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How to Move to Spain from the US

Are you ready to learn how to move to Spain from the US? Okay, let’s dive in and find out how!

Looking to leave the States behind and start a new life over in España? That’s amazing if a little terrifying! Before you make your giant leap, there are quite a lot of things that you’re going to have to consider.

No one likes red tape and paperwork, but when you’re moving across the world, it’s kind of inevitable. From visa eligibility to finding accommodation to socializing, I’ve got you covered.

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What Visas Are US Citizens Eligible for Moving to Spain?

First things first, you’ve got to make sure you’re going to be let into the country when you arrive.

Moving to a new country isn’t like visiting it – you need to plan in advance with the correct visa and think about what you’re going to be doing to make money while you’re in Spain. 

1. Schengen

If you’re only planning on moving to Spain for 90 days or less, as a US citizen, you can enter the Schengen Zone without a visa.

This is technically a tourist pass that allows you to visit any country in the Schengen Zone for up to 90 days, or hop between them. Most European countries are in the Schengen Zone.

The one thing that you cannot do on a Schengen Visa is work. This is not a working visa and if you’re caught you can be fined and/or deported. It’s just not worth the risk.

You need to have saved up for your three months in Spain before you come out here or save money by taking part in schemes like Workaway, where you get your accommodation and some food for free in exchange for a few hours helping the hosts with specific tasks or jobs. 

This is obviously not a permanent situation, but you might be able to use the Schengen scheme to come to Spain initially to look for work and accommodations before applying for a longer-term visa while you’re in the country.

This can be risky because if you don’t find a job in time, or the visa paperwork takes longer than 2-3 months, you’re going to have to go back to the US and wait until you’re cleared to return.

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2. Work Visa

Okay, so this is probably the most common visa used to move to Spain from the US. Getting a work visa essentially just means that you’ve found a job in Spain with an employer who is going to sponsor your application.

This might be an international company that you already work for that has an office in Spain, it might be an entirely new firm, or it might be a job that a friend in Spain has helped you to secure. 

With work visas, the premise is that the company is reassuring the government that you’ll have a steady paycheck and won’t become a burden on the system.

This means if you ever leave this company or they decide not to renew the visa sponsorship, you not only need to find a new job, but you need to make sure the company will also take over your visa sponsorship. 

3. Job Search Visa

Rather than using the short length of a Schengen Visa to find a job, the Spanish government does actually have a dedicated Job Search Visa. This lasts up to one year, but you can’t renew it like the majority of other visas. It also has specific eligibility criteria that you have to meet.

  • You have Spanish healthcare
  • Recently graduated with a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree from a Spanish Student Visa. If this is you, you’ve got a window to apply which is 60 days before your Student Visa ends up until 90 days after. 
  • If you can prove you have enough money to support yourself and any dependents while you’re looking for work.

The minimum amount that you have to prove does change in line with the Spanish cost of living and the area that you plan on living in. You can find this out from the Embassy or online on the official Spanish Government website. 

If you meet any of these criteria, this is an amazing option for staying in Spain for up to a full year, and it gives you the time to find a job that’s right for you, rather than just going for the first job with sponsorship that you can find. 

4. Student Visa

Thinking about studying in Spain on an exchange program or full the full length of your degree? If you can get one of the three student visas, this is an excellent way to live in Spain, relatively securely.

You can choose from three lengths, a 90-day Schengen, a short-term student visa for up to 180 days (six months), or a long-term student visa for over six months.

Madrid, Spain
Madrid, Spain

Depending if you’re only studying in Spain for a semester or the full year, you’ll need different paperwork, but there are a few pieces that are required for all three types. 

  • An offer or acceptance letter from your chosen Spanish institution, complete with the course length.
  • Proof of finance, which might be a loan application, bank savings, bursaries, or more. 
  • Medical insurance
  • Valid passport
  • The 60 Euros for the application fee
  • Enough time to book an appointment with your local embassy or consulate to go over your documents. Normally, three months in advance. 

5. Highly Skilled Visa

If you’re qualified as a lecturer, researcher, government official, or hold a managerial position in a medium or large-sized company, you might be eligible for a highly skilled visa.

These are really great because they last for two years as standard and can be renewed at a later date to keep you in the country for longer. 

The thing with this visa is that they’re pretty much all based on how much you earn. For a manager, you’ll need a salary of at least 54,000 Euros, and for a researcher or university lecturer, you’ll need to earn a minimum of 40,000 Euros.

Unlike the Australian or UK system, these jobs don’t need to be listed as in-demand, they just have to be of a more senior level.

6. Family Reunification Visa

If your parents or parents-in-law are over 65, your spouse or partner, or children under 18 are already in Spain, you may be able to apply for a family reunification visa.

As long as the family member who’s in Spain has a valid residency permit or foreigner identity card, you should be able to apply. 

There is a lot of paperwork that you’re going to need for this one, including birth certificates, criminal checks, proof of funds, proof of adequate accommodation, and proof that the foreign family member depends on you for financial or healthcare support.

You’ll find that there are a lot of specific wording choices in the application that could either help your application or hinder it, so be aware of that. 

7. Golden Visa

Golden visas are interesting because some countries are dead against them and others welcome the investment. Sometimes referred to as the investor visa, you need to spend a significant amount to boost the Spanish economy, and essentially buy your way into residency and citizenship.

There are specific numbers that you need to hit as an investor and the initial Golden visa term is only for a year but has the fastest approval process of any visa, includes a work visa and you can bring your family with you.

