Tapas Forever

Helping make the dream of moving to Spain a reality

Month: September 2018

How To Move To Spain From Canada

If you’ve found this page, chances are you’re a Canadian, looking out the window at the snow or the endless months of winter dreariness and wishing you were somewhere else. I know, because that’s exactly what I was doing approximately a year ago when I came up with the idea of moving to Spain from Canada. And here I am now, a year later, living in the beautiful coastal city of Valencia and eating paella with new my Spanish friends. You can read about some of my reasons for moving to Spain here.

So what does it take to move to Spain? Well, since Canada isn’t a part of the European Union, it’s a bit tricky. Normally Canadians are only allowed to visit Spain (technically the Schengen Zone) for three months in every six month period. While some people thinks this resets the moment you leave, in actuality it’s a rolling six month window – if you’ve been in Spain for three months in the previously six months, then you aren’t allowed to stay longer. That’s a bit of a pain if you want to stay longer than three months.

But if you’re here, chances are you are looking for something more permanent. So I’ll give you a few of the options.

The first way to get into Spain is to have a job offer, at which point the company can sponsor a work permit for you and you can get in that way. The problem with that is most Spanish companies have to first prove that there isn’t a local who can do the job they want you for. Unless you have a unique skillset or are in demand, it might be difficult for the company to do that.

The second way is to become a student and obtain a student visa. The only problem with that is you have to go to school as a full time student. So if you want to spend most of your time in school, then that’s certainly an option. But for people who want to spend their time bouncing around Spain, or staying longer once school is over, that may or may not work for you.

Another way a person can enter into Spain is to register as a self-employed worker, or autonomo. I don’t have any experience with that personally, but you can read about how to become an autonomo on the Toronto consulate’s website. The one downside is that you immediately have to start paying into the Spanish social security system, and the taxes for an autonomo I believe are on the order of €264 per month. So if you aren’t sure you’ll have any income for a while once you become an autonomo, you should save up as you’re going to have to pay that fee each month.

The way I entered into Spain is via something called a ‘Non-Lucrative Visa’. The non-lucrative visa is a special type of visa for Spain that means a person can live here, but they cannot work. The latter part is a bit of a grey area in that it’s debatable whether or not a person can work remotely (for a company outside of Spain), but I do know some people who did get the visa while working remotely and declaring that with the Spanish consulate.

You can read the entire requirements for the Spanish non-lucrative visa here, but in short, you need to be in good health, to not have a criminal record, and to also provide proof that you can live for a year without working in Spain. While some people have successfully approved by showing income made by working for remote companies, I have heard about more people who have been rejected for that. So it’s best to be able to provide proof that you can live on your savings alone, which as of 2018 is €2151.36 per month for all 12 months (so a bank account with €25,816.32) in it.

I applied through the Toronto consulate in Canada, and surprisingly, it went rather smoothly. But in general you have to apply for a Spanish visa in your country of residence (and not within Spain). I started the process of obtaining documents for my non-lucrative visa in May of 2018, submitted the application at the start of July, and was in Spain at the end of August.

So if you are motivated and fulfil the requirements of the non-lucrative visa, you can pull it off rather quickly. If you can imagine yourself living in nearly perfect weather year-round and spending your off-time sipping cervezas or vino tinto, then perhaps moving to Spain is a great option for you – it was for me.

If you’re interested in learning about how to obtain the non-lucrative visa to live in Spain, make sure you purchase up a copy of our 65-page Guide to Obtaining the Non-lucrative Visa by clicking the button below:

How To Apply For The Non-Lucrative Visa – $40 CAD

How To Obtain Your Residency Card (TIE) in Spain

If you have managed to get yourself a non-lucrative visa (or other long-term visa), one of the first things you will likely notice is that the visa is only valid for approximately three months. When you applied, you did so with the belief that it would be valid for a year, so what’s with this three month nonsense?

