residencia Application":
    You cannot enter into a contract for the supply of electricity, water or a telephone line etc without giving your NIE/NIF number together with your bank details because these services will only accept clients whose bills are paid automatically from a bank.

    From Wagoners Abroad's "Tips For Getting Settled In Spain":
    If you are moving to Spain from a non-EU country, you'll want to get a local bank account, as most recurring payments are set up as direct debits to your bank account. If you're coming from the U.S. or Canada, you will most likely not find your bank in Spain. From what we've gathered, Spanish banking is a bit non-standard. We banked with Bank of America in the U.S., but they have no presence in Spain, so you'll probably need to start from scratch.

    When setting up a bank account, you'll need to provide your address, your NIE/Passport number, as well as a some nominal amount of Euro-denominated currency. ... Our understanding is that there is no free checking account, unless you're automatically depositing a certain amount of money each month (like what a retiree would do). This amount varies per bank, and by what type of account you set up, but our monthly minimum was €700. If you do not set up an "auto" account, make sure you're comfortable with the monthly fees.

    The other thing to think about, there are different ATM networks in Spain. If you draw money from an ATM network that you do not belong to, you'll be charged a fee. Do some checking around, and ascertain that your bank has plenty of ATM presence. Our bank Sabadell belongs to the ServiRed network which is popular throughout Spain.

    I would recommend against opening a bank account at a local Caja type of bank. These are typically very local, and don't necessarily have a broad presence throughout Spain or Europe.

    From someone on "Expats in Barcelona" Facebook group:
    Two people in the same bank will tell you two different things. It seems that if the Spanish Admin people think your application is going to be even a tiny bit more paperwork for them - they will just send you away. Paperwork is key here. The bank must have printed out at least 100 sheets of paper for my bank account and I must have signed my signature at least 20 times. Preparation is the key! Make sure you have proof of address and your registration from the local police and your passport. You can open the account with as little as 10 or 20 Euros - but be prepared to go to same bank 2 or 3 times until you find someone who will actually help.

    From comments on Young Adventuress' "10 Mistakes Auxiliares in Spain Make Again and Again":
    All the banks in Spain will try to screw you over ... And it seems to vary more from branch to branch than bank to bank, so it's a matter of luck. ... I suggest just being super cautious, asking tons of questions, and sticking to your guns no matter where you open your Spanish bank account.

    Surviving for two years with a Spanish bank account may be the biggest accomplishment of my life. Sigh.


    Before opening an account you should visit different banks, or even better savings banks to find the best one. You've got to carefully read the contract before signing just to see if there's a fee when closing the account, or to see if there's a monthly or yearly fee on the credit card, or the famous 'maintenance fee'.

    Anyway, the best to do is to withdraw 99% of the money before closing the account, so if there's a fee of the remaining money you'll pay a tiny amount. ...

    An example of what a Spanish bank might require you to fill out for FATCA compliance (bank has to report your info to USA): HSBC's "FATCA overview".

    From someone on "American Expats in Spain" Facebook group:
    "Banks don't give out credit in Spain like they do in the States! You need stable income to qualify for a card, and even then the credit limits are extremely low."

    From someone else on "American Expats in Spain" Facebook group:
    "I was not given a credit card in Spain until I had been with ING for three years. Tried at Cajasol, La Caixa and Citibank. Good luck!"

    If possible, don't close your US bank account, and don't tell your US bank that you're living abroad (they might close your account). This would require that you still have a USA mailing address, and may have tax implications.

    From discussion on /r/Barcelona:
    > I want a Spanish bank account which I
    > can use via internet/phone app.

    ING Direct. €0 bank fees with your salary, VISA Gold and debit VISA free, possibility to get your monthly salary in advance in the middle of the month for €8 (regardless of your salary quantity) with no limitation and everything is controllable via web/Android/Windows Phone/iOS app or mobile web. [But the web site has no English.]

    Triodos: an ethical and sustainable bank. [But the web site is not good, and no mobile app.] Also: 5 free SEPA transfers/month, no fees, and good karma.

