Guidance

Living in Spain

Official information for British citizens moving to or living in Spain need to know, including guidance on residency, healthcare and passports.

This guide sets out essential information for British citizens about moving to or living in Spain. Read about how our consulates in Spain can help.

This information is provided as a guide only. You should obtain definitive information from the Spanish authorities. The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) is not liable for any inaccuracies in this information.

Read general guidance on moving or retiring abroad.

To stay up to date:

If you were living in Spain before 1 January 2021

Some parts of this guide only apply if you were living in Spain since before 1 January 2021. These are indicated with sub-headings.

You should also read our Living in Europe page for detailed guidance about citizens’ rights under the Withdrawal Agreement.

Coronavirus

You should follow the advice of the Spanish Government and your local authority. You can also read our Spain travel advice.

For information on getting a COVID-19 vaccine as a UK national in Spain, see our coronavirus travel advice.

Visas and residency

If you were legally resident in Spain before 1 January 2021, you will be able to stay. You must ensure you are correctly registered as a resident. Children must also be registered with their own residency document.

If you are registering for the first time, you will be issued with a biometric residence card called a Tarjeta de Identidad de Extranjero (TIE). This card will prove your rights under the Withdrawal Agreement.

If you registered as a resident before 6 July 2020, you will have a green A4 certificate or credit card-sized piece of paper from Extranjeria or the police. This is still a valid document and proves your rights under the Withdrawal Agreement.

If you have trouble using your green EU residence certificate, read the Spanish government’s informative note on documentation for UK nationals. This explains which documents you can use to prove your residence and Withdrawal Agreement rights in Spain. You can refer to this informative note when dealing with service providers.

You can exchange your paper EU residence document for the new TIE but you are not required to.

We and the Spanish government strongly recommend you obtain the TIE. The biometric card is more durable, it will simplify administrative processes and border crossings, and it exempts you from European Travel Information and Authorisation System (ETIAS) and visa requirements.

Read the Spanish government’s guidance on how to apply for the new TIE.

For more information:

Additional support

If you need additional support to obtain your Tarjeta de Identidad de Extranjero (TIE), read the UK Nationals Support Fund guidance. Support from the UK Nationals Support Fund will end on 31 December 2021. You should contact the UK Nationals Support Fund implementing partners before this date if you require additional support. If you are already being assisted by one of our implementing partners, they will continue to help you until you have made your application.

Other local support

For details of official Spanish government and non-government organisations including in the voluntary sector, visit the Support in Spain website.

Moving to Spain

Check the entry requirements for Spain.

You must register as resident, or apply for the appropriate visa if you want to stay in Spain for more than three months. Read the Spanish government’s guidance on moving to Spain (in Spanish).

Passports and travel

Coronavirus restrictions may affect the information on this page. For the latest COVID-19 guidance read our Spain travel advice.

You can apply for or renew your British passport in Spain.

Check the travel advice for Spain for passport validity requirements.

Always carry your passport when travelling within the Schengen area. If you have citizenship of an EU / EFTA country, in addition to your British citizenship, you should enter and leave Spain using your EU / EFTA passport.

If you stay in Spain with a Spanish residence permit or long-stay visa, this does not count towards your 90-day visa-free limit for the Schengen area.

If you visit other Schengen area countries outside Spain, make sure you do not exceed the visa-free 90 days in any 180-day period. You are responsible for counting how long you stay under the Schengen visa waiver, and you must comply with its conditions.

Different rules apply to EU countries that are not part of the Schengen area. Check each country’s travel advice page for information on entry requirements.

If you were living in Spain before 1 January 2021

When you travel, especially within the Schengen area, you should carry with you your residence document (the green paper EU residence certificate or the TIE) or frontier worker permit issued under the Withdrawal Agreement, in addition to your valid passport.

You must proactively show your residence document (the green paper EU residence certificate or the TIE) if you are asked to show your passport at border control. If you have applied for, but not yet received, your residence document, carry proof that your application is in progress.

