Retiring in Spain: The Complete Guide

Updated: 30 March 2023

Warm weather, a relaxed lifestyle, excellent cuisine, and a welcoming culture. These are just a few of the things that Spain offers to expats. Around 6 million foreigners choose to call Spain home, thanks to its high standard of living, excellent healthcare, and a competitive education system.

Retirement in Spain also tends to be fairly low cost. You can retire comfortably on about $2,000-2,200 a month, about $25,000-27,000 a year. If you choose to live a bit further away from the big cities, you can retire at approximately $1,700-1,900 a month, which is about $20,000-22,000 annually.

This guide will provide you with all the information you need to know about how to retire in Spain, including the cost of living, the legal steps of living in Spain, taxes, the best places to retire, and much more.

Who Can Retire in Spain: Visas and Residence Permits

EU Citizens

Spain has been in the European Union since 1985 and in the Schengen area since 1995. This means that it’s very easy for EU citizens to retire in the country. As an EU citizen, you don’t need any visas or a residence permit to live, work, retire, or study there.

Non-EU Citizens

There are two types of visas that non-EU citizens can acquire: a Long-stay visa (visado nacionale) and a Residence Visa (visado residencia).

Long-Stay Visa Spain

The long-stay visa grants you temporary residence in the country. It also allows expats to work, study, retire or live in Spain. The long-stay visa is indefinite and renewable annually. In order to renew this visa, you’ll need to spend at least six months per year in Spain.

Long-Stay Visa Spain Requirements

To be eligible for the Spain long-stay visa, applicants must:

  • Have a valid passport or travel document that is recognized by Spain.
  • Submit a completed long-stay visa application form and pay the relevant fees.
  • Provide evidence of the purpose of their stay in Spain, such as employment, study, family reunification, or retirement.
  • Demonstrate that they have sufficient financial resources to support themselves and any dependents without relying on public assistance.
  • Demonstrate a clean criminal record certificate from their country of residence or any other country where they have lived for more than six months in the past five years.
  • Provide a medical certificate stating that they are free from any contagious disease that may pose a threat to public health.
  • Purchase and provide proof of medical insurance that is valid in Spain for the entire duration of their stay.
  • Meet any additional requirements specific to the purpose of their visit, such as obtaining admission to a Spanish university for students or finding a job for employees.
  • Attend an interview at the Spanish consulate in their country of residence, if requested.

 

 

Highly Qualified Work Permit

The highly qualified work permit is a type of residence permit for highly skilled workers, issued to non-EU nationals who plan to take up technical or experienced work positions in Spain. This type of permit is intended for individuals such as executives, managers, and professionals with advanced skills and training. Compared to a regular work permit, the highly skilled worker permit has several notable distinctions. It also allows the holder to reside and work in Spain for three years instead of only one. 

Highly Qualified Work Permit Requirements

To obtain a highly qualified work permit in Spain, the applicant must meet specific requirements, which may include:

  1. Having gotten a job offer from a Spanish company, corresponding to a technical or highly skilled position, such as an executive, manager, or professional with advanced skills and training.
  2. Demonstrating that they have the necessary qualifications and work experience for the job (e.g., copies of diplomas, degrees, and other professional certificates)
  3. Proving that they have sufficient financial means to support themselves and any dependents while in Spain.
  4. Holding a clean criminal record certificate from their country of origin.
  5. Obtaining a medical certificate to confirm that they do not suffer from any diseases that could pose a threat to public health.
  6. Applying and getting approval for the work permit before arriving in Spain, either through a Spanish consulate in their home country or through an online application system.
  7. Complying with any other additional requirements demanded by Spanish authorities (e.g., proof of accommodation or language proficiency)

Spanish Digital Nomad Visa

Spain has recently introduced a new type of visa for individuals who wish to live and work remotely from Spain while being employed by companies outside Spanish territory. This visa is also open for freelancers who work with clients across the globe and digital nomads who earn income through various online sources and often travel between different countries. This initiative provides an opportunity for these individuals to live in Spain while carrying out their work activities in a new, stimulating environment.

