Tapas Forever

Helping make the dream of moving to Spain a reality

Category: Spain (page 1 of 2)

Spain: The First Year

It seems like forever since I’ve had the time to sit down and actually pen a new blog entry. I’m currently sitting in a cute little co-living space, surrounded by other remote workers, on the island of Tenerife, an island that is part of Spain’s Canary Islands. I’ve been living in Spain now for over a year, and I thought today would be an opportune time to look back and reflect upon the experience of living in Spain.

Lifestyle

Living in Spain, like most countries, comes with certain pros and cons. Other than a few months in the summer when it can be amazingly hot, the weather for most of the year is extremely comfortable. In Valencia, the city where I live, one can often see upwards of 300 days of sunshine per year – as a Canadian who grew up near a rain-forest, it definitely was an adjustment for the first few months to not see any rain at all. Now I usually take for granted that when I wake up it will most likely be a sunny day.

Around Valencia

Around Valencia

The Spanish people are really skilled at balancing work and life. A typical day for a working class Spaniard seems to start at the nearest cafe, between 9am and 10am, either for a warm cup of ‘café con leche’, or often even a small beer before work. There is often a break between 2pm-4pm for a siesta, with the work day usually finishing around 6pm or later, depending on the type of business. Many businesses shut down completely during siesta hours, which takes some time to get used to since nothing is open.

Spanish Nightlife

Spanish Nightlife

One of the strangest aspects of Spanish lifestyle for me is the complete lack of food options usually between 4pm and 8pm – it’s very rare to find any restaurant or café serving food between those hours, so if you’re hungry you are mostly out of luck. Supermarkets are often closed on Sundays as well, as they once were in Canada too, which means you have to stock up before hand if you cook at home during the weekend. But I much prefer it to be honest – it gives everyone an opportunity on the weekend to spend time with friends and family.

In terms of holidays, many Spanish holidays fall on a Tuesday or a Thursday – I found that odd at first, but then realized that the Spanish often take the Monday or Friday adjoining the holiday off as well, making an extremely long weekend (they have this whole ‘not working’ aspect completely figured out).

But one of my favourite aspects to living in Spain is going out in the evening and seeing so many friends and families sharing laughs together late into the evening.

Travel

Spain is a beautiful country with many different geographically diverse regions, which is great for travel. This last year alone I visited from Girona in the north, near the French Pyrenees, all the way to Seville in the south. Thankfully train travel is extremely comfortable in Spain, and often just as fast as flying (if you factor in all the waiting and security aspects of the airports), so it’s usually my preferred option. While Valencia doesn’t have many high-speed train options, once you hit Madrid you can get to many different parts of the country via the Ave high-speed train network.

Girona

Visiting Girona

While Valencia doesn’t have as many flight options as Madrid or Barcelona, many low-cost carriers fly in and out of Valencia. I recently flew to the Canary Islands for only 29 Eurs, and can get to most areas in Europe for less than 100 Euros. I haven’t taken advantage of that very often yet, but it’s nice to know I can get around Europe easily from my local airport.

Seville

Seville

In addition since I have a Class D (long-term) visa in Spain, I am not bound by the Schengen limitations while in Spain. When I head to another Schengen country the clock starts ticking again, but I can simply return home to Valencia to regroup if I ever hit that limit again. Compared to Vancouver, where Asia, South America, and Europe are all 8+ hours away, I can get to Africa, all of Europe, and even western Asia in no more than 3-4 hours, so it certainly opens many doors in terms of travel options.

Food

While I definitely enjoy a good Paella on the weekend, I’d be lying if I said I am a huge fan of Spanish food in general. Sure, eating tapas, or at least the experience of eating tapas with friends, is great. But most of the food in Spain is deep fried, and served with white bread – it’s definitely nice once and a while, but it’s not something I can eat all the time. The typical menu in a Spanish café or a pub is about 95% identical between establishments, so there isn’t much variety. When I go out to restaurants nowadays, I often visit international ones – Mexican, Moroccan, Indian, for example.

Afternoon Paella

Afternoon Paella

If you live near a supermarket or a mercado, you likely can source many great local fruits and vegetables for cooking at home. Prices are often extremely reasonable, and there are usually enough options that you don’t need to keep much food in your fridge at home. My one complaint, if I had one, was the amount of packaging used in Spain – pretty much everything ends up in a plastic bag or is already wrapped in plastic. Hopefully this improves in the future.