Don’t worry, that’s just part of the process. Upon arriving in Spain, you basically have a month to make an appointment to convert your temporary non-lucrative visa into a one-year residency. To do so, you need to register at the appropriate place, at which point they will receive a “tarjeta de extranjero”, or foreigner’s card (TIE for short).

To receive the card, you typically need the following:

  • One colour photo on a white background, in European size. I brought a photo from Canada that I explicitly asked to be 40mmx30mm (the size of a European passport photo). I wasn’t sure that would work, but they accepted it just fine.
  • Your passport with your visa inside
  • A photocopy of your passport information page. I did mine in colour, simply because it wasn’t much more money and looks way cooler
  • A photocopy of your visa page. Once again, I did mine in colour
  • A photocopy of your entry stamp into Spain. If you didn’t get an entry stamp (for example, if you entered in the UK), bring a photocopy of that along with whatever boarding passes or other proof you have for the date you entered Spain.
  • Your empadronamiento certificate (your padrón) – this was the hardest item for me to get. Find out how to obtain your empadronamiento in Spain here.
  • A filled out EX17 form, which is your application form. You can download EX17 here.
  • A completed Model 790, Código 12, what you need to pay the associated fees. You can now fill this out online, which is best, since it will generate the barcode you need as part of the form. You can fill out the Model 790, Código 12 online. The option I selected was “TIE que documenta la primera concesión de la autorización de residencia temporal, de estancia o para trabajadores transfronterizos.”, which is for non-EU nationals applying for their first residency. It then auto-populates the fee to be paid at the bottom, which was just shy of 16 euros.
  • Proof that the fees were paid from a bank. Once you have the Model 790 printed out, you can go down to a bank machine and pay your fees right at the machine. I had help doing it, but I think the options the lady pressed were related to bill payments, and eventually she had to scan the barcode. Make sure you keep the receipt, since that is proof you paid.

You’ll also need an appointment at the corresponding office. You can book an appointment for your TIE here. Choose the region where you live (for example, Valencia in my case), and then, for non-EU nationalities, the option you likely want is “Policia – Toma De Heullas (Expedicion de Tarjeta).”

Usually this will be the office for foreigners in whatever city you are in, but it’s quite possible it could be a police station in a smaller area. You should reserve your appointment online as soon as you have a rough idea of when you will be in town as often the appointments are a few weeks away. I booked mine from Canada the moment I received my visa back along with my NIE number (which is what you will need to reserve – not your passport number).

I booked my appointment for the early evening, which turned out to be a good decision because it was pretty quiet inside when I arrived. Some people bring along someone who speaks fluent Spanish – I didn’t bother. I figured I needed the practice anyways, and maybe they would go easier on me if just did it myself and tried to smile and be friendly.

After sitting for about two minutes, I was called up to the desk where a police officer sat. I told him, in Spanish, I was here to get my TIE card. He spread my documents out over the table, casually looked over them all, then started punching data into the computer. At one point he asked me to place my fingers into the finger print scanner and take a scan. Then he asked me to do it again, but this time roll them from side to side. Strangely though he only took scans of two of my fingers, one on each hand.

My residency authorization

My residency authorization

Also I believe the only document he kept was the receipt for my payment and the application form. Everything else was returned to me.

Afterwards he gave me an official, stamped document that indicated I was a resident – this document was only valid for 45 days. I was told I need come back in 30 days, at which point my official card would be ready.The meeting itself was actually really easy, so if you are stressing out about it, try not to worry. The best way to ensure the process goes smoothly is to arrive with all your documents in perfect order.

I’ll pick up my card next week, so I’ll post a photo of that when I receive it. But in general this process went smoothly, so just make sure you are prepared when you arrive and you’ll do fine.

How to Get Your Empadronamiento in Spain

The Empadronamiento, often called “el pardon”, is the process of registering yourself with the town hall in whatever city you decide to live in. This used to be a simple formality – basically you would go down, tell them the address you are living at, without proof, and they would register you. It seems now that the process is much more involved, possibly due to people taking advantage of it previously.

