Living in Spain

Bill having lunch

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.

When you arrive at the airport in Spain, make sure Immigration puts an entry stamp in your passport, and make sure it is legible. You will need this later.

Tips for official procedures

  • From justlanded!BCN's "Learn Spanish in Barcelona":
    "Do not expect to find people in the public administration who speak English. Our advice is to bring a Spanish-speaking friend with you to translate."

    Definitely install a browser add-on for translating web pages or text selections, such as TranslateThis. Invaluable when dealing with official web sites.

  • If possible, choose a smaller office that does fewer procedures, not a big central office that does everything. Lines and completion times are likely to be better. But your residency application has to be done somewhere that does "Certificados de residencia a no comunitarios", not just "Expedicion de TIE ..." or "Entrega TIE ...".
    Policia Nacional's "Extranjeria en las Delegaciones del Gobierno"

  • Check online ahead of time to see if you can get an appointment, instead of having to go to the office and wait.
    (Maybe look on a site for the specific office, or see Cale Gram's "How the f*ck does the Spanish appointment system work?")
    Print out the appointment info (Cita Previa); you may have to show it at the door.
    For Barcelona local govt appointments: Ciutadans | Oficina virtual

  • If you don't have an appointment, get to the office early, maybe an hour before opening time. There may be a long line, or they may hand out appointment numbers before opening the office.

  • Be prepared for possible hours-long waits in some offices; bring a book, music, water, snack, even toilet-paper in case the bathroom has none. You may have to wait outside; maybe bring an umbrella.

  • Print forms online, and fill them out at home before going to the office.

    Fee-payment forms (tasas) probably can't be obtained online; have to get paper form (which may be triplicate carbon-copy) at the office, they will write the proper amount and reason and account number on it, you fill out the rest, take it to a bank to pay it, take it back to the office.

    Some banks only process tasa forms in the morning, maybe until 10:30 ? Some only process them on certain days of the week. Most banks close at 2. You can't pay a tasa at an ATM.

  • Before leaving the office, check newly-issued official documents for errors. Make sure they have given back your important original documents (passport, birth certificate, etc).

  • From Practical Spain's "NIE / NIF Registration and Residencia Application":
    Caution! You will often be asked to show your NIE registration or Residencia documents at the various ministries etc. Always carry photocopies but never allow anyone to retain your original.

  • If you get totally stuck on something, you might try coming back another day (official might be having a better day, or you might get a different official), or try consulting a gestoria (see below). Maybe ask the official to write a short note explaining the problem, and take it to a Spanish-fluent friend.

    From people on "American Expats in Spain" Facebook group:
    First caveat of Spanish bureaucracy: nothing happens now, tomorrow or the next day, but is not unusual that when the day after tomorrow arrives everything already happened yesterday. No time travel involved.

    Second rule of Spanish bureaucracy: the more confusing and contradictory something seems to you, the more likely the bureaucrats are equally confused, so there's a lot of luck involved in whether the particular funcionario who deals with you interprets the latest legislation in a way favorable to you or not.

    From someone on "Spain Immigration and Residency Questions" Facebook group:
    ... free help office, which most cities have for immigrants, do NOT be afraid to go by there and ask, they're extensions of the extranjeria.

    When possible, keep things simple, don't tell the officials about complications:
    From someone on "American Expats in Spain" Facebook group:
    [While doing pareja de hecho:] If you are dual citizen, lie and never ever mention that other non-EU passport. If you are a UK passport holder and married and divorced in your other country ... never mention it. They have no way to search for it especially after you get a search of no trace from the UK. [If you tell them about the other things, they will demand official paperwork from the other countries.]

  • I'm told: after getting official documents such as padron or residency card, do not laminate them. Instead slide them into plastic sleeves to protect them. And of course make photocopies and electronic copies right away.

Getting paid help:
+/- Some of these chores can be done for you by an agency (for a fee) before you arrive in Spain:
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.
Link Point Legal's "Abogado, Solicitor, Notary, or Consultant?"
Tori Sparks' "Do You Need a Gestor?"
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:
  • NIE: personal ID number for foreigners. Format usually "LnnnnnnnL".
  • DNI: personal ID number for Spanish citizens. Format usually "nnnnnnnnL".
  • NIF: VAT/Tax registration number for individuals. Usually same as NIE or DNI ?
  • CIF: VAT/Tax registration number for businesses.
  • Social Security Number: two forms, which may be identical:
    • NAF (Numero de Afiliacion a la Seguridad Social). Format usually "nn-nnnnnnnnnn".
    • NUSS (Numero de la Seguridad Social). Format usually "LLnnnnnnnnnn".
    Capitalibre's "¿Que es el NUSS? ¿Y el NAF?"
    Jose Trecet's "NUSS y NAF, que son y por que te interesa saberlo"
  • NUHSA (Numero de Historia Unica de Salud de Andalucia): health system number for Andalucia. Usually same as NUSS ?
Strong Abogados' "NIE, CIF, VAT#: Tax ID numbers in Spain"
Spanish-Living's "ID Numbers in Spain: NIE, CIF, VAT"

  • Padron (Certificado de Empadronamiento). Actually a paper page.
  • Residencia card (Tarjeta de Residencia). Actually says "Permiso de residencia" on it. Sometimes referred to as TIE.
  • [Was obsolete:] TIE (tarjeta de identificacion de extranjero): gives NIE.
    Old card was green A4 sheet of paper; new card is credit-card-sized.
    From someone on reddit:
    "The TIE no longer exists; cards aren't given out any more to those who don't also hold legal residency."
    But apparently it's back again: article.
  • Social Security card (cartilla de la seguridad social).
  • TSI / SIP card: healthcare coverage by NHS.
  • TSE card: healthcare coverage by NHS valid throughout Europe.
  • Tarjeta Comunitaria: 5-year work/residence card which allows holders to move about Europe and in and out of Spain. Usually obtained by PdH or marriage to a Spanish citizen ?
    An Andalusian B*tch's "How to Apply for a Residence Card (Tarjeta Comunitaria) in Spain"
  • Tarjeta Azul de la Union Europea (Blue Card): a residence card and work permit entitling foreigners to work in highly qualified employment. But it is specific to each country; getting one in country A does not give you the right to work in country B, you have to apply for the equivalent card again there.
    EU Blue Card - Live and work in the European Union!
    Wikipedia's "Blue Card (European Union)"

  • Local govt: does the padron (Certificado de Empadronamiento).
  • National Police: does the Residencia card (Tarjeta de Residencia).
  • DGT (Direccion General de Trafico; "trafico"; Jefatura de Trafico): does drivers license, car registration, etc.
  • Hacienda (Agencia Tributaria): income tax.
  • INSS (Instituto Nacional de Seguridad Social): national authority for welfare, social security, employee / employer's rights and regulations, and state subsidies including health care, maternity, paternity, family benefits and school insurance.
  • TGSS (Tesoreria General de la Seguridad Social): local social security authority.
  • Salud: local healthcare authority.
  • SEPE (Servicio Publico de Empleo Estatal; formerly called INEM): employment / unemployment authority.
  • Aduana: Customs.

Just Landed's "The legal system"
Abaco Advisers' "Knowing your gestor from your abogado in Spain"

[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 "Extranjeria en las Delegaciones del Gobierno".

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.

    Often your internet provider will bundle phone service with internet service, and even give you free phones.

    Some people recommend prepaid phone with Lebara.

    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"
    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)"
    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"
    NIE Barcelona's "Empadronamiento"
    David Ruiz's "Ultimate Guide on the Padron"

    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 ?)
    Barcelona: Autorizacion de Inscripcion en el Padron Municipal

    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 certificate 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.

