How to move to Spain?

Many people ask me how to move to Spain. Some because of curiosity and others because they want to go overseas and explore Spain too. And it is no wonder since Spain is a beloved place for many expats and students looking for a sunny and non-stop festivities. 

It is like there is always a festival in a town nearby. Not to mention Spain’s well-known nightlife.    

Prepare for a long post because the answer on how to move to Spain depends on what visa you want to apply to.

Can I just move to Spain?

The short answer is no. If you are not an EU citizen you just can’t move to Spain. You will have to apply for a visa and gather some documents before moving to Spain. Not to mention, do some research on the exact autonomy you want to move to. It also depends on whether you want to move long term or not. For example, it is not the same if you just want to stay for 6 months as a student. 

I first moved to Spain on an exchange program and fell so in love that I decided to move again. I’ve moved here a total of three times. The first two with a student visa and one through Pareja de Hecho.

How can I legally live in Spain?

Moving to spain

For Americans “as a general rule, you can stay in Spain with your tourist visa for 3 months“, and here I quote Balcells Group. After that, you must get a valid residence permit in order to legally stay in Spain.

But if you are planning on staying longer there are different ways to live legally in Spain. And trust me they all require patience. For all the possibilities check the Spanish Consulate. You will see the many options, from student visa, family reunification, a residency with work visa, etc. 

 Can I move to Spain without a job?

Yes, there are ways to move here without a job. Again, it depends on what you are looking for and the visa you are applying to. In my case, I always moved without a job. Because the first and second time, I moved on a student visa. Now I moved through the family reunification process. For both visas, there is no need for a job.

What do I need to move to Spain from the USA?

 The basic documents you will need regardless of the visa you apply to are:

  1. USA Passport
  2. One passport size photo with a white background.
  3. Original medical certificate typed on the doctor´s stationery.
  4. Federal or State Police Report from the country of origin or place of you residence for the past year bearing the “Apostille of the Hague Convention” 
go overseas

And yes, I got this from the consulate Spanish page just to make sure. But please, make sure you verify what other documents you will need. I assure you each visa has its own set of required documents. 

How easy is it to move to Spain?

By now I think you can answer yourself this question. It depends on how you look at it. I for one don’t think it is too complicated, but it does require organization, patience, and determination. Not to mention, Spain is known for its bureaucracy difficulties. In other words, don’t expect immediate results. Especially if going for a family reunification residency card.

On the positive side, when you make it to Spain things seem less complicated and straight forward. 

How to get a visa with Pareja de Hecho?

What is a civil union or pareja de hecho?

It is a Civil Union that also is a great way to get your residence and move to Spain if you have a relationship with a Spaniard or European.

In a nutshell, it is a union that gives you some legal benefits like in a marriage, but it does leave out some. For instance, financial ties. Besides this, if you decide you no longer want to be together instead of going through the divorce process you must notify the city hall you no longer want to be a Pareja de Hecho. 

What is the downside of Pareja de Hecho?

One thing you need to know about Spain is that every autonomy has its own set of reals. For example, if my partner and I decide to leave Valencia and change autonmy, say go to Barcelona, our Pareja de Hecho wouldn’t be valid. We would have to start a whole other process to validate our union and my residency in Spain. Again, I am condensing everything and not going into details. 

How to apply for Pareja de Hecho in Spain?

pareja de hecho steps

Moving to Spain with Pareja de Hecho Pros and Cons

Pros of applying to a Pareja de Hecho

Regarding Valencia-You don’t have to live together for a year before starting the process. This is why we chose Valencia.

Long term residency. If you have a European partner it might be one of the best ways for moving to Spain legally for the long term.

The cons to Pareja de Hecho 

  1. The Spanish government takes it’s precious time to process the “Pareja de Hecho”. So what this means for us is that we are almost an official couple regarding the Spanish government. I’m in an irregular situation. At this time I am not illegal nor legal in Spain.
  2. Another downside is you can’t travel outside of Spain because your tourist visa most likely has expired. 
  3. Not being legally able to work before your visa is processed. But hey! Have you heard about working online?