So why would you want to get your padrón? Well, if you want to become a resident of Spain, or to receive your TIE card after arriving, you are going to need this document.

Truthfully, this is the part of the process that caused me the most grief. I read beforehand that AirBNB rentals were not accepted for this process, so I decided to register at a school and take advantage of the included boarding. I quickly realized thought that it wasn’t going to work – if you don’t have a contract for an entire apartment (i.e. you are renting just a room), you need the person who owns the apartment (or someone who lives there and has also previously registered for their padrón) to vouch for you in person. I asked the school and they said they weren’t willing to do this for me. So much for that idea.

I also learned during this process that the town hall’s typically want to see a three to six month rental contract to register you. Three months didn’t seem so restrictive for me, but six months staying in a city you aren’t entirely sure of seems quite onerous. I also heard rumours that seem people were asked to show a contract for a full year, which is even worse. So you should definitely plan to find a place to live for at least three months, and maybe just double check with your landlord that it would be possible to extend it to six months if you need (or ask them to put a clause in the contract that you can extend it another three months, even if you don’t plan to use it).

I ended up renting a room in an apartment with a few other international expats, so I didn’t end up needing a lease. What I did need, and what I confirmed that my landlord would be able to give me beforehand, was to fill out authorization form giving me permission to register at his residence. He had to come down to the appointment with me, in person, will a filled out application form, and a signed photocopy of his passport information. They wanted to see this signature in person and verify his identify, so it’s best to make sure this person comes down with you.

He was also asked to bring a bill in his name just to prove that he still has ties to the place (and isn’t just registered at the apartment because he forgot to unregister when he left). So my landlord brought a copy of his Vodafone internet bill in the apartment, which was enough for them.

After that, they entered my information in the computer and printed out two certificates – one to be used for obtaining residency (which was needed for obtaining my TIE), and another one to use if I registered for public health (which I didn’t think I could do anyways, but I took it all the same). It wasn’t a very difficult process, but you really do need to have your documentation together for this. And often that means committing to staying somewhere for three to six months at a minimum.

My Empadronamiento

My Empadronamiento

In case you’re debating trying to scam the system somehow (for example, making a fake contract), know this – they will sometimes send a police officer to your location after registering to make sure you are actually living there. So if you do try to fake it, not only will you likely get caught, but you could also get the person who actually lives at the location in trouble as well.

I said that you couldn’t use an AirBNB for registering, but there actually is a way around it. Before booking, tell the person you are renting from that you need to get your padrón, and to get that you will need a rental contract. Sometimes the person who owns the flat will help you out and do up one that basically reflects the same terms as the AirBNB rental – if you both sign it, you can likely use that to register for your padrón, but you’ll definitely need something in Spanish that’s more official that an AirBNB receipt.

Once you are on the padrón for a house or apartment, you essentially stay that way unless you unregister at a later date. That’s why many landlords (especially AirBNB owners) don’t want anything to do with it – it’s a lot of work just to have someone registered at their place temporarily. And if you don’t unregister properly, it could cause them problems in the future. In addition, if you are renting from someone who isn’t declaring the income they receive, then without a doubt they won’t be helping you register at the location.

I’ve heard a few stories of people actually managing to register at a temporary residence (AirBNB for example) without the owner’s permission. I doubt you could get away with this now, especially not in the larger cities. But once registered the landlord will eventually be notified (via mail) that someone has registered there, and if they didn’t give you permission, they will likely be pretty upset when they find out. I read a story from a Spanish landlord who said he was having trouble selling his place because someone registered at it, years before and without his permission, and now they won’t allow him to unregister that person without that person’s permission. So best to do this process properly.

I was a bit surprised how difficult this process was, mainly because I included a letter in my non-lucrative visa application stating my desire to spend my 12 months travelling around Spain (and was ultimately approved) But the reality is that’s not really possible, or at least, not without renting a place for three months or longer at first. In retrospect, that’s not such a bad thing, as it’s good to spend some time in one place at the beginning and get settled, but I wasn’t expecting it when I submitted my application. But this process definitely caused me a bit of stress, primarily because I had pre-booked my appointment to receive my NIE card, and the date was fast approaching even though I hadn’t finalized a place to live, or my padrón.