Expat Community

One of my requirements when I moved to Spain was that whatever community I moved to had a vibrant co-working or entrepreneur community. Working from home can be a bit isolating, so I wanted to make sure there was a group around that would occasionally meet up, work together, and share ideas. Thankfully Valencia has a great group that fits the bill called the ‘Valencia Coffee and Co-working’ group – the majority of the friends I met during my first year in Spain were from this group.

I have met various local people since I’ve been here, but it’s a bit more difficult to blend into those groups if you don’t have a good handle on speaking Spanish. I’ve definitely made some progress on that front, but I need to put a bit more effort into it and force myself to speak it more often. But I’ll keep at it.

Cost Of Living

It’s hard for me to objectively rate the cost of living in Spain, since I intuitively translate everything in my head into Canadian dollars. That’s probably not a fair thing to do, since the Canadian dollar is trading quite low . I suspect compared to many places in Europe, Spain is extremely affordable. And even using my Canadian comparison, many aspects of life here are much cheaper. For example, beer and wine in a pub or café is cheap, usually only 1-2 euros per glass. Eating out can be just as expensive as back home though, especially in international restaurants. But there are definitely affordable restaurants if you know where to look for them. A bottle of wine in the supermarket is a steal, often only 3-4 euros, whereas back home they are usually $15-$20 CAD.

Beers on the Beach

Beers on the Beach

Accommodation prices really depend on where you want to live. A one bedroom apartment in a nice area can run upwards of 1,000 Euros per month – if you don’t mind living slightly out of the main areas, you can probably get by for 500-600 Euros. I recently purchased a 3 bedroom apartment in a decent area, and pay roughly 600 Euros per month, so definitely buying might be the better option for people who want to live in Spain for more than a few years.

Definitely in aggregate I think my costs are much lower in Spain, and certainly the lifestyle is much better. But it’s certainly not the steal it once was to live in Spain. Just something to be aware of if you are trying to move to Spain, especially if you will live in one of the larger cities or towns.

Friends

One of the best aspects of travel is meeting new people, and I’ve been very fortunate over the last year and a bit to have met so many different amazing people.

Nicki and Kaisu

Nicki and Kaisu

Many of my friends in Spain I met in various co-living and co-working spaces around the country such as Sun and Co. in Javea, Spain, or Nine Co-living (where I currently am) in Tenerife, Spain.

Stacey and Thomas

Stacey and Thomas

Others I met through the Valencia Coffee and Co-working group, which meets every Wednesday for a session of work and then evening drinks. The main organizer, Eric, was away most of the summer, so I even chipped in and helped organize a bit over the summer, which was fun.

Lara and Ben

Lara and Ben

And while I don’t do as much photography as I once did, I still try to shoot the odd gig, and even made some friends here through a few concerts I’ve attended over the last year and a bit. I’m hoping to get back into this a bit more this year, as most of my camera gear is just sitting collecting dust.

In general though, everyone I met in Spain has been absolutely amazing, and I feel fortunate to have such a great group of friends here, something that I was missing living out in the country in Canada for the last few years.

What Does The Future Hold?

In short, I really enjoy my new life in Spain. It has it’s ups and downs of course, but in general the lifestyle and climate are both amazing. I recently signed the contract to sell my property back in Canada, and once that’s done (shortly after Christmas), I’m basically going ‘all in’ on Spanish life. I recently bought a property in Valencia, and am working hard on reforming it. I don’t think it’s my ‘forever home’, since it’s lacking a pool and a place to cook a weekly paella, but it’s definitely good for a few years and a good investment I think due to its location.

Around Valencia

Around Valencia

Over this next year I definitely want to improve my Spanish further, and hopefully do additional travelling within Spain. Spain doesn’t recognize my Canadian driver’s license, so I also need to deal with getting a new driving license here, hopefully sooner rather than later. Once that’s done I’ll likely pick up a scooter or a cheap car so I can get around a bit easier on the weekends. And once I cash out my property in Canada, I’m going to seriously start considering picking up a sailboat in the future – years ago I obtained my sailing Certificate of Competency in Auckland, New Zealand, so it would be pretty cool to be able to sail around the Mediterranean from time to time.

But definitely it’s been an amazing first year in Spain, and I’m looking forward to what this next year has in store.