    After you're on the padron, later you might be able to print a copy online, or apply online and pick it up at a government office. But there are different types of padron certificates. And this online facility might not be available in all places.
    Gobierno de España's "Certificado y volante de empadronamiento"
    Ayuntament de Barcelona's "Volant de convivencia del Padro Municipal d'Habitants de la ciutat de Barcelona"

    Types of padron certificate [not sure]:
    • Certificado de empadronamiento (AKA Certificado individual de residencia, AKA padron para residencia, AKA Volante de residencia): shows you are living at an address in a town on a given date. Usually valid for official operations up to 3 months after issued.
    • Volante de empadronamiento colectivo (AKA Certificado colectivo de convivencia, AKA Volante de convivencia): lists all people living at an address in a town on a given date.
    • Padron historico (AKA Certificado historico de empadronamiento individual): shows you were living at an address in a town during a given range of dates.
    • Certificado historico de empadronamiento colectivo: shows all people living at an address in a town during a given range of dates.

  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" ("Tarjeta de Identidad de Extranjero") 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.

    Tumbit Spain's "Applying for Residential Status (Residencia) - Non-EU Citizens"
    Just Landed's "How to get your TIE in Spain"

    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 SEDE infoext2 ? [May have changed to SEDE login]
    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 ?

    Although everyone says you need to be on the padron first, and take a copy of padron to the appointment, padron is NOT required to apply for residency according to Gobierno de España's "Autorizacion inicial de residencia temporal no lucrativa".

    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 SEDE login]

    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.
    [Apparently no cita needed to go to Extranjeria in this case.]

    You have to inform Extranjeria if your address changes. Usually they don't 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 (in your browser).

    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. Someone said they're only for adults; a child can't have one.

    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 ...

    New: Pablo Gallardo's "How to get a Digital Certificate for Natural Persons in Spain"
    Peter Sauer's "Certificado Digital"
    Peter Moore and Peter Sauer's "How to Obtain a Digital Certificate For Your Computer"
    /r/Spain's digital_certificate wiki
    Notes from Navarra's "Applying for Spanish Nationality (Pt 1)"

    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 postal address and phone number in their database online.

    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 postal address or phone, no need to change the certificates. But you should notify the certificate authority that your postal address or phone has changed: update their database.

    After you install a certificate on one computer, you can save a backup copy of it and use that to install the same certificate on other computers. In your browser, go somewhere such as Tools / Options / Security / Certificates to view and operate on certificates.

    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"

    There also is some way to use a card-reader ("lector de tarjetas") attached to your computer. But I think a reader uses only the chip in a card, not the magnetic stripe. And only some health system cards and the citizen's DNI card contain chips; the residency card (TIE) does not. And not all government web sites support identification via card; I think for example the Andalucia Salud site does not.
    FNMT's "Lectores de Tarjetas"

    2022: New "Autofirma" thing they're doing:
    Portal Administracion Electronica's "Firma Electronica"
    Itigic's "AutoFirma: How to Sign Documents with a Digital Certificate"

    On Debian-family Linux:
    "sudo apt install libnss3-tools"
    Download from Descargas
    Extract, then:
    "sudo dpkg -i AutoFirma_*.deb"

    On Fedora-family Linux:
    "sudo dnf install nss"
    Download from Descargas
    Extract, then:
    "sudo dnf install autofirma-*.rpm"
    "sudo dnf install java-17-openjdk"

  8. Get a Spanish bank account.

    See my "Spain Money" page.

  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: form TA1 on Seguridad Social's "Worker Application Forms"

    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?"
    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"
    Alice Nabokova's "How to get your Social Security Number in Barcelona"
    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."

    Someone said the notary will read the will to you in Spanish, so you must understand Spanish or have a friend with you to translate.

    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 a professional on reddit 3/2023:
    Your will(s) should have a "statement on choice of law of citizenship versus residence" ? Because "with the EU, people can choose to have the succession laws of their country of citizenship/origin versus residence apply, because there are massive differences. In the EU, many countries have forced heirship rules, so which laws apply ... can make a huge difference."

    From a professional on reddit 3/2023:
    Re: whether I need two wills: "it is a subject of debate within the international planning community. There are some who say to do one worldwide Will. There are others who say to do one in each jurisdiction. ... I feel strongly that having documents in each main country that are part of one cohesive plan is the best way to go. ... I find this to be the most efficient way to actually accomplish their wishes in most situations."

    Balcells Group's "The Main Benefits of Drawing a Will in Spain for Expats"
    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"
    Gobierno Provincial Alicante's "Testamento"
    Bujarrabal's "Como hacer testamento"

    Abogae's "Testamento Abierto" (Spanish only)
    Not clear if you must name an executor (albacea). My wife says no, every example will says yes.

    My experience 11/2018 in Barcelona:
    • I wrote up a 1-page statement of data, ahead of appointment with notario. My name, address, NIE, birthplace, birthdate. Names of my parents and statement that they are deceased. Statement that I am married to my wife. Names and DNIs of my wife and the subsequent inheritor/executor (her sister) if my wife dies before me or at same time. Statement that it is my intention for the subsequent inheritor to use the money to educate the family's children, but that is not binding on her. No mention of USA or my siblings or assets there.

    • Went to appointment with notario's assistant. He copied all the information, didn't want to keep my nice 1-page writeup, but I insisted on giving it to him. He asked if this will covered assets in USA or just Spain; I said just Spain (we weren't going to even mention USA, but he brought it up). He needed to know our marriage regimen, which now is gananciales (apparently if we change that later, we'd have to file a new will). My "intention" statement can be put in the will, but is not legally binding, as expected. Copied our ID cards. Will should be ready in 2-3 workdays, cost about €50.

    • Went back. No need to appoint albaceas (executors) unless your affairs are complicated (house to sell, business to sell, whatever). Clause that says "if person A dies first, then person B inherits" is "sustituye vulgarmente". Full names and NIEs of inheritors go in the will. The will does say that our marriage regimen is gananciales. No mention of USA (except to say that my nationality is US), no specific mention of applying only to assets "in Spain".

      I signed the will in front of the notario; no need for witnesses, no one else had to sign. Paid €49 at front desk, got copia simple of the will (without signature page), done.

    • No need for us to do anything else with the will. Notario keeps the original in their files, and sends notice to central registry in Madrid that they have a will for me. When I die, someone will consult that registry to find out who has the latest will that I created. The will itself is private, it doesn't get published, we don't have to give copies to anyone if we wish.

    What happens immediately when the person dies:
    Living in the Canary Islands' "The Expat Guide to Death in Spain"
    Angloinfo's "Death and Dying In Spain"
    SpainHomes' "Funeral Process for Expats in Spain"
    Guides Global's "Dealing with a Death in Spain"

    From US State Dept's "Death Abroad":
    Upon issuance of a local (foreign) death certificate, the nearest embassy or consulate may prepare a Consular Report of the Death of an American Abroad. Copies of that report are provided to the next-of-kin or legal representative and may be used in U.S. courts to settle estate matters.

    General USA-oriented information: /r/personalfinance's "Death of a loved one"

    Inform US Social Security Administration of the death.

    What happens when the will is probated:
    Advocate Abroad's "Probate in Spain"
    Living in the Canary Islands' "Wills and Inheritance"

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

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

    See Healthcare Directive section of my Health in Spain page.

  14. Spanish life insurance.

    Smart Expat's "Life Insurance in Spain"

    Maybe try first through your bank.
    Bankia (max age 72)

    Spain Made Simple's "Online Quotes for Life Insurance"

    Does the beneficiary have to pay income tax on the amount they receive ? In USA, no (Georgia Rose's "Is Life Insurance Taxable?").

    Apparently "max age" means that the policy will not be renewed when you reach that age.

    A quote 7/2018 from InsuranceInSpain (a Liberty Seguros policy):
    Male 60 years old, living in Barcelona 08016, €200,000 life insurance payable in lump sum upon death from any cause.

