How to move to Spain - The ultimate guide for Canadians
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*The information included in this blog post is by no means legal advice. This post provides information based on my personal experience of moving to Spain.
Ahhhhh Spain. What a beautiful country filled with sunshine, endless laughter, passion, tapas, and so much more.
If you are reading this article, I am guessing you are thinking about making a move to Spain sometime in the future. Or, if you have not thought about it before, hopefully reading this article will inspire you to move to Spain.
I am a Canadian who has gotten to know Spain pretty well (especially the south) and have fallen head over heels in love with the country & its people.
Here I will provide you with all the tips & tools required to move and the truth about making it all work.
I have to be honest. Moving to Spain was not easy. For someone on the outside looking in, I'm sure they would have thought "wow, look at her go, living her best life and moving to Spain. She has it so easy" (I I definitely heard it through the grapevine.)
Want to know a little bit about my story?
The first time I visited Spain I was 18 years old and on a Contiki trip (THE BEST.) I visited Barcelona & San Sebastian and was left wanting more.
When I was 22, I applied for a language exchange in Sevilla. I was accepted and had the opportunity to live with a Spanish family for free and teach their children English.
On my 3rd day in Sevilla, I met Fernando (my now boyfriend - almost two years later). I wasn't joking when I said I fell head over heels in love with the people here.
At the time, I did not have a visa. *As a North American citizen you are allowed to stay in Spain for up to 90 days.
Following my romantic, fun, exciting 90 days spent in Sevilla, it was, unfortunately, time for me to return to Canada.
Once I had arrived back to Canada, I had two months to obtain my new visa to make it in time for my flight back to Spain.
I planned to get a visa, head back to Sevilla, and stay for a year.
For any of you who have ever applied for a visa, you will understand that two months is NOT enough time to make this happen. At the time, no one had told me this, so I thought I would be fine.
It was not fine. I was rushed, stressed, and on a very tight deadline to gather all my documents.
Why am I telling you this story?
I have decided to write this article and put it out there in hopes that some young human somewhere in the world is seeking help or advice on how to move to Spain.
If I had found information like what will be provided here before all my decision making, it would have saved me a lot of blood sweat and tears.
If you would like to read more about my story and how I ended up in Spain, you can find it here.
So, let's jump right into it.
How To Get A Visa
Step 1 in the process of moving to Spain is obtaining a visa so that you can travel and live there legally.
When I decided to move to Spain, I had NO idea about how to apply for a visa or how it even works.
After many weeks of research and digging deep into the government websites, I finally found a way to apply for a visa called "Youth Mobility."
Who can apply for a Youth Mobility visa?
If you are a Canadian citizen and live in Nunavut, Saskatchewan, NW Territories, Manitoba, Yukon, Ontario, British Columbia, or Alberta and are between the ages of 18 and 35 years old, you qualify! *Why the other provinces don't, I have NO idea.
There is a maximum limit of 1000 Canadians per year, but at the moment the pools are still open.
What is a Youth Mobility Visa?
This type of visa is the easiest and quickest way to get a Spanish experience for one year. With this visa, you can legally stay/live anywhere in Spain for a year.
Before applying, you will need to obtain an NIE number (Foreigner Identification Number).
With your NIE #, you can visit any Oficina de Turismo (tourism office) in any city and obtain a 'Permiso de Residencia' card. With this card, you can open up a bank account, get a job etc.
As I mentioned above, I was on an extremely tight deadline to obtain all my documents in time to get my visa.
They recommend starting the visa process 4-6 months before you are hoping to take off.
For the most part, the documents were not too difficult to obtain.
The ones that take some time are your police check, travel insurance, and medical examination/clearance.
*I was unable to wait a few weeks for my police check to arrive in the mail. When I went into the station, I had to beg for them to give it to me the same day so I would make my cut off.
In the end, I was able to get my NIE, all the required documentation, prepare my application package, send everything, including my passport to Toronto and receive it back within precisely 2 months. And let me tell you, it was not easy.
*Please keep in mind that they may have your passport for some time. I had a trip booked to Vegas but unfortunately did not receive my passport back in the mail in time for my flight.
