Guide to Moving to Spain from the U.S.

If you’re thinking about moving to Spain, you’re not alone. With its breathtaking landscapes, magnificent beaches, and relatively low cost of living, it’s no surprise that Spain is the second most popular destination in Europe. Before making the exciting transition to life on the Iberian Peninsula, it’s important to learn as much as you can about the region and familiarize yourself with the steps involved in the international relocation process.

If you’ve already decided to relocate to Spain, Suddath can get you there. Get a free international moving quote or continue reading to learn more about the Kingdom of Spain and what to expect when moving to Spain from the U.S.


Spain is a mountainous country located in the South of Europe and is the fourth-largest country by area on the European continent. Spain includes several nearby islands, and its mainland is dominated by high plateaus and mountain ranges. The geographic location of Spain makes it an important link between Europe, Africa, and the Americas.

Four countries and one territory share a border with Spain:

  • Andorra
  • France
  • Gibraltar
  • Morocco
  • Portugal


The weather in sunny Spain varies across the country. That said, the overall climate is moderate, especially from Barcelona to Malaga along the Mediterranean coast, where residents enjoy a warm, subtropical climate. If you venture further south, you’ll encounter temperatures in excess of 100 degrees Fahrenheit during the summer. Also, cities in the north or northwest experience higher than average rainfall. Like in the U.S., the weather in Spain varies significantly depending on the region.

Notable Cities

  • Barcelona: Barcelona is home to the top three universities in Spain. This Mediterranean metropolis is the capital of Catalonia and is known for its stunning beaches and vibrant nightlife. If you move to Barcelona, you’ll feel right at home, as most people you’ll meet there will be fluent in English.
  • Madrid: As the nation’s capital, Madrid is a bustling city with the most job opportunities. Virtually every large Spanish company has an office here.
  • Malaga: Located in the Andalucía province, Malaga offers the ideal Mediterranean climate with plenty of sunshine. There you’ll find picturesque villages and the whitewashed houses Spain is known for. Malaga is also home to some of the best beaches along the beautiful Costa del Sol.
  • Valencia: Ideal for families, this southeastern coastal city is an ideal mix of urban and suburban living with plenty of top-rated schools. Not only that, but Valencia has its own golden beaches and lively club scene.


The Kingdom of Spain is actually a democratic country with a prime minister and a parliament composed of the Congress of Deputies and the Senate. Spain’s constitution was drafted in 1978 to eliminate dictatorship and make the nation a parliamentary monarchy. Although the king is the official head of state, his position is symbolic and meant to promote unity among Spain’s autonomous regions.

Spanish Culture—What to Expect

The people of Spain are typically friendly and welcoming to strangers; however, every nation has its own culture, and it’s always best to be prepared when visiting a country for the first time. Here are a few things to keep in mind if you are new to Spain:

  • When meeting someone for the first time, it’s polite to greet them with a handshake. Once you get to know people, they’ll likely offer you a hug or a kiss on the cheek.
  • Being well dressed is a priority for Spaniards, so don’t show up at Walmart in your pajamas. In professional settings, men are expected to wear a suit, whereas business casual is the norm for professional women.
  • The Spanish culture places a lot of emphasis on a healthy work–life balance, so long lunch breaks are the norm, and eating at your desk is frowned upon.
  • It’s a myth that Castilian Spanish is drastically different from the Spanish spoken in the United States and Latin American countries. If you are fluent in Spanish, you’ll be able to communicate just fine in Spain, regardless of minor differences in dialect. Also, you’ll hear English spoken a lot in big cities.
  • People from other European countries make up most of the expatriates living in Spain; however, the number of Americans immigrating to Spain has been rising in recent years. So, whichever part of Spain you end up living in, you will probably find fellow Americans to connect with.


Spain has a rich and varied culinary tradition, and pork leads the country’s meat production, resulting in ham (jamón) being one of the most popular main dishes. Other common foods you can expect to see on Spanish menus include paella, gazpacho, chorizo, tortilla Española, empanadas, patatas bravas, and, for a sweet snack, churros. Some of the more exotic foods you will encounter in Spain include baby eels, bull tails, and bull testicles.

