Living in Spain

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:

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

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

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

You can go to a gestoria, a private company which assists you with various kinds of official paperwork. You'd still have to go to the government offices in person to accomplish the procedures, I think (maybe not for NIE). What are typical prices ? Huge, I think.
Link Point Legal's "Abogado, Solicitor, Notary, or Consultant?"
Metropolitan Barcelona's "Q&A with 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: Strong Abogados' "Understanding the terms in Spain"
Spanish-Living's "ID Numbers in Spain: NIE, CIF, VAT"

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 "Oficinas de tramitacion para ciudadanos extranjeros".

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

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

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

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

  2. Get a phone ?

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

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

    Some people recommend prepaid phone with Lebara.

    Meggrblog's "The techie expat's guide to smartphones in Spain"
    Rick Steves' "Travel Tips: Phones & Technology"

  3. Get internet access ?

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

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

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

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

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

    From /u/AidenTai on reddit:

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

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

    Strong Abogados' "Guide to the NIE number"
    Rechtsanwalt Dominic Porta's "NIE, TIE, residency or nationality"
    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 "What is a Padron?"
    Lemon in my Coke's "Get Your Empadronamiento On!" (Barcelona)
    Lemon in my Coke's "Making your Padron Appointment" (Barcelona)

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

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

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

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

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

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

    No charge. Received a pink paper that shows the padron has been applied for. The padron 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 "Residency and NIE"

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

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

    From Esencial Blog's "NIE and Residency Card":

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

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

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

    From Mejor Inglés's "The 7 Documents for your NIE Appointment":

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

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

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

    From Wagoners Abroad's "Tips For Getting Settled In Spain":

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

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

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

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

    • Bring along your rental contract or invitation letter.

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

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

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

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

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

    From /u/AidenTai on reddit:

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

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

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

    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 here]

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

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

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

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

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

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

    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.
    Lost in Sant Cugat's "IdCAT: an insecure digital certificate for foreigner living in Catalunya"

    As far as I can tell, usually the certificate itself contains only your name and ID number (NIE); Catalunya certificate also contains your email address. So if you change 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 certficate 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"

  8. Get a Spanish bank account.

    [Bank products and fees and policies are changing all the time, so don't rely too much on the specifics in this section, especially the older info.]

    MumAbroad's "Setting Up your Finances in Spain"'s "Money & Banking in Spain"
    NIE Barcelona's "Bank Account"
    Spotahome's "Great online bank account options for expats in Spain"
    Martina Vitali's "Current accounts in Barcelona: Which bank to choose?"
    I'm Moving To Barcelona's "Banks In Spain"
    Expat Agency Spain's "Top 5 Banks in Spain Tips for Expatriates"
    Living in the Canary Islands' "Are Your Savings Safe?"

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

    It seems that the Spanish tax forms, if you want to pay via direct-debit out of a bank account ("domiciliario"), force the first two characters of the IBAN to be "ES". So you have to use a Spanish bank account, not one from any other European country, if you want to pay this way.

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

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

    From Wagoners Abroad's "Tips For Getting Settled In Spain":

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

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

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

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

    From someone on "Expats in Barcelona" Facebook group:

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

    From comments on Young Adventuress' "10 Mistakes Auxiliares in Spain Make Again and Again":

    All the banks in Spain will try to screw you over ... And it seems to vary more from branch to branch than bank to bank, so it's a matter of luck. ... I suggest just being super cautious, asking tons of questions, and sticking to your guns no matter where you open your Spanish bank account.

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


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

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

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

    8/2020: only US info I had to give to open my new account was US SSN. Everything else was my Spanish info: NIE, address, phone, email.

    Regardless of what the bank person tells you about fees, when you get home, log on and check the contract on your account to check the info about fees.

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

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

    Foreign address on US accounts:

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

    Andrew Hallam's "American Brokerages Slam The Door On U.S. Expats"
    Thun's "Why US Brokerage Accounts of American Expats are Being Closed"
    Brian Ford's "IRA Custodians Turning Against American Expats with Retirement Accounts"


    After living in Spain for a couple of years, I decided to change everything to my Spanish address.