    Annual premium in year 1: €1460.
    (increases each year)
    Annual premium in year 6: €2060.

    The quote ends at year 6.
    Policy will not be renewed after age 80.
    If premium keeps going up €100 per year, the year 20 premium would be about €3500.
    If you pay for 20 years, total premiums paid will be about €50,000.
    Got a quote from INOV Expat, also a Liberty Seguros policy, identical except premium starts at €1310 in year 1, seems to increase at same rate.

  15. Spanish funeral arrangements.

    See Funeral section of my "Health in Spain" page

  16. 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.

  17. If over 60 years old, there are some discounts available.

    Renfe's "Tarjeta Dorada Card" (€6 per year, free if you have Caixa ?)
    ALSA's "For people over 60"

    Barcelona's Tarjeta Rosa:
    Tarjeta Rosa

    Have to give your spouse's info too when applying, I guess to establish income level.

    Card took 3 months to arrive in mail.

    If you're very-low-income, card will have big "G" on it and say "Gratuita", you have to pay a tasa of €7 or so to activate the card, and you don't have to pay anything for each trip. If instead card says "Tarifa Reduida", I think you have to pay to activate and then pay reduced fare for each trip. Valid on bus, metro, FGC train, tram. Have to carry DNI or TIE with the card.

    Valid for about 1 year, then a new one will arrive automatically.

    Barcelona's "Tarjeta Rosa"

  18. If over 65 years old:

    Get a government pensioner's card ("Tarjeta 65", "Tarjeta Mayores", "gold card", "Tarjeta Del Jubilado", "Tarjeta Sesentaycinco", 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.
    Richelle de Wit's "How Do I Apply For Tarjeta 65 In Andalucia or Valencia?"

    Various museums and services may say "discount for pensioners", but that really means discount for 65 or older, you don't have to be literally collecting a pension payment every month to qualify.

    Barcelona: Android app "BCN+65" (just information and notices).

  19. 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 Centre for Immigrants, Emigrants and Refugees (SAIER) (in Barcelona)

Timing of the process for me, in Barcelona

  • End of July: long-stay visa granted; contains NIE.
  • Oct 12: started trying to get a residencia appointment online; none available.
  • Oct 15: entered Spain on long-stay visa.
  • Oct 18: made appointment to do padron. (Was able to get appt with no delay.)
  • Oct 19: Did padron; got pink paper saying I've applied for it; real certificate will come in the mail in 2-3 weeks.
  • Oct 21: Got IdCAT digital certificate. But their server is having problems, so it's mostly useless.
  • Oct 22: Finally got a residency appointment online, after trying a hundred times over the last week. Appointment is for Nov 2.
  • Oct 27: Received padron in the mail.
  • Nov 2: Had my residency appointment.
  • Nov 24: Picked up my residency card.
  • Nov 25: Updated padron to include info from my residency card.

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
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"

Notarizing a US will:
There seem to be no independent US notaries in Spain, despite many requests seeking one.

The US consulate in Barcelona and the embassy in Madrid do not notarize wills, but might do trusts. 11/2018 I asked Madrid why they don't do wills, and got this:
Please find below the regulations.


7 FAM 843.1 Prohibitions Against Consular Action

(CT:CON-449; 03-25-2013)

a. The role of U.S. Department of State officers in connection with the execution of wills is limited. 22 CFR 92.81 prohibits notarizing officers from writing wills or accepting a will for safekeeping.

b. Do Not Witness Wills: Notarizing officers also are prohibited from witnessing wills or obtaining witnesses for a person desiring to have a will executed at a Foreign Service post. See 22 CFR 92.81. Notarizing officers may, however, acknowledge the signatures of testators and or witnesses to self proving wills, as provided for under the Uniform Probate Code, Article II, Part 10.

b. International Wills Act: U.S. consular officers and other notarizing officers cannot execute the certificate under the Uniform International Wills Act (1977) (Uniform Probate Code, as enacted in the individual U.S. state (see National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws (NCCUSL) NCCUSL A Few Facts About the International Will Act), because the United States has not, to date, become a party to the Convention Providing a Uniform Law on the Form of an International Will of October 26, 1973.

> I responded that I don't see any prohibition against notarizing, yet
> the web page says they don't do it, and got this response:

The notarizing officers at U.S. Consulates cannot notarize wills.

> My guess: notarizing a will would be "witnessing a will", which is prohibited.
> Is a "normal" will a "self-proving" will ?

Connect online to US notary:
Notarize ($25; must have USA mailing address)

Result will be an electronic document that you can email or print; it won't put your signature onto an existing paper document, such as something printed on special paper or with raised stamps or seals.

From Notarize Support 4/2018:
"Unfortunately, wills, trusts, and estates are explicitly exempt from federal eSign laws so it's not possible to complete these documents electronically at this time."

My experience with Notarize 1/2018, notarizing a bill of sale:
  • Good customer support. A little too eager at times, with chat messages popping up unsolicited.
  • You have to name a state for which the document applies, which is a problem if you're submitting a document to the US federal govt. Use the state you reside in, or used to reside in, maybe.
  • They can't handle multiple people signing the same document at the same time, as in you and a witness or two all signing it.
  • The document can't have empty fields or sections, which is a problem for some documents which say "if your situation is X, leave this section blank". Maybe write "not applicable" in all such sections.
  • Document has to have some blank space near the signature/notary area, where the notary can put their stamp.
  • Taking a good picture of your ID is tricky; sometimes I had to try a dozen times, with various lighting.
  • If the video call to notary has technical problems, you have to start the whole process over from the beginning, answering questions and taking ID picture all over again. Very annoying, and unnecessary.
  • The first time, I let the software generate my signature, and the receiving agency rejected it because it was obviously a computer font. Better to sign a piece of paper and hold it up to the camera at the appropriate point in the process, to get a manual-looking signature.
  • When my first document was rejected by the receiving agency, Notarize immediately refunded the $25 charge, no hesitation. Good service.

Using a Spanish notary to notarize a US will:
Got this email from Madrid embassy 4/2020 [during COVID-19 quarantine]:
If you require a notary service during this time, consider using a Spanish notary. Spanish notarizations are acceptable and recognized for use in the United States in compliance with the Hague Convention on Abolishing the Requirement of Legalization for Foreign Public Documents (Hague Convention).

Documents that carry a Hague Apostille are entitled to recognition in any other convention country without further authentication. The United States, Spain, and Andorra are party to this convention. U.S. federal courts and state authorities should accept documents with the Hague Apostille. For private transactions, please check with the other party first to make sure they will accept notarization under the Spanish system.

From someone on reddit:
"Get it notarized AND APOSTILLED by a Spanish notary and the US has to accept it the same as if it had been notarized by a US notary. That's what the Hague Convention is about. Nothing new or special. ... The Hague Convention provides a way to get a notarization from one country accepted in another country. The notary will know what to do."
And later an international-legalization specialist said:
"Yes the information you have in quotes is correct, to be a bit more specific that outlined procedure is all that is required providing both countries are members of the Hague Apostille Convention but it's fine as both Spain and the US are. ... As you mention you have an existing US Will you should be able to check with the notary in Spain if the document you have is OK to take to them for notarisation, and that the Spanish Foreign Office will accept it, and you may need to take it in person to the notary with proof of ID and sign it in front of them."

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

Translating web pages:
TranslateThis (Firefox only; uses Google Translate)

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"

In Spanish, "preterito" tenses are "past" tenses.
"Perfecto" means "completed", "imperfecto" means "continuing" or "imprecise".