    Evobanco: the cool thing is that you can use any cash machine in the world without paying commissions. Also the use of credit card is for free. I had trouble with La Caixa and was treated like an idiot, when I went to Evo they were very nice and treated me like a normal person. Their website is also quite clear.

    Paraphrased from's "Money & Banking in Spain":
    ING Direct:
    • There is no English language version of their Spanish banking website.
    • They currently have three branches in Barcelona which are open all day including Saturday. Most of the traditional Spanish banks only open their branches in the mornings.
    • Account types: cuenta naranja (a current account but needs to be connected to an existing account at another bank in Spain), cuenta nomina (an independent current account, however this can only be set up if you pay your salary into the account), cuenta sin nomina (aimed at self-employed people).
    From someone on "American Expats in Spain" Facebook group 9/2014:
    Cuenta Naranja is a savings account, that's why it needs to be linked to a current account.


    "Nomina" means direct deposit from your employer. "Sin Nomina" means without direct deposit. So, there are two different types of checking accounts, one that requires direct deposit, and one that doesn't. It appears the "sin nomina" requires you to have a balance of at least 3000 euros, while the other one doesn't have that requirement as long as you have direct deposit. It's pretty much the same kind of deal as most banks.

    From Mejor Inglés's "Getting a Bank Account":
    "ING Direct - a great choice, but you will need the physical NIE card. Look into it after you get your card if you want a change. They have credit and debit cards that are completely free, even for those who aren't under 26."

    From someone on "Expats in Spain" Facebook group 4/2016:
    I use ING Direct. Steer clear. I will dump them when I have a chance even if it costs me more. While online is appealing, the Spanish way of doing business is still culturally face to face. The "Direct" services haven't yet matured.

    It's my impression that Spanish banks charge low or no fees if you're depositing a salary or pension into the account automatically every month. But I'm a retiree living off savings, not pension, so I don't have this situation.

    Bankia has a "SIN Comisiones" (no commissions) program that charges no fees if your salary/pension is deposited every month. For retirees with savings but no pension, to get the same program, you must maintain a balance of €75,000 !

    Stopped in a Caixa Blue in Barcelona 11/2014, and the story was: maintenance fee of €12 every 3 months, and the only way to make the fee go away is to have direct deposit of paycheck or pension.

    Apparently Correos offers a checking account; €20/quarter fee unless you deposit paycheck and pay utilities out of the account.
    Cuenta Nomina BanCorreos (see footnotes at bottom)

    I asked about Triodos on /r/spain 6/2016 and got:
    Yeah, I have an account with them.
    - So far no problems, they never tried to contact me to sell me unwanted stuff, and I can do all my stuff online.
    - The account itself doesn't require any maintenance fees, although, if you want a debit/credit card you'll need to pay a yearly fee (I think it's €18). Also, they will take a fee for every bank transfer you do after the 5th.
    - No English after logging in.


    Facebook page "Triodos Bank España"

    No-fee bank accounts ?
    [Note: no English on ANY of their web sites.]
    Banco Mediolanum
    bancopopular-e (backed by Banco Popular; use Banco Popular, Banco Pastor and Targobank ATMs for free)
    EVO Banco (site has English once logged in as client ?)
    ING Direct (no fees if keep €2000 in account ?)
    i-santander (backed by Santander; use Santander ATMs for free)
    openbank (backed by Santander; use Santander and Banesto ATMs for free)
    Self Bank (backed by La Caixa; use La Caixa ATMs for free)
    Triodos (charges fee for ATM use ?)
    uno-e (backed by BBVA; use BBVA ATMs for free)

    New, and has English: N26

    Traditional banks:
    CaixaBank (red signs; being acquired by BBVA ?)
    La Caixa (blue signs; being acquired by BBVA ?)
    Santander (no English on web site)

    These days, there is a Facebook Group about just about every big bank, so you could go on there and see what customers are saying, and ask questions.

    Spanish banks charge higher fees to non-residents than to residents. So when you get your residencia, go to your bank and get the status noted and the fees changed. And there may be an extra "non-resident certificate" fee if you open an account before having an NIE.

