How to retire to Spain: The complete guide

expat retirement spain

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SPAIN´S warm climate, affordable housing, stunning beaches and superb gastronomy have made it one of the most sought-after destinations for Brits to retire.  Currently, around 110,000 UK pensioners have taken up residency in Spain. 

In this article, the Euro Weekly News will be covering the various ways to get residency in Spain if you are planning on retiring here, what systems are in place for retirees, and how much it will cost.

The long stay visa (Visado Nacional)

The first option is the Long-Stay Visa (Visado Nacional). With the Long-Stay Visa, you have temporary residency within Spain. If you are planning on carrying out any sort of work during your retirement, even if this is just odd jobs, this is the option for you. This is the only option that will legally permit you to work within Spain during your residency. It is renewable annually and requires you to stay in Spain for a minimum of 6 months per year.

Residence Visa (Visado Residencia)

Another option is the Residence Visa (Visado Residencia). This is the more sought-after option because it is easier to be approved for than a long-stay visa. It is a perfect choice for someone who is looking to retire and comfortably live off of their pension. With this visa, you are not allowed to work within Spain.

In order to be approved for the above visas, you will need to prove that you will not be a financial burden to the Spanish government. In short, you will need to show a monthly income of €2,130 or more. In addition, you will need to show another €532.51 per month for each dependant you will care for. You can also satisfy the requirement by having €27,600 in savings. This will need to be proven on a 12-month basis.

The documentation required is a valid passport, proof of financial stability (bank statements or affidavit of support), police record, medical insurance through a Spanish provider, and a medical certificate stating you do not have any contagious diseases or other ailments that would burden the Spanish healthcare system.

Golden Visa

In order to obtain this visa, you need to either make a €1 million capital transfer to Spain, make a €1 million investment in a Spanish business development, or make a €500,000 investment into Spanish real estate. The benefits of this visa are quite liberating. The Golden Visa grants the same status to all dependants; spouse, children, and children over 18 who are dependants as well. Unlike the other visas, there is no minimum stay requirement.

In order to maintain your status, you only need to visit Spain for one day out of the year. If you hold onto the Golden Visa for 10 years, you qualify to become a full-fledged Spanish citizen.

Non-Lucrative Visa (NLV)

This visa is among the most popular for retirees in Spain. If you wish to immigrate to Spain and you have sufficient income to support yourself and your family/dependants you can apply for a non-lucrative residence visa – as of 2021, this means that you can prove that you have at least €27,115 in your bank account plus €6,778 for each dependent. Note that it is illegal to carry out any work activities on this visa.

This visa is categorised as a long-stay visa and the application process is quite similar to other long-term Spain visas. Of course, if you are a citizen of an EU/EEA country this does not apply to you.

What are the key requirements for retiring in Spain?

  • Proof that you have sufficient funds to support yourself

To prove you have sufficient funds, you can present adequate savings or prove that you have a guaranteed income. You’ll need to show that you have a total amount of €27,115.20 per year. Alternatively, you can show that you have a guaranteed monthly income of €2,259.53. Alongside this, you’ll need to show an additional amount of €6,778 for each family member you plan to bring along with you to Spain.

  • Proof of private health care insurance

Unfortunately, you’re not able to access the public health care system of Spain with your Retirement Visa. Due to this, you’re required to obtain valid private health insurance that will cover any medical expenses for the duration of your stay. It must be valid for at least a year, be with a provider that is recognised in the Spanish territory and must offer the same coverage as that of the Spain public health system.

  • You must meet the minimum stay requirements 

If you wish to renew your Retirement Visa, you’ll need to spend at least 6 months in Spain during your stay.

What documents do I need to apply?

To apply for a visa you will need:

  • The visa application form (filled out)
  • EX-01 form (filled out)
  • A valid passport
  • 2 passport photos
  • A notarised document stating your reason for the application (your purposes, the place, and the length of your stay in Spain. Note that the document should be translated into Spanish by a certified translator)
  • Proof of sufficient funds
  • A clean criminal record
  • Medical certificate and proof of health care cover
  • M790 C052 form (filled out)
  • Payment receipt (Visa application fee and proof thereof. You can expect to pay around €121.26 for your visa application.)
  • Spanish health declaration form

How do I apply?

