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The 7 Biggest Mistakes to Avoid When Moving to Spain

Spain's blue skies and great climate are one of its main attractions

Moving to a foreign country can be intimidating and scary. You’re leaving everything you know, your friends, and your family behind. There are so many things you have to worry about when you’re planning on moving to Spain.

Luckily, most people know that the key to successfully making the transition is to learn as much as you can about the culture. However, there are some pitfalls along the way when relocating to Spain.

To help you ease your mind and make the transition to living abroad, we’ve compiled a list of the most common mistakes people make when moving to Spain. If you’re serious about moving here, read on to learn the 7 biggest mistakes to avoid when moving to Spain. You will learn what you can do to make the transition smoother and avoid small errors that make a big difference.

Table of contents

  • Mistake #1 Moving to Spain Without Knowing What to Do
  • Mistake #2 Trying to Submit Your Application Without Help
  • Mistake #3 Leaving it Until it’s Too Late to Organise Official Paperwork
  • Mistake #4 Leaving Spain Before the Permit is Approved
  • Mistake #5 Failing to have documentation properly translated
  • Mistake #6 Trying to Apply for Residency When in Spain
  • Mistake #7 Renting an Airbnb and Not Having a Proper Lease Agreement
  • Now That You Know, Plan Ahead
  • FAQs on Moving to Spain
The 7 Biggest Mistakes to Avoid When Moving to Spain

Mistake #1 To Avoid

Moving to Spain Without Knowing What to Do

Moving to a new country doesn’t have to be a scary and daunting experience. You just need to plan carefully, and learn as much as you can about the culture and the language. You’ll feel more at ease and enjoy your time here more.

The type of permit you can apply for largely depends on the plans you have to earn a living while in the country. It will also be important to clarify whether you wish to relocate with the savings you have, or plan to receive some source of passive income. 

There are many different ways to live and work in Spain. These include working under an employment contract with a company, as a self-employed professional, incorporating a company in Spain,  or working remotely as an employee for an overseas business.

Mistake #2 To Avoid

Trying to Submit Your Application Without Help

When you’re moving to Spain, it’s important to work with a professional immigration lawyer. The team at Lexidy LegalTech Boutique can assist you in completing forms and reviewing documents to ensure they meet the requirements.

Our legal team can speed up the procedure of obtaining an appointment. They know what each Office for Immigration Services requires, the time frame needed around each document, and how to avoid the issues immigrants often face here. They are also able to contact these offices about specific additional requirements that may arise during your application process when necessary.

We accompany our clients through every step of the application process, so unforeseen problems do not occur.

Mistake #3 To Avoid

Leaving it Until it’s Too Late to Organise Official Paperwork

If you’re moving to Spain, then you’ll need to have a certain amount of paperwork in order before you leave. This includes a valid passport, a health insurance card, and a lease agreement for your new residence.

You should make sure that you have all of these documents completed and ready before you leave. They will come in handy when you move to Spain. They are not always mandatory, and keep in mind that different autonomous regions and consulates seek different documentation.

The same information goes for your family members if they are moving to Spain with you.

You may need to gather the following (officially translated and apostilled) to complete various administrative tasks with Spain’s immigration officials:

  • birth certificates
  • marriage certificates
  • and bank statements

If you wait until the last minute to get all of these documents, you might have a harder time obtaining legal residency once you relocate to Spain.

We recommend allocating up to eight weeks prior to the move for gathering and submitting the right documentation. 

Furthermore, some consulates are busier than others. One immigration official may be able to offer you an appointment at a consulate within a few days from the request. Others at busier consulates may not be available for up to two months.

Mistake #4 To Avoid

Leaving Spain Before the Permit is Approved

You can apply for some of Spain’s residence permits from within Spain. The most requested tend to be the Golden Visa or permits for family members of EU citizens. For most visas and their renewals, keep in mind that you must remain in Spain until your application is assessed. This assessment can take between 20 and 90 days.

If you leave Spain while waiting to hear back on your visa application, your right to stay longer and return is jeopardised. So we recommend that you travel with a tourist visa. Another option is wait until you receive confirmation that your permit has been granted. 