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"
News in Slow Spanish

Free learn-Spanish videos:
The Spanish Dude
Aprender Idiomas y Cultura General con Rodrigo
Aprender Idiomas y Cultura General con Rodrigo (newer)
Spanish games
Que hora es / Spanish for beginners - season 1 - Dr. Danny Evans
The Language Tutor - Dr. Danny Evans
Professor Jason Jolley
Butterfly Spanish

SpanishDict's "Spanish Verb Conjugation"
Lingolex's "Spanish Verb forms Reference Chart"
Wikipedia's "Spanish pronouns"
Things I have a lot of problems with:
SpanishDict's "Reflexive Verbs and Reflexive Pronouns"
SpanishDict's "Indirect Object Pronouns"

Silent letters in languages

Take classes in Spain

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

In Barcelona:
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.

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.

My experience with Dinamo 7/2018 in Barcelona:
Took a "false beginner" class, 4 weeks MTWR 2-hour classes, total of 32 hours, for €150.

Turned out to be 6 students. Seems a couple of them were coming from an earlier class with same teacher; turns out this class is just a continuation of that one.

We plunged right into possessive pronouns and adjectives, mostly new to me. After a while, figured out the teacher was ABBREVIATING some of the basic pronouns, writing "Nos." for "Nosotros" and "Vos." for "Vosotros", which is a horrible thing to do.

No textbooks. We're working from bad photocopies out of some textbook, hard to read. And there were a couple of glaring errors in headings, calling something adjectives when they were pronouns. Teacher talks at full speed and plays some audio which is at full speed, very hard.

Eventually complaints got the photocopy quality fixed. Another student joined in the next week. Another the next week. A couple left for vacations etc, another joined.

After 16 days of class, I'd say: teacher is good, materials could be better, I'm learning about 2/3 of the material, I'm going to stick with it for a while longer.

Starting my third month of classes, still same thing, teacher good, materials mediocre. I'm seriously confused about reflexive, indirect object, pronouns, and can't hear audio or normal-speed spoken language to save my life. Pretty discouraged. But I'm learning some things.

But near end of 9th week, I gave up. We're getting into more and more complicated stuff, teacher is talking faster, and I'm getting less and less out of each class. Have to stop classes for a while and try to regroup.

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

Rick Steves' "Spanish Phrase Book & Dictionary"
"Lonely Planet Spanish Phrasebook & Dictionary"

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.

The Autodidacts' "80/20 Spanish"

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 ihes.

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

Official Terms in Spain

Abaco Advisers' "Glossary of legal and tax professionals in Spain"
Antonio Tapia and Amalia del Campo's "Regulation of the legal profession in Spain: overview"
Mark Stucklin's "How to file a complaint against a lawyer in Spain"
Just Landed's "The legal system"

How to find an official law or regulation:
Gobierno de España's "Agencia Estatal Boletin Oficial del Estado" (laws and regulations)
Centro de Documentacion Judicial (CENDOJ) (court rulings)

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.
Cale's "How is Catalan Different from Spanish"
I am told that in Catalan ALL verbs are irregular.

Not sure if Catalan or Spanish

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: Monty Python sketch
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:
  • As an extranjero and foreigner and tourist, I'd like to see more unity and fewer borders, not less unity and more borders. I wish Spain didn't have multiple languages, and various differences between procedures in the various regional governments. I know this opinion is totally insensitive to culture and heritage and history. BTW, I think the same of my country, the USA: I wish we didn't have multiple states.

  • In the same vein, adding new borders just complicates life for people. Would people who work in both Catalunya and Valencia have to file two sets of income tax returns every year, for example ?

  • I doubt Catalunya would be admitted to the EU, at least very quickly. Many other EU countries have their own separatist movements, and would like to squelch the idea by making an example of the first to go, if given a chance.

  • In the same vein, Catalunya might not be admitted to the UN.
    "To be a member of the UN, you need unanimity from all members of the Security Council. We have clear indications that the US, France and UK are against (as expressed by Obama, Cameron, Hollande and Valls themselves, publicly). It is very likely that also China and Russia are against (to avoid fostering their own nationalisms in Tibet, Uyghur, the Caucasus, etc)." from Augusto Baena Reig on Quora's "Will Catalonia become independent in the next 10 years?".

  • I assume an independent Catalunya would have to take with it a big share of the Spanish national debt.

Real Estate

Renting an apartment

Common to find that the electrical wiring is dangerous, especially no grounding. Gas system may use bottles instead of pipes.

Does the rent include/exclude "communidad" (building) fees, IBI, parking fees, garbage (basura) fee, common area cleaning fee, utilities ?

If there is no "energy certificate", who is going to pay to get one ?

May be no lift/elevator.

If an owner won't sign a formal contract or give their DNI or let you file for padron, these are red flags that the rental may be illegal and you have no recourse if there is a dispute. Maybe they're cheating on taxes, or maybe they're just squatting there and don't even own the place. Don't rent it.

Sometimes there is "alquiler seguro": the owner pays an insurance company that will guarantee the rent even when renter does not pay. The insurance also covers damage from renter if they trash the place and skip out. If the owner is getting this kind of insurance, your information has to be approved by the insurance company.

In Catalunya, you can put the deposit (fianza) in a govt-run system: INCASOL. Similar in Andalucia: Agencia de Vivienda y Rehabilitacion de Andalucia (AVRA) and Richelle de Wit's "AVRA for Rent Deposits in Andalucia" (PDF). Another way to do the deposit is an "aval banco", a freeze on some funds in your bank account, but this can be expensive.

National law says deposit is one month's rent if you're renting a place to live in. Provinces can override this law. Apparently Catalunya has not overridden it (see item 7 in INCASOL FAQ).

From someone on reddit 4/2021 in Barcelona:
General advice:
  • 10% (plus 10% VAT) commission over the yearly rent for the real estate agency is standard. Anything over that, you're being scammed.

  • Rental Contracts are set for a minimum of 5 years (usually requiring you to stay at least 6 months, then free to leave with a 1-month notice.

  • If it's a company and not a person renting, the minimum rental period is 7 years, with 1 year minimum on your part.

  • 1 month deposit is the legal requirement. 2 months deposit is standard. Don't pay anything over that. Every cent over that is money you'll likely never recover.

  • 1 year or under contracts are "seasonal contracts". They are "legal" (as long as you're not using them as your permanent home), but honestly I'd recommend to avoid these kinds of contracts, as they are not protected by the general renter law.

  • If it looks too good to be true, it is. Avoid it.

  • The rental price is final. NEVER accept paying anything over the agreed-upon rent.

  • The rent will increase every year according to the IPC (Consumer Price Index). It has been negative for the last years, but usually it will mean a small increase on your monthly payment. Yes, it is legal.

  • Landlord is liable for any repair that affects the living conditions on the property (boiler, humidities, etc). Usually if the property comes with appliances, the landlord will take care of those too, unless the contract specifies otherwise. Cost of small repairs for normal wear and tear is on you.

  • Get everything in writing. Never give a penny without a document confirming receipt and concept.

  • Maybe the most important one: Take detailed photos and videos of every corner, every nook and cranny of the property. All of it. Better if the date is watermarked in the picture. This will avoid nasty surprises in the end of the contract, if the landlord decides to keep your deposit for no reason. Repeat the process as the contract ends.

Expat Agency Spain's "Top 10 unfair terms on rentals in Spain"
Raymundo Larrain Nesbitt's "Urban Rental Law in Spain - Spain's Tenancy Act (Ley de Arrendamientos Urbanos, LAU)"
Laws: Ley 29/1994, de 24 de noviembre, de Arrendamientos Urbanos and Ley 7/2019, de 1 de marzo, de medidas urgentes en materia de vivienda y alquiler
Maria Di Mario's "Spanish vocabulary for flat hunting"
USA-oriented tips: /u/DeaconNuno's "42 Rules of Apartment Rental"

If you don't get your deposit back at the end of the rental:
  1. Warn landlord that you're not going to accept this, you're going to take action.
  2. Contact the rental agent, if any.
  3. Was the deposit put into the government "vivienda" system ? If so, follow procedure there. "Investigacion de fianza" ? If deposit was not put into vivienda, ask for complaints book (libro de reclamaciones) at rental agency, and file complaint against them.
  4. Contact a gestor or abogado.
  5. Send a "burofax" from the post office, giving legal notice that you have complied with the rental contract and the deposit should be returned.
  6. File a denuncia.
  7. Contact local government to see if the landlord registered the rental property legally.
  8. Contact Hacienda to see if the landlord reported the rental income legally.