To obtain the Spanish Digital Nomad Visa, applicants must:

  • Be non-EU nationals who work remotely for a company located outside of Spain or as freelancers with clients worldwide.
  • Not currently have held Spanish residency.
  • Provide evidence of sufficient financial resources to support themselves during their stay in Spain, such as bank statements or proof of income.
  • Possess valid health insurance coverage that is applicable in Spain.
  • Provide a clean criminal record certificate from their home country.
  • Obtain the visa before entering Spain, either via a Spanish consulate in their country of origin or through an online application.

Applicants may also be required to meet additional prerequisites, such as language proficiency or proof of accommodation.

Documents required for the Spanish Digital Nomad Visa:

  • A valid passport.
  • A completed visa application form.
  • Proof of remote work, such as a letter from the employer or a client contract.
  • Evidence of sufficient financial resources to cover the cost of living in Spain.
  • Valid health insurance coverage.
  • A clean criminal record certificate from the applicant’s country of origin.
  • Proof of accommodation in Spain (this may vary based on the specific visa requirements).

Spain Non-Lucrative Visa

The Non-Lucrative Visa in Spain is a golden ticket for non-EU nationals who wish to retire in Spain without undertaking any business or work-related activities. This visa enables retirees to enjoy an extended stay of up to three years, allowing them to immerse themselves in Spanish culture and enjoy the vibrant culture, stunning landscapes, and high quality of life Spain has to offer.

Although this type of visa is designed specifically for individuals seeking to reside in Spain without working, it does require the applicants to demonstrate that they have sufficient financial resources to support themselves while living in Spain.

If you’re considering the Non-Lucrative Visa in Spain, you’ll be glad to know that your family members can join you on this journey. The Non-Lucrative Visa allows for a spouse or unmarried partner, dependent children, and dependent relatives in the ascending line to accompany the main applicant.



Non-Lucrative Visa in Spain: Requirements 

To qualify for the Non-Lucrative Visa, the applicant must meet specific financial requirements and submit the required documentation. It’s also essential to demonstrate that you have no intention of working in Spain, as this visa is intended for those who want to live in the country without engaging in job activities.

The following are the typical requirement and steps to follow in order to complete your visa application successfully:

  • Complete the national visa form accurately, making sure the information matches other submitted documents. Note that this is not the same as the Schengen visa form.
  • Possess a valid passport issued in the past 10 years, has a minimum validity of one year, and contains at least one blank page for the visa sticker.
  • Submit two identical photos that meet Spain’s visa photo specifications.
  • Obtain a medical certificate from an authorized doctor in your country of residence to confirm that you have no diseases that pose public health risks. The certificate should not be older than 90 days before the submission.
  • Secure a private health insurance policy from a Spanish insurer.
  • Provide an original police clearance certificate that verifies that you have not engaged in any illegal activities within the past five years. The certificate must not be older than three months when submitted.
  • Obtain an NIE number, which is a unique personal identifier assigned to foreigners who plan to stay in Spain for more than six months. You must apply for this number at the Spanish consulate before applying for a visa.
  • Submit proof of sufficient income, which is essential for a successful application. You must provide evidence of a minimum monthly income of €2,450 and an additional €600 for each dependent. Acceptable proof may include bank statements from the past three months, an employment letter outlining your salary if you receive income from an employer outside of Spain, proof of investments, or evidence of other sources of income such as rental property.
  • If you are a dependent applicant, you must also submit a marriage or birth certificate.

Spain Entrepreneur Visa

The entrepreneur visa is a special type of residence permit designed for non-EU citizens who wish to pursue their entrepreneurial ambitions in Spain. This visa allows individuals to reside in Spain for three years, with the potential for renewal upon its expiration. To qualify for this visa, applicants must establish an innovative business venture in Spain that stands apart from existing market offerings.