You’re going to need an appointment to get your padron, which you can obtain online at whichever town hall is closest to you. When I went to book mine, they didn’t have any appointments available for at least a month – since I needed to apply for my TIE card before then, that really didn’t work for me. So what I ended up doing was to go down to the town hall myself and then explain the situation. I brought the paperwork showing that my TIE appointment was the next day, after which they scheduled me for an ‘emergency’ appointment the next day, just prior to my TIE appointment. So I managed to get my padrón and my TIE all in the same day, which was great.

Dealing with Spanish bureaucracy isn’t very much fun, but just focus hard and get through it. While everyone you deal with is typically nice, you quickly get the feeling that everyone is operating in their own little bubble chambers, and none of the different branches talk to each other (which is why you hear stories of people being bounced between two branches over and over because they keep getting told different stories). You’ll prevail, just like I did, so don’t worry. Welcome to Spain!

You can read about my experience obtaining my TIE card in Spain here.

Update – you can also obtain your padron using your digital certificate in Spain if you have one.

Arriving in Spain for the First Time

After I received my non-lucrative visa, I quickly finished closing up my life in Canada ( at least for a while ) and continued getting ready to head to Spain. I was debating a lot of different things at the time, one of which was whether or not I should bring an extra suitcase full of items I thought I might need in Spain, or to simply pack lighter and buy what I would need there. I chose to do the latter, mostly because I hate travelling with a lot of stuff.

When the time finally came, I boarded an airplane at Vancouver international airport and set off to London, UK, as my entry point into Europe. One of the things I read was that it’s really important to have documentation on when you arrived in Spain for the first time. Often they will look for proof of arrival when you go to fill out all the paperwork you will have to do when you arrive in Spain.

When I arrived in London, I approached the customs agent. She asked where I was going, and I said Spain. She then ask, “for how long?”. To which I replied “one year.” That got her to raise her eyebrow a bit, since I’m sure she’s well aware that Canadians can only spend three months at a time in the EU. I then explained that I had a long-term residency visa for Spain, which she quickly located inside my passport.

One thing I didn’t know at the time is that there are four classes of EU visas, each with a letter: A, B, C, D. Type D is one that allows you to stay for a longer period of time, and I suspect she was looking for that on the Spanish visa. When she found it (I didn’t even know it was there), she made a few notes in her computer and then asked me just some genuine questions about why I was moving to Spain, and what the process was like. She then stamped my passport and told me to enjoy myself.

I was told when I would arrive in Spain (since it would be on a flight originating from the UK) that they wouldn’t stamp my passport there again. That would mean I would need to keep my boarding pass as proof of the actual date of entry into the country. So that was my original plan.

My Passport, with stamps in the UK and in Valencia

But when I arrived in Valencia, Spain, a few hours later, there was a quick customs checkpoint. I was watching the agent there, and he wasn’t stamping any passports, so I suspect it was just a quick check to make sure everyone was legally allowed to be there. When I approached him though, I notice that he did have a stamp next to him, so I politely asked him if he would mind stamping my passport, which he happily did. So I ended up with an official EU entry stamp for Spain on the exact date my visa was valid on.

I’ve heard of other people having to go to the police station to receive official paperwork indicating the exact day they arrived, but that seems a bit excessive to me. I would think it’s enough to simply do your best to get a stamp in your passport, or worse case, keep your boarding pass and any receipts in airports along the way that have the date on them.

My first shot in Valencia, Spain

My first shot in Valencia, Spain

After 17 hours of travel, I was exhausted, but was thankful my arrival into Spain was pretty much non-eventful. The next step would involve obtaining my TIE card (which is what you need to make your residency semi-permanent), and my empadronamiento, which is the proof you need for certain government bodies to show you actually live in Spain. More on those later.

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