If you cannot prove that you are a resident in Spain, you may be asked additional questions at the border to enter the EU. Your passport may be stamped on entry and exit. This will not affect your rights in the country or countries where you live or work. If a passport is incorrectly stamped, the stamp is considered null and void when you can show evidence of lawful residence.

If you have rights under the Withdrawal Agreement, you do not need any extra months on your passport to enter or exit EU countries.

Children travelling from Spain

Children (under 18 years old) resident in Spain, who travel out of Spain without a person who has parental responsibility, may need a certified authorisation by that person. This is required in addition to a valid travel document.

The regulation does not apply to foreign children resident in Spain who are subject to the law of their country of nationality, or to non-resident foreign children visiting Spain.

The Spanish immigration authorities are aware that there is no similar standard regulation in the UK, and therefore British consulates do not provide travel authorisation documents.

British children do not need written permission to travel unless they are subject to a court order which states that written permission is required from those holding parental responsibility. If the child is subject to such a court order, or to ensure that an unaccompanied child will be able to leave Spain without delay, you must obtain a certified authorisation from a public notary in Spain.

If you have parental responsibility for Spanish children in Spain, you can obtain a certified authorisation at a notary, national police station (in Spanish, or at the Guardia Civil (in Spanish).

Flight discounts for residents in Canary Islands, Balearic Islands, Ceuta and Melilla

Read the Spanish government’s guidance on who is eligible to access discounts on flights, and on how this has changed for UK nationals since 1 January 2021.

Healthcare

Read our guidance on healthcare in Spain and make sure you are correctly registered for your circumstances.

If you are resident in Spain, you must not use your UK-issued EHIC or GHIC for healthcare in Spain, unless you are a student or a detached (posted) worker.

Read the Spanish government’s guidance on access to healthcare.

If you’re leaving the UK with medicine that contains a controlled drug, check with the Spanish embassy about the rules before you travel and the NaTHNaC guidance on travelling with medicines.

You should also read our guidance on:

Working in Spain

If you are planning to move to Spain and work, you may need a visa. Application processing times may vary and you should only make travel arrangements once your visa has been issued.

Read the Spanish government’s guidance on:

To apply for a job, you may need to provide a:

Read:

If you were living in Spain before 1 January 2021

You have the right to work under the Withdrawal Agreement.

If you live in Spain and were regularly commuting to work in another EU or European Free Trade Area (EFTA) country before 1 January 2021, read our guidance for frontier workers.

Professional and academic qualifications

You may need to get your professional qualification recognised if you want to work in a profession that is regulated in Spain.

Read guidance on:

If you were living in Spain before 1 January 2021

If the relevant regulator in Spain officially recognised your professional qualification before 1 January 2021, or you started the recognition process by this date, make sure you understand the terms of your recognition decision. Seek advice from the regulator if needed.

Recognition and legalisation of UK academic documents

If you need your UK academic qualification officially recognised in Spain, follow the Spanish Ministry of Education’s guidance (in Spanish)

From 31 October 2021, your degree certificate or other documents need to be certified by a UK notary public and then legalised by the FCDO Legalisation Office.

Read guidance on getting your UK degree qualification certified and legalised in the UK.

This legalisation service is not provided by the British Embassy in Madrid, UK consulates in Spain, or the British Council in Spain.

Studying in Spain

If you plan to study in Spain, carry out an internship or take up a placement as a language assistant, you must meet all visa requirements before you travel.

Contact the relevant higher education provider in Spain to check what fees you may have to pay.

Read guidance on:

If you were living in Spain before 1 January 2021

The studying in the European Union guidance includes specific information for those who were already living in Spain before 1 January 2021.

Money, tax and banking

The UK has a double taxation agreement with Spain to ensure you do not pay tax on the same income in both countries. Ask the relevant tax authority your questions about double taxation relief.

You should get professional advice on paying tax in Spain. Find an English-speaking lawyer in Spain or you can use a registered ‘gestor’.