Eating out is extremely affordable in Spain compared to the U.S. or other parts of Europe. You can also look forward to the fact that groceries are considerably cheaper in Spain than in the rest of Europe and the United States. As a bonus, you’ll have access to plenty of locally grown food, as agriculture is a significant sector of Spain’s economy.

Public Transportation

Public transit includes buses and train systems, which tend to originate from Madrid, the nation’s capital. Railways in Spain consist of a long-distance railway system and inner-city metro systems, which are highly integrated. Alta Velocidad Española is a high-speed rail service that connects several Spanish cities. As mentioned, individual cities also have their own transit systems.


Although renting a home in Spain is about half the cost of renting in the United States, the Spanish rental market can be tricky. Because of the bureaucratic ordeal you would face as a foreigner looking to rent, buying a home in Spain can potentially be easier than renting.

The good news is that now is a great time to purchase property in Spain. According to, “The average property price per square meter in Barcelona and Madrid is around €3,000–€5,000 (€150,000–€250,000 for a 50 square meter apartment).” As is often the case elsewhere in the world, you’ll usually pay a little more to be close to the water.

Because of the high demand for short-term rentals, you’ll likely receive a substantial return on your investment in Spanish property. Some of the most lucrative places to invest in real estate include Valencia, Madrid, Malaga, Barcelona, and the Balearic Islands.

Job Market

Unfortunately, Spain has a higher-than-average unemployment rate, so you can expect to face stiff competition in the job market depending on the province. Another potential obstacle is that foreigners are only hired in Spain if the Public Employment Service lists the occupation as a shortage occupation. Landing a good job in Spain will be easier if you speak Spanish; however, speaking English can provide you with an advantage as well.

Once you get a job offer or contract from a Spanish employer, you’ll need to get a work visa, which your employer must request from the Ministry of Labor. The work visa application process can take up to eight months, and your employer will probably be aware of this. If you plan to be self-employed, you’ll need to apply for a work visa in the U.S. at one of the Spanish embassies or consulates.

Visas and Work Permits

As a citizen of a non-EU country, you will need to get a short-term “Schengen Visa” that will be valid for 90 days within a 180-day period. If you plan to stay longer, you’ll need to simultaneously apply for a long-term visa. To obtain a Spanish visa of any kind, you will need to meet certain requirements, such as having a clean criminal record, a certificate of overall good health, and proof of sufficient financial funds. Visa costs vary depending on your nationality, and the cost for Americans may range from $120 to $1180, depending on the type of visa.

If you are an American moving to Spain, there are several kinds of visas to choose from: the work visa, the self-employment visa, the tourist visa, the retirement visa, and the investor visa. Americans retiring in Spain can either apply for a retirement visa or an investor visa.

Obtaining the Spain investor visa has many benefits. However, you’ll need to make an investment of at least €500,000 in Spain’s economy to qualify. Getting this prestigious visa is also the easiest way to obtain a Spanish passport.

If you’re considered a highly skilled worker, you may even be issued a European Blue Card, which is the equivalent of a Green Card in the United States.

Bank Accounts

Some of Spain’s best banks offer accounts for both residents and non-residents. As an American moving to Spain, you can set up a non-resident account and convert it to a resident account once your status changes.

Pro tip: When converting your savings into euros, don’t use just any bank for this process. Instead, shop around for the best exchange rate.


In Spain, both residents and non-residents are required to file tax returns, so it’s important to budget for potential taxes during your first year of residence. This is a broad range, but to give you a general idea, the income tax rate ranges from 19% to 45%, depending on your income.


