Retiring to Spain
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Written by Jana Korpova

24th May 2022

Moving to Spain when you retire offers not just a warmer, sunnier place to live, but also an exciting new lifestyle – a permanent holiday – with likeminded people and new friends. But how possinle is it post-Brexit, or for other non-EU citizens? Here we explain how to retire to Spain, from obtaining your visa to setting up your healthcare…   

Why retire to Spain?

Offering an abundance of sunshine, affordable cost of living and plenty to do, it is little wonder people from all over the world have been retiring to Spain for decades. We take a look at the most popular reasons people up sticks and move to Spain.

The weather

Sun-seekers rejoice! Spain boasts around 3,000 hours of sunshine a year, double that in the UK. Not only this, but the winters are lighter and milder too, with around two hours more daylight than in the UK. No more afternoons cut short by darkness!

The warm climate lends itself to a much more outdoorsy lifestyle than in the UK. Days at the beach – or on the golf course – are possible almost year-round and the evenings are regularly spent outside. A popular Spanish pastime, known as a paseo, involves a relaxed evening walk through the town. It is a chance to catch up with friends over a drink or tapa and just enjoy the evening air.

Improved mental and physical wellbeing

Getting enough vitamin D is important for mental wellbeing, health and happiness, particularly in older adults. An excellent source of vitamin D is the sun, and we all know that sunshine is something Spain does very well! No surprise, then, that Spain was recently rated as the healthiest country in the world in the Bloomberg Healthiest Country Index and scored above average for work-life balance, safety and community in the OECD happiness and wellbeing report.

Affordable cost of living

With the recent rise in cost of living around the world, saving money in our day-to-day lives has become more important than ever. For those looking for an affordable retirement, Spain presents a great option.

General prices are around 26% lower in Spain than in the UK. To put this in context, 1 litre of milk would cost you around 93p in the UK but just 66p in Spain. If you were to have three courses at a mid-range restaurant, you would be paying around £50.00 for two people in the UK but just £37.81 in Spain.

Property is also cheaper. According to Numbeo, a city apartment in Spain will cost you 73% less than an equivalent property in the UK.

Easy access with the UK

Spain is well connected to the UK with year-round flights from a range of budget airlines. It is possible to reach almost every corner of the UK and every corner of Spain for a very reasonable price. This means it would be easy to hop back the UK to visit friends and family, and vice versa when they come to visit you.

How to retire to Spain since Brexit

Many people have questions about retiring to Spain after Brexit. Do I need a visa? What healthcare options are there for pensioners and older expats? We answer your most common questions below.

Spain retirement visa

Before you start researching and applying for visas, the first thing to do is determine how long you plan on spending in Spain.

Since Brexit, you will have to navigate something called the ‘90/180-day rule’. This essentially means that you can spend 90 days within a rolling 180-day period in the EU without a visa. This allows tourists, holiday homeowners or retirees looking to spend time in both the UK and Spain to enjoy short-term trips visa-free.

If, however, you plan to spend longer than this in Spain, such as for a permanent move/retirement, you will need a visa. Here are your options…

Non-lucrative visa

There isn’t a specific Spanish retirement visa. Instead, those looking to retire to Spain should apply for a non-lucrative visa. This grants the right to reside but not work in Spain and is the most popular option among retired expats. You can apply for this visa at the Spanish consulate in London, Manchester or Edinburgh.

The requirements for the non-lucrative/retirement visa are straightforward:

  • You must be able to prove that you have sufficient funds to support yourself without relying on the state. For a single person, this is quantified as just over €27,000. A couple would need around €35,000.
  • You will need to take out a private healthcare insurance policy before applying for the visa.
  • You must spend a minimum of 183 days in Spain. This will make you a tax resident of Spain.

Golden visa

Another option for those looking to retire to Spain is the golden visa. Also known as the investment visa, this is a flexible way to live and work in Spain.

The most common way to obtain this visa is through property investment worth a total of €500,000 or more without using a mortgage or loan.

The requirements for the golden visa are:

  • You will need to take out a private healthcare insurance policy before applying for the visa.
  • You must have the funds to support yourself financially

However, unlike the non-lucrative visa, there are no minimum stay requirements. You only need to spend one day in Spain each year to be able to renew the golden visa, although you will no doubt want to spend more time there than this!

Healthcare in Spain for expats

Healthcare for retired expats in Spain is one of the most common concerns we hear. The good news, though, is that those retiring to Spain at pensionable age will be able to access free healthcare on the same basis as a Spanish citizen.

All you need to do is fill in a S1 form, which is a certificate that entitles you for overseas state healthcare paid for by the UK government.

In Spain, basic health services are free, but you will need to pay for certain services, such as orthopaedic services. Spain operates a co-payment system which involves residents paying between 10-60% of the cost of prescription medication.

If you retire to Spain before pensionable age, you will need to take out private healthcare insurance until you start receiving your UK State pension.

Also remember, that for many visas, having a private healthcare policy is a prerequisite, so even if you are of pensionable age, you may need to take out private insurance at first.

Inheritance and the importance of creating a will in Spain

Retiring to Spain and buying a property is a huge and, most of all, exciting decision. However, it is important to think about how much your family might have to pay in inheritance tax when you pass.

Spanish inheritance tax, also known as succession tax, operates differently to the UK and each Spanish region sets their own rates. It is paid by both residents and non-residents in Spain and becomes payable upon receipt of an inheritance from a friend or relative.

However, Spanish inheritance laws involve a forced hierarchy of heirship (the Law of Obligatory Heirs) meaning that a Spanish resident’s assets will be distributed according to this hierarchy. The general law states that if the deceased was married at the time of death, the spouse will keep 50% of all jointly owned property while the remaining 50% must be distributed to any surviving children – two thirds of this 50% must go to the children but the final one third can be distributed freely. All of these heirs will have to pay tax on their share.

To avoid this forced heirship and the associated taxes when you retire to Spain, you must create a Spanish will that specifies that the laws of your home nationality apply. This will ensure that no aspects of Spanish inheritance law apply to your Spanish or worldwide assets.

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