Read guidance about:

National Insurance

Find out if you need to pay National Insurance in the UK or social security contributions in Spain.

Declaring your assets

As a Spanish resident, you must declare your global income to the Spanish authorities, no matter which country it came from. If you are not a resident, you will only pay tax on income that came from Spain.

You may need to file an annual declaration of overseas assets called a Modelo 720. There are severe penalties if you do not file, or give incorrect or incomplete information.

UK banking

Whether UK banks can provide service to customers living in the EEA is a matter of local law and regulation.

Read the Money and Pension Service’s MoneyHelper guidance on banking, insurance and financial services changes for more information on cross-border banking.

Pensions

Read our guidance on entitlement to UK benefits and pensions while you are living in Spain.

If you are moving or retiring abroad, you must tell the UK government offices that deal with your benefits, pension and tax.

Read our State Pension guidance if you have lived in Australia, Canada or New Zealand and you are claiming or waiting to claim your UK State Pension.

If you retire in Spain, you can claim:

Read the Money and Pension Service’s MoneyHelper guidance on pension and retirement changes for more information on cross-border pensions.

Life Certificates for UK State Pensions

If you get a ‘life certificate’ from the UK Pension Service, you must respond as soon as possible - your payments may be suspended if you do not.

Benefits

Read our guidance on entitlement to UK benefits and pensions while you are living in Spain.

If you are moving or retiring abroad, you must tell the UK government offices that deal with your benefits, pension and tax.

Check which benefits you can claim while abroad and how to claim them.

Many income-related benefits such as Pension Credit and Housing Benefit cannot be paid if you’re abroad for more than 4 weeks.

You can request proof from HMRC of the time you’ve worked in the UK and of your UK National Insurance record.

Spanish benefits

You may be entitled to Spanish benefits. To find out if you are entitled to Spanish benefits and how to claim, you can:

Accommodation and buying property

Read guidance on how to buy or let property in Spain.

Driving in Spain

Valid UK driving licences are recognised for driving in Spain for 6 months from the date you enter Spain or from the date you obtained residence.

Read the Spanish Traffic Authority’s (DGT) guidance on using and exchanging licences in Spain (in Spanish).

Negotiations are underway between the British and Spanish Governments to agree long-term arrangements for exchanging driving licences without needing a practical test.

Sign up for email alerts to this page to get notified of our updates on changes to the rules.

If you were resident in Spain before 1 January 2021

As a temporary measure, your valid UK driving licence will be recognised for driving in Spain until 31 October 2021.

This also applies to you if you were resident in Spain before 1 January 2021 but did not obtain your residence document (TIE or Tarjeta de Identidad de Extranjero) until after this date.

If you wish to exchange your UK licence for a Spanish one, the process to follow depends on whether you registered your details and intention to exchange with the Spanish Traffic Authority (DGT) before 30 December 2020.

If you registered your details with the Spanish Traffic Authority (DGT) before 30 December 2020

If you were resident in Spain before 1 January 2021 and registered your details and intention to exchange with the DGT before 30 December 2020, you should request an appointment with the DGT to exchange your UK licence by 31 December 2021.

To exchange your licence you will need:

  • proof you are registered as a resident in Spain (eg. TIE - Tarjeta de Identidad de Extranjero; green EU residence certificate)
  • your UK licence

Read DGT’s guidance on how to get an appointment (in Spanish with English translation).

The DGT will exchange your UK licence for a temporary driving permit (‘autorización temporal para conducir’) until your Spanish licence is processed. This document is valid in Spain only.

If you did not register your details with DGT before 30 December 2020

If you did not register with DGT before 30 December 2020 and wish to exchange your UK driving licence, you should follow the DGT process for non-EU nationals. This includes taking a driving test.

Driving in the UK with a Spanish licence

You can use your Spanish licence in the UK for short visits, or exchange it for a UK licence without taking a test.