How To Move To Spain From The United States

If you’ve found this page, chances are you’re a citizen of the United States, looking out the window at the snow, the rain, 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 the United States isn’t a part of the European Union, it’s a bit tricky. Normally Americas 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 autónomo. 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 autónomo 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 autónomo, 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 (beers) or vino tinto (red wine), 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

An Ode To Europe

I’ve been living in Spain, and consequently Europe now, for about ten months. While I’ve always enjoyed the time I’ve spent in ‘the old world’, I’ve really come to appreciate it much more now than I’m an actual resident here in Spain. So I thought I’d make a post about some of the aspects of living in Europe I really enjoy.

Freedom of Travel

Previously as a Canadian resident I was allowed up to a 90 day visit in a rolling 180 day window in any of the Schengen countries. That may sound like a lot, but there are 26 countries in the region and those 90 days can go by pretty quick if you are bouncing between them. In many countries when your visa expires you can simply leave for a few hours and then come back (popularly called a ‘visa run’ amongst digital nomads), but that’s not possible in the Schengen region due the rolling 180 day window – basically if you are here for 90 days, you have to leave for 90 days in order to be able to come back.

Now I don’t have completely unrestricted travel in Europe compared to an actual EU citizen: while I can stay in Spain indefinitely, the 90 day clock starts ticking when I leave Spain and visit other countries in the Schengen region. But when that time expires I can simply come back to Spain and regroup, since I am a bonafide resident here whereas before I’d have to leave the Schengen region completely. Even still it’s a huge advantage being able to reside where I want in Europe and do various trips from here.

Affordability of Travel

While Valencia does have a pretty decent airport, it certainly isn’t as large a hub as Madrid or Barcelona. That said, I can pretty much get anywhere in Europe from Valencia for less than the cost of a one way ticket to Calgary back in Canada. Back in December I flew to Tenerife in the Spanish Canary Islands for approximately 27 Euros ($40 CAD) – that’s a three hour flight. So other than the odd road trip to Seattle back in Canada, the options for doing a weekend adventure back home are pretty limited. Whereas here in Valencia I can easily visit other parts of Europe whenever I want.

Of course, many people here in Europe think the low-cost carriers are evil. Some of them probably are. But it’s pretty hard to resist the temptation to visit another part of Europe for €20-€30 Euros, and I’ve taken advantage of it a few times, often with just a carry-on bag.

Prevalence of Trains

For whatever reason train travel isn’t very popular in North America. In fact, other than a few distinct routes along the rocky mountains and to and from Seattle, I don’t know of many passenger routes in Canada – I’m sure they exist, but they certainly aren’t popular. Here in Europe train travel is extremely prevalent, and in many cases the preferred means of travel.

Madrid is about 360km away from Valencia, but thanks to the high speed Ave train that travels at up to 300km/hr, is only takes about 1 hour and 30 minutes. It’s not a super cheap route (about $50 CAD each way), but there’s something to be said for just walking on and off the train without a whole pile of security, and also being able to watch the world casually float by from a window seat.

Whenever I have the chance to visit someone by train here in Spain, I usually jump at it. Usually there is a bar car at the back of the train with drinks and food, Wi-Fi available, and often a table in front of my chair that I can set my laptop on. So I can easily get in a full work day while chatting it up with various other passengers along the way. It’s a very enjoyable experience that I wish we had more of back in Canada.

Ease of Banking

One thing Europeans have figured out is their banking system. After using the banking applications here and also moving money to and from Canada for the last ten months, I can say with certainly just how behind we are on most things in the banking world. While we applaud ourselves in Canada for being able to send a $3,000 transfer using an email address (Interact e-Transfer), I can send money to anyone in the European union, usually instantaneously, using their IBAN number. Sure, it’s a 16-20 digit number which is a bit of a pain to type in, but thanks to internal error checking within the algorithm it’s essentially impossible to make a mistake when typing it. That means once it’s typed in, and accepted, you can be sure it’s valid since there are various check-digits along the way.

For example, to pay the €5,000 Euro deposit on the flat I am going to buy, I simply punched in the seller’s IBAN number into my BBVA (Spanish Bank) application, clicked “Send”, typed in €5,000 for the amount, and boom, it was there pretty much instantaneously. And of course you get detailed receipts of any transaction you do, so you can easily prove receipt of funds for legal purposes and more.

