Live in Spain and enjoy beautiful landscapes, vibrant culture, mild weather, and excellent health care. Spain is one of the cultural centers of Europe, a place where people celebrate life, dance flamenco, and enjoy wine and tapas. This is the birthplace of artists such as Picasso and Salvador Dalí. It’s rich with history and old architecture mixed with modern new designs.
Spain is in southwestern Europe. It borders Portugal to the west and France and Andorra to the north and northeast. It also has small borders with Gibraltar, Morocco, and the Bay of Biscay. It is the fourth largest country in Europe and includes the Canary Islands in the Atlantic Ocean, the Balearic Islands, and other non-inhabited islands in the Mediterranean Sea. The Spanish landscape is made up of mountains and high plateaus.
The cost of living in Spain depends on where you decide to settle. However, Spain is not as expensive as you might think. Some places are very affordable, especially in smaller cities and rural areas.
Spain offers a place for every type of expat, whether you’re a single retiree or a couple with children. The key to living happily in Spain is finding the area that suits you and your needs. If you’re a culture vulture, you’ll appreciate the cities of Barcelona, Seville, and Madrid. If it’s sun, sand, and sea you’re after, look at the Costas. If you’re looking for a green and seasonal area, you have options along the northern Atlantic coast. It’s all available, and you can reside in Spain for about US$2,000 per month or less.
U.S. citizens can visit Spain for up to 90 days visa-free. All you need is a valid passport. If you wish to stay longer than 90 days, you need to get a “long-stay visa” before you leave the States.
Like many countries in Europe, Spain grants residency to foreigners who can prove they can take care of themselves (that is, pay their own bills and not be a burden on the state).
If you want to reside in Spain long-term, you can apply for a long-stay visa based on your situation. The main visa options include:
You can learn about all of the Spanish visa options and apply for a visa here.
The first step to moving to Spain permanently is to apply for a visa that best suits your situation. Once you reside in Spain for 5 years, you can apply for permanent residency. Check with your country’s embassy in Spain for more information on applying for Spanish residency.
Anyone who spends fewer than 183 days in Spain a year is considered a non-resident for tax purposes; the rule applies to EU and non-EU citizens alike. A non-resident property owner is taxed on Spanish assets only––for most that’s just your Spanish property. There are two property-related taxes on non-residents, and both are calculated on the cadastral value, not the actual value. If a non-resident owner rents out their property, then the income is subject to tax at a flat rate of 24%.
If you spend more than 183 days a year in Spain, you are fiscally a resident and will be taxed on worldwide assets. Spain and the United States do have a double taxation treaty.
When you’re a resident in Spain, you can stay for as long as you like in any of the 26 Schengen visa countries, meaning you could move among Spain, France, Italy, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, and beyond.
Spain’s health care is regularly ranked among the best in the world by the World Health Organization. You can find an excellent level of health care throughout the country. Doctors and specialists in Spain are trained to a high standard.
For major surgery and management of more serious diseases and conditions, you would need to travel to the larger towns and cities.
The Catalonia region in particular boasts excellent health care facilities. Barcelona also has an especially good reputation for health care. There are well-trained doctors galore in this city, many of whom speak English. Consultants in every specialty can be found throughout Barcelona, and the Sarriá area (close to the University of Barcelona) has a particularly high number of practitioners.
Generally, non-EU residents will not be able to access the public health care system and will need to seek private care.
Spain has a unique adventure waiting for anyone who wants to immerse themselves in this cultural hub. Cities with lively nightlife, beachside resorts with kilometers of unspoiled coastline, and picturesque towns and villages with bustling farmers’ markets.
Outside of Spain’s heavy tourist trail, is the lesser-known city of Santander. Santander is the capital city of the region of Cantabria and lies on the northern coast of Spain. Built on a series of hills overlooking the Bay of Biscay, this is a mostly modern city with a beautiful seafront comprising several white-sand beaches within easy reach.
Santander is the perfect place for retirees, with endless museums and galleries to get your culture fix, a thriving tradition of gastronomy—mostly fresh seafood, and countless beaches to explore.
Another city undiscovered by many people outside of Spain is Valencia, along the Mediterranean coast. With an average daytime temperature of 70°F year-round, Valencia has some perfect weather conditions for an active, healthy, and varied lifestyle. Combined with some of the finest beaches in Southern Europe, and La Calderona mountains in easy reach, this city is the ideal base for an active retirement.
