Living as an expat in Spain: our recipe for a successful expat life

Living as an expat in Spain: our recipe for a successful expat life

Epic Spain is the promise of a wildly sweet expat life. In the sunny kingdom, you’ll find the meaning of hospitality, you’ll get to work in a cosy environment, and you’ll discover incredible cultural gems. Foyer Global Health has some tips to get moving and make yourself right at home in the land of matadors and jamón!

How do you start a new life Spain? From preparation to landing…

The Iberian Peninsula attracts expatriates from many countries and communities, both working and retired, who settle there with their family, on their own or as a couple. You may wonder, as an American, as an Australian, or as a foreigner, what steps you need to consider before moving and starting your new life as an expatriate in Spain. Read on to follow our guide…

Choose your city

Many expats, especially digital nomads, are attracted by the charms of Catalonia, mainly because of the charisma of cosmopolitan Barcelona…But further south, there is also Valencia, a wonderful metropolis that is both traditional and modern, and Madrid, the superb royal capital, which is very popular with young people and urban souls with a passion for culture. Then there is fiery Seville, with its artistic soul and laid-back style. And if you really want to take it easy while working, Malaga is a great destination for expats looking to just chill! In any case, speaking Castilian is essential for wishing to properly integrate and complete administrative formalities with ease. And in Barcelona, Valencia and the Balearic Islands, Catalan quickly becomes essential for the same reasons.

The N.I.E. (Número de Identidad de Extranjero)

The N.I.E. (Foreigners’ identity number) is a unique and personal number that identifies you for life as an expatriate in Spain. Even if you are a European Union (EU) national, you must apply for it and register with the authorities if you’re planning to stay in Spain for more than three months. Getting your N.I.E. is key to taking any further administrative steps in Spain, such as renting a flat, accessing public healthcare or opening a bank account. To get it, you must make an appointment with the Foreigners’ Office in the province where you intend to settle. It is necessary to plan this appointment in advance because it may take about a month (quick tip: if you log in at 8.30am, you will probably have the best chance of getting one quickly!)


Do you need a visa/work permit to move to Spain?

If you are an EU/EEA national, you are entitled to settle and work in Spain without a visa or work permit. This is not the case for expatriates from outside the EU/EEA who must apply for a long-term visa to live and work in Spain. If you are an employee, your employer will take care of legalising your employment status in the country. Freelancers have to apply for the long-term visa at the nearest Oficina de extranjeros. If you wish to set up your own business in Spain or work as a freelancer, we recommend you use a local company that will assist you with the administrative and tax formalities.

Get Moving

If you are moving from an EU country to Spain, you will not need to complete any customs formalities for the expatriation of your goods, as Spain is also a member of the EU. For non-EU countries, you will have to go to the local customs office with all the documentation justifying the move.


In big cities such as Barcelona and Madrid, the rental market is relatively expensive. In larger cities, many young expatriates (and even couples) share their apartment with others as shared accommodation is a very popular way of life and an excellent way to integrate! As with anywhere, be sure to get a written rental agreement (to avoid language misunderstandings) that specifies the length of the contract, who is responsible for paying taxes (including IBI and Basura), the notice period and the cost of the security deposit. Generally, rental contracts are drawn up for a period of one year, renewable up to three times. Remember to check the property advertisements published in Spanish newspapers such as El Pais, Lavanguardia and on websites such as

Bank Account

Opening a bank account for residents in Spain is quite simple if you have all the documentation required, such as your N.I.E., an identity document and proof of address. Spain has four main banking groups (Banco Santander, BBVA, CaixaBank and Bankia) and several other provincial banks. Before choosing a bank, find out about account maintenance, transaction and withdrawal fees and, as an expatriate, the cost of international transfers and currency conversion, if applicable.


Funded by taxes, the Spanish national health system (SNS) is universal and accessible to all. As long as you live and work in Spain, you are obliged to contribute. The network of public health facilities is well developed throughout the kingdom and public health insurance covers visits with public GPs, medical treatments in public hospitals and, to a lesser extent, dental care. As an expatriate, you’re better off getting international health insurance in Spain tailored to your profile, offering you holistic coverage, particularly for dental care or maternity care, and allowing you to get access to healthcare wherever you wish, even in private medical centres.

Once you’ve settled in, here are a couple of places you should explore

  • In Madrid: the Golden Triangle of Art (Prado Museum, Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum and Reina Sofía National Art Centre), street-art in Tetúan, Lavapiés, or Malasaña, El Rastro market, Spanish gastronomy at Cebo
  • In Barcelona: Mercat de la Boqueria, tapas at Bar Pinotxo or Tapas 24, the Sagrada Familia, Parc Güell and the Carmel bunkers, the Joan Miró and Antoni-Tàpies Foundations
  • In Málaga: La Magueta beach, Gibralfaro castle, the Picasso Museum, Maro’s coves and Nerja’s caves
  • In Seville: the Royal Alcázar, Seville’s cathedral, flamenco at the Carbonería or Casa Anselma, ‘tapeo’ at El Rinconcillo
  • In Valencia: eat the best paella in the world (it was invented there), the Oceanogràfic museum with your family, drink a horchata de chufa at the Horchatería Daniel, explore the Institut Valencià d’Art Modern or the Museum of Fine Arts
  • Canary Islands:
  •  In Gran Canaria, explore Casa Colón, Santa Ana Cathedral, Cueva Pintada archaeological park, bask in Maspalomas, hike to Roque Nublo, taste Arehucas rum;
  • In Tenerife, San Cristóbal de La Laguna, the six pyramids of Güímar, Playa del Bollulo, Charco de la Laja, El Teide;
  • In Lanzarote, Timanfaya National Park, Isla Graciosa, César Manrique Foundation, El Grifo vineyard;
  • In Fuerteventura, Corralejo Natural Park, Cofete playa