Quality of Life

This isn’t a European benefit per se, but the quality of life I enjoy in Spain is pretty fantastic. First, there are roughly 300 days of sunshine every year in my area (not to be confused with Vancouver’s “300+ days of sunshine per year”, where they count each time the sun peaks out from a cloud for 30 seconds a day to get counted). A day of sunshine here is basically a full day of sunshine, so imagine 300 or more days without any clouds or rain.

In fact when I first arrived it seemed strange to me to go for so long without seeing any rain. It’s amazing how much better your mood and well-being is when the weather is almost always nice.

I also had to make use of the medical system here in Spain a few months ago, and it was a great experience. Of course I have private insurance, and many locals just have public insurance, so my experience likely isn’t the norm. But I was able to get diagnosed by a specialist, complete an MRI on my knee, and have the results back, all within about two weeks. In Canada that would take 3 – 6 months at the minimum, and you’d likely have to fight your doctor along the way just to get you in front of a specialist. I can actually book an appointment myself directly with a specialist here as well – no need to waste my general practitioner’s time if I know exactly who the best person is to deal with the issue is.

In Short

So as I sit here in the Valencia airport getting ready to board a flight to Germany (which is essentially a domestic flight since I’m traveling to and from the EU), I can’t help but feel a bit privileged to have spent most of the last ten months living and enjoying Europe. As my cottage back home is rented until at least January at this point, I’ll likely continue staying here for the foreseeable future, and likely will be spending the next few months renovating a flat in Valencia.

But without a doubt I’ve definitely enjoyed my time here, and encourage other people looking to try living in Spain or Europe to jump at the chance.

Using Your Digital Certificate For A New Padrón

In a previous article we showed how to obtain your digital certificate here in Spain. One of the benefits of having it is it will allow you to do some services here in Spain that would normally involve having to take a trip somewhere and stand in a queue for an hour or more, or make an online appointment and eventually show up somewhere.

One such service is the empadronamiento – registering with the town hall. You will need to do your first empadronamiento in person once arriving in Spain, that’s basically so they can check your documentation and your rental or ownership documents. But once that is done, and assuming you haven’t moved anywhere, it’s possible using your digital certificate to simply download a new copy of your padrón certificate from your computer. Each certificate is only valid for three months, so at some point you will likely need a new copy.

After installing your digital certificate, navigate to this link from the browser you installed the certificate on. The website is normally in Valenciano, so you may need to select Castellano to make sense of it.

Once there, click the button in the “Acceso con certificado digital” section – access with your digital certificate.

Access with your digital certificacte

Access with your digital certificacte

Once your click the button, your browser will likely issue a dialog box asking if you want to be identified using your digital certificate – it should look something like this:

Identification

After that, you should be presented with a dropdown box for you to select the reason you want a new padrón certificate. For me, I typically use the “Permiso de Residencia” option – residency permission.

Select the reason for the padrón

Select the reason for the padrón

Once you click that, it should generate a new certificate for you and let you save it as a PDF.

And presto:

New Padrón Certificate

New padrón certificate, valid for three months from this date.

As you can see, this is a very easy way to get a new certificate without having to go through the hassle of going into the ayuntamiento in person, which often requires an appointment weeks in advance. I’ve been told it’s possible to renew a non-lucrative visa this way too, so I’m going to be testing that out at the end of June when I’m allowed to renew.

Getting Your Digital Certificate In Spain

One of the aspects of living in Spain that always surprises me is just how up to date Spain is in terms of technology. For example, banking in Spain is way more advanced than in Canada – with just a few clicks I can send money to any other person in the EU using their IBAN number. Credit cards can easily be added to Apple or Android pay (unlike in North America where some banks are still holding out, trying to release their own competing services), and payments can even be split up over multiple months (not that this is a good thing, but it’s neat that they at least have the option).

Another area which is great to see some movement is in cryptography. Spain allows you to obtain a digital certificate which essentially can be used to verify your identity, cryptographically, when using websites online. I hardly know anyone who has done this, probably because it’s a bit complex, but it has a ton of advantages – for example, once you have a digital certificate you can skip going in person to many government offices for simple items, like getting another copy of your empadronamiento. I’ve even been told that once I obtain my digital certificate I can even renew my non-lucrative visa by submitting, and cryptographically signing (which proves my identify), all my documents.

