Tapas Forever

Helping make the dream of moving to Spain a reality

Tag: Canada

Moving Money From Canada To Europe Cheaply

One of the challenges with bouncing between Canada and Europe is having to deal with money in two different currencies. If you find yourself in the scenario where you routinely need to move money from Canada to Europe, here are some of the best options.

If You Don’t Have A Bank Account In Europe

If you don’t have a bank account in Europe, then some combination of cash and credit is likely your best bet.

If you pull out money from an ATM machine once you land in Europe, you’ll likely be hit with 5-7 Euros in fees per transaction, plus a currency charge from your bank in Canada, usually 2-4%. So while using an ATM in Europe is manageable, often the best deal you will get for cash is back in Canada from a dedicated currency broker. Usually you can exchange money for around 1-1.5% of the spot value, which is better than what the banks usually give you. The absolute worst places to exchange money though is via traditional banks (such as TD, Scotiabank, etc.) and at airports, so avoid those like the plague. What you want is a dedicated currency exchange broker, and often if you Google that you will find one near you.

There are currency exchange kiosks all over Europe as well, but in my experience they typically prefer the British Pound and the US Dollar, since those are relatively popular currencies, compared to the Canadian dollar. So it’s best to obtain cash back in Canada if you have the chance.

If you pay directly with your credit card locally, you’ll often pay the same 2-4% in currency exchange fees, but usually without any per-transaction fees. So if that’s all you have, it’s better than nothing.

If You Do Have A Bank Account In Europe

Opening a bank account in Europe, even as a non-resident, isn’t very difficult. I first opened bank account in Spain at BBVA as a non-resident and it only took me a few days. If you have some form of residency as well (a class-D, or long duration, visa) then you can even open a Revolut account and use that as your bank account.

Right now Revolut isn’t available in Canada though, so I’m not going to focus too much on that. But assuming you do have some type of bank account in Europe and have an IBAN number representing that account, I’ll tell what I think is the best method.

First, you’ll need a TransferWise account. TransferWise is a very well known financial company that facilities easy currency exchanges all across the world. TransferWise is regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority in Europe so they are totally safe.

Second, you’ll need an account at EQ Bank in Canada. It’s free to open an account there, and it’s fully protected under the Canadian financial laws. Why I recommend EQ Bank is because they are one of the few banks to allow you to pay TransferWise directly using a bill payment for up to $25,000 CAD. The other methods of getting money into TransferWise from other banks, such as TD, are more cumbersome and have higher fees.

Once you set up both of those, add your bank details into EQ Bank for whatever primary bank you use in Canada. Then you can simply initiate a transfer within EQ Bank and pull money directly, for free, from your primary account. For me I added my TD Bank account information into EQ Bank. One caveat here is that EQ Bank places a one week hold on all funds that are moved this way, so you need to start this process 7-10 days ahead of when you actually need the money.

Once the money is in EQ Bank, go ahead and initiate a payment from TransferWise to your European account. If the fees look good to you and you give the go-ahead, select the bill payment option since it is how you’ll move the money there. If you read the directions for the bill payment, you will see your personal reference number for the transaction – write that down as you’ll need it on EQ Bank.

Next, head on over to EQ Bank and add a new bill payee for TransferWise. Use the reference number they gave you for your account number. Once that is done, go ahead and initiate a bill payment from EQ Bank to TransferWise for whatever amount TransferWise is expecting. It normally takes 1-2 business days for it to hit TransferWise after the bill payment, and you’ll receive an email from them as soon as it does arrive.

If you do all these together, you can often move money from Canada to Europe for approximately 0.5% of the spot price. That’s the exact same method I recently used to move approximately $100,000 CAD for an upcoming property purchase. So while I still paid roughly $500 in currency exchange fees, it sure beats the roughly $3,000 or so TD Bank probably would have charged me if I tried to do it through them.

If you have any questions, just let me know. But I’ve investigated lots of options, and this flow (Primary Bank -> EQ Bank -> TransferWise -> Spanish Bank) is the cheapest that I’ve found so far for moving money between Canada and Europe.

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

The Criminal Record Check Process

As part of applying for the Spanish non-lucrative visa, one of the requirements is a negative criminal record check from the country you reside in. In my case, that’s Canada, so as soon as I arrived back from Spain I made a point of trying to decipher what exactly I needed to supply.

Once again, different consulates seem to have different requirements.

For example, the Toronto consulate says the following:

Negative criminal record (not applicable for minors), issued by the authorities of the country or countries where you have lived during the past five years, including Canada. They are issued by the RMCP.

while the Ottawa consulate says:

A Police Check issued by the authorities of all the countries where an applicant has resided for the last 5 years, including Canada. NOTE: The Police Check should be issued by the RCMP and contain the fingerprints of the visa applicant.

If you go by the Toronto consulate’s definition, then it sounds like you can simply go down to your local RCMP detachment and get a name-based criminal record check. These can be done on the spot at any local RCMP location. The only catch is that if your name matches someone with a criminal record, even if they don’t share your birthday, it will throw up a flag. But that’s rarely the case, and you can get a copy relatively quickly.

That said, if you go by the Ottawa consulate’s website, then you need to do what’s called a ‘certified criminal record check‘, which means you need to have your fingerprints taken and submitted to Ottawa for processing.

Unfortunately these two procedures are entirely different in terms of what’s required, and also what they cost. Even though I’m applying to the Toronto consulate, I felt more comfortable doing the certified record check as this is a much more stringent check than the name-based check.