    • Told my main US bank (ETrade) that I wanted to change the address on the account to a Spanish address, and they said no problem, I'd just lose the ability to do options and margin trading.

      But a few months later, I found out that they won't send a debit card (with CVV) to a foreign address, they'll only send an ATM card (inferior). I wasn't told that when I changed the address.

    • Was able to change address on my credit union, too.

    • 401K company no problem, but account frozen for 10 days as notifications were sent via postal mail.

    • Coinbase change triggered GDPR, closed USD wallet, had to re-verify ID, verifying Spanish address is a problem because I don't have any bank stmts or utility bills with my name and address on them. But Coinbase accepted a copy of my padron.

    • Transferwise no problem.

    • No problem changing addresses in my US domain and web hosting accounts.

    • US Social Security: until you start collecting benefits, they don't care about, don't display, and don't let you specify your postal address (at least in your online SS account).

    • PayPal: Can't put Spanish phone and address on a US account. Had to create a new Spanish PayPal account, and can't be same email address as that on US account, so I added "+pp" to my email address.

    • Citigroup Mastercard: the first two times I called, agents said no problem changing to Spanish address, but their system can't do international phone numbers. But they didn't quite get the Spanish address correct. Third time I called, agent said the account must keep a US address in the "residential address" field or the account will be closed. So I did that, mailing address is Spain but residential address is USA. Bummer.

      The last agent said if I want a new card with only a foreign address, I should call their "new application" phone number. I did so and was informed that NONE of Citigroup's cards allow a foreign address only.

      Two months later: suddenly they closed my existing credit-card account; mailing address in Spain was enough to cause that, even with residential address in USA.

    • Realized that my Spanish Bankia account offers a credit card, but no-fee only if you charge more than €5000 in first year ! And I'd prefer a US credit card anyway.

    • Asked my main US bank (ETrade) if they offer a credit card. No.

    • I notice that IRS's online account service only accepts US phone number.

    From discussion on /r/Barcelona:

    > I want a Spanish bank account which I can use via internet/phone app.

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

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

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

    Paraphrased from's "Money & Banking in Spain":

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

    Cuenta Naranja is a savings account, that's why it needs to be linked to a current account.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


    Facebook page "Triodos Bank España"

    No-fee bank accounts ?

    [Note: no English on ANY of their web sites.]
    Banco Mediolanum
    bancopopular-e (backed by Banco Popular; use Banco Popular, Banco Pastor and Targobank ATMs for free)
    Bankia's "Cuenta_ON" (has English)
    EVO Banco (site has English once logged in as client ?)
    ING Direct (no fees if keep €2000 in account ?)
    openbank (backed by Santander; use Santander and Banesto ATMs for free)
    Self Bank (backed by La Caixa; use La Caixa ATMs for free)
    Triodos (charges fee for ATM use ? now has a small quarterly account maintenance fee)

    New app-based bank, and has English: N26 (credit card is only with business account)
    Another app-based bank: Revolut

    But about N26 from someone on reddit 8/2020:

    Don't use it. They locked my account for over 3 weeks without notifying me that it was locked, and then refused to respond to me on why and how long it would take to resolve. Whenever I opened a chat with their customer service they would close it as soon as I got through. Of course, there was no phone number to call either. Since they're online only, it's pretty embarrassing that their customer service is so limited and rude.

    In the meantime, I started doing research and found a lot of people had the same happen to them. Also discovered they seem to have a problem with individuals using their bank for money laundering. Not exactly a business I want to associate with.

    When they actually did decide to get in touch with me almost a month later, they said they could not provide a reason and recommended that I close my account.

    I was using it as my main account, so it was quite painful to switch all of my direct debits (some of which had bounced due to the account being locked and me not knowing), move money around to pay rent, and even had to have quite a lengthy process with my employer waiting for the rejected paycheck to get back into their account, and then send it to another bank account instead.

    Hands down the worst experience I have ever had with a financial institution.