The process for obtaining a certificate is as follows:

  • Visit the website, and start the process for a personal certificate (for a legal person, not a business or representative). You’ll need to enter your name and enter your NIE number. Start the process now.
  • Once done, you’ll receive an email with a 9 digit confirmation number. Next you have to visit a social security office in person with your residency card, passport, and confirmation information from the previous step. Once they verify you are who you say you are, they’ll activate your certificate, which you can later install on your computer. This step essentially links your physical identification to your digital one.
  • After you can download your certificate and install it on your computer, allowing websites to verify your identify.
Confirmation from the Certificate Request

Confirmation from the Certificate Request

A few days after I did this, I visited the social security office here in Valencia on Calle Colón. I told the receptionist I needed my digital certificate, after which they led me to a seating area on the second floor. After about ten minutes my number was called, and I went to the designated desk.

Once there, I gave the individual my original print-out, along with my TIE card and my passport. He typed things into his computer for a few minutes, then explained that I would receive an email shortly with the information I needed.

Sure enough, as I was walking out the front door of the social security office I received an email with a link to download my digital certificate. I downloaded the certificate and right away put a copy on Dropbox so I would never lose it. The website says the certificate only works in Firefox and IE I believe – since I use Chrome mostly, I downloaded a copy of Firefox and installed it. Once in Firefox, I went into the Certificates section in the settings and installed the one they gave me. You should see something similar to what I have here, showing an installed certificate from FNMT-RCM.

Installed Certificate

Uses For The Certificate

If you’re looking to make use of your shiny new certificate, here are a few articles with how you can use it.

My First Six Months In Spain

Approximately two weeks ago I hit my six month milestone here in Spain, and as such, thought it would be a really great time to update everyone on my Spanish adventure.

Living In Valencia

In case you missed it, last year I applied for (and was granted) residency to live in Spain for a year. My original plan was to travel around Spain and potentially visit various different parts of the country over the course of my stay here. Unfortunately as soon as I arrived I quickly realized that one of the requirements of my residency required me to actual obtain a rental contract for at least three months. Unfortunately that basically meant my travel plans went out the window since I would need to rent an apartment somewhere. The city I eventually decided to stay in is the beautiful Mediterranean city of Valencia.

Valencia, Spain

I’m really happy with that decision for the following reasons. First, I really like being near the ocean. In terms of large Spanish cities, that limits you to Barcelona, Valencia, and Malaga mostly, as most of the other large cities are inland. While I don’t live right next to the ocean, it’s just a short metro ride or a bike ride away, which is great.

Second, in terms of Spanish culture, Valencia has a nice balance between local culture (such as the annual Fallas festival), and a fairly vibrant ex-pat community. Many locals that I talked to last year encouraged me not to choose Barcelona, mostly because it’s become overrun with tourists and is starting to lack in Spanish culture. Madrid and Seville were both on my list as well, but since they aren’t close to the water and have rather unique climates (Madrid gets quite cold in the winter, while Seville, known locally as ‘the frying pan of Spain’, can reach 50C in the summer).

And lastly, Valencia is really very affordable compared to many other larger Spanish cities. While rent isn’t as cheap as it used to be, in general the low cost of both food and alcohol more than make up for it. For example, a typical glass of wine at a local restaurant runs about 2€ ($3 CAD) normally, with tapas usually costing from between 5€-8€ each. In the supermarket you can buy a whole chicken for 4€, and a bottle of wine for 2-3€. Taken together, a normal meetup with friends in the evening, complete with lots of food and wine usually runs less than 20€, which would be about $30 CAD back home.

Meeting People

Meeting people can be difficult in any new environment, and I encountered a bit of that myself in Valencia. Spanish people tend to have tight social circles, with most adults essentially hanging out with people they grew up with. So as a foreigner it can be pretty difficult to get invited into one of those circles, even more so if people think you will just be leaving again soon. So I certainly haven’t met as many actual Spanish people as I had hoped.

But Valencia does have a very active ex-pat and remote worker community, and I’ve met and become friends with various members of the Valencia Coffee and Co-working Group. That group meets weekly for co-working and evening drinks, and it’s been great hanging out with most of them and getting to know some of their reasons for moving to Spain as well.

Learning Spanish

When I first arrived in Valencia, I took an intensive Spanish class to augment what I already knew. That was actually really quite useful, but unfortunately I found it really difficult to work while going to school as it was just *too* intense – four hours of class per day plus homework in the evenings. I found myself pretty exhausted each night.