If you must leave the country while your permit is still under consideration, we suggest you contact our expert legal team for guidance on the best way to go about it.

Mistake #5 To Avoid

Failing to have documentation properly translated

One of the biggest mistakes people make when moving to Spain is not having somebody properly translate their documentation. If you don’t have your original documents translated, you will have a much harder time once you arrive in Spain. 

When you apply for a residence visa, you must have all your documents officially translated and apostilled. These documents will include:

  • birth certificates
  • marriage certificates
  • proof of sufficient financial means
  • or employment contracts

Only an authorised translator on a government list can translate these into Spanish. The identification information of your authorised translator will be included with each document for certification purposes.

Mistake #6 To Avoid

Trying to Apply for Residency After Moving to Spain

Generally, applicants can only apply for the residence permit at the Spanish consulate of their country of residence. Sometimes, applicants travel to Spain and then try to apply for residency from within the country. For those out there thinking of doing this: obtaining a residency permit when you are already in Spain just is not possible in most circumstances. 

You cannot reside in Spain without a valid visa or permit. You must request the permit at the Spanish consulate in your country of residence. The process of obtaining a permit varies depending on the type of permit. There are several types of permits with unique specifications, including work permits, study permits and family permits.

For example, if you want to get a student permit, you will have to provide the Spanish consulate with all the required documents. This includes a copy of your passport, an application form and letter from the university where you plan to study.

Of course, there are some rare exceptions allowing applicants to apply for residency in Spain after moving here. Those exceptions include being a family member of an EU national who already lives in Spain, and applying for the Golden Visa program via the investor’s method.

Mistake #7 To Avoid

Renting an Airbnb and Not Having a Proper Lease Agreement

You might be tempted to stay in an Airbnb or another short-term let when moving to Spain. Staying in an Airbnb can be a great way to save money. It can also be a great way to learn about the local culture and how to adapt to the new environment quickly. 

However, be very careful when deciding to stay in an Airbnb. Some parts of Spain do not allow short-term rentals and applications require you demonstrate a long-term lease or living arrangement.

If you’re renting an Airbnb while you’re living in Spain, then you should have a proper lease agreement that states the dates you’re going to be living at the property. Also, you should have the agreement signed by your landlord.

Note: All expats must register with the local Spanish Town Hall after 90 days in Spain to obtain a TIE or residence card. This process requires a long-term lease. Most Town Halls will reject the application if the agreement is a short-term lease. This is the typical case with Airbnbs.

Now That You Know, Plan Ahead

Successfully Apply for Residency After Moving to Spain

Okay, you know the 7 biggest mistakes people make when moving to Spain, and you have the knowledge on how to apply so your visa is approved.

To recap, first you have to gather the documents mentioned in this article and have them apostilled. This can be done through a notarized document. You should also have your documents translated by an approved translator and apostilled by the Spanish consulate in your home country.

Next, you have to submit your documents to the Spanish embassy in your home country. There are many Spanish consulates around the world. Once you submit your application, you’ll have to wait for the outcome of the application.

If your application is accepted, you will receive a residency visa that allows you to stay in Spain for at least a year. This can be renewed for two further years. However, you must enter Spain within a three-month period of receiving the entry visa. If you fail to enter Spain within 90 days, the government may withdraw your permit.

If you’re unsuccessful in your application, don’t despair. Spain could still be your future country of residence. You can still submit a new application. Just be sure to follow the recommended wait period before reapplying so as not to raise any red flags.

One of the best ways to make the transition to living in Spain easier is to research the country and the culture. When you’re planning your trip, make sure to visit tourist attractions and learn about Spanish culture. This will help you feel more at home while you’re visiting. It will also help you with the transition once you arrive in Spain. If you’re serious about moving to Spain, you should visit the country and make the transition as easy and smooth as possible.

Deeply Research Spain’s Tourism and Culture Before Your Visit

One of the best ways to make the transition to living in Spain easier (and avoid culture shock) is to fully research the history and politics of Spain as a country. It’s also helpful to know the history and politics of the regions you plan to visit. Regions in Spain, and even towns within regions, oftentimes have very unique flavours and personalities. 