Do to COVID my papers are on hold. We were about a month away from getting the finals saying and now we just have to be extra patient and wait for the crisis to pass.

The step-by-step process for a student visa.

How to apply for the student visa?

Student visa steps

What do I need to apply for a student visa?

1. Letter of acceptance.

As specified in the graph once you apply for a student exchange program and are accepted you will receive a letter. This is crucial for your student visa to be approved.

2. An affidavit stating you have economic means to live abroad.

If you were like me a simple student how didn’t have $ 12,000 lying around you are going to need a guarantee. You can have parents, spouse, or children stating will help you economically. Gather any bank letter that states income, payroll, etc. If you have a scholarship bring this documentation. 

3.Health Insurance. A traveler’s health insurance covering you for the length of the trip is fine. Mine cost around $34 with OnCampus. It was a lifesaver for some of my health complications abroad. Plus, you will need it for the visa to be approved.

4. Justification of accommodations. This is to justify where you are going to live while been abroad. If you have done some research you probably know it is not a good idea to send money to strangers abroad for apartments, etc. This you should do in person unless it is an on-campus dorm or the exchange program has already helped you with this.

 I used the university direction. The person on the Spanish Consulate was the one who helped me with this and suggested it.

5. 2 photos 2×2. They can’t be black and white, and they have to be with a white background.


8. Round- trip airplane tickets. I honestly don’t remember having this before my visa, but it supposedly required. Make sure with your Consulate or Embassy. 

9.Health certificate  Bring a medical certificate stating I was in good health.

10.School transcripts. My official school transcripts where required as well as part of the visa process. 

11.Valid passport. This means the expiration date must be good throughout the whole trip. Bring a copy as well. 

How much does a student visa cost?

The visa cost varies in some cases. I suggest you check this information with the Spanish Embassy or Consulate. In my case, it cost around $160. Add the cost of the affidavit, the health certificate, the health insurance, school transcripts, and photos. We are talking about $208. If you don’t have a passport then add that too. I would say roughly about $300. Just for the student visa. 

Tips on Moving to Spain 

Spain has different Autonomies and a different set of rules for each one. Although all of them have what is called Pareja de Hecho some of the requirements may change. Also, although I am Puerto Rican I hold a US passport. Meaning I didn’t need a visa to enter Spain and made the process a bit easier. Lastly, my partner is not Spanish but he is European. With this, I want to remind you that applying for a Spanish visa with Pareja de Hecho is possible if your partner is European, not necessarily Spanish. 

I also recommend learning Spanish before moving. At least understand some basic words. Spain is a proud country and is not easy finding Spanish people who talk English.

Useful resources for moving to Spain.

  • Idealista. Best place to finds rentals and housing with and without agents.
  • ESN. For student activities, discounts, and more.
  • GoAbroad. For student exchange programs.

Final thoughts.

If moving to Spain go for it. Once you set your mind to it things will look clearer. Sure it takes patience and time but now you see all it takes is proper guidance and organizations.

If you have any questions, comments, or just want to say “Hi ” email me or leave a comment below.

how to move to spain

This Post Has 7 Comments

  1. Shannon Bratton

    Wow this post is eye opening! I didn’t realize the lengthy process! Great information!!

  2. Kate

    This is super informative!! I love Spain and would really like to live there some day!

  3. Cynthia Clarke

    It’s definitely my intention to move out of the USA after I retire. I never considered Spain. It may be something that I look into. Very informative post.

    1. Mynomadtips

      Thank you! I’m glad it can help. Here you will find a variety of cultures as many people come to retire or work because of the good weather and cheap costs.

  4. Erin

    Thanks for this detailed post. Two friends of mine are moving to Spain for work – I’m going to forward this post to them.

    1. Mynomadtips

      It’s definitely a good idea to check all the requirements and process first for each community, some take longer as I have learned in Valencia. Good luck to both of them!

  5. Aswani Kurra

    This is so interesting. Never knew about the long process but glad you figured it out!

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