Spain’s second-largest city; Barcelona, is a popular destination for tourists and expats alike. Thousands of expats settle in the capital of Catalonia in Spain’s northeast for its cosmopolitan vibe and energy. People live, work, and shop in most of the city neighborhoods and districts, so each has its own community spirit, making it easier to fit into this big city as a foreigner.
The city encompasses lots of parks and charming plazas, scenic beaches, and has easy access to the beautiful Costa Brava to the north and the Costa Dorada to the south.
Rota is a coastal city in Andalusia that is a popular summer tourist destination and fishing town. Enjoy strolling and eating along the boardwalk and relaxing on the beach.
If you visit Rota, you will enjoy pristine beaches, and if you go during the off-peak season––outside of the summer months––you will enjoy the lack of crowds for a peaceful getaway.
The cost of living in France can be much lower than you expect. We don’t mean that France is a “budget” destination (although there are certainly some very attractive real estate bargains here), but your cost of living could be brought down significantly depending on where and how you live.
Your lifestyle influences greatly on your monthly budget. For example, a Coca-Cola at Champs-Élysée can cost more than lunch for two at a nice bistro in a far less recognizable corner of this city. Paris is expensive, and the Marais is one of its most expensive neighborhoods. But for access to the heart of Paris, there is no better location. The cost of living for this prime location amounts to about 2,860 euros per month.
The Marais district in the center of Paris has one of the highest costs of living in France. The average selling price for property is over 1,020 euros per square foot, and rentals are averaging close to 1,700 euros per month.
Absolutely. France offers the world’s best quality of life and retiring here is more affordable than you might think. In fact, France is included in our 2023 Overseas Retirement Index.
If you’d like to reinvent your life in this culture-rich European country, make sure to check our France Starter Kit here. We’ve also published in-depth Country Retirement Reports on several areas of France. These are available in our online Bookstore, here.
France has a famously complex tax system.
Residents are taxed on worldwide income, while non-residents are taxed on locally earned income only. Figuring out French tax can be complicated. The total amount of taxes you’re likely to end up paying between France and the United States should be roughly the same as what you’re paying now. There’s a tax treaty in place between the two countries, which eliminates the risk of double taxation.
In France, you’ll pay taxes to the central government only; there are no state or county taxes. If you’re moving to France as a couple or a family, you’ll be able to take advantage of tax reductions.
If you choose to settle in Paris, most locals will know English, especially those in customer service positions––bookstores, news services, cafés, restaurants, etc. Plus, there’s a large expat community here. You don’t have learn French, but we highly recommend you try to learn at least the basics. A “Parlez-vous anglais?” can carry you a long way.
If you choose to live outside of Paris, you’re less likely to encounter English speakers. To make the most of French country life, learn at least conversational French.
Start by joining ourFacebook page. It’s become a forum of current and soon-to-be expats and is a great place to start a conversation with other France expats.
You could also search online for local expat groups and clubs. These exist all over the world in the form of book clubs, sport clubs, cooking clubs, etc. Some of the most established international expat groups includeInternations,and AngloINFO.
Don’t underestimate how nice it would be to make friends with the locals, though.
When purchasing property in France, you’ll incur notary fees (about 1%) and a transfer tax (5.09%). Both fees together would amount to less than 18,800 euros based on the purchase price you reference.
You also need to consider your real estate agent’s fee. Typically, this is disclosed up front by the agent (whether the fee is bundled in the list price or not); however, if the agent doesn’t detail this, you should ask. Agent fees are usually in the range of 5% but can be negotiable.
A mortgage broker in France should charge you 1% of the mortgage amount, though for a small mortgage, the fee may be greater.
You could apply for a loan to purchase property in France. However, it might prove tricky right now seeing as banks are not particularly open to doing so right now.
Check this video if you want a step-by-step explanation of how you can buy property in France.
Yes. Hazan Immobilier, 145 rue St. Dominique, in the 7th arrondissement; tel. 33(0)1-53-59-59-53; website:www.hazan-immobilier.com.
France is not a “budget” destination, but depending on where and how you live here, you can find it to be surprisingly affordable.
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