Francisco Sevilla Caceres' "Procedimiento para reclamar la fianza"

Buying a house

Common to find that the electrical capacity is too low or has been upgraded illegally. And change of electricity contract may require getting an "energy certificate" for €150 or more; check if there is one already, and if not, who will pay for it. Maybe there's no heating (and some parts of Spain get quite cold). Gas system may use bottles instead of pipes.

Months after closing, the govt may come back and say the property is worth more than you paid, so you owe more tax ("Complementaria").
From someone on a Facebook group 8/2018:
Positivity about Spain: With so much negativity about Spain just thought I'd put together my good news. About 6 months ago I received a letter from the Hacienda, the department of "Oficinas de Liquidadoras" making an appointment to view my recently-purchased property to see if the amount shown in the escritura and consequently the tax paid was correct. I asked on a couple of forums here for advice. Most, sadly, was negative saying this is Spain and you'll have to pay, it's cheaper to just pay than to engage professionals like solicitors and valuers to support your case.

One lady did say she was investigated but she kept all of her pictures and invoices and when presented she received a nil to pay letter. So I did engage a local architect to support me and, I presented pictures and invoices of all the work which I had carried out to the property since purchase. The Hacienda's investigator who himself was an architect also took pictures and a statement whilst at the property asking me to send to him all of my documentation. I sent these through to him via my architect and 5 months later have also received a letter saying no further action will be taken as the price paid and tax paid was in their opinion correct at the time of purchase.

I found the inspector to not only be very professional but understanding about the time delay since purchase and the time of his inspection. So my point is, although the bureaucracy may seem endless here in Spain and no point in contesting anything, my personal experience is, that providing you comply with the requests and demands and if you present your case in a polite and methodical manner, you will be treated with respect and possibly receive a favourable review which you can be happy with.

I hope this helps others who find themselves in a position whereby they feel they are being wrongly accused of not paying enough purchase tax due to their IBI valuation being too high, that there is a way to fight these revaluations of purchase property tax if you are prepared to put in the effort.

From someone on reddit:
... in a nutshell Spanish real estate is largely unregulated. Sellers do not have to reveal known issues even if you ask them outright. It is up to you to have an inspection and find these issues on your own but you cannot open up walls or ceilings, so good luck. Inheritance laws often result in 3,4,5 different parties having an ownership claim and you must negotiate in that context. There is always one who wants to hold out for a higher price. There is a fairly steep transfer tax. In Catalunya it is 10% up front. You will need a strong bilingual real estate lawyer to check and recheck all relevant documents in what seems to be a very Byzantine system. I don't want to scare you off but just go in with eyes open and a good local team behind you.
My experience is in Madrid. I don't agree with you on [unregulated] as my experience has been vastly different. There are laws and regulations to real estate that perhaps you didn't know. For example, what you said that the seller doesn't tell you something, that's illegal. If the house has a problem that was not told by the seller it's called "vicio oculto" (this applies to anything you buy second hand btw) and you have the right to claim it. That's just an example of something you said that is not exactly like that.

From someone on reddit:
Most homes/flats are sold with all furniture included (WYSIWYG), whether you desire it or not. If you don't want all of the items, negotiate it as part of the selling contract that they must remove the items at their own expense and on a timeline. Beware this may mean that they take some if not all basic kitchen appliances, too.

Buyers agents don't really exist in Spain, and real estate is not super professionalized although there are some companies that cater to expats and can help make the process easier for you.

Be aware of the comunidad (owner's association) and their rules before buying, especially if you plan on significant reformas (renovations).

If you plan to pay in cash and the seller owns outright and is a single owner (not a set of siblings who have to agree on a price), things can move very quickly, in the span of a few weeks. If you are pursuing a non-resident mortgage and/or the current owners are mortaging or have to agree on a 'family price' expect it to take 6+ months to close/finalize.

Idealista is a great site for getting to know what property is available, and visit as many properties as you can in person before buying. Visiting is especially important if you are looking at cortijos or rural properties, the road quality varies widely by location and almost all will have septic tanks of varying ages you should check out in person.

edit: Each autonomous community is exactly that in Spain, moreso than US states so make sure any advice you solicit or companies that assist are in the same regional community if not the same town. There is also a wide variety of quality in the 'wraparound services' such as the notary they use and how long it takes to get a copia simple in hand to change utilities into your name. The closing process is generally the same, but the info you have to provide and how easy they make the process (especially after re: transfer taxes and officially-filed documents) can vary a lot. This is where working with a good local company ... can help a lot.

Expatica's "Buying a Spanish property"
Balcells Group's "Taxes and Expenses When Buying a House in Spain as an Expat"
Eloise Horsfield's "Retired Britons' 'illegal' homes knocked down in Spain"
Benidorm Seriously's "Guide to Buying Property in Spain"
Strong Abogados' "Mortgages in Spain"
Expatica's "A guide to Spanish mortgages"
Balcells Group's "Mortgage in Spain for Expats"
Spain Advisors' "The 'Reserve' for Buying Property in Barcelona"

Finding out info about a specific property:
TLA's "Catastro - Spanish properties - How is it connected with Spanish properties registration?"
Mark Stucklin's "Spain's Property Register now available in English"
Raymundo Larrain Nesbitt's "Escritura - Title Deeds FAQ"
I ordered "Nota Simple" from Solicitar.Online for about €25.
Adam Neale's "Useful Spanish property tools for buyers and sellers are just a click away"
From someone on reddit 12/2020:
Re: finding ownership of an abandoned-looking property:

Catastro doesn't have any information regarding the ownership of any real estate property; its function is to provide information regarding borders, type of land, measurements... kind of an inventory of every piece of land, building, property... there is. Each single property in Catastro is identified by a code called "referencia catastral".

Then, ownership of a property is a public domain information; meaning you can get to know who owns something (reciprocally, you can also know what does a person or a company own). This information is available at "Registro de la propiedad", and usually is only accessible by the specific office in which that property is registered. By "specific one" I mean that you have to go to the particular office related to the municipality in which the plot is located. Any other office will not be able to provide that information. It might be in a different town if the municipality is a small one, or in a different office if the municipality is a populous one (think 1 office for many small towns VS many offices for 1 city).

To make it more difficult, "Registro de la Propiedad" uses several types of identifiers (this is due to the multiple systems used through history). Most common ones are "Codigo Registral Unico de la finca (CRU)" and "Numero finca registral".

This service, while public, requires:
  • payment (€~10 online, €~3 face-to-face)
  • to identify yourself
  • to give a reason to justify why do you want to access ownership information. Giving "Interes inmobiliario", roughly translated to "real estate interest", is enough reason.

The document that contains ownership information is called "Nota Simple", and can only be provided by a specific "Registro de la propiedad". It includes a description of the land, its borders, more or less accurate location, if there is any building there, what kind of building there is, the state or any other specific info like if that building have any kind of cultural protection... and also, very important to note, if there are some "burdens" like mortgages, seizure orders... among other information.

This "Nota Simple" document can be requested online at

It is very important to note that "Catastro" and "Registro" are two independent public offices that don't have any type of connection between their records (truly marvellous bureaucracy in this time and age). Meaning information on one side or the other might not be up to date, coordinated, or coherent.

