Immigrating to Spain from the US: What You Need to Know

Everything you need to know for living in Spain as an American

Aug 9, 2023
man with suitcase on the streets of madridman with suitcase on the streets of madrid

Spain has always been a popular country to relocate to. Thriving, modern and diverse, it combines vast cities with the relaxed lifestyle of the Mediterranean. It is a major hub for sport, art, architecture, culture, and business. Throw in the beaches, gastronomy, night life, the spectacular weather- and you’ve got the recipe for the perfect country for digital nomads.

In recent years living habits have started to change. While many people are still moving to Spain from the US permanently, more and more are choosing to live here for a short term. The rise in digital nomads working remotely has opened the door to people looking to get to know a new place and culture, without committing to a permanent move.

In this guide we tell you everything you need to know about how to move to Spain from the USA.

Why move to Spain?

First things first; if you haven’t quite made up your mind yet, you probably want someone to point out some of the highlights of immigrating to Spain from the US, so you’re certain you want to stay here for a few months. Here you are then:

People on a sunny beach on the rocks


Everyone knows it’s hot here right? It’s definitely true that the summer (and spring, and fall) are great times to be at the beach, or sitting outside in a lovely plaza with a cold drink. What you might not have thought about though, is that while it does get colder in winter, even the darkest months are full of clear, sunny days. This is great for both your physical, and mental wellbeing.


This is of course relative to where you’ve come from, but most Americans in Spain will be delighted about the price of everything. Renting an apartment, transport, food and drink are all considerably cheaper than in most other major European cities.

Social Life

Affordability and nice weather make people want to get out and about more, so the social life in Spain is one of its great assets. Restaurants, bars and nightclubs are plentiful and thriving, and you can take up any hobby you like. While many people move here to work, it’s definitely a place for those who care about a good work/life balance, which many Americans in Spain appreciate.


Spain is a place that really does believe in sustainable living. Their public transport network is excellent, with many cities moving to ban diesel cars and making the move toward going electric. This is not just great for the conscience- the lack of pollution also makes strolling around even more pleasant.

What paperwork do I need?

Let’s get the boring stuff out the way early shall we? If you’re only moving to Spain short term, you won’t need to do much. There are still a couple of bits of paperwork you should be aware of though, especially if you’re planning on staying over 3 months. Not to worry, everything you need to know is right here:

United states passport with plane tickets


Nationals of EU countries can skip this section, but most will need a visa. The exact rules vary depending on where you come from, but there are several types:

  • Short term (visado de corta duracion): Valid for 90 days. UK and US citizens, among others, do not need this, and can live here for 90 days just with a valid passport.

  • Long term (visado nacional): Visa that grants non-EU nationals permission to live and work in the country.

  • Residence only (visado de residencia no lucrativa): For those not planning to work or study, often used to retire or reunite with family.

  • New International telework visa: Created with digital nomads in mind, this visa allows you to live and work remotely in Spain for up to 5 years.

To apply for a visa you’ll need to contact the Spanish embassy or consulate in your home country, which you can find here.


Only necessary if you wish to immigrate to Spain for more than 3 months. You need an identification number (NIE) for the Spanish administration system and it’s essential to work here, open a bank account, or rent an apartment. The process can be done from your home country or when you arrive. Here you can find more information. Non-EU nationals will need an identity card (TIE), which you can find out how to get here.

Social security number

Not essential if you’re only moving here short term (up to two years) and working remotely. However, getting one will allow you to contribute towards, and therefore use, Spain’s excellent public healthcare system. Find out more here.

Empadronamiento (registration of residence)

This process makes you a legal resident of your city in Spain. It is only necessary if you are living here for more than 6 months, but will allow you to get the TIE card, and use the healthcare system. Here is more information.

How do I sort out accommodation?

Apartment with spanish flag hanging from balcony

There are plenty of websites, such as Idealista, which can help you if you need to rent long term. Renting long term has its problems though: you will often already need to have your paperwork in order, which might not be the case when you first arrive. You will also generally need to pay a 2 months rent up front as a deposit, and 1 month as an agency fee. Depending on who you rent from you may also be expected to communicate in Spanish, which might be a problem at first.

Another option is to rent an apartment with us. We cut out the hassle that goes with longer term rentals, and fully furnish and service them. This makes them perfect for digital nomads, and others moving to Barcelona or Madrid for only a few months.

Do I need to speak Spanish?

Short answer: no. It helps of course, but in the city, enough people speak English that you can get by for a few months. It’s a waste of an opportunity though. While you’re here, why not take the time to learn a new language? As well as being really useful, it’s a great opportunity to immerse yourself in the culture.

Spanish or regional language?

If you are going to learn a language, you need to decide which. Though all regions of Spain speak Spanish, certain regions have a second co official language, such as Catalan, Galician, and Basque (Euskara). In the autonomous regions with a second language, it is likely that the regional language is the preferred one spoken among natives. In Barcelona, for example, all Spanish people speak Spanish, but Spanish speakers from the rest of Spain or Latin America often don’t speak Catalan.

Given that you can also use Spanish in other places, it is clearly more useful, but the locals really appreciate it if you make an effort at the regional language. However much you flounder while trying to speak like a native, the locals will always be eager to help. So it’s a good way to make friends.

What’s the best way to get around?