Spain Entrepreneur Visa Requirements

  • Having an innovative business idea that is of Spain’s special economic interest 
  • Demonstrating proof of having sufficient qualifications and training to conduct the business with success
  • Presenting a solid business plan, including product and service analysis regarding your objective of business
  • Extra evidence that your business will succeed

Spain Golden Visa

Spain Golden Visa is a residency by investment scheme which grants permanent residency in Spain. This may also eventually lead to citizenship.

Benefits of Spain Golden Visa

  • High Mobility: Golden Visa Spain allows you to travel visa-free through the Schengen zone
  • Family Inclusion: Your spouse and children under 18 can be included in the Golden Visa. Children over 18 who are fully dependent on you can also be included. 
  • No Minimum Stay Requirement: Unlike other types of visas in Spain, you only need to spend one day per year there to maintain your Golden Visa
  • Path to Citizenship: Golden Visa can lead to citizenship in Spain if you reside there for 10 years

Qualification for the Golden Visa Spain

In order to qualify for a Golden Visa in Spain, you need to make one of the following investments:

  • Make a €1 million capital transfer to Spain
  • Make a €1 million investment in business development
  • Make a €500,000 investment in real estate

There are certain tax deductions for taxpayers in Spain. The personal allowance for those under 65 years of age is €5,550. If you’re 65 to 75 years of age, it’s €6,700. It’s €8,100 for anyone over 75 years of age.

You can also claim an additional allowance if you have children under 25 years of age who live with you. You can claim an allowance of:

  • €2,400 for the first child
  • €2,700 for the second
  • €4,000 for the third
  • €4,500 for the fourth
  • An additional allowance of €2,800 for each child under three years

Wealth Tax

There is a 0.2-2.5 percent wealth tax if your net assets are worth more than €700,000.

Inheritance and Gift Tax

There is usually very little inheritance or gift tax in Spain. This goes from 1-7 percent. Keep in mind that some regions, such as Andalucia, updated their inheritance and gift tax in 2017. You might be exempt from inheritance tax altogether. You need to check your specific region’s laws for more information.

When dealing with Spanish taxes, we recommend that you seek professional help as they can get complicated. You can always
contact us with any questions you have.

Cost of Living in Spain

As we’ve mentioned above, Spain tends to be less expensive than other European countries. You can live comfortably in Spain for about $2,000-2,200 a month somewhere in a big city. If you live somewhere outside the big cities, you can retire at approximately $1,700-1,900 a month. So depending on your personal finance and income, you can select where you want to stay.

Rental Prices

As with everywhere else in the world, rental prices can vary dramatically depending on location. In Madrid, for example, you’ll need around $925 per month for a one-bedroom apartment. For a three-bedroom apartment, you’ll need about $1,800 a month.

Move a few miles outside the city center, and you can find a one-bedroom apartment for $680 a month. For a three-bedroom apartment, you’ll need about $1,200 a month.

However, if you go somewhere far from the major cities, you can find cheaper accommodation. For example, in Valencia, a one-bedroom apartment in the city center will cost around $650 per month. Step outside of the city center in Valencia, and you can find a one-bedroom apartment for as low as $450 a month.

Property Prices

Some expats retiring to Spain may prefer to buy a second home there. The average house prices for Spain depend on where you buy. For example, for somewhere like Madrid or Barcelona, you should be prepared to put down €3,000-5,000 per m². On the other hand, you can find some cheaper properties a bit further away from the big cities. In Costa del Sol, you can find houses starting as low as €2,050 per m². Below you’ll find a table with the average real estate prices of various cities in Spain:

  Average price per m²
in the city center
Average price per m²
outside the city center
Alicante €2,560 €1,876
Bilbao €4,678 €3,028
Barcelona €4,519 €2,980
Madrid €4,929 €2,993
Malaga €3,271 €2,066
San Sebastian €5,800 €3,675
Valencia €2,784 €1,483

 

Food and Groceries

Food and groceries in Spain tend to be very affordable. On average, you should budget about €200-300 monthly for groceries, depending on your needs. Below you’ll find a table depicting the prices of various items according to Numbeo:

  Price
Apple (one kg) €1.74
Banana (one kg) €1.62
Chicken (one kg) €6.03
A dozen eggs €1.82
A loaf of bread (500 g) €1.01
Local Cheese (one kg) €9.64
Milk (one liter) €0.79
Onions (one kg) €1.61
Potatoes (one kg) €1.11
Rice (one kg) €0.99
Water bottle (1.5 liters) €0.62

 

Additionally, Spain produces some lovely wines. You can get a decent bottle of wine for about €5, and you can find domestic beer for as low as €0.8.