Now given your specific scenario:

Theoretically by means of knowing "referencia catastral", easy accessible through Catastro online, it should be possible to access ownership information. But I say theoretically because most of the time such identifier might not be enough to identify the owner because on "Registro" as that "referencia catastral" might match one or more properties, or there might be more than one owner, or might not even be registered if it is an old one or public land... And beyond that, ownership information might not be up-to-date if the owner hasn't "registered" that property as their own (very usual after an inheritance). These are mere examples of a some of the many scenarios in which "referencia catastral" might not suffice. There might be many others, with a wide arrange of how complex they are.

My well-intended advice:

If the municipality to which that plot belongs (belong from administrative point of view) is a small one it might be worth a shot to go to your local council/town hall office, explain what you want to know and why, then ask for guidance as they might have better knowledge of the factual state of that property or at least point you to the most suitable office to request information, or what steps to follow.

Another option worthy of try: ask plot neighbours for a phone or any other means to contact the owner.

Summarizing, what you want is possible but with the info you have as of now, might not be simple nor a straightforward task. And, as some others have pointed out, you definitely should seek legal counsel if your interest to buy is firm and the owner wants to sell.

PD: Some of the terminology in this post might not be proper "legal language". I hope any mistakes are understandable, and also I hope this helps.

From /u/arrayofeels on reddit:
[Re: buying an apartment:]

In Spain you have to figure about 9-10% for closing costs (taxes+notary+registry fees, etc). That's assuming you get a mortgage, if you buy it in cash, it would be a little less because some of those fees are related to the mortgage, however the "compra-venta" tax is 6%, and is the majority of the cost.


If you buy the apartment with a mortgage, the bank will walk you through the process. If you don't need a mortgage, I would get find a good "gestoria", and have them handle the paperwork of registering the sale, setting up the appointment with the notary for the signing. Technically you could handle this yourself but it's probably not worth it for the few hundred euro they will charge you. This will be your safety net, and help you discover any of the pitfalls you mention. (Things like making sure the property is free of "cargos" ie, unpaid taxes, co-op fees, that any inheritance is worked out.) One tip, once you have a piso in mind that you are ready to buy, one thing that you want to get your hand on as fast as possible is the "nota simple" from the registro. This should list any open administrative issues with the property, and list the real owners.

The process usually consists of two contracts, first you sign a "contrato de arras" (private contract) which is basically putting a deposit down to hold the apartment. You promise to buy and they promise to sell, and you give the owners some amount (5-10%) as a deposit. At this point if you back out, you lose the amount, and if they back out, they have to pay you TWICE the amount. Also, you promise to complete the sale within a specified amount of time. Once this is in place, then you get everything lined up to sign the "public" contract in front of the notary.

Various people say that when you buy a house, expect extra costs to be about 11% to 15% of the nominal sale price.

From someone on "Expats in Spain" Facebook group 4/2016:
Today we sold our property. However, withheld from the money will be approximately 35,000 Euros; this is to cover 10,000 estate agent fees (not negotiable) 10,000 Defco (think that's the initials) just in case we have to pay this, 3,000 Legal fees, 8,000 non resident tax but might get this back in a year's time and various other retentions to pay any outstanding bills ... there might be a h*ll of a lot of cheap houses out there but it ain't cheap to sell.
From someone else on "Expats in Spain" Facebook group 4/2016:
Sold mine in March. Deductions for this piece of paper. That piece of paper. In total more than 20% deducted. Will never buy in Spain. My house was in court for 8 years. It was repossessed by mistake !!! That cost €13,000. Only got €8000 back. Know a friend her father died 7 years ago in Torrevieja. She still hasn't got the house due to paperwork.

Our experience buying an apartment in Barcelona 7/2023:
Saw the apartment, and we decided to make an offer on it, so off to the real-estate office to sign papers.

The owner is asking €265k, and we are offering €253k to start. Other charges of the purchase if it goes through at €253k: €3k to the agency (Grocasa), €25.3k to the govt for sales tax, about €1.5k to notary.

Sent a €2k deposit to secure our offer. Refundable if owner rejects our offer. If accepted, have to pay another 8-10% within a week or so. Then have to pay remainder within 2 months or so. Final 90% of the purchase price will have to be paid via a bank check, not a bank transfer.

Seller accepted our offer, with no bargaining !

But then less-good news: the agency wants their €3000 fee immediately and in cash (they would charge 20% extra for a bank transfer; I guess they're cheating on their taxes). The papers we signed just say the amount, not the date or form of payment. Probably a factor that next week is August and everyone will be on vacation. So we have to hustle to get as much cash as possible out of ATMs. [Later I remembered: it's illegal for pay more than €1000 in cash in any transaction.]

Went to banks to see about fees for writing a bank check (called a cashier's check in USA, I think). As I expected, fees are extortionate: 0.6% at Santander, 0.4% plus €10 at Caixa, 0.4% at BBVA. On a €228,000 check, that's over €900 fee. 0.4% at Deutschebank, too. Eventually found at Openbank: 0.2%.

Stopped in at a notary's office, and they say we need to get a cita even to get a quote for how much they'd charge for the transaction. Maybe around €3000 ? Real-estate agent quoted us half that for notary, maybe they have a cheap one.

To real-estate agency to sign contract and pay fee, and they said we don't need a bank check for the final payment, we can do a money-transfer (free). And they wrote that in the contract, in contradiction to the paper signed the other day.

Some things left vague, even after contract: We get all the furniture, minus any pieces we want the seller to remove. Seller has several months to move out, has to find another apartment to live in. Apparently the building comunidad has no written rules. Contract contains vague assurances that everything in apartment works, comunidad is solvent, etc.

You will see many different numbers for "total area of apartment". In our case, real-estate ad said 84 M2, contract says 72 M2, Spanish Cadastre online shows it as 90 M2, other things say other numbers. Some are derived from building plans, some from catastral registration, some plus or minus balconies, etc. My wife is very focused on this number, and disappointed to see the low number in the contract.

Value given in catastral registration is very low, probably an assessment from many years past.

From people on reddit:
"A tasador is an appraiser. They'll give you a valuation of the property based on its state, finishes, area and price of similar properties that have recently been sold. A one hour job, half on site, half at home, that they charge as if they were a Manhattan lawyer. But they don't check if the electrics are properly installed or if there's a gas leak or anything that matters."
"A perito is a technical expert (architect, surveyor, engineer, etc) doing things like assessing damage for insurance companies and courts. Many of them also do ITE's (compulsory building inspections)."
"ITE is Inspeccion Tecnica de Edificios, the owner must do it every 10 years (depends on the building age)."
"ITE is for the apartment building, not the individual apartments. Things like roof, building front, etc."

"Perito Judicial Inmobiliario" sounds like more than we need.

Money started reaching my Spanish bank in time to make first big payment. It's coming from USA East Coast brokerage transfer to USA California bank, then through Wise to Spanish bank, then I transfer to agent's Spanish bank. My Spanish bank (Openbank) requires a phone call to set up a big transfer.

Asset Transfer Tax - Impuesto de Transmisiones Patrimoniales (ITP):
SpanishPropertyInsight article
Arintass article
Someone has to file Modelo 600 within 30 days after the transaction.
Spanish Cadastre online says our "valor de referencia" is about €247k, and we're paying €253k, and we're in Barcelona, so our ITP should be 10% of €253k.

Perito: Found for €330 plus IVA. But really all the guy inspected was walls/ceilings/floors for moisture and mold. And did find some in a couple of places. I was expecting a much more extensive inspection of electrical, gas, air-conditioner, appliances, etc. But no. Now probably we have to pay for the remediation, doubt the owner will pay. Inspector did say the air-conditioner is undersized for even just the main room, where it is located. Good news is that on second look [it's only the second time we've been in the apartment], probably it will be easy to add a sink in the second bathroom, which doesn't have one. Inspector did glance at the electrical panel and say it is okay.