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

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

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

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

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

    I opened an account at Triodos 6/2016:

    Office in Barcelona is near Verdaguer Metro. Office is open limited hours, so lots of people waiting. Find the roving receptionist-guy and put your name on the list.

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

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

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

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

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

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

    But then I realized: as of 12/2016, Triodos instituted a €1/month maintenance fee for "current" accounts ! Also instituted various fees on transfers, none of which should affect me (I do only internet transfers on a "current" account).

    Closed my account 2/2018, because of the maintenance fee.

    6/2017 I heard that Bankia now has a no-fee online-plus-ATM-card account:

    Bankia's "Cuenta_ON"

    HelpMyCash's "Cuenta_ON de Bankia"
    AlertaBancos' "Cuenta On Bankia"

    The account gives a debit card for free. No fees for maintenance or administration, or on transfers within Europe (SEPA). International transfer fee 0.75% or 1.5%. It's a "current" account, not "savings". You must do everything online; you're not allowed to go into a Bankia branch to do things. They WILL email advertisements to you and share your data with their partners. You have to give mobile number and email address.

    They have English on their web site. Use Servired ATMs.

    I tried to create an account, and it failed for some reason, on the first page after putting in my ID info. I think because I had NoScript running, in Firefox. Changed to Chrome without NoScript, it worked. Verified my identity using another bank account, several SMS messages sent to my mobile, sent photo of my residency card to them, signed contracts online. Got everything done except setting PIN on my ATM card; got an error that seems to mean their system is down for a while, try again later.

    The next day, someone from the bank called me, but he spoke no English and my Spanish is terrible. I think he was asking me questions (which I've already answered on the web site) about my occupation, but when he tried to transfer me to someone else, he dropped me, and he didn't call back.

    Bank account still is stuck in "some error before setting ATM PIN". Tried phone calls to Support, can't get through.
    A few days later, went to local branch. The lady typed for a while, I signed several times, got a paper copy of contract, ATM card will come in mail, deposited €100. Left thinking everything was good, but at home I realized the account number has changed, she must have opened a second account. Login on the web site works, error is gone, but I'm still halfway through "sign the contracts" on the original account. Completed that, logged in again, all I get is a "wait while we verify your identity" web page.

    So far, they have not asked for my US address or Social Security number, and I have not filled out a tax form.

    A couple of days later, account(s) still not working, went back to branch again. Signed more agreements, and filled out a US W-9 form. Even after that, guy said "give me a couple more days to get this working".

    Several days later, account still not working, back to the bank. Took 45 minutes, the guy wiped out my first two accounts and created a third, and this time it worked. I can log in online, the money is there. I'll probably get three ATM cards in the mail; I'll give the first two back to the guy, and keep the third.

    A week later, I've received 3 ATM cards in the mail, and the 3rd one is the right one and it works. TransferWise transfer into account has worked, too. All looks good.

    Their web site is very slow in some cases. And makes some mistakes using dates for programmed periodic transfers, in English OR in Spanish. Doesn't work with NoScript in Firefox [got it working later]; I have to use Chrome without NoScript. Sent a message to Support about date bugs in transfers, got no response.

    Took me a while to figure out: you contact their Support through the "Help" menu, not the "Mailbox" menu.

    At end of first month, they charged a €20 maintenance fee to my account ! Not supposed to happen. Got it removed.

    Can't get monthly transfers to work; bug in their web site. Had to go to the branch to get them to bypass it. Went again and had them try the web page, and it worked fine for them. So maybe I'm using a different browser or something ?

    Another €2.84 maintenance fee appeared on the account. Went to branch and had them remove it.

    Account working okay for 6 months now. A few quirks:

    • Web site has a bug in creation and management of recurring (monthly) transfers. It mangles the start date and thus throws an error, can't get around it. I reported this a couple of times, and it did not get fixed. I was able to create a transfer by using the mobile app instead of the web site.

    • Web site also throws mysterious errors in transfer-creation if you type too many characters into some fields, such as concepto or referencia fields.

