Moving to Spain from the UK

moving to spain from the uk
Share with friends

Moving to Spain from the UK

For months or maybe years you have been playing with the idea of moving to Spain from the UK but you have not had the guts to do it. Somethings that could hold you back are: what are we going to do about school for the children, what about healthcare, what about my pensioen. Maybe less practical matters might be holding you back like: my parents won’t be round the corner anymore, my brother or sister is getting older and he or she might need my help, the grandparents are going to miss the kids.

You can think of lots of reasons to hold you back, but maybe there are more reasons to go. I myself moved to Spain for a couple of reasons - one of them was to setup my own business.


Crazy for moving to Spain

Many people claimed we were crazy to sell everything we owned and leave for Spain. And now when we go home and speak to some of those people, they say ,,we wish we had the courage to do what you have done.” . I don’t think, at the time, we were motivated by courage but more motivated by focus. We had a clear plan before we left. We had been preparing for approximately 18 months: Spanish lessons (more about Spanish learning app here), saving every penny we made, writing a businessplan, talking with people in our industry, etc.


Still here

The timing was less than ideal and no matter what the preparation is, sometimes life takes you in a different direction. We both had good jobs at a bank/insurance company (cheap insurances, cheap mortgages, nice salaries, 36-40 hour work week) property to our name, 2 cars and a motorbike. It was just before the 2007 crash of the Spanish economy, my wife was 5 months pregnant with our first child and after arriving our savings dwindled rapidly due to some unforeseen circumstances. We sat it out, keept our focus and did not give up. I must admit in those first 12 months there were a couple of occasions that almost made us reconsider our choice. After 13 years we are still here! We love the sense of adventure, waking up and not having to worry about the weather and the great life our children have here.

So you see, there is never a perfect moment to move out to Spain but you can make it work. Preparation is important, especially if you are moving to Spain from the UK with children. 

In this post I am going to talk about some things that you do to prepare yourself for moving to Spain from the UK.

The subjects I am going to talk about are:

  • Spanish residency
  • Spanish healthcare
  • driving licenses


Brexit and withdrawal agreement

At the moment, due to Brexit, Britain is in a transitional fase. In the Withdrawal Agreement you can  read the UK’s terms of withdrawal from the EU and the citizen rights deal. The transitional period lasts until the 31 december 2020. During the transition period you can continue and do what you normally would do (live, work and school) as before 31st of January 2020. 

As long as you are a resident in Spain you will be covered by the withdrawal agreement. Anything that isn’t covered in the agreement is subject to negotiations in the future. In the meantime, keep an eye on this government website for Brexit updates:


Spanish residency

After moving to Spain you may apply for Spanish residency if you want to stay longer than 3 months. The residency document is a bank card sized green card or a green piece of paper that is the size of an A4 sized piece of paper.


Applying for Spanish residency

Applying for this document is pretty straight forward. In most cases it is important to have a translator go with you if you do not speak Spanish. My personal experience was that my Spanish was not great at the time but good enough to get me through the process with the town hall (thankfully they were very patient with me). 

If you are a resident before the 31st of December, you can stay in Spain after this date and you have your right to residency protected for the time you stay resident in Spain. If there are ny changes to this, please consult


Driving licenses

As soon as you are resident then it is important to get your UK driving license changed over to a Spanish one. If you need to drive to the UK again, you can use the Spanish license. If you move back to the UK, you can apply for a UK license without having to take a driving test.

If while you are in Spain you lose your UK license or it is stolen, you will not be able to renew it with DVLA (UK driver and vehicle licensing agency). Before you do anything else apply for a certificate of entitlement in Spanish at the DVLA. With this document you can proceed to apply for the Spanish license. 

Also be mindful about the driving rules abroad. They can be different in Spain. Most important is to drive with:

  • reflective jacket and warning triangle
  • for Barcalona and Madrid you need emission stickers
  • headlight converting stickers
  • a GB sticker


Importing a car into Spain

When you bring your UK car to Spain you can drive it on UK plates for no more than 6 months. After that you need to register the car in Spain. To register your car there are a few steps that I will not go into details in this post but in general you will need a gestor to help out for the tax office paperwork and the following:

  • ITV the car (similar to MOT in the UK)
  • certificate of conformity (Certificado de Conformidad)
  • Spanish driving license
  • Spanish residency 
  • Pay import taxes based on CO2 emissions of the car

Chances are there are people in your area that will be able to assist you in organising all the needed steps and paperwork. I imported my own car from Germany. I purchased the car, drove it back to Spain and contacted a gestor. She charged me approx EUR 120 in 2010 which I thought was very reasonable for all the hassle. And I had the security that all paperwork would be correct. She no longer works in Spain so unfortunately I could not give any recommendations.


Spanish healthcare

The Spanish healthcare is know to be very good. The hospital in Torrevieja has even won awards for one of the top ranking hospitals in Spain. Even-though the hospitals have some English speaking doctors, not all doctors can speak English. In some cases it is advisable to have a translator with you.

If you register for healthcare in Spain and you are living here permanently before the 31st of december 2020, you will have life-long healthcare rights. However you must stay resident in Spain.

There are two ways to receive healthcare in Spain:

  1. State healthcare - S1
  2. Through the European Health Insurance card


State healthcare - S1

Are you receiving a UK pension or any other form of exportable benefit? You will need to apply for a certificate of entitlement know as an S1 certificate. The state healthcare will be paid for by the UK.


European Health Insurance card

If you are entitled to the S1 then you can also apply for the European health insurance card (EHIC).

If you want to travel outside of Spain and you are not an S1 holder, you need apply for a Spanish issue European health insurance card. This car is called tarjeta sanataria Europea. You can do this online here. The link will take you to a Spanish website. If you do not want to do this online, you can visit your nearest social security office. Click here to find the nearest one.

Furthermore, if you travel outside the EU you need to purchase a comprehensive travel insurance. You will also need this to cover anything that is not covered by the EHIC or the Spanish health insurance card. Don’t forget to heck your passport is valid. 

Do you wish to search for an English speaking doctor, please follow this link: 



Until the transition period ends fine the 31st of december, you will be able to travel with your British passport to any country in the Schengen area or anywhere in the EU. If you are a British national or you want to renew your UK passport from overseas (Spain), you can apply online here: apply 


Travelling with children

If you are travelling from Spain with children that are younger than 18 years old and you are not travelling with a person that has parental responsibility, you well need an authorisation certificate. You will not need a certificate if the children are foreign, resident in Spain and are subject to the law of their own country. 

The UK don’t have such a law so British children don’t need a certificate unless they are subject to a court order which states they need written permission to travel. 

To get a certificate for a Spanish child that you have the parental responsibility over, please visit the Guardia civil or the National Police Station.



This guide was put together with a great deal of care. Keep in mind it is only a guide and correct information should be obtained from the Spanish government. The writer of this website are not liable for any incorrect information


Share with friends

Receive new articles in your emailbox