You might be surprised by the differences from city to city. From the typical style of dress, religiosity, family life, percentage of international community residents, local food and holidays, connection with nature, and more. If you are having difficulty learning about your region, try starting with an expat newspaper like The Olive Press for updated news in English.

The Spanish culture is rich and profound, and the more you learn, the more comfortable you’ll feel here. You’ll understand the subtext in interactions and transition quicker once you move to Spain. 

That said, when you’re planning your trip, make sure to schedule time to visit the tourist attractions and some of Spain’s jaw-dropping 49 UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Beyond being beautiful, each one provides a first-hand experience connecting you personally with a piece of Spanish history.

If you’re serious about moving to Spain, dedicate time to visiting the country and make the transition as easy and smooth for yourself as possible. You’ll thank you later.

7 FAQs on Avoiding Mistakes When Moving to Spain

1. How do I pick the best Spanish city to move to?

This is a personal decision you can decide by first creating a list about what is most important to least important for your long-term happiness: Finding work? Access to the beach or mountains? Novelty in food choice or nightlife? Serenity or liveliness? A walkable city or airport closeby? English speaking residents and schools? 

Once you have narrowed down your list, it’s very easy to find options. Working with our real estate professionals, they can further suggest ideas on where to focus from there.

2. How important is it to learn Spanish?

This depends on where you plan to move. If you want to move to a large metropolitan like Barcelona or Madrid, you can get by with just the basics. There are small expat enclaves dotting the Costa Del Sol where little Spanish is spoken.

Despite this fact, the more you learn, the richer your experience in the country is sure to be, and the more you will be able to connect with locals. Living in a smaller community means you absolutely need to learn some Spanish for necessary interactions and socialising.

3. What should I look out for when purchasing a property in Spain?

Check for encumbrances on the property. Learn and a lot more on purchasing property in Spain here.

4. What cultural aspects might catch me by surprise?

This differs from region to region, but there is an element of truth in the idea that Spaniards are more laid back than a lot of English speaking cultures. One example of that is how plans can be made a couple days out, how the word “ahora” doesn’t actually have to mean “right at this moment”, and how the siesta or coffee time with friends is a sacred daily ritual for many. 

Overall, this is an exciting idea for international citizens, however the pendulum swings both ways. This laidback style also results in most government agencies and many stores being closed during lunch hours (14:00-17:00), being closed completely over holidays, and people generally having a 15 minute grace period (or longer) on acceptable arrival time for social gathering.

5. How does the government work differently from my birth country?

Paperwork takes a lot longer to process than in countries like the United States or the UK. Applying during or right before summer months will slow down the process even further. In general, be respectful throughout the interview process, and don’t expect your interviewer to speak English, so bring a translator or have a professional handle the process for you.

6. How much money do I need to move to Spain?

This depends on the visa you want and the reason for your move. Read more about the types of visas in Spain to learn about the right one for your financial situation.

7. What is work culture like in Spain?

Work culture stereotypically allows for better work/life culture than other European countries. If you work for a private company, the work culture varies greatly. Traditional Spanish companies often encourage socialisation between employees and host holiday meals or events yearly to celebrate the company’s accomplishments. 

In general, company workplace culture in Spain tends to be friendly and jovial.

Conclusion to Avoid Mistakes When Moving to Spain

Before even thinking about applying, you’ll need to be prepared with your application because residency programs in Spain are highly competitive and selective. We suggest you create a detailed plan and timeline on how you’ll be able to cover all the expenses of your new life in Spain.

The residency application process can be time-consuming, and you’ll need to  spend enough time researching the application process and residency program requirements.

If you are considering moving to Spain in or after 2023, take the time to arm yourself with the knowledge for your future success. Check out How To Move To Spain from the US / UK / AU / CA for details on moving to Spain from your specific country of birth. 

Finally, moving to Spain can be tricky for international citizens, but it doesn’t have to be stressful. If you would like assistance with your move to Spain, connect with us through the contact sheet below. Our network of international law experts can provide advice and guidance so you know what to do every step of the way.

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