Madrid metro stop with busy street behind

You can drive cars around the cities in Spain, but it’s not recommended. Many are flooded with heavy rush-hour traffic, scarcity of free parking, and an obscene number of traffic lights, making it not the best way to get around the city center. Quite different from much of the US, it’s something to make an adjustment to when moving to Spain. Motorbikes can get around more easily and are not a problem to park. Taxis are also a good option, especially when you’re still learning your way around.

Your best bet though, is to take advantage of the superb public transport network. The metro is cheap, and easy to navigate. It is also considerably cleaner and less cramped than in many other major cities. The bus service is also good, and covers any routes the metro doesn’t. Thanks to apps like Google Maps and City Mapper, you’ll have no problem working out the best option for you.

What about something even greener?

Spain has lovely weather, a fantastic network of cycle lanes, and is a surprisingly pedestrian and bike friendly city. All this means that bikes, electric scooters, and your own feet, are great ways to get around the city.

There are various private companies that you can rent scooters and bikes from, such as Cooltra or Kleta, and also some phone apps that allow you to rent a bike per minute, such as Lime or Bolt. But if you’re moving for at least a few months, you should definitely invest in your city’s bikes, usually the ones you’ll see in stands everywhere on the streets. In Madrid, this service is known as BiciMAD, and in Barcelona, it’s called Bicing.

What should I do in Spain?

If you’re immigrating to Spain from the US, I can barely scratch the surface here, as there is so much to see and do. Here are some routes you could go down though, if you need inspiration:

Soak up a little culture

Home to Gaudí, Picasso, Goya, Velázquez, and many more, it’s safe to say that Spain has a thriving arts scene with plenty of world renown museums to check out. From the Reina Sofia and Prado in Madrid, to the Dalí museum in Catalonia, to the Picasso museums in Málaga and Barcelona, and the Guggenheim in Bilbao, there’s something for everyone to enjoy.

fans of fc barcelona cheer and raise flags

A big sports fan?

You may have heard of FC Barcelona and Real Madrid, but did you know that La Liga is one of the top leagues in the world? Each city has its own team to celebrate and cheer on during soccer season. And during other times of the year, there’s also basketball, tennis, hockey, and plenty of other games to get involved with and keep up with at your local bar.

Festival time!

Spain’s festival calendar is packed all year round. At one end of the scale you have the globally-known super festivals, such as Sonar, Primavera Sound, and Mad Cool. On the other hand, local festivals in every neighborhood happen at different times throughout the year. Whenever you’re here, the festival calendar is definitely worth keeping an eye on.

Get away for a while

With so much to do in the city, it's easy to forget all the great places nearby. Spain’s geography is expansive with mountains in the north, beautiful beaches all along the coast, and deserts spanning the center of the country. If you’re moving to Spain from the US, be sure to take a trip outside the city to catch a glimpse of some beautiful nature this country has to offer.

I’ve heard of some bars in Spain?

Oh yes, and some restaurants, shops, and nightclubs. There are, of course, far too many to list here, but we’ll help you get started with what you should know as an American in Spain.

outdoor terrace bar

Bars and Restaurants

The Spanish lifestyle revolves around food. After work, groups of people go hang out at the local bars with their friends to have a couple beers and some snacks, and it’s fairly common to stay there until around midnight. The drinking culture in Spain is very social, so don’t be surprised if you see people having a casual drink and conversation at a bar at any hour of the day.

Foodwise, Spain takes their cuisine very seriously. From tapas, to paella, to jamon, to gazpacho, there’s plenty of options to explore. Each region also has its own specialties, so be sure to try out the local favorites or sit down for a menu del dia to get a taste of it all.


Moving to Spain from the US, you’ll be sure to notice that the clubbing culture starts a lot later than what you’re used to. Nightclubs will often not open their doors until 12:00 or 12:30 and will stay open until 6:00 or 7:00 in the morning. Check the agenda for each club on their website to find the DJ and general vibe, but within a city, you’re sure to find a mix of techno, reggaeton, electronic, and pop playing, depending on the night.


As with bars, there are great places all over the city. Home to Zara and Inditex, Spain has plenty of fashionable shops to build your abroad wardrobe. Most major cities will also have luxury shopping options available if that’s more your style.

What’s the healthcare system like?

woman checking vitals on another woman

Excellent. How good will depend on who you ask, but Spain consistently ranks in the top 10 healthcare systems in the world. Brits almost always agree that it is far better than what they have at home, while Americans are generally just happy to have one. Once you have all your paperwork (see above) you just need to find your closest health center to see what services they can offer with your visa status.

Can I bring my dog with me?

Don’t want to leave your furry friend behind when moving to Spain? Well, you’re in luck because Spain is a pet-friendly country, in particular they love dogs here. Most parks have an area for dog walking, and it can actually be a nice way to meet people. Whether you can keep pets in your apartment will depend on the owner, so check beforehand or use an agency to do that for you.

Well what are you waiting for?

Hopefully our city guide has helped you make up your mind about immigrating to Spain from the US, and will continue to help as you get settled. Whether you’re moving here for work, sunshine or love, Spain is a place that has everything. It’s somewhere everyone should experience, even if only for a few months. So jump on a plane and come and enjoy some Spanish culture- ¡Hasta ahora!