Lost, stolen or expired UK licences

If you live in Spain, you will not be able to renew your driving licence in the UK. If your UK licence is lost, stolen or expired, you will need to apply to the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) for a ‘certificate of entitlement’ to be able to apply for a Spanish driving licence.

For information on driving in Spain, read our guidance on:

Bringing a UK-registered vehicle to Spain

Read our guidance on taking a vehicle out of the UK.

If you register as a resident or spend longer than 6 months of the year in Spain, you must register your vehicle with the Spanish authorities and you may need to pay some taxes.

You may be exempt from some of these taxes. If so you will need certificates of exemption.

Voting

You can vote and stand in local elections in Spain once you have been resident for 3 years. To do so, you must:

  • register on the municipal register where you live (padrón municipal)
  • formally declare your intention to vote and register on the local electoral roll
  • reconfirm your registration on the electoral roll ahead of each election within the deadline set by the electoral authorities

Read the Spanish government’s guidance on voting in local elections. You can also read the bilateral agreement between the UK and Spain on voting rights (in Spanish).

You cannot vote in general or regional elections in Spain or European Parliamentary elections.

You may be able to vote in some UK elections. You can:

Births, deaths, marriages and civil partnerships

If your child is born in Spain, you will need to register the birth abroad.

If someone dies in Spain read our guidance on:

Find out how you can get married or get a civil partnership abroad.

You may also need notarial and documentary services for British nationals in Spain.

Pets

If you have a pet passport issued by Spain or another EU member state, you can use it to travel with your pet to Great Britain and elsewhere in the EU.

A GB-issued EU pet passport is not valid for travel to the EU or Northern Ireland. You should speak to your vet before you travel to get the necessary pet travel documents and ensure you’re compliant with the EU Pet Travel Regulations.

Read guidance on:

Check the rules of the country you’re travelling to for any additional restrictions or requirements before you travel.

Emergencies

You can dial the European emergency number on 112 in Spain for the police, ambulance or fire brigade, or dial:

  • 091 for police
  • 061 for health emergencies
  • 080 for firefighters
  • 092 for local police

You can dial the EU 116 000 hotline to report a missing child in the EU country where you live or in another EU country. It also provides guidance and support to the families of missing children.

If you’re the victim of crime, have been arrested, or are affected by a crisis abroad, contact your nearest British embassy or consulate.

Returning to the UK

Check the COVID-19 travel guidance for entering the UK.

Tell the UK and Spanish authorities if you are returning to the UK permanently. To help prove you are now living in the UK, you should deregister with your:

  • local town hall (padrón)
  • the Spanish National Police (Residencia)
  • your local health centre

If you get healthcare in Spain through the S1 form, you must contact the Overseas Healthcare Team on +44 (0)191 218 1999 or Seguridad Social to make sure your S1 is cancelled at the right time.

To move your pension or benefits payments to the UK, tell the International Pension Centre and the Instituto Nacional de la Seguridad Social.

Read the guidance on returning to the UK permanently which includes information on, amongst other things, tax, access to services and bringing family members.

If you return to the UK permanently and meet the ordinarily resident test, you’ll be able to access NHS care without charge.

Useful information

List of useful websites for UK nationals living in Spain.

Support for British nationals abroad: a guide sets out how to stay safe abroad, and explains how the FCDO can support you if you get into difficulty.

Published 22 March 2013
Last updated 11 October 2021 + show all updates
  1. Visas and residency section updated: the additional support provided by the UK Nationals Support Fund to UK nationals making their residency application, will end on 31 December 2021. Contact the relevant implementing partner before this date if you need this additional support.

  2. Guidance reviewed for Passports and travel, Healthcare, Working in Spain, Studying in Spain,  Emergencies, and Returning to the UK sections

  3. Guidance reviewed for Money, tax and banking, Benefits, Births, deaths, marriages and civil partnerships, and Useful information sections.

  4. New guidance on professional and academic qualifications.

  5. Working in Spain section updated: new guidance for frontier workers

  6. Driving section: the deadline has been extended so you can now use your UK licence to drive in Spain until 31 October 2021, if you were resident in Spain before January 2021.