A key aspect to consider when moving abroad is healthcare, and Spain has a lot to offer in this regard. The Spanish National Health System provides universal healthcare to more than 99% of Spanish citizens living in Spain and many others who are part of the European Union. In addition, public healthcare is free for legal residents who work in Spain. If you’re an American relocating to Spain for work, you’ll need to register at the local Social Security office to obtain a “tarjeta sanitaria individual” (healthcare card) and then take it with you to every doctor’s appointment.

If you have a spouse or children who will live with you in Spain, they’ll also be eligible for public healthcare and will need their own cards. If you won’t be employed and are ineligible for free healthcare, you can get “pay-in-scheme” coverage and simply pay an affordable monthly fee, which starts at around $67 per month.

One major caveat with Spain’s otherwise top-notch healthcare system is that it only covers around half the cost of prescription drugs. So, if you anticipate needing expensive prescriptions, it would be wise to look into private insurance. Other services that are not 100% free include dental care, corrective lenses, and some orthopedic treatments.

Moving Your Household Goods

Now that you’re prepared to take advantage of everything Spain has to offer, it’s time to think about the logistics of getting there. If you have not moved internationally before review – use the Suddath Moving Checklist to familiarize yourself with the process

When it comes to shipping your household goods to Spain, you’ll have decisions to make about container size, load, and custom crating options. Methods of transporting your household goods from the U.S. to Spain may involve air, land, sea, or any combination of those.

Upon arrival in Spain, your household goods will have to go through customs at either the airport or port. This process should go smoothly unless you have something to declare, meaning items that are restricted by customs.

When you hire Suddath to service your move to Spain, our international moving experts will provide and review Spanish customs requirements with you and discuss all the shipping options to determine what works best for your individual needs and budget.

Transporting Your Pets

Dogs, cats, and ferrets need to be vaccinated and microchipped before obtaining their EU passport or Health Certificate and Declaration, which they will need to enter Spain. Keep in mind that an animal is not considered vaccinated until 21 days after inoculation. Animals under three months of age will not be allowed entry into Spain since they are not yet vaccinated for rabies.

Before your pet can travel to Spain from the United States, a USDA accredited veterinarian must complete a bilingual form called the Annex II for Spain, which must be endorsed by the USDA. A blood test may also be required to verify your pet’s immunity to rabies. Visit the Spanish Embassy website for more detailed, up-to-date information on pet travel requirements, and contact your airline about their requirements.


1. What kinds of expenses should I budget for when moving from the U.S. to Spain?

With an international move, you can expect to have at least the following initial expenses:

  • Visa preparation costs
  • Real estate or property management costs involved with selling or renting out your current home
  • Deposit on a rental property or down payment on your new house or condo
  • Startup fees for utilities and other services
  • Travel costs for you and your family members, including pets
  • Moving costs for transporting your belongings to your new home

2. What do people like most about living in Spain?

Some perks of living in Spain include the beautiful weather, low cost of living, and good health. The culture of outdoor living paired with a Mediterranean diet is a possible explanation for why Spaniards enjoy a longer-than-average lifespan.

3. What is your best advice for an American moving to Spain?

A lot can go wrong with an overseas move, which is why the most important advice we have is to plan ahead and get professional help with coordinating your move. Because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the overseas moving industry can experience container shortages and port congestion issues, which is why it’s essential to book your move as early as possible. Also, it’s vital to work with a reputable and accredited mover like Suddath that has the necessary experience to coordinate the complicated details of an international move. Be sure to book the move before scheduling your departure flight to avoid getting to your destination too far ahead of your belongings.

Help With Moving to Spain from the U.S.

Relocating overseas is often more challenging than expected, but an experienced international mover can save you time, money, and headaches. As an international mover with over 100 years of experience, Suddath knows how to get your belongings to Spain quickly and smoothly. We understand the often-intricate logistics associated with this kind of move and have experience in navigating issues that people newer to this industry may not be familiar with. Our expert move coordinators can reduce your stress by not only handling the packing and shipping but by managing the many risks associated with an overseas move.

If you are moving to Spain from the U.S. and need help with your move, contact Suddath for a free quote and honest advice on making your dream of relocating to Spain a reality.