    If US citizen has $10K or more in a non-US bank account at any time during the year, must file FBAR form, FinCEN Report 114 (by April 15 each year). See my Taxes in Spain page.

    Some people complain of accounts (especially with ING Direct) suddenly and in explicably being frozen. This seems to have to do with IRS form W-9. Perhaps you should ask your bank for this form as soon as you open the account.

    I opened an account at Triodos 6/2016:
    Office in Barcelona is near Verdaguer Metro. Office is open limited hours, so lots of people waiting. Find the roving receptionist-guy and put your name on the list.

    Opening a "current" account without ATM card or credit card was quick and easy. The lady's English wasn't great, and my Spanish is bad, but we got it done. Showed my passport and residence card, also gave my Spanish mailing address and email address and mobile number and US Social Security number and US mailing address. Indicated on a form that I was paying taxes in both USA and Spain. They don't take cash; you have to do a bank-transfer to put money in, or just open the account with no money in it. If you're intending to pay bills (such as tax bill), as I am, you have to have a current account, not a savings account. I left with a copy of the contract, and information for logging in online (6-numeric-digit password, and 8-character authentication string).

    About 2 hours later, at home, I tried to log in online, and had problems. In Firefox, was able to generate a new password, which was sent to me via SMS, but never could get a login page. Switched to Internet Explorer, got the login page okay (works on Chrome, too), but no combination of information (NIE or passport number, and old password or new) was accepted. I sent a message about it to Facebook page "Triodos Bank España" and got a response, but then they were gone for the weekend.

    But then 2.5 days after opening the account, logging in worked. No choice of languages; Spanish only. Can't get the "we use cookies" banner to go away, on any browser. Firefox still can't get login page; maybe one of my add-ons is preventing that ?

    Transferred some money into the account from USA using Transferwise; no problem.

    Triodos's web site has pages for paying various government taxes, IVA, Social Security, etc. I paid my Spanish wealth tax (714) through this.

    An annual (I guess) maintenance fee of €0.67 appeared on my account 31 Dec 2016.

    I'm told it's a bit hard to get a Spanish credit card, and not many Spaniards use them ?

    TPG's "Avoiding ATM Withdrawal Fees When Traveling Abroad"

    Stores don't do cash-back when you pay with a debit card.

  9. Get a Spanish Social Security number and card (cartilla de la seguridad social).

    For workers; US citizens must present a work permit to get a SS number. Many sources say a student can get a SS number; others say no.

    Application form: TA.1, "Solicitud de: Afiliacion a la Seguridad Social, Asignacion de Numero de Seguridad Social y Variacion de Datos" (PDF)

    Could a US citizen non-worker (retiree) choose to pay into social security (€250/month ?) so that they get NHS health coverage and care ? What is the amount ?

    There is a "Social Security Totalization Agreement" between USA and Spain; this covers how a worker pays into one or the other SS system, and avoids double taxation and double coverage.
    Taxes For Expats's "U.S. International Social Security Agreements"
    Social Security's "U.S. International Social Security Agreements"

    Advoco's "Should you sign up for Spanish social security?"
    MumAbroad's "Healthcare and Social Security"
    AngloINFO's "Health Insurance and Social Security"
    justlanded!BCN's "Spanish Social Security Number"
    NIE Barcelona's "Social Security Number"
    Expats in Spain's "Autonomo Social Security" (PDF)
    COMO's "Getting a Social Security Number in Spain"
    Spotahome's "How to Get Your Spanish Social Security Number in Madrid"
    Love From Andalucia's "Social Security Number"
    Wikiprocedure's "Spain - Obtain a Social Security Number"
    Seguridad Social's office locator
    Seguridad Social get a Cita Previa

    Some of the articles above say a student can get a SS number. But:
    From someone on "American Expats in Spain" Facebook group:
    "American here, I can personally say I was not allowed into SS until I started working. As a student I wasn't eligible."

    I got an SS number, even though I'm not a worker, because I want to apply for Convenio Especial:
    Went to Seguridad Social SedeElectronica, changed language to English.