Eating Out

If you enjoy going out for dinner every now and then, Spain has some excellent restaurants and delicious cuisine. Here is a table depicting the average prices of eating out:

  Price
Meal at an inexpensive restaurant €1.74
Meal for two at a mid-range restaurant €1.62
Meal at a fast-food chain €6.03

Utilities

Utilities in Spain are fairly cheap. Expect to pay about €118 monthly for an 85m² apartment. This includes electricity, heating, water, etc. Of course, this number changes depending on your usage, the size of your house, and the season.
As for the internet, you should be prepared to pay around €40 monthly.

Transportation

Spain has excellent public transportation. You can find metro lines in Madrid, Barcelona, Bilbao, and Valencia. These networks connect the city center to various neighborhoods and municipalities.

There are also a massive amount of local and intercity buses. This means that you will never have a problem reaching anywhere. A one-way ticket on a bus or the metro should cost you €1.50. If you go for a monthly pass, you will pay €35-45 on average.

Finally, taxis in Spain are comparatively cheap as well. The fares start at €3.50 and increase by €1.10 per km.

Owning a Car

Owning a car in a big city like Madrid or Barcelona might not be necessary. As a matter of fact, finding parking can be quite challenging in those cities. However, if you decide to live somewhere in the suburbs or somewhere rural, you might want to have a car at your disposal.

There are a few requirements that every driver should comply with. Each driver is required to have the following in their car:

  • Two warning triangles
  • Complete set of spare bulbs
  • Fuses
  • A spare wheel and the tools to replace them
  • Hi-visibility jacket
  • A spare pair of glasses or contact lenses (if the driver needs them)
  • License and car insurance

If the police stop you and you don’t have any of the above items, you might be subject to pay a €500 fine.
Keep in mind that gas is not that expensive. It costs only €1.30 per liter, that’s about €4.60 per gallon.

Healthcare in Spain for Retirees

Spain has a very high-quality healthcare system. It usually guarantees universal coverage for all residents. The healthcare system consists of private and public healthcare. There are some hospitals and health centers there that offer both private and public healthcare.

Moreover, Spain ranks 19th on the Euro Consumer Health Index. The system is overseen by the Spanish Ministry of Health. The Ministry develops policy and oversees the national health budget.

Public Healthcare

Public healthcare in Spain usually covers citizens and residents who contribute to social security. Keep in mind that if you live on one of the Spanish islands, you might need to travel a bit to find a state hospital. There are a few conditions under which you can qualify for public healthcare as an expat, such as:

  • If you are an employed or self-employed resident who pays social security contributions
  • If you are a resident in the country who receives state benefits
  • If you are recently divorced or separated from a partner registered with social security
  • If you are over 65 years of age and a legal resident of the country
  • If you are a state pensioner
  • If you are an EU citizen staying temporarily in the country and have an EHIC card

If you don’t have the right to public healthcare, you might need to have private health insurance.

Private Healthcare

Private healthcare in Spain is quite common among expats. Many expats choose to cover themselves to have access to broader and quicker treatment.

Luckily private healthcare insurance in the country is very affordable and can cost between €50-200 a month.

Pharmacies

Pharmacies are known as farmacia. They are easily identified by the green cross sign outside. Pharmacies in Spain are usually open between Monday- Friday 9.30 a.m.-2 p.m. and 5 p.m.-9.30 p.m. They are also open on Saturdays from 9.30 a.m.-2 p.m. If you’re in urgent need of medicine, you can find the details of a 24-hour pharmacy on the windows or doors of other pharmacies.