I went down to my local RCMP detachment to have my fingerprints taken, which is when I hit my first roadblock. Despite me calling them a few days prior and being told I could just show up, they wanted something in writing for their files indicating the requirements for the embassy. I think they mostly want this to cover their asses in case the consulate doesn’t accept what’s given to them, but regardless it was a pretty big pain for me since I don’t currently have easy access to a printer.

I quickly went home and drafted my own letter to the RCMP, including some of the excerpts from the Spanish consulate’s website alluding to the need for a certified criminal record check. I then went down to Staples (our Canadian multi-purpose print shop) and had it printed. When I returned to the RCMP, they still gave me a bit of grief since they were expecting some document that the Spanish consulate wrote for me, but I told them not only was getting a document from them next to impossible, I couldn’t even get them to answer the phone. Ultimately they accepted the letter as-is, and ushered me into the next room with the fingerprint machine.

In the old days, fingerprints were taken with ink pads and paper. Nowadays it’s all done with electronic scanning, which is obviously much cleaner. They took a series of fingerprints (first your thumbs, then your fingers), redoing them as necessary to ensure there were high quality. This only took a few minutes, after which they pressed a few buttons and electronically transferred them to Ottawa.

As long as there’s no criminal record found (there shouldn’t be I hope!), I should have the final, official copy in the mail in two weeks or less. That’s really the last piece I am waiting for, after which I can mail in my completed non-lucrative visa application.

The process wasn’t that painful, but if you are going in I definitely recommend coming prepared with some type of letter indicating exactly what you want. Not all RCMP detachments can take fingerprints either, so best to call ahead and make sure yours can. The final price for the check was $55 plus $25 for the electronic fingerprinting, for a total of $80.

Update

I received the final criminal record check via postal mail exactly 8 calendar days after I had my fingerprints completed. Looking at the document, they processed the scan in Ottawa the day after, and then I imagined mailed them out in the next day or two.

All in all a very easy and straightforward process. If anyone is interested, here is what the completed certified criminal record check in Canada looks like – I’ve blurred out some key features such as my fingerprints and photo (don’t want anyone impersonating me!), but you get the idea.

Certified Criminal Record Check

Why Move To Spain?

Last winter I was sitting around a bar near Vancouver, BC, watching the rain fall down while sipping an India Pale Ale. I was thinking about my upcoming trip to Europe, still about four months in the future, and talking to a friend of mine about just how bored I was. Instead of living life, I guess the truth is I sort of felt like my life was on hold until that plane lifted off again, taking me to Europe.

Over the last six years or so, I have visited roughly 39 countries while working remotely. And for me, Canada has always been my home base I go back to. But often I end up in Canada during the winter months, which are quite depressing (rainy and cold for months), even though I have the ability to be anywhere due to my job. But unfortunately renting my Canadian cottage out during the winter months is a bit of a challenge, and it doesn’t make sense for me to leave it empty while I travel the world, since I still have a mortgage on it and monthly payments to contend with.

Of all the places I have visited over the last few years, only a few have stood out in terms of places I would actually want to live for a long period of time. Of those, Spain is one country I always seem to love coming back to – I love the people, the climate (320 days of sunshine a year in some areas), the beautiful architecture, and the proximity to the Mediterranean.

So not long ago, I came up with a solution to my winter dreariness problem – what if I actually rented out my cottage for a year and simply moved to Spain? While it’s hard to rent my place just for the winter, it’s much easier to rent out if it includes the summer too since I live near a lake in a resort-like area. Plus, moving to Spain would finally let me finish learning Spanish too, which is something I’ve wanted to do for a long time.

I actually recently had a conversation with a new friend about ticking off boxes in your life. That is, if you made a list of five to ten things that were important to you, where could you live in the world that allowed you to check off the most boxes?

For me, learning Spanish is near the top of that list, as is being able to sail from time to time (I learned how to sail in New Zealand years ago, but haven’t had the chance to sail since). I also would like to get in better shape, so somewhere where I can be outside for longer periods of the year I imagine would help with that (I hate going to the gym, but love doing things outside like rollerblading, etc.).

So in terms of checking off boxes, moving to Spain would help me tick off almost all of them – it would allow me to skip a dismal four to six months of rain and cold back in Canada, let me finish learning Spanish, give me access to the Mediterranean (and hopefully a sailboat), and also let me spend more time outside each year – sounds heavenly!

In terms of visas that would let me move to Spain for a year as a Canadian, there are really only two visas that apply: the entrepreneur visa, or the non-lucrative visa.

The entrepreneur visa is available to anyone who wants to open a company and employ Spanish workers. I’m not opposed to that at some point, but it seems pretty daunting to open a company if you don’t even have a comfortable grasp of the language. So I scratched that one off the list for now.

The non-lucrative visa is much easier to get with two caveats – you can’t work in Spain with this visa, and you must be able to provide proof of income (or savings) for the entire year. Since I sold my company a few years ago and still have a chunk of money in the bank, I should easily qualify for this visa.

So right now I’m actually in Spain on a tourist visa, working through opening a bank account and acquiring medical insurance. In about a month I’ll head back to Canada, and with luck, submit my entire application for the non-lucrative visa. I’m also in the process of renting out my cottage back in Canada, so hopefully will have that sorted out shortly as well.

So hopefully in approximately four months I’ll be on an airplane, heading towards Madrid, ready to spend an entire year living and travelling around Spain. I can’t wait!

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