  7. Additional support section updated with link to guidance on UK Nationals Support Fund; healthcare section updated including guidance on the S1 form and applying for EHIC and GHIC cards; working in Spain section updated with links to Department for International Trade (DIT) guidance on working or providing services and DIT guidance on recognition of professional qualifications.

  8. Driving section updated on how to exchange your UK driving licence for a Spanish one.

  9. Coronavirus section updated with a link to guidance on vaccines.

  10. Visas and residency section updated with information on accepted residency documentation for UK nationals.

  11. Updated as the transition period ends with new information on driving, pet travel and moving to Spain.

  12. Passports and travel section updated on carrying proof of residence when travelling.

  13. UK Nationals Support Fund section updated with expanded geographical coverage for Spain

  14. Updated with latest information on exchanging UK driving licences.

  15. Healthcare section updated on how to apply for a new UK EHIC as a student or S1 holder. Working section updated with information on frontier workers.

  16. Passports and travel section updated to include information on passport validity and entry requirements when travelling to other European countries from January 2021.

  17. Addition to the UK Nationals Support Fund section regarding the provision of assistance with residency applications in Valencia and Castellon regions (Babelia Association).

  18. Visas and residency section updated to include information about how to access the UK Nationals Support Fund for those who may find it harder to complete their residency application.

  19. Driving section updated with additional guidance on how to exchange your UK licence for a Spanish one.

  20. Visas and residency section updated with information about the new residency document - Tarjeta de Identidad de Extranjero (TIE)

  21. Brexit update: includes further details on passport validity, healthcare rights and State Pension uprating if the UK leaves the EU with a deal.

  22. Updated information on children travelling from Spain.

  23. Brexit update: Driving section updated to include latest information on the process of exchanging driving licences.

  24. Updated information on children travelling from Spain.

  25. Brexit update: healthcare section updated to reflect transitional arrangements announcement.

  26. Brexit update: Pensions section updated to include further details on State Pension uprating.

  27. Information on new requirements for minors travelling from Spain from the 1 September in the passports and travel section

  28. EU Exit update - additional information added to the passports and travel section.

  29. Information on voting in the European Parliament elections.

  30. EU Exit update: Added in new information on EU Exit in pensions, passports, healthcare and returning to the UK section.

  31. EU Exit update: updated information added to the visas and residency section.

  32. We have updated this guidance with what you should do to prepare for EU Exit and what the Royal Decree means for UK nationals.

  33. We have updated the contact details you need to apply for an S1 form.

  34. EU Exit update: links added to Spanish governments' brexit website and Spain's no-deal contingency measures as published in the Royal Decree

  35. Updated information on passports: you must use the checker tool to see if your passport is still valid for your trip

  36. EU Exit update: updated information on double taxation

  37. EU Exit update: updated information on access to healthcare

  38. EU Exit update: New information on voting in local elections in Spain added to the voting section

  39. EU exit update - updated information on pensions and driving

  40. We have added the latest information with the new website of the Spanish Government for UK Nationals in Spain

  41. EU Exit update: Added information about the Spanish government announcement on EU Exit in the Visas and Residency section.

  42. EU Exit update: New information on voting in local elections in Spain.

  43. EU Exit update: New information in residency and visa section on draft withdrawal agreement in principle between the UK and EU. Plus information on travelling with pets in Europe in Pets section.

  44. Brexit update: Added in information about citizens outreach meetings across Spain

  45. June 2018

  46. Updated March 2018

  47. Complete revision of guidance to ensure it's up to date and accurate.

  48. Updated hyperlinks and corrected a grammar error.

  49. Taxation information updated.

  50. Updated the information on UK benefits abroad

  51. Information added on returning to the UK

  52. Updated Life Certificate information

  53. Updated to include details of the double taxation treaties between Spain and the UK

  54. updated arrangements for signing of life certificates in Spain

  55. guide and category changed.

  56. First published.