From reddit, about deposits and cancelling purchase:
"If they are 'arras penitenciales' you can just break them and move away from the contract, losing your deposit as a result. No other legal ramifications. If they are arras 'confirmatorias' or 'penales', things get more complicated."

Did closing in notary's office. Started the bank transfers that morning, to pay the current owners, and the notary called their banks to verify that the transfers were in progress. Some talk about utility bills, which I couldn't understand, guess it was about paying the partial month or something. Something about the community / finca, which I couldn't understand. Notary came in and read through the contract very fast, making sure everyone understood what they were signing. My wife signed (it's in her name only), got keys, got copy of signed contract, done.

Except one more payment, to notary for services (about €1800) and taxes (10% of purchase price). Did it via bank-transfer.

After closing, went to new apartment and my wife was surprised to find that they'd taken out the appliances (refrigerator, washer, microwave) and a grandfather's clock. I had questioned her about what furnishings were included, and she brushed off my question, and nothing was specified in the contract.

Started renovations, using XXX. Infocif Signed a contract for the money to be paid in stages, about 45% of it not paid until all work is completed. My wife is autonomo, so they won't charge IVA, she'll pay IVA ? Not sure. Went to local govt office and got a permit.

Problem with title: since the purchase contract was solely by my wife, we expected the apartment title to be 100% in her name. But it came out 50/50 for the two of us, apparently because our marriage is gananciales. Notary didn't inform us this would happen, but swears it is normal or required.

Problem with building finca or ITE: apparently the building ITE was "in progress" because several major repairs were identified and not done, and the funds for them aren't in the finca. There are 5 items to do, one of them was done or started last January (10 months before we purchased), and we were lied to and told there were no outstanding items. Now a special assessment of about €190/month will be charged.

Work on apartment continues as of 12/24. Slowed by us not paying on time, and adding new items (floor, windows, etc) to the list.

It became clear that my wife and I had a fundamental miscommunication when looking for an apartment. I was looking for something we could move into without doing much work. She was intending to strip out everything (bathrooms, kitchen, floor, etc) and do a complete renovation. And we ended up doing what she wanted. Might have chosen differently if I'd known that. But some things (electrical, water, some woodwork) really did need major work. Expect to find leaks and rot behind cabinets after they are ripped out.

Christina Samson's "Buying property in Spain: introduction to the process"
seattle2spain's "Planning and buying real estate overseas"

If you can't pay your mortgage, and the bank repossesses the house/apartment

Generally, the bank will sell the property to a new owner, and you still will be liable for the full balance of the mortgage.

Try to negotiate with the bank before it gets to this point. See if they will forgive most or all of the balance of the mortgage as they take the property. An agreement to hand over the property with cancellation of the debt is a "Dacion en Pago" ? Transferring the existing mortgage and the property directly to a new buyer (probably difficult) is a "Subrogacion de hipoteca" ?

But if the bank sells the property you are living in, you have these options:
  • Leave and find another place to live.

  • Stay in the property, and negotiate a lease with the bank or new owner.

  • Stay in the property, without paying rent.

    This is squatting. If you have been living in the property for a while, and are on the padron and paying utilities etc, maybe you are called "desahucio". This is quite different from someone who moves into an empty property to squat in it, called "okupa".

    From The Local's "Vacant apartments held for ransom in Spain":
    "... it can take six to eight months for an eviction notice to be issued".

    From Maria Teresa Velasco's "Squatters":
    "... the average time to fully evict a group of squatters is 18 months".

    An eviction action is called "juicio de desahucio" or "desahucio por precario".

    If you decide to squat:
    • Do not use violence.
    • Do not damage the property.
    • Repair anything that fails.
    • Do not cause problems for the neighbors.
    • Stay on the padron.
    • Pay the utilities.
    • Never leave the property unoccupied.
    • Get a lawyer to talk to the owner and try to negotiate a lease and pay rent. Might be a good idea to do this even before the bank takes the property; tell them you want to stay and rent ?.
    • Maybe pick a reasonable rent and start depositing it every month into a special bank account ?

    Spanish Property Insight's "Squatters in Spain"
    Wikipedia's "Plataforma de Afectados por la Hipoteca"
    Plataforma de Afectados por la Hipoteca (PAH)


Civil and criminal law and police

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.

Apparently it is legal to record phone calls without consent of other party. article What does GDPR say ?

Surveillance videocameras (CCTV, security)

Some variables:
Camera in a business, outside a business/home, inside a single-family home, in the shared areas of an apartment building, in a garage ?
What type of area / who owns area in the field of view ?
Camera just storing video, or constantly transmitting video to someone ?
Camera real or fake ?
Camera permanently mounted in open, or hidden, or handheld (mobile phone) ?
Video used to control/discipline employees, or to report crimes to police ?
More: type of business, data retention laws, bathrooms, in cars, audio, more.

The camera can't be filming general public areas. It must be filming your building, and probably not even open areas such as lawns.

Someone said hidden cameras are illegal, even if you have signs. Not sure this is true.

For a home, don't have to put up signs.

For a business, have to put up signs, and register camera with AEPD (Agencia Española de Proteccion de Datos). And you may have to designate a single person who is the only person allowed to access the video footage.

AEPD (Agencia Española de Proteccion de Datos)

What does GDPR say ?

It is illegal to photograph the police if that somehow threatens their security. article
From random internet person:
"The Organic law 1/1982, made on May the 5th, declares that it's illegal to record videos of anyone without their consent as it is a violation of their image rights. But article 8.2 overrides this whenever the recorded person is an official performing any activities of public nature."

Rights of a suspect

From someone on reddit:
You indeed have the right to remain silent, also have these rights when you're arrested:
  • Don't declare against yourself and don't confess guilt.
  • Get a lawyer.
  • Access to the proceed to impugnate the legality of the detention. For example, if your lawyer says your arrest is against the law, they must accept a proceduro to investigate.
  • Right to notify a family member or other person about the arrest.
  • Right to send a call.
  • Right to get visit from the diplomatic mission of your country (your ambassador).
  • Right to have a free translator when using a language different from spanish or if you're deaf or have communication problem.
  • Right to be recognized by a forensic medical examinor.
  • Right to free legal assistance.
  • Right to know the maximum length of detention.
  • Retain a written declaration of the rights when you're detained.
  • In case of double nationality, right to choose what diplomatic mission will assist.
  • Right to talk with a lawyer even before declaring to the autorities.
Keep in mind: THEY DON'T HAVE TO TELL YOU YOUR RIGHTS LIKE IN THE US THE MOMENT THEY ARREST YOU. In the US there was a trial that make that every detainee had to have their rights told during the arrest, here is no such procedure. You still have the right to ask for your rights.

If you don't speak the language well, make that clear right away, and don't talk a lot. If you really don't speak Spanish, but try to do so with the cops, you may end up accidentally saying something akin to "yes, I am from Al Qaeda", and then things get interesting.

ESTA permit for family travel to USA

5/2023 I found that "upload passport" failed (hung) in any configuration except MS Edge browser on Windows. If it's going to work, it takes only 2-3 seconds.

The rest of the site works fine in, for example, Firefox on Linux with VPN.

After paying, usually get an email response in 4-8 hours.

If rejected (not authorized):
No reason will be given. The State Dept link is useless, says you have to have an ESTA before you can apply for a visa waiver. DHS site lets you file an appeal but says expect many weeks before response. Probably only thing to do is file another application on ESTA site.

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

Richelle de Wit's "Non-resident Certificate - When Leaving Spain For Good"
Richelle de Wit's "What Should I Do When Leaving Spain?"
AngloINFO's "Leaving Spain and Moving On"
  • It may be a good idea to empty your bank account, before ending utilities that draw from it, and before closing the bank account itself. If some utility keeps charging you, or a utility or the bank tries to charge you fees, you have more leverage if there is no money left in there. You still may have to pay account-termination fees, if that's what the contract says, but you have more leverage if the money is in your hands, not in the bank account.

