Official information British people moving to and living in Spain need to know, including residency, healthcare and driving.
Brexit: what you need to know
There will be no change to the rights and status of UK nationals living in Spain while the UK remains in the EU.
While the government continues to negotiate Brexit, you should:
Before you go
See travel advice for Spain and sign up for up-to-date information on local laws and customs, safety and emergencies.
Visas and residency
See entry requirements for Spain in our travel advice.
You must register with the Spanish government if you are planning on staying in Spain for more than 3 months.
See residency requirements for Spain for information about registering and applying for permanent residence.
The NHS also has information about healthcare for British people living in or visiting Spain.
You need a free European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) to get emergency medical treatment during temporary stays in EU countries. You also need comprehensive travel insurance to cover anything not covered by your EHIC.
Once you’re registered as a resident, you can access the Spanish healthcare system.
You can find English-speaking doctors in Spain.
S1 form – healthcare paid for by the UK
You may be entitled to state healthcare paid for by the UK if you live in Spain and get an exportable UK pension, contribution-based Employment Support Allowance or another exportable benefit.
You need to apply for a S1 form – contact the Department for Work and Pensions’ International Pensions Centre.
Working in Spain
Some jobs may require a:
- UK criminal records check (known as a DBS check)
- Spanish criminal records certificate (Certificado de Antecedentes Penales)
- certificate from the Spanish sex offenders registry (Certificado de Delitos de Naturaleza Sexual) – this is needed to work with children
You can ask Seguridad Social for a record of your employment history in Spain (a Vida Laboral certificate).
We recommend you seek professional advice on paying tax in Spain. You can use a registered ‘gestor’ or find an English-speaking lawyer.
If you are resident in Spain, Spain will tax your worldwide income, regardless of the country in which it arises. If you are not resident, you will only pay tax on income arising Spain.
In addition to an annual tax return, Spain requires all residents, including UK nationals, to file an annual declaration of overseas assets (Modelo 720), if they meet the minimum filing requirements. There are severe penalties if you fail to file or provide incorrect or incomplete information.
You may be able to pay National Insurance while abroad in order to protect your State Pension and entitlement to other benefits and allowances.
If you last worked in Spain, you should make your claim for your Spanish and UK State Pension from the Instituto Nacional de la Seguridad Social.
If you haven’t worked in Spain, you should claim your UK state pension by contacting the International Pension Centre.
If you’ve worked in several EU countries, see state pensions abroad.
Life certificates for UK state pensions
If you get a ‘life certificate’ from the UK Pension Service, you need to respond as soon as possible – your payments may be suspended if you don’t.
Find out which UK benefits you might be able to get while you’re abroad and how to claim them.
Many income-related benefits such as Pension Credit and Housing Benefit can’t be paid if you’re abroad for more than 4 weeks.
You may be entitled to Spanish benefits, including:
- unemployment benefit
- incapacity benefit – only if you have worked and paid social security contributions in Spain
- income-related benefits
You can find out more about what income-related benefits are available by speaking to a social worker (trabajador social) at your local town hall (ayuntamiento) or visit your nearest Instituto de Mayores y Servicios Sociales office.
You can request proof of time worked in the UK from HM Revenue and Customs, if you are asked for this information.
Driving in Spain
If you are resident in Spain, you will not be able to renew a lost, stolen or expired licence with the UK Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA). It may be easier to convert your UK licence to a Spanish licence before it expires.
If your UK driving licence is lost or stolen, you can apply to the DVLA for a ‘certificate of entitlement’ in Spanish that can be used to apply for a Spanish driving licence.
See how to exchange your UK licence for a Spanish one (PDF) on the Dirección General de Trafico website. If you hold an old-style UK licence, which doesn’t have a 10-year validity period, you must renew or exchange it for a Spanish licence once you’ve been a resident of Spain for 2 years.
Importing a UK-registered vehicle
If you spend longer than 6 months of the year in Spain with your UK-registered car, you must register your vehicle with the Spanish authorities. For information on how to do this, including how to change your licence plate, contact the Dirección General de Trafico.
You may need to pay taxes when importing and registering your UK vehicle, including:
- registration tax (impuesto de matriculación)
- road/traffic tax (impuesto de circulación del ayuntamiento)
- VAT (impuestos sobre el valor añadido, IVA)
You may be exempt from some of these taxes in which case you will need certificates of exemption.
In order to vote in local elections, you must also sign onto the local election register. You can do this at the same office where you register on the padrón by completing a simple form. Some, but not all, town halls will ask you if you want to register to vote when you register on the padrón.
Once you have registered to vote once, the registration is permanent and you do not have to renew it. However, if you have fallen off the padrón due to a padron status check, you will also need to re-register to vote.
If you are not sure whether or not you are registered to vote in local elections, you can ask at the padrón office at your local town hall.
More information on voting in local municipal and European Parliamentary Elections can be found here.
Accommodation and buying property
See travelling with pets.
As well as the European emergency number 112, Spain also has:
- 091 – police
- 061 – health emergencies
- 080 – fire fighters
- 092 – local police
If you need urgent help, contact your nearest British embassy or consulate.
Other useful information
- Notarial and documentary services for Spain
- English-speaking lawyers in Spain
- Useful information for British nationals living in Spain
Returning to the UK
If you are returning to live in the UK permanently, it is important you tell the UK and Spanish authorities.
You should deregister with your:
- local town hall (padrón)
- the Spanish National Police (Residencia)
- your local health centre
Doing this will help prove you are living in the UK.
If you receive healthcare in Spain through the S1 form, contact the Overseas Healthcare Team or Seguridad Social to tell them you are leaving. This will ensure your S1 is cancelled on the right date, avoiding UK taxpayers’ money being paid unnecessarily to Spain for care you do not need.
Please note that this information is provided as a guide only. Definitive information should be obtained from the Spanish authorities. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) will not be liable for any inaccuracies in this information.