    • Same password/PIN is used for both ATM card and web site login, and it's limited to 4 numeric digits. This is okay for an ATM card PIN, since a thief would have to have the physical card to login. But a 4-numeric password is terrible security for a web site login. Only saving grace is that to actually do any transaction through the web site, you also have to "sign" the transaction with an 8-numeric signature code.

    1/2020: Looks like they're instituting maintenance fees unless you have monthly-deposit or a high balance (not sure). Went to office and they said it doesn't apply to the internet-only account.

    3/2020: Got charged a €1 maintenance fee because I didn't install their phone app and accept notifications in it. Chat support says I can install, accept, then uninstall. App takes 61 MB on Android phone, but an hour later it was using 200 MB. It's slow to connect, repeatedly asks for permissions. A disaster.

    Spanish credit cards:
    I'm told it's a bit hard to get a Spanish credit card, and not many Spaniards use them ? [But my wife has credit cards with Caixa and Popular, and used to have one through Carrefour.]'s "Compare Bank Credit Cards in Spain"

    After my US credit-card company suddenly closed my account 9/2019:
    I'm finding that some web sites accept my Spanish bank debit card, since it has a 3-digit CVV on back (like a credit card).

    Virtual credit cards created via work on some web sites. Available for US and Canadian citizens only. My referral code for anyone who wants to create an account. Free account works fine. If you want 1% cash-back cards, you have to have $10/month account.

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

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

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

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

    Application form: 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.

    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"

    Heredium Abogados's "Modelos de Testamento"
    MyPatrimony's "Ejemplo de Testamento Notarial Dinamico"
    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"
    ExpatFocus's "Spain - Death"

    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.

    What happens when the will is probated:
    Advocate Abroad's "Inheritance With a Spanish Will"
    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 (Aubrey Cohen's "Life Insurance Proceeds Aren't Taxable, Most of the Time").

    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.

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

    Golden Leaves
    Avalon's "European Plans - FAQs"

    Maybe there are 4 choices:
    • Funeral plan: big-upfront payment, but at death they handle everything.

    • Funeral insurance: covers expenses at time of death. Funeral director or crematorium staff handle arrangements.

    • Your own savings account to cover death expenses. Funeral director or crematorium staff handle arrangements.

    • Do nothing: let your family deal with it after you die.

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

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

    From various people on "Expats in Spain" Facebook group:

    My wife died 15 months ago. The funeral directors took care of everything. No need of a funeral plan as a cremation here is very cheap, and as I said the funeral directors took care of everything.


    My husband died suddenly at home. The doctor telephoned the funeral directors who are based and own the crematorium local to where I live. After that it was seamless. They took care of everything there is no need for a funeral plan. The insurance companies just call the funeral directors who then take over. They spoke English asked me what I wanted and that was that. When I hear how much people pay for these funeral plans this is the reason I speak out. There is no need for them. Go to your local crematorium. They have offices there and they will answer all your questions.


    I'm not sure that I would recommend giving 4000+ Euros to a company who promise to pay for your funeral one day in the future. Google some of these funeral companies like Avelon before you do anything. Better put your money into your own savings account. Check out local funeral directors and see what they suggest. Funerals or cremations usually take place within a couple of days of death unless a PM is needed.


    My husband died 6 months ago went to local funeral directors they asked me what I wanted done even flowers funeral 2 days later then cremation had his ashes in a week they were really good company


    In most areas on the Costa Blanca a funeral plan is not necessary. If the person dies in hospital the administrative staff liase directly with a funeral director. If the person dies at home unexpectedly a call to the Guardia Civil is made to confirm death and they will liaise with a funeral director. Cremation is the easiest to arrange. The crematorium staff speak most European Languages and can arrange all types of religious and humanist services including flowers, equivalent of lying in chapel of rest and urn for ashes. They arrange issue of death certificates and give advice on what needs to be done. If placing the body in a niche at a cemetery is preferred following a religious service the funeral director will arrange this. However, a niche should be reserved in advance through the local town hall. Funerals usually take place within 24 - 36 hours after death but for foreigners it is allowable to request up to 5 days delay to allow family and friends to make travel arrangements. It is easy to arrange a funeral. However, one needs to be aware that bank accounts can be frozen or partially frozen if a joint account. Ask your bank what their process is. Also investigate how death duties / taxes will be applied to the estate.