    Clicked "Citizens", then "Affiliation and Registration", then "Assignment of Social Security number".

    Chose my digital certificate, and got an "okay to check your ID ?" message. Clicked "Aceptar" at bottom of page.

    Got a form with some of my data filled in; filled in the empty fields. Clicked "Confirmar".

    And got a page saying "Your SS number has been assigned, here it is" !

    Copied the number, clicked icon to view a PDF, saved that to disk, done !

    [Went to local Centro Salud to apply for Convenio Especial, they said a bunch of things I think are wrong, and said I have to go to INSS and become "alta". So I'll try that online:]

    Went to Seguridad Social SedeElectronica, changed language to English.

    Clicked "Citizens", then "Affiliation and Registration", then "Registration in a special agreement". Went to "More information", then "Attached documentation", then document "Application for Registration, Deregistration and Change of details ...". Downloaded TGSS TA_0040 PDF file to disk.

    Filled in PDF form. But can't figure out what to put in section 3; none of the choices seem to apply to me (not a worker, not on pension, not EU citizen, not Swiss, etc).

    So got a cita:
    Went to Seguridad Social SedeElectronica, changed language to English. Clicked "Citizens", then "Appointment for pensions and other benefits". For type of cita, I selected "Servicios de Prestaciones:Informacion" and "Prestaciones Internac. (Reglamentos y Convenios), Informacion Prestaciones Internacionales (Reglamentos CE y Convenios Bilaterales).". First cita available is 8 days from now. Selected it, appears in the list, received email confirming it.

  10. Health insurance and health care

    See my Health Insurance and Healthcare in Spain page.

  11. Maybe get a Spanish driving license (not easy or cheap for non-EU person).

    See my Driving in Spain page.

  12. If you're going to own property in Spain, you should have a Spanish will (testamento) to control disposition of the Spanish property, as well as your home-country will. Have the two wills reference each other. Also, investigate the inheritance tax situation.

    For simple situations, you can have a handwritten, unwitnessed, unnotarized will (testamento olografo). Can be registered with the registry of wills (Registro Central de Ultima Voluntad) if you wish. But after death, relatives must appear before judge to authenticate the handwriting ?

    From Myra on CAB FB group 10/2014:
    "Visit a good notary and you should only pay around 60/80 for a two-column two-language will."

    From Legal 4 Spain's "Will FAQs":
    One of the major reasons for delays in Spanish probate is beneficiaries being without an N.I.E. number. It is essential for every beneficiary to have an N.I.E. before they can inherit. ...
    From Myra on CAB FB group 10/2014:
    Firstly, wills made in Spain for Spanish properties and assets only, there is no need for the will to go to probate so no delays. All transactions in Spain which include taxes entails the need of a NIE. NIE's can be obtained in a few days so no delay. ... No you cannot just ask for monies to be sent to other countries as you must go through the inheritance process here.

    From Hola España Magazine - An Expat's Guide to Everything - 1st Edition:
    A new EU regulation from 17th August 2015, also allows an individual to elect, via his Will, for the succession law of his country of nationality to apply to his death.


    It is the person who receives the assets, whether by way of a lifetime gift or as a bequest, who is liable to pay the tax ..., and the rates of tax applied depends on:
    • The relationship between the donor and the donee.
    • How much is being inherited.
    • The value of assets that the donee already has in Spain.
    • Where the deceasedVdonor and the beneficiaries are resident.

    However, ... the ownership of an asset cannot be transferred until the tax is paid. As you cannot sell the asset to pay the tax, problems can arise for the beneficiaries in Spain, where tax usually has to be paid within six months of the death.

    To further complicate matters, each autonomous region of Spain may set its own exemptions and rates of tax. This can make the rates and allowances more or less beneficial, depending on the region.