If you are a Canadian citizen and would like to apply for a youth mobility visa, you can find more information and apply HERE.
Cost of living in Spain
This is a touchy subject I have noticed as there is a lot of mixed opinions out there.
I am speaking as a Canadian moving to Spain, so please keep in mind that I am comparing the cost of living in Canada to Spain (which they aren't even comparable at all.)
For me, living in Spain is CHEAP. In Andalusia, there are many cities (especially Granada) where you get free tapas with a drink (which usually won't cost over two euros.) Can it get any better?
When it comes to renting, if you are hoping to stay in any city center, you can expect to pay quite a bit.
Couchsurfing and Airbnb's are incredibly popular throughout Spain.
If you are searching for a rental and would like some help, please message me here, and I will send you the best local websites to use.
Eating out and grocery shopping is by far the cheapest part of living in Spain.
For 30 euros a week you can have a vast selection of fresh produce, meats, fish, cheese, EVERYTHING!
A bottle of fantastic wine at the supermarket can cost you as little as 2 euros.
For me, after living in Spain, I struggle with the cost of living back in Canada. *However I can also appreciate it is all relevant as wages/salaries are much higher in Canada.
To paint the picture for you, at one of my favourite tapas bars in Sevilla - El Rinconcillo - Fernando and I can have a few beers each, wine, six tapas and coffee for around 20 euros.
To read more about our experience at Rinconcillo, click here.
To sum it all up, if you want an authentic Spanish experience (living away from a major city center), the cost of living in Spain can be VERY reasonable.
Jobs in Spain
As a Canadian and a native English speaker, you already have a considerable advantage when it comes to finding a job in Spain.
From my personal experience, English teaching jobs in Spain are pretty easy to find.
At the moment, Spain's unemployment rate is a little high. Due to this, there are currently a lot of adults wanting to learn English to allow them more job opportunities.
I have also learnt and realized that the majority of children in Spain begin to learn English at a young age.
I have zero experience with teaching English or any formal education; however, during my stay in Spain, I was offered around five different teaching positions - one being at an English academy.
If you are looking for an English teaching job in Spain I suggest checking out these Facebook groups and connecting with locals:
Alternatively, if teaching English isn't your cup of tea, you can check out these Facebook groups for other great jobs around Spain:
How to interact with the locals
One of my favourite things in Spain (aside from the wine, tapas, flamenco and my boyfriend) is the people.
Spanish people fascinate me. They are so lively and welcoming, and the way they communicate is incredible.
I have to say, out of all the countries I have travelled to, the people watching in Spain wins the number one spot.
Spain is the kind of place where you can sit in a busy plaza for hours just observing all the life happening in front of you and be continuously entertained.
From my personal experience, Spanish people are very open, warm and loving.
You won't have a hard time making friends and meeting new people. Everywhere you go, strangers will say hello.
*A little tip - when in Spain, you may notice that whenever someone walks into a place (ANY store, a shop, grocery store, gym, bar etc.), they say "¡hola!" or ¡buenas! This small act shows you are acknowledging the others around you. Give it a try!
Don't speak any Spanish?
When I first arrived in Spain, I spoke NO Spanish. I had never even taken one course in my whole life.
After visiting Barcelona when I was 18, I had pretty much assumed most people in Spain speak English.
In my personal experience, in all the major cities (Barcelona, Madrid, Malaga, Valenica, Seville) most people can speak English.
Not nearly as much in Seville as in Barcelona (as I learnt the hard way) but still enough for you to get by.
One thing I love about Spanish people is that they will appreciate you making an effort and trying to speak.
Although you will be able to make it through Spain without speaking perfect Spanish, I do, of course, highly recommend having a go with your Spanish to allow yourself an authentic Spanish experience.
Are you also a beginner when it comes to learning Spanish? Here you can read all about my tips and tricks to get started with learning.
My time spent in Spain was as fulfilling as it was rewarding.
For anyone who has an opportunity to move and live in Spain, go for it!
I can promise you; it will be an experience of a lifetime.
Now that I have provided you with some of the basics to make a move over to Spain, what are you waiting for?
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Have you lived in Spain before? I would love to hear all about your adventure!