    Don't leave a bank account open but mostly-empty; the bank may charge an annual fee, and come after you for it. If you ignore that, charges will pile up, Hacienda might be informed, and you could have trouble traveling to Spain later.

  • If moving to some other country that will require a criminal record check from Spain, probably easiest to obtain that before leaving Spain.

  • You may want to obtain a record of your employment history in Spain, called an Informe de Vida Laboral.
    Seguridad Social's "Informes y Certificados" and click on "Informe de Vida Laboral"

  • De-register Certificado de Empadronamiento ("desempadron", "baja"), Residence Card (file residency form with box "Baja" checked), Healthcare card, DGT.

  • File Modelo 030 with the tax agency to remove yourself from the "census".

  • File one last income-tax return the following year.

  • If you're moving back to USA, and you haven't been filing state income tax returns while in Spain, it may be better to move back to a different state in USA. See TaxMeLess's "do I have to file a U.S. state return each year?".

American Citizens Abroad (ACA)

EFR Training's "English Language First Aid Courses in Spain"

Scams that affect everyone, but may have an expat wrinkle

  • The "please send money" scam. A relative or friend contacts you and says "I'm travelling in Spain, I've been robbed, please send $1000 to me right away via Western Union". Usually the scammer has gleaned the information from Facebook or your web site, with enough details to convince the target. As an expat, warn your family and friends back home not to fall for this.

  • The "this is the IRS, pay right away" scam. Someone calls you and says they're an IRS agent (or from any other govt agency, such as FBI), you're in big trouble unless you pay cash right away. As an expat, your contact with IRS may be sporadic and your taxes more complicated, so you might be tempted to fall for this. IRS never will call or email you; they will send paper mail. And they won't require a certain payment method, such as wire transfer.

    [There's a similar scam with phone call "this is the Social Security Administration, we need to verify your info, tell me all your info".]

  • [Unlikely, but:] The fake kidnap scam. Someone contacts you living in Spain, or your child going to school in Spain, and says "big trouble back in your home country, police or criminals are looking for you or your family, don't answer any calls or messages from the home country until this gets straightened out". Then they contact the family back in the home country and say "we've kidnapped your relative in Spain, pay us $10K right away". Of course you immediately try to contact your relative in Spain, but they're not responding, because they were warned not to respond. So you assume the kidnapping is real, and pay the "ransom".

  • The "here's a check, but wire back some of the money" scam. Depositing a check and even using the money doesn't mean the bank can't come back weeks later and say "the check bounced". International transfers are especially dangerous.'s "Fake check scams"

FBI's "Internet Crime Complaint Center"

Stopping tele-marketer phone calls, and spam, and junk mail: Lista Robinson

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".

Being "autonomo" in Spain

Voting in Spain

There are four types of elections:
  • General elections (to national legislature).
  • Elections to the legislatures of the autonomous communities.
  • Local elections.
  • Elections to the European Parliament.
Who is eligible to vote in each type of elections:
  • General: Spanish citizen.
  • Autonomous community: Spanish citizen.
  • Local: Spanish citizen on the padron, and any EU citizen resident in Spain and on the padron.
  • European Parliament: Spanish citizen on the padron, and any EU citizen resident in Spain and on the padron.
Wikipedia's "Elections in Spain"
Tumbit's "How to vote in the Spanish Elections"
BOE's "Codigo de Derecho Electoral"

Lotteries in Spain

Company that runs them, and way to check numbers: Juegos Once

El Gordo lottery:
Drawing on Dec 22.

A decimo (a tenth of a ticket) costs €20. There are about 180 "series" of 100,000 tickets each, and the winning ticket (match all 5 digits of El Gordo number, in order) in each series gets a prize usually around €4M.

There are many smaller prizes, for having last digit off by 1, same two last digits as winning number, etc. And there are prizes (second, third, etc) for matching all 5 digits (in order) of second, third, etc numbers drawn.

You can't pick any random number; you have to pick what your vendor has available for sale ?

Prizes over €2500 are taxable, at rate of at least 20%.

Chance of breaking even on your ticket purchase is about 10%; chance of making a profit is about 5%.

Have to be 18 years old, but can be citizen or not, resident or not.

From someone on reddit 10/2020:
Spanish Loteria de Navidad as you say is famous for having a high chance of winning. Prizes are usually around €5M per serie to the winning number. That means an entire one (the €200 one) can get €5M directly. Then taxes apply. First as a prize in a lottery you pay 20% tax for every amount greater than a small amount (I think €20-30K). Then it counts as income which you will need to declare and pay taxes for it the next year. As an advice most people usually invest that money so it's not taxable until you get profit from it, so they pay taxes but a small amount each year and get some profit in the meantime.

As what partitions of the ticket means, there's different steps:

1: A series: €200 you get full advertised prize for each one of these.

2: Decimo: 1/10 of a series. You get 10% of the price but pay 10% for it. It's most popular as you can play multiple numbers for the same price this way.

3: Participation : usually sold as a way to collect money for some activities such as school trips, a political party, a charity, basically any club or organization that wants an extra money for it. They take a series and divide it in several smaller tickets, usually like 100 or something like that but they always charge a small amount which is the donation (must be written on the ticket) and it must have the lottery id number of the place it's produced. Usually it's €2-3 with €0.5-1 being the donation. I suggest you avoid these unless you actually want to make the donation.

"more people can have the same number, but that doesn't affect your prize."

"There is not only the 5-digit number (from 00000 to 99999) there is also the 'serie' (three digits)"

Lotto's "El Gordo Navidad"
El Gordo results
Wikipedia's "Spanish Christmas Lottery"

Playing USA Lotteries from Spain

InternationalLottery's "How To Play US Mega Millions from Outside The US"
The sites are very unclear/deceptive about their fees.
I suspect they want you to sign up, deposit money, and then get stuck with the fees.
There may be a minimum number of tickets you have to buy in each order.

Fees are high; you may pay 2.5x the face value of the tickets. article
Minimum of 3 tickets per order ?
I think you can buy 3 of the $2 Mega-Millions tickets for $15 ?

Making a US will while residing in Spain

US consulates and embassies provide notary services, but they will NOT notarize a will.

How does one create a US will if one has not been resident of any US state in at least 5 years ? My understanding is that every will specifies some state whose laws apply to the will. Am I free to pick any state, or last state I resided in ? My assets are just bank accounts, no specific location.
[Answer from a professional on reddit 3/2023 boils down to:
you must pick some state, and you must have SOME justification for it, such as "I last resided there" or even as tenuous as "my bank is headquartered there". Attachments (past or present) to a state do matter. You can't just pick a state at random.]

Can a notary in state A notarize a will that specifies "laws of state B apply to this will" ?

From a professional on reddit 3/2023:
Your will(s) should have a "statement on choice of law of citizenship versus residence" ? Because "with the EU, people can choose to have the succession laws of their country of citizenship/origin versus residence apply, because there are massive differences. In the EU, many countries have forced heirship rules, so which laws apply ... can make a huge difference."

From a professional on reddit 3/2023:
Re: whether I need two wills: "it is a subject of debate within the international planning community. There are some who say to do one worldwide Will. There are others who say to do one in each jurisdiction. ... I feel strongly that having documents in each main country that are part of one cohesive plan is the best way to go. ... I find this to be the most efficient way to actually accomplish their wishes in most situations."

AllLaw's "How to Determine If a Will Is Valid"
AllLaw's "Are Handwritten or 'Holographic' Wills Valid?"

tigerstark's "A guide to spain"
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. ...

If you haven't already, see my Moving To Spain page.