    AngloINFO's "Making a Spanish Will"
    Raymundo Larrain Nesbitt's "Spanish Inheritance Tax: Advantages of Making a Will in Spain"
    Expats in Spain's "Making a Spanish Will" (PDF)
    iAbogado's "El testamento y sus tipos"
    Legal 4 Spain's "Will FAQs"
    Aherencias's "Testamento" (Spanish)
    Bujarrabal's "Como hacer testamento" (Spanish)

    Heredium Abogados's "Modelos de Testamento" (Spanish only)
    MyPatrimony's "Ejemplo de Testamento Notarial Dinamico" (Spanish only)
    Abogae's "Testamento Abierto" (Spanish only)

    What happens when the person dies and the will is probated:
    myAdvocate Spain's "Inheritance With a Spanish Will"

    See "Inheritance and gift taxes" section of my Taxes in Spain page.

  13. How to do a Spanish health-care directive or "living will" ?

    Called Documento de Voluntades Anticipadas (DVA).

    Your document might have to be notarized, and registered with the govt ? Not sure if this is done on a provincial, regional or national basis.

    Notaria F. Javier Ramos's "Guia Practica Documento de Voluntades Anticipadas" (PDF)
    Alzheimer Europe's "Advance directives" (PDF) 5/2005
    AECC's "Voluntades Anticipadas"
    Andalucia's "A Guide to Making an Advance Health Care Directive" (PDF) 2013
    Andalucia's "Registro de Voluntades Vitales Anticipadas"
    Vall d'Hebron Hospital's "Patient's Anticipated Will"

  14. Spanish funeral arrangements.

    Spanish News Today's "Understanding The Funeral Process In Spain"

    Golden Leaves' "Funeral Plans in Spain"
    Avalon's "European Plans - FAQs"

    What happens if you die with no plan, no assets, no one claims the body/ashes ? I don't want any funeral etc. But my heirs back in USA would need to get a death certificate.

    Apparently cheap cardboard or wicker coffin for cremation is illegal in Spain; any coffin must be hermetically sealed.

  15. Get a library card (carnet, or tarjeta de biblioteca).

    Free, just show any form of ID (passport, residency card, etc) and give your address. Might need to show your padron ? [In Nou Barris in Barcelona, can show passport and padron application and NIE; don't have to have padron or residency card.] You might be able to apply online and then pick up the card at the library.

    As far as I can tell, about the only English-language thing in the libraries is Time magazine. But: the library is a nice place to rest, they have restrooms, you can borrow CD's and DVD's, you can use internet computer, use Wi-Fi, they may have printer and scanner, bulletin board and maybe email list to find out about neighborhood events, etc.

    Your library card may give you discounted admission at some museums and other places.

    "Para devolver" to return items, and "para llevar" to check out items.

  16. If over 65 years old, get a pensioner's card ("Tarjeta 65", "gold card", "Tarjeta Del Jubilado", or various other names).

    These vary by province. There are two kinds: "normal" card, and "gold" card (which is for low-income people). Must be a resident, on the padron, and over 65 years old. Benefits: discounts on bus travel, eyeglasses, hearing aids, legal advice, meal service, more.

    Myra Azzopardi Swainson's "Tarjeta Andalucia Junta Sesenta Y Cinco Andalucia (65 Card)"

  17. Various local services.

    I'm Moving To Barcelona's "Barcelona City Bike - Bicing"

The Local's "Moving to Spain: a guide for beginners"
ExpatForum's "FAQs & lots of useful info" (links to lots of forms etc)
/r/Barcelona's "movingchecklist"
Service of attention to immigrants, foreigners and refugees (SAIER) (in Barcelona)

Timing of the process for me, in Barcelona:

Bureaucracy humor: 036 (video)

While Living In Spain

"Expats in Spain" Facebook group
"American Expats in Spain" Facebook group
"Citizens Advice Bureau Spain" Facebook group
Expats in Spain's "Information Files"
Tumbit Spain's "Legal Formalities How to Guides & Articles"
Citizens Advice Bureau Spain (requires free registration to see documents)
SpainGuru's "Spanish Extranjeria General Info"
Wikiprocedure's "Procedures for Spain"

Melissa Parks' "10 Tips for Staying Sane Overseas"
Tom Burgess's "Why don't we have any Spanish friends?"