First, schedule an appointment at the Spanish Embassy or consulate in your home country. This can be done via email or phone. Then, you’ll need to collect your documents – we recommend having copies of all of your documents. Creating a checklist is a handy way to keep track of what you need and what you have. 

Then, you will be attending your visa appointment, with all of your documents in hand. You’ll have an in-person interview with Embassy officials. During the interview, you’ll be asked to answer some simple questions about your trip to Spain, answer truthfully and to the best of your knowledge. You will also be required to hand over all of your documents at this stage.

You can expect to find out the decision on your application within 2 – 3 months.

Following a favourable decision, that you will find out via email or telephone, you will need to arrange to pick up your visa in person at the Spanish Embassy. You must do this within one month of the decision and bring your passport and flight itinerary with you.

What do I do once I arrive in Spain?

Great news, you’ve made it! Now, you must apply for a key component – the TIE card. Your Retirement Visa will be granted for 90 days. Within this time, you must travel to Spain and present it at the Oficina de Extranjeria (Immigration Office) or “Comisaria de Policia, Departamento de Extranjeria”. Here, you’ll need to apply for the residency card that will replace your Retirement Visa.

What about my UK pension?

Once you have successfully moved to Spain, you will be happy to hear that your British pension is fully transferable. The most common scheme is the Qualifying Recognised Overseas Pension Scheme (QPROPS). QPROPS enables you to consolidate all of your pensions into a single plan. In doing so it will help protect you from any fluctuations in exchange rates.

Now you’ve got the visa, you’ve got your pension. What options are available to you within retirement? Obviously, you can take the pension and pay for all of your earthly needs by yourself, but in the case you are in need of extra assistance throughout your retirement in Spain you can apply for in-home care, public sector retirement community, or seek out the private sector’s retirement community.

In-home care for retirees in Spain

In-home care ranges from certified individuals to registered nurses to perform daily tasks and medical routines. A few examples of these include assistance with bathing, meal preparation, exercise regimen, monitoring medicinal intake, and combating loneliness for those in the unfortunate situation of loosing a loved one too soon.

The Spanish government has offered subsidies for some of these services based off of the financial situation of the applicant. On average it costs €1,000/ week to have a registered nurse living in but hourly options are available at much lower rates.

Public retirement homes

The public retirement homes run by the State are generally crowded and have a waiting list that is preferential to Spaniards. If you do choose this path you will be paying 80 per cent of your pension and receiving a room with a small kitchen and a bathroom. An attendee will be tasked with making your meals and handling all general upkeep of your daily routines.

Within the private sector, there are two possibilities – pay in full or apply for a room in a Plaza Concertada. Plaza Concertada’s are privately owned retirement facilities where you are expected to put forth the majority of your pension, but the government will pick up the tab for the remaining balance. The application process to get into a room in a Plaza Concertada has to be done through your local municipality.

Where are the most popular places to retire in Spain?

There are many communities favoured by retired expats along the Costa Blanca for its desirable weather year-round. Alicante boasts 320 days of sunshine per year, while Torrevieja has a well established expat community and a calmer feel to it than Alicante. Javea is a beautiful quiet corner on the Costa Blanca that is popular with retired expats, it also has quite a big expat community if you are looking for an English-speaking area.

On the Costa del Sol, Malaga has been the recipient of an insurgence of foreign business, giving its sandy beaches a new bustle. It is also full of history, great restaurants and has amazing infrastructure, making it an easy transition as well as perfectly located to reach other small towns and for any visitors you may be receiving! Easily reachable from Malaga is the suave Marbella, where fine dining and high class is not hard to find. Towns such as Nerja, Competa, Torrox Costa and Torrox Pueblo are also very popular with expats from the UK, Germany and Sweden.

Mallorca is a popular place to retire, full of beautiful sandy beaches, crystal clear water and great gastronomy. Mallorca is particularly popular with German expats.

Thank you for taking the time to read this article. Do remember to come back and check The Euro Weekly News website for all your up-to-date local and international news stories. Remember, you can also follow us on Facebook and Instagram.

Written by

Kaj-Björn Sherman

Originally from America, Kaj is based in Santander and is a writer for the Euro Weekly News covering news and features. Got a story you want to share? Then get in touch at