Banking in Spain

There are private and state banks, as well as a number of regional cooperative and savings banks in Spain. Spain’s national bank is called Banco de España. This state bank is the regulator of the banking sector.

If you plan to retire in Spain, it’s advisable that you open a bank account there. Otherwise, you’ll be dealing with credit card charges and exchange rates. Having an account there will make your day-to-day life easier. Paying bills can be quite costly and could drain your income through international banking.

The first step in opening a bank account in Spain is acquiring an NIE number.

Número de Identificación de Extranjero (NIE)

The NIE number is the number that the government assigns to foreign residents. It’s important for opening a bank account, establishing bills in your name, filing taxes, and so on.

Acquiring an NIE number is pretty easy. First, you should head to a government bank and pay the NIE fee, which is around €11. Then you need to go to the nearest police station and provide them with the following documents:

  • The NIE application form (obtainable at the police station)
  • Original passport valid for at least one year
  • Photocopy of passport
  • Two passport-sized colored photos

Keep in mind that depending on where you live, you may not find English-speaking officials at the police station.

Opening a Bank Account

After you’ve obtained your NIE number, you can go to the bank of your choice and request an account. Banks in Spain are usually open Monday to Saturday from 9 am- 2 pm. Be warned, many of them may not have English-speaking staff. If this is a problem, you can always call the bank to book an appointment with an English-speaking employee. Alternatively, you can grab a friend with you to help you with the exchange.

Documents Required To Open an Account

It’s always a smart idea to consult your bank on any documents they require. However, you typically must provide the following documents:

  • Proof of identity
  • Spanish foreigner identification number NIE
  • Proof of address (a utility bill with your name on it should work)
  • Proof of employment status

You should translate all your documents into Spanish using a sworn translator. Typically your account should be open within one to five business days. You’ll get your cards and documentation via mail within a few weeks.

Banks in Spain

There is a multitude of Spanish and international banks in the country which provide services to expats. Some Spanish banks are:

  • BBVA
  • Banco Sabadell
  • Santander

If you prefer to work with an international bank, then you might want to check out:

  • Barclays
  • Citibank
  • Deutsche Bank
  • HSBC
  • ING

Best Places for Retirement in Spain

Spain offers a large number of options depending on your preferences and personal finance. You can head to Madrid if you’re a fan of metropolitan life or down to Alicante for that classic Spanish coastal town feel. Let’s take a deep dive into some of the best places for retirement in Spain.

Madrid

The Spanish capital is where tradition, culture, and history come to mix. There, you can find seafood from Galicia, Cider from the Asturian Highlands, flamenco music from the south, and much more.

The city is filled with fantastic gardens and parks. Additionally, you can get around easily with the excellent metro system. You can visit Retiro Park for a day of wandering around in the clean air, enjoying nature and people watching. You can also find lots of pubs which are super affordable.

Moreover, as it is the capital, there is a large community of expats living there. Most of them are young professionals hoping to join the workforce. However, there’s also a decent amount of retirees there, especially from the UK. Another perk to Madrid is that you’ll often find locals there who speak English.

Alicante

Alicante is a relatively small town on Spain’s eastern Mediterranean coast. Life in this charming town is perfect for retirement. However, its small size doesn’t stop it from being fully serviced. There’s even an international airport there.

It’s one of the country’s most attractive tourist destinations. The warm weather means you can stroll on the beach at any time of the year. Even in winter, you won’t need more than a light jacket, and the sun shines most days. This means that you have more free days to plan your social life.

Just a couple of meters from the beach, you can find Alicante’s old town historic center. It consists of stone-cobbled streets and cream-colored buildings. You can find many cafes, restaurants and charming hotels there.
There’s a fantastic local central market, which is open daily, where you can find fresh food at fantastic prices.

Valencia

Valencia hits the right balance between metropolis and beach town. It’s very well-serviced with plenty of hospitals, universities, and parks. Valencia manages to keep that old-world charm feel to it.

You can walk around the city enjoying street music almost all year round. But, don’t think for a second that it is not drenched in culture. There are many science and art museums, concert halls, and one of Europe’s largest historic centers.