Since most of my friends here are expats as well, I haven’t had too many opportunities to practice Spanish on a daily basis (other than ordering food and what-not, but that’s pretty routine). That said my comprehension has definitely gone up, and I can certainly communicate much better than when I arrived. But I do need to focus on it a bit more deliberately going forward if I really want to improve.

Traveling Around

I live 10 minutes from the main train station in Valencia, which means it’s quite easy to go on a weekend trip whenever I want. I went to Burgos one weekend to meet some friends walking the Camino de Santiago, and that took me about 10 hours by train. But getting to Barcelona is only about 3 hours by train, Madrid is only 2 hours (via high speed train), and Seville about 5 hours I believe. So while Madrid is probably the best spot to explore Spain from, Valencia is quite well connected as well.

Burgos Cathedral

I’m hoping when I renew my residency next year that I’ll be able to explore around Spain a bit more.

Quality of Life

One of the aspects that eventually made me choose Spain as the country I wanted to try living in was the work/life balance. Someone from North America would probably look at someone in Spain or Portugal, seemingly always out enjoying themselves, as lazy. But the truth is the Spanish people I know are all hard workers. What is different though is that they look at work as a way to enable them to do the things they want, and not as a way to accumulate a lot of expensive items like most people in North America do. So this translates more into a work-to-live philosophy as opposed to the live-to-work one you see in many other countries.

People out eating and drinking around midnight

Dinner in Spain doesn’t really start until 9pm or so, which often means if you are going out that you are going to be out until midnight or later. But once you get used to it, it’s actually really quite nice. The idea of eating dinner at 6pm now seems a bit strange to me, and I really enjoy the late evening dinners (which are often much smaller than we would eat back in North America – tapas and beers amongst friends, for example).

Customer service isn’t that great in Spain – if you order a drink, it’s more likely they will forget it here, or if you are ready to order, sometimes it’s hard to convince someone to take your order. But you get used to it after a while, and just adapt – for example, if you nobody is taking your order, you simply kill more time talking to your friends without getting too worked up for it. They have an expression here in Spain, “no pasa nada”, which basically means “don’t worry about it”. So whenever I hit something like that in Spain, I just smile and reminded myself “no pasa nada”.

What’s Next

In just a few weeks I’m heading back to Canada for my first visit since I arrived in Spain, which I’m looking forward to. Until then, I’m down in Javea near the ocean, which is one of my favourite spots near Valencia.

Beach House, Javea, Spain

Once I get back to Spain, likely at the end of May, I’ll likely do a bit travel around the country and start the process of renewing my non-lucrative visa. My first visa is only for one year, but once the renewal is complete, I’ll be able to live in Spain for another two years. I still have to figure out what my long term plan is, but in pure Spanish style, am not too concerned with it at this point and am quite content to just enjoy my moments 🙂

Picking Up Your TIE Card In Spain

After managing to complete your appointment to get your TIE residency card, the next step is to simply wait the 30 days until you are allowed to pick it up. I actually was going to be busy that day, so I went down around day 28 to the police station. I was originally told to just show up, without an appointment, so that’s what I did.

When I arrived there were several large line-ups, one on each side. I was told picking up your TIE card is really quick, so I assumed neither one was for me. But once I showed the attendee my piece of paper and told them I was here to pick up my TIE card, then directed me to wait in the line on the left.

The line moved rather slowly, so I was probably outside for 40 minutes or so. When I finally made it inside, they directed me to a series of four chairs which acted as a mini queue for the lady giving out the TIE cards. Dealing with each person took 2-3 minutes, so I just waited my turn.

When it came time, I walked up, handed the lady my paper and passport, and then waited. She reached over to her table and grabbed a stack of about 100 cards from a table with about 30 stacks – quite a lot of cards! She quickly thumbed through them until she found mine, then set it in front of her. I was expecting her to hand it to me, so I was wondering what was coming next.

Picking up my TIE residency card in Spain

Picking up my TIE residency card in Spain

She then asked me to take my fingerprints again – I’m not sure if this is because my last fingerprints didn’t come out properly, or perhaps they need to verify it was actually me. Regardless I quickly did my left and right index fingers, and that was it. She handed me my card and told me to have a great day, which would be easy since I was now done all the hard parts about moving to Spain for a year!

If you’ve made it this far as well, then congratulations – you are now a Spanish resident!

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.

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