You need to either:

  • Buy a property worth 500,000 Euros or more.
  • Have 1 million Euros in Spanish company shares or bank deposits.
  • Have 2 million Euros in Treasury Bonds
  • Invest a large amount of money in a new business that will stimulate the local economy through jobs, tourism, innovation, or other socio-economic aspects.

Obviously, all of these amounts are huge and are not going to be viable for everyone.

Before you commit to applying for one of these visas, check out Spain’s tax rules and system, to make sure it’s a sound investment and you won’t get caught out further down the line.

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8. Self-employed or Entrepreneur Visa

Work for yourself, have your own business, or work as a freelancer? This is the visa for you.

Unlike the digital nomad visa, you don’t necessarily have to hit a set income criteria each month, but instead, you have to provide a detailed business plan, proving that your business model is viable and that you can afford to live in Spain for the duration of your stay.

A self-employed or entrepreneur visa lasts for up to a year, but the best part of this one is that you can renew it up to four times.

Each time you do need to prove that your business plan still works and you’re still contributing to the local economy, but it’s definitely a viable option if you’re self-reliant or looking to set up a business, but don’t have the huge funds necessary for a Golden visa. 

9. Non-lucrative Visa

If you’re retired or can afford to stay in Spain without working for longer than Schengen’s 90-day allowance, then you might be interested in the non-lucrative visa.

Obviously, you cannot work on this visa, so you’ll need to make sure that you have enough money to support yourself and your new lifestyle in Spain. 

You do need to prove that you have enough savings or passive income like investments or pensions that are helping to fund your life in Spain. This equates to 30,000 Euros each year. You’ll also need medical checks to make sure that you’re of sound mind and body, as well as private medical insurance.

These non-lucrative visas initially last up to a year and can be renewed every two years after that, on the proviso that you spend at least half the year in Spain and still meet the savings allowance.

Spanish flag in front of building

11. Digital Nomad Visa

It’s no surprise that Spain is launching their own digital nomad visa – countries all over the world are getting in on the action.

Their digital nomad visa has the added benefit of having a reduced amount of tax. Instead of the standard 25%, you will only have to pay 15% in Spanish residency tax. 

To meet the criteria, you’ll need to have worked remotely or as a freelancer for at least a year, do no more than 20% of your work for a Spanish company, and be able to prove that you either have a contract with a remote-first company or have at least one freelance client that can support you financially while you’re in Spain.

The monthly income allowance ranges from 1,000-3.000 Euros depending on the area and the number of dependents you have.

This digital nomad visa lasts for a year, but can be extended to up to two years, and can count towards your permanent residency visa. 

Permanent Residency

Once you’ve lived in Spain for a while, your next step should be to apply for a Permanent Residence permit. It’s definitely better than having to renew a visa every year or so!

If you’ve lived in Spain on an uninterrupted basis for five years, you’re eligible for a permanent residency permit.

It’s important to note that if you’re on a student visa, only half of this time can be put forward for your permanent residency permit.

Once you have secured this permit, you can live and work in Spain with the same perks as a Spanish citizen. After 10 years, you can apply for citizenship.

To get your permanent residency permit, you need to take a completed form, all your documentation, and 80 Euros in fees to a local visa office in person. This permit cannot be applied for online. 

How to Find Accommodation in Spain

Once you’re cleared to work or live in Spain, you’ll need to find a place to live. Unless you’re committed to staying permanently through a Golden visa or highly-skilled contract, your best bet is to rent somewhere.

Tibidabo Amusement Park, Barcelona, Spain
Tibidabo Amusement Park, Barcelona, Spain

Many US expat forums and communities exist all over Spain, so if you can find one in person or online for the area or region that you’re moving to, they should be able to recommend realtors or specific websites that are popular for the area.

They might even know of rooms or properties to rent.

If you’re traveling solo and aren’t sure of which neighborhood you want to live in, perhaps book yourself into an Airbnb or holiday rental so you can try out living in the neighborhood before committing to a six or 12-month rental contract.

This is a lot more realistic than staying in a hostel and then exploring, as you’ll likely be surrounded by tourist hotspots, rather than local vibes.

Coming to Spain as a digital nomad? There are a few digital nomad communities that are cropping up that combine co-working spaces with accommodation and networking events.

This is a great way to meet other like-minded digital nomads and have all the technical facilities on your doorstep.

Socializing in Spain

Whenever you move to a new country, socializing can be difficult. You have to make an effort to get out and about and meet new people.

Whether that’s people you work with, your new neighbors, or going to expat-related events in your area, there are a ton of possibilities.

Another way is to join local sports teams or social clubs to meet like-minded people. If you’ve always wanted to try tennis or soccer, why not sign up for a community league?

Maybe you love to crochet or cook – there’s probably a crafting or cookery course near to you that you can join. It’s all about making an effort and putting yourself out there. 

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Learning the Language

Okay, this is a big one. Although a lot of Americans can speak a little bit of Spanish, if you’re going to move to Spain, you need to be able to speak the language.

It’ll help you integrate, learn more about the culture, and open a ton of new doors. It’s also super useful for dealing with red tape and bureaucracy.

Another thing to note is that even though you might know Spanish, there are some pronunciation differences all around Spain, and Latin American Spanish does have some differences from European Spanish.

It’s not as big of a difference between Portuguese and Brazilian Portuguese, but it is something to be aware of when you’re learning.


So, if you’re looking to move from the US to Spain, there are a ton of possible ways that you can make this dream a reality. Whenever we talk about emigrating, the biggest barriers are normally visa and work-related.

If you can successfully meet the criteria for any of the visas on this list, then you’re a massive step closer to being able to move to Spain on a long-term basis!

Moving abroad is rarely easy, but it is worth it. So start planning today and you’ll be sipping sangria and eating patatas bravas in no time!