Connect online to US notary: Notarize

Android app to watch US TV on your phone: Mobdro. Install not through Play Store, but by opening a browser and going to "". If you connect your TV to Wi-Fi and turn on "screen sharing" or "mirroring" or something, you could watch on your TV.

Android apps for Spain:
"Google Maps" offline option doesn't work in Spain; instead use "Here Maps" app (remember to download the maps for your region).
"Google Translate"; works offline; download language packs, including English.

Learning Spanish

I want to attain "conversational fluency": enough vocabulary and spelling and pronunciation so that I can understand everyday Spanish and read it and speak it. As a complete beginner, I'm not very interested in the details of grammar and tenses and such. [Now, as an advanced-beginner, I'm starting to focus more on the details.]

Google Translate (and click on speaker button to hear pronunication)
Bing Translator

Browser add-on for translating web pages:
Google translate for https/http (but saving the translated page to disk doesn't work properly ? And recently it seems to have stopped working on Firefox)
TranslateThis (Firefox only; uses Google Translate)

Translate PDF file from Spanish to English (may not work for some PDF files):
SDL Free Translation (gives TXT file)
I think Google Translate can do this, too.

If you have a smartphone, there are apps that let you hold the camera up to some text or a sign, and will translate it for you.
Jacob Brogan's "Google's Translate App Is Now Indispensable for International Travelers"

Melanie Pinola's "Top 10 Tips and Tools for Learning a New Language"

Before taking classes or listening to learn-Spanish podcasts, review basic terms of grammar:
Simple English Wikipedia's "English grammar"
Wikipedia's "English grammar"

Duolingo (at first, too picky for my taste).

Free learn-Spanish audio podcasts:
Coffee-Break Spanish
Notes in Spanish
Spanish Pod 101
Spanish Obsessed
LanguageTreks "Discover Spanish"
FSI's "Spanish Basic Course"
News in Slow Spanish

Notes from Spain's "General Spanish learning tips" (no longer being updated)
Languages4Life's "Vocabulary for successful phone conversations in Spanish"
Emma Cary's "7 Simple Tricks To Learn Some Spanish"

SpanishDict's "Spanish Verb Conjugation"
jasarris's "Spanish Verb Conjugations"
Lingolex's "Spanish Verb forms Reference Chart"
Wikipedia's "Spanish pronouns"

Take classes in Spain:
International House
International House in Barcelona's "Almost free Spanish lessons for adults" (great deal, but if not enough students sign up, classes are not given)
Transitions Abroad's "Spanish Language Schools in Spain"
Oxford House (Barcelona)'s "Learn Spanish in Barcelona"
Barcelona Life's "Learn Spanish in Barcelona"
BCN Languages, in Gracia
Useful Languages
Dime Barcelona
ILAB Academy

Typical rate for group lessons seems to be in the range of €5 to €6 per hour.

My experience with IH's "Almost free Spanish lessons for adults" 8/2015 in Barcelona:

About 5 student-teachers, often one supervising teacher monitoring them, about 10 students. But the number of students declines over the duration of the class, so maybe 5 by the end. Class runs 2 hours per day, 4 days per week, for 3 weeks, costs €40.

The teachers are under a strict "only speak Spanish" rule, so understanding the instructions for each segment is very hard. A lot of time is wasted trying to figure out what they're asking you to do, not focusing on learning parts of the language.

This class definitely is NOT for complete beginners. You'll be totally lost if you don't come in knowing a fair amount of basic vocabulary, some numbers, basic pronunciation, etc. Also, bring an English-Spanish dictionary !

Although I didn't like many things about the class, just being forced to go regularly and look things up during and after class and review after class made me learn a lot.

At the end, for completing the course, they refunded €20, so the net cost for 24 hours of class was €20.

Info about IH's "Part-time Spanish courses" 3/2016 in Barcelona:

Course is 4 hours a week (2 hours for two days a week), lasting 10 weeks, for €310. So that's 40 hours, €8/hour.

Classes located at Trafalgar 14, near Urquinaona Metro station.