Malaga

Malaga is lean, clean, and green. One of the best places in Malaga is its pedestrian-only city center. The Spanish government has put a lot into this charming town. It is brimming with great dining, plenty of shopping malls, and some excellent dining. Additionally, it’s close to the world-famous Sierra Nevada mountain range.

The daily sunshine and miles of seaside really make being in this town worth it. It’s a cheerful and vibrant town with a relaxed lifestyle. Even on hot summer days, the breeze from the Mediterranean gives the city a magical feel.

Barcelona

You really can’t mention cities in Spain without talking about Barcelona. Barcelona is the second-largest and most famous Spanish city. The culture, creativity, and sheer range of color in the city will grab your heart straight away. You will be amazed by Gaudi’s excellent architecture, the maze of the Medieval Barri Gotic, and the Ramblas.

It’s difficult to think of something that Barcelona doesn’t offer. Beaches, nightlife, Mediterranean sunshine, cheap eats, fine dining, museums, and the list goes on.


What really sets Barcelona apart, though, is Placa de Catalunya. It separates old Barcelona from the late 19th-century architecture. Around this square, you will find flower stalls and street entertainers. Those are on the way to the world-famous Columbus monument.

Bilbao

Bilbao is one of those towns which has been transformed from a gritty town into the pride of urban renewal. This industrial port city is located on the country’s green north coast. It has unbelievably modern architecture and is filled with culture and history.

It is split by an estuary, and both sides are linked with fantastic pedestrian bridges. If you’re a fan of cycling, this city is great for it. Many locals skate, cycle, or stroll along this promenade.

The Pros and Cons of Retiring to Spain

There is no such thing as perfect, unfortunately. Spain is a fantastic country in general, yet everything has its ups and downs. Here are a few pros and cons of retirement in Spain:

Pros

  • Friendly locals and a welcoming culture
  • Fantastic cuisine which is renowned for its variety and deliciousness
  • Warm year-round weather and excellent beaches
  • The cost of living in the country is low compared to other European countries
  • Life in Spain is slow and breezy
  • High standards of living, education, and healthcare

Cons

  • Complicated bureaucratic system
  • The main language is Spanish, not English
  • Tax laws don’t necessarily favor expats
  • Having to reside at least six months a year to maintain residence requirements

Summary

Spain is a fantastically well-developed country with an excellent standard of living. The cost of living there is very low compared to other European countries. A couple can live comfortably in the city center at about $2,000 monthly. The friendly locals and breezy lifestyle are excellent for retirement, so you can spend your golden years in peace.

So if you’re thinking of somewhere nice and sunny for your retirement, then you might want to live in Spain.

Useful Resources and Guides

FAQs

Can a US citizen retire in Spain?

Yes, Americans can retire in Spain. Technically, you can enter the country and stay there for 90 days with an American passport. However, if you wish to spend more than 90 days there, you must get a visa. The best visa option for that is a Residence Visa without the right to work. If you can support yourself, this is the easiest visa to obtain.

Where do most expats live in Spain?

Most expats live in Madrid and Barcelona. Other areas that are popular with expats are Marbella, the Costa Del Sol, and Alhaurín El Grande.

How much income do I need to retire in Spain?

The cost of living in Spain is low. It’s entirely possible to retire comfortably in Spain on around $25,000 a year. Depending on where you live and your lifestyle, this can go down to $20,000 a year.

Which part of Spain has the best climate?

The Canary Islands have the best year-round climate. They have warm winters and temperate summers with temperatures of between 20°C to 27°C.

How are pensions taxed in Spain?

Pensions in Spain are taxed as general income. So they are taxed at a progressive rate.

Do you get permanent residency if you buy property in Spain?

If you buy a property that is worth €500,000 or more, you become eligible for the Spain Golden Visa. The Golden Visa grants you residency in Spain in addition to visa-free access to the Schengen area.

Can I move my pensions to Spain once I get residency there?

That depends on where your original pensions are. To get a definite answer, you may want to ask your local Spanish embassy

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