    I would be stressed with or without a so-called funeral plan in this situation! The crematoriums are happy to provide quotes for their range of services so its easy to get a ballpark figure. I would prefer to keep the amount in my savings account and hand over my credit card at the time rather than have a third party profit from it. But that is my personal preference.


    My partner died in Andalusia very suddenly, he died on the Sunday afternoon, we had no funeral plan, the morgue in the hospital phoned Collfer a local funeral in hurcal overa he was cremated on the Tuesday and his ashes and all the paperwork completed on the Wednesday, total cost €2500.


    My condolences, I had the same and paid more, but yes just hide the money away because the bank will freeze the money as soon as you give the death certificate.


    You can get a plan from the tanatorio itself cheaper it's basic but it's cheaper


    Funeral plans in my experience are expensive in the long run whereas shopping around the better funeral directors is often much cheaper. Certainly a lot cheaper than UK. My wife passed away 3 years ago and the final costs were much cheaper than the original funeral plan we had cancelled earlier and had to pay a huge penalty for 'admin' costs.


    they have crematoriums and usually a body has to be buried within 72 hours unless you pay for storage. usually the undertaker wants the cost of the funeral before the burial ...


    My elderly neighbour passed suddenly leaving his wife behind ... they had no funeral plans ... because he died at home the ambulance took his body to the hospital to confirm his death and release his death certificate and within 4 hours his body was transferred to the crematorium. I took his wife to the crematorium who were so very helpful, we literally there and then chose the basic coffin and urn and booked the time, which was just about 24 hours later from appointment. She paid €3200 which had to be part cash part card, we attended the service the very next day and within 24 hours of his cremation to which we didn't attend we were able to return to collect his ashes. It was done very quickly but the crematorium were very professional and very good to his late wife.

    I did ask this question for interest, you can store the said person at a cost of €300 a day to allow family to arrive and suspend the service till later.

    Repatriating a body from Spain to home country:

    Repatriation Help

    7/2018: Quote through Repatriation Help for funeral director services plus transport of body from Barcelona to Lima Peru, not including mortuary or hospital charges: about €6200.

  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.

  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:

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"

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

Notes from Spain's "General Spanish learning tips" (no longer being updated)
Emma Cary's "7 Simple Tricks To Learn Some 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"

Take classes in Spain:

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

In Barcelona:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Classes located at Trafalgar 14, near Urquinaona Metro station.

Info about BCN Languages 3/2016 in Barcelona:

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

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

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

Info about Dinamo 3/2016 in Barcelona:

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

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

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

Info about Useful Languages 3/2016 in Barcelona:

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

Info about Dime Barcelona 3/2016 in Barcelona:

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

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

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

Classes located at Placa Lesseps, near Lesseps Metro station.

My experience with Dime Barcelona 4/2016 in Barcelona:

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

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" (on Amazon - paid link)
"Lonely Planet Spanish Phrasebook & Dictionary" (on Amazon - paid link)

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

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

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

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

Official Terms:

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.
Lost in Sant Cugat's "Mono-lingual Catalan education in Catalonia"
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: this
Helpful translations on product packaging: Ketchup, Frying pan
Bilingual sign
Using Google Translate
Could be worse: words
How to conjugate verbs in Spanish

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

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


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.

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."

From someone on reddit:

You indeed have the right to remain silent, also have these rights when you're arrested: 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.

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"

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

American Citizens Abroad (ACA)

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

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

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:

Advoco's "Guide to Spain's autonomo system"
Health Plan Spain's "Registering As Self Employed Autonomo In Spain"
ExpatFocus's "The Pros And Cons Of Being Self-Employed In Spain"

Voting in Spain:

There are four types of elections: Who is eligible to vote in each type of elections: Wikipedia's "Elections in Spain"
Tumbit's "How to vote in the Spanish Elections"
BOE's "Codigo de Derecho Electoral"


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.

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

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

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

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

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

This page updated: August 2020.

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