Info about BCN Languages 3/2016 in Barcelona:

"Standard" course is 3 hours a week (1.5 hours for two days a week), lasting 3 months, for €310. So that's about 39 hours, €8/hour.

"Intensive" course is 4 lessons (50 minutes each) per day, 5 days per week. 4 weeks for €584. So that's about 67 hours, €8.7/hour.

Classes located in Gracia, between Diagonal and Fontana Metro stations.

Info about Dinamo 3/2016 in Barcelona:

"Part Time" course is 3 hours a week (1.5 hours for two days a week), for €75/month. So if that's 12 hours, €6/hour.

"Semi Intense" course is 5 lessons (1.5 hours each) per week, for €180/month. So if that's 30 hours, €6/hour.

Classes located at Carrer de Lluis el Piados 9, between Urquinaona and Arc de Triomf Metro stations.

Info about Useful Languages 3/2016 in Barcelona:

Classes located at Carrer d'Arago 245, near Passeig de Gracia Metro station.

Info about Dime Barcelona 3/2016 in Barcelona:

"Extensive" course is 4 hours a week (2 hours for two days a week), for €145/4weeks. So that's €9/hour.

"Extensive 3" course is 6 hours a week (2 hours for three days a week), for €195/4weeks. So that's €8/hour.

"Intensive" course is 5 lessons (2 hours each) per week, for €285/4weeks. So that's €7/hour.

Classes located at Placa Lesseps, near Lesseps Metro station.

My experience with Dime Barcelona 4/2016 in Barcelona:

I joined an in-progress A.1 class for 1 month, 2 hours per day for 2 days a week. Started with total of 4 students, soon down to 2, last day had me as only student. I was sick with headaches for a week in the middle, but kept going to classes. Worked through Difusion's "Aula 1" textbook (on Amazon).

Everyone at school was super-friendly and helpful. And they had a free 1-hour "cultural" class once a week; I went to 3 of those.

But the classes were a bit expensive, and tended to start 5 minutes late and end 5 minutes early. I learned some good stuff, but decided not to continue. I was going on vacation for the next month anyway. And I'll try to work through the textbook on my own.

Total cost for 9 two-hour classes plus textbook was €183; that's €9/hour.

Info about ILAB Academy 3/2016 in Barcelona:

"Extensive" course is 4 hours a week (2 hours for two days a week), for €135/4weeks. So that's €8/hour.

Classes located at Balmes 21, between Universitat and Passeig de Gracia Metro stations.

Info about ELE USAL 3/2016 in Barcelona:

"Extensive" course is 4 hours a week, for €160/month. So that's about €10/hour.

Classes located at Carrer de Fontanella 21-23, near Urquinaona Metro station.

Wikitravel's "Spanish phrasebook"
Fodor's "Spanish Travel Phrases"
TravelPhrase's "Spanish Phrasebook"
BBC's "Languages: Spanish" (no longer being updated)

Rick Steves' "Spanish Phrase Book & Dictionary" (on Amazon)
"Lonely Planet Spanish Phrasebook & Dictionary" (on Amazon)

For me as a beginner, I found it best to buy a phrasebook, and also listen to learn-Spanish audio podcasts.
[But I happened to start with a "Latin American Spanish" phrasebook, and that caused minor problems when I later went to Spanish class in Spain. There are some differences.]

When I got to advanced-beginner, I found it useful to read the text-crawl on Spanish TV news, do my Spanish income taxes online, and read a Spanish drivers-license study guide. I learn best if there is some interesting/useful context, where I know much of the meaning, but need to look up some words. And where I'm motivated to learn the material.

Attend language-learning-oriented social events or clubs in Spain, or do language-exchange ("intercambio").
Go to International House, click on your region, then look for a blog. For Barcelona, it is here.

