Swapping the US or Canada for Spain: the complete guide

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Are you an American or Canadian wondering what the steps are to move or invest in Real Estate in Spain? Spain has a place for everyone: city life, countryside, beach towns, and even somewhere in the mountains. Don’t think twice; this is the place for you! 

Spain’s relaxed work culture, excellent international schools, and accessible quality public healthcare are chief among its attractions.

This article aims to cover the main questions that might arise when choosing whether to move to Spain.

Our objective is to help American and Canadian citizens better understand the current market conditions.

The Spanish Real Estate market is one of the most attractive markets in the EU. We’ll explore some of the questions on the minds of those considering moving to or investing in Spanish real estate. 

American and Canadian immigration statistics

Spain is becoming more and more popular among Americans and Canadians. The Spanish climate will be familiar to North Americans, as it varies enormously across the country. It’s the most climatically diverse European nation, but don’t worry, it’s still usually warm. 

There are plenty of beautiful towns and cities to live in across the country, but Madrid and Barcelona dominate the discussion.

There are currently more than 40,700 Americans in Spain and almost 5,000 Canadians. 

Most Americans reside mainly in the cities of Madrid (Comunidad de Madrid), Barcelona (Catalonia), Valencia (Comunidad Valenciana) and Sevilla (Andalucía). 

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Continuous Census Statistics, United States of America, Communities, Both sexes, 2020. National Statistical Institute.

Regarding Canadians, the most crowded cities are Barcelona (Catalonia), Madrid (Comunidad de Madrid), Sevilla (Andalucía) and Valencia (Comunidad Valenciana).

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Continuous Census Statistics, Canada, Communities, Both sexes, 2020. National Statistical Institute.

Lawful immigration: residence in Spain

EU citizens or those with permanent residency in an EU member country enjoy greater flexibility to travel and live in the bloc. However, Americans and Canadians have several options to become Spanish residents.

Citizens inside and outside the Union can only reside as tourists in Spain for three months. You will need a visa to remain in Spain for more extended periods and, therefore, an immigration solution for relocating. You will also need to meet some requirements like proof of sufficient financial funds, health insurance, or a clean criminal record. 

Today, there are five residence visas in Spain:


Wealth visa: The holder can reside in Spain for more than 90 days without working.

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Golden or Property visa: This allows non-EU citizens to live in exchange for investing in Spanish real estate. You can invest €500,000 in the Spanish property market to obtain a visa. The investor permit is the easiest way to start living in Spain.

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Investor visa: This is a residence permit for a foreign national with a certain level of funds and a business plan. In addition, owners of already existing businesses may also apply under certain conditions.

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Highly skilled worker’s visa: The applicant must have a Spanish company willing to employ them to apply for it. The applicant’s professional skills are evaluated, and their potential salary.

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Student visa: This residence permit is for those studying in Spain longer than 90 days.

Visa costs vary depending on your nationality, as well as the type of visa you apply for.

Housing in Spain: buying or renting?

Finding an accommodation of your choice can sometimes be tricky. Therefore, this section might interest you if you are willing to buy or rent a property in Spain.

The first step to follow is to choose the type of house or apartment you are looking for. Many use a Real Estate Agent, but often they don’t English. We recommend working with an English-speaking lawyer. 

If you were willing to buy a property, you would need an NIE (number of foreigner identification). It is a unique number to everyone that enables you to carry out any transaction in Spain.

While a Spanish bank account is not compulsory, we strongly recommend opening one as it makes most formalities a lot easier.

The process differs for the type of asset you are buying or renting but, generally, it’s as follows:

  1. Budget planning: in Spain, the costs may vary depending on the Autonomous Community. Taxes and other fees assumed by the buyer may include
    1. Property transfer tax: It’s generally around 10% of the property’s value but varies for new or older buildings.
    2. Notary costs, title deed tax and land registration fee 1-2.5%
    3. Legal fees can go around 1-2% of the property’s value.
  1. Get your NIE and your bank account ready to purchase or rent.
  1. Make a reservation agreement of the property with the vendor.
  1. Conduct Due Diligence to uncover any critical issues with the ​property.
  1. Possible “Arras Contract”: This is essentially a deposit to buy the property. The buyer or seller can be penalized for breaking this agreement.
  1. Deed of purchase and sale with notary assistance.
  1. Post-sale services: These include changing the ownership of water, electricity and gas supply contracts. It may also include informing the City Council of the change of owner and settling any corresponding taxes.

Our Real Estate Lawyers are vastly experienced with this process and are here to help.

Taxes when coming to live here

The process of buying or renting a house usually involves paying taxes. That’s why it is strongly advisable to open a Spanish Bank Account. The truth is that Spain’s best banks offer accounts for residents and bank accounts for non-residents. Once granted residency, you can convert it into a resident account.

However, both residents and non-residents must file an annual tax return. This can be difficult, so we recommend working with a tax lawyer to assist you.

Spanish Real Estate market after the coronavirus

The truth is that the Spanish Real Estate market has been moderately affected, with a slight decrease in prices and transactions. While home sales have bounced back since early 2021, new building permits have followed a more gradual recovery. Therefore, we expect housing prices to continue to post moderate but sustained gains over time in the coming quarters.

Spanish Real Estate is attractive, and the country offers varied and unique opportunities. However, we recommend having proper guidance and legal assistance from experienced Real Estate lawyers. At Lexidy, we are dedicated to our clients and their interests during the Real Estate journey.

How can we help you?

At Lexidy, we specialize in all services required when investing in Spanish real estate. We draft arras contracts, perform due diligence and other essential property checks, like settling taxes, before recommending a purchase.

We aim to give our clients a smooth, efficient, and safe investment. We value being close to our clients.

Júlia Clèries Cucurella

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