Language "common reference levels" (A1, A2, B1, etc)

Terms in officialdom:

Abaco Advisers' "Glossary of legal and tax professionals in Spain"
Just Landed's "The legal system"
British Consulate-General Madrid's "English speaking lawyers in Spain" (PDF)

Some places in Spain have other languages in addition to Spanish: Catalan, Valenciana, Euskara, Galician, Asturian, etc. This can be a big issue if you will put children in the public schools; classes may be taught in the local language.
Lost in Sant Cugat's "Mono-lingual Catalan education in Catalonia"

Some locals are quite militant about their local language: "you should learn Catalan, not Spanish". But I'm TERRIBLE at languages; it's going to be a horrible, multi-year effort for me to learn a second language to a not-very-fluent level. Should I spend that effort to learn a language spoken by over 400 million people in 30 or more countries, or to learn a language spoken by about 12 million people mainly in two or three provinces of one country ? [And it turned out that after a year or so, my lady and I moved from Catalunya to Andalucia.]

On my second one-week trip to Andalucia, I started to realize how much easier it is to learn Spanish there instead of in Barcelona. In Andalucia, every sign, every conversation is Spanish only; no Catalan. Makes everything easier.

Apparently various regions of Spain pronounce Spanish slightly differently: Andalucia leaves off "s" at ends of words ? Also local dialects (words) ? And Spanish in Latin America and South America can differ from Castilian Spanish in Spain, by pronunciation (such as letter "c") and words.

Likely to happen: this
Helpful translations on product packaging: Ketchup, Frying pan
Bilingual sign
Using Google Translate
Could be worse: words
How to conjugate verbs in Spanish

Quora's "How did the Arab occupation of Spain influence the Spanish language?"

Really not my business, but my opinions on Catalan independence:


Typical "what should I know before moving to Spain ?" tips from people who have done it already:

Spain has 17 regions (AKA autonomous communities) and 50 provinces within those regions. For example, Andalucia is a region that consists of the provinces of Huelva, Sevilla, Cordoba, Jaen, Granada, Almeria, Malaga, and Cadiz. Often the province will have the same name as its major city.

As far as I can tell, Spanish criminal law and rights of citizens and suspects are almost identical to those in USA. A few exceptions: more explicit "social" or "human" rights in Spain, and jury trials are much rarer in Spain. One law to be aware of: it is illegal to photograph the police.

If someday you decide to stop living in Spain, what has to be done ?

Richelle de Wit's "What To Do When Leaving Spain For Good"
AngloINFO's "Leaving Spain and Moving On"

Things that don't affect me, but I've heard about:

American Citizens Abroad (ACA)

Scams that affect everyone, but may have an expat wrinkle:

US Social Security survivor's benefits:

I am a US citizen, eligible to collect US Social Security benefits. If I reside in Spain and marry a Spanish citizen, then later I die, will my Spanish spouse be able to collect survivor's benefits from US Social Security ? If my spouse is already collecting Spanish Social Security benefits, what happens ?

There is a "Social Security Totalization Agreement" between USA and Spain. Such agreements are designed to avoid double-taxation, and also double-collection of benefits.
Taxes For Expats's "U.S. International Social Security Agreements"
Social Security's "U.S. International Social Security Agreements"

Spouse is required to have lived in USA for 5 years, except if there is a "totalization agreement" between the countries; the agreement may override this.
Social Security's "RS 02610.025 5 Year Residency Requirement for Alien Dependents/Survivors Outside the United States (U.S.)"

Spouse must reside in USA to collect benefits, according to: Tom Streissguth's "Can My Non-citizen Wife Receive Social Security Benefits After I Die?". Similar in Misty A. Watson's "Social Security Survivor Benefits for Noncitizens". But depends on country, and Spain is an exception, according to: Chad Creveling's "U.S. Social Security Tips for Expats & Non-Resident Alien Spouses".

tigerstark's "A guide to spain"
Matt St. John's "Spain vs. the USA illustrated"
Europe according to Spaniards from Alphadesigner

From Dave Barry's "Only Travel Guide You'll Ever Need":
Measurements in Europe

Europe operates under the metric, or communist, system of measurement. The main units are the kilometer, the hectare, the thermometer, the pfennig, the libra, the megawatt, and the epigram. These are all very easy to remember because all you have to do is divide them by a specific number, possibly 100. ...

This page updated: May 2017.

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