How to live and work in Spain

Who I am
Joel Fulleda

Author and references

Spain has been one of them for at least 20 years privileged destinations of the expats of our country.
Quality of life, ease of learning the language and a complex assortment of similarities between our people and the Iberian (from the point of view of customs and way of dealing with everyday life) are among the main reasons for this predilection towards Madrid and the others. large Spanish cities.
However, as anyone who has lived the experience of a transfer on site knows well, even if only for a short period, they know well that Spain is not the promised land. Yes, it is a hospitable country full of opportunities, which like any other place in the world presents problems, contradictions and situations of everyday life that cannot always be deciphered by a foreigner. All elements that should be carefully studied and analyzed before deciding to accept a job in Spain and move there ...


  1. Cost of living compared to Italy
  2. In which Spanish city it is worth going to live
  3. How to find work in Spain
  4. Moving to Spain as a retiree
  5. Living in Spain: pros and cons
  6. User questions and comments

Cost of living compared to Italy

How much does it cost to live in Spain? How much do you pay for essential goods and services? Here is a comparison of the main differences in the two countries.

As a result, Spain offers advantages from the point of view of the tax burden and the cost of living, resulting statistically about 11% cheaper compared to the beautiful country. However, it is always necessary to make distinctions from city to city, as we explain in more detail in the paragraph below.

In which Spanish city it is worth going to live

Just like in Italy, where living in the center of Rome or Florence has a very different cost compared to residing in a small town in the Marche region, even in Spain there is a clear difference, in terms of costs, between living in Madrid or in some autonomous communities that enjoy particular tax regimes, such as the Canaries.
But even more crucial is the employment issue, which varies from region to region according to professional sectors.

1 - Researchers, professors, PhD students, academic staff

The so-called "brain drain" can choose almost freely between all big cities. Madrid and Barcelona, ​​of course, but also Valencia, Seville, Bilbao and Salamanca (the latter recommended especially for art and history scholars). Among the most important structures, we mention the Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias in Valencia, but important research institutes can also be found in the province, from Pontevedra to Córdoba, from Eibar to Lleida, up to Palma de Mallorca.

2 - Freelancers

Freelancers must necessarily focus on inhabited centers with large numbers, therefore the most important and populous cities are also recommended for them. The reason is easy to deduce: a bit like it happens in Italy, even in small Spanish towns the population tends to trust local reference figures, whom the inhabitants consider almost like family members. It is therefore logical that the same communities tend not to place too much trust in foreigners who try to establish themselves in a relatively closed context. If you are a lawyer or a doctor, focus mainly on Madrid and Barcelona. If you are an architect you can choose no less suggestive destinations such as Bilbao (one of the most architecturally and urbanistically lively cities in Europe), Zaragoza or Malaga. Remember that, as Italy and Spain are EU countries, professional recognition follows a fairly agile and streamlined procedure (3-4 months on average, upon presentation of the correct documentation).

3 - Real estate professionals

On the contrary, those operating in the real estate sector should avoid further clogging up the supply in large cities, whose real estate market is already saturated and firmly in the hands of long-time local entrepreneurs. Better focus on small tourist centers rapidly reviving after a few decades of fogging: Toledo, Cadiz, Pamplona. There are also those who are ready to swear that the great relaunch of the property market in the coming years will mainly concern the Canary Islands, which are practically desertified by investors today due to policies that are not too enlightened by local administrations. It seems that things are about to change, so who knows if it is not worth returning to invest in Tenerife or Las Palmas.

4 - Seasonal workers

For those looking for a seasonal job, obviously the most receptive sectors are hosting and catering. It follows that all Resort, especially those of the sea, provide thousands of jobs every year. Costa Brava, Catalonia (not only Barcelona, ​​of course, but also smaller towns such as Lloret del Mar, Badalona, ​​Sitges), Gulf of Valencia (also here it is better to look in smaller centers, such as Benidorm, Alicante, Cartagena), up to to get to the Costa del Sol (Malaga, Marbella, Torremolinos): there is plenty of choice. The more daring can also go to the Atlantic views beyond the Strait of Gibraltar: those to the south (San Fernando, the splendid Sanlúcar de Barrameda located at the mouth of the Guadalquivir, or Playa de Isla Canela, practically on the border with Portugal) and even those to the north (Vigo, Pontevedra, Finisterre), less beaten by mass tourism but not devoid of structures that come alive during the summer.
The Balearic Islands - Ibiza, Formentera and Mallorca, with the latter in strong decline in support in recent years - are obviously a world apart, while for the reasons already mentioned in the previous point, for the moment it is better to avoid the Canaries while waiting for a hoped for / longed for relaunch.

5 - Unskilled workers

Those looking for other types of low or no skilled jobs must always keep in mind the level of demand present in Spain. For example, if, as we have seen, the property market is fertile especially in some areas of the country, the building market is instead going through a stalemate that has lasted for over a decade.
In fact, it seems that the golden age of Spanish shipbuilding, which began in the early 90s (the Barcelona Olympics of '92 offered a great propulsive thrust in this direction), ended in 2007 and there is still no sign of recovery.
So proposing yourself as a bricklayer, carpenter, house painter, plasterer, is definitely a risk, unless you have a privileged channel on site (for example a company that has already indicated its intention to hire you).
On the side of unskilled jobs, it is the retail sector that offers the greatest guarantees, as well as not having privileged locations: a shop looking for salesmen can be found everywhere. Obviously, since this is a job that requires contact with the public, it is essential to show up on the first day of work with a more than acceptable knowledge of the language. In this regard, we recommend the site Preply, a platform for private language lessons that connects students and tutors from all over the world. If you want to have a good chance of finding a job, make sure you take Spanish lessons before you even apply for a job.

How to find work in Spain

Regardless of your professional qualification, all that remains is to arm yourself with patience, prepare your own European model CV translated into Spanish (the most expensive part of the matter, but absolutely essential) in both print and digital versions, and browse the main ad sites. You can start from digital hubs that connect professionals internationally, such as LinkedIn e Monster ( Or - especially if you are looking for seasonal or low-skilled jobs - turn to generalist sites, obviously focusing on reliability. Among the most serious portals in the sector, we point out,,,,

NIE: what it is and how it is obtained

Finally, remember that to reside and work in Spain, it is first of all necessary get the NIE issued., the Número de Identidad de Extranjero, a code very similar to our tax code. It is a simple alphanumeric identifier, issued by the Dirección General de la Policía or by the consular offices. Without it it is not possible to enter into contracts, open current accounts, connect an Internet connection, and of course find a job.

To obtain the provisional NIE it is necessary:

  • go to the foreigners office or the nearest police station to request forms 790 and Ex-15
  • fill in the above forms
  • pay a small fee (around 15 euros)
  • attach a copy of a valid identity document to the forms
  • obtain the empadronamiento, a sort of residence certificate issued by the Spanish municipality where your home is located (to obtain it you need a copy of the rental contract or certificate of ownership of the property)
  • finally, send all documents to the consulate

For convert the provisional NIE into definitive, then, it will be necessary to submit a new application, accompanied by a copy of the employment contract. Once assigned, the definitive NIE will identify the person who owns it until their death.

Moving to Spain as a retiree

Why do many over 65 decide to move to Spain and spend their retirement years there?
The reason is very simple: for fiscal reasons.
It is known, in fact, that Italian pensions are on average among the lowest in Europe. Added to this is a considerable tax burden on the already meager INPS (or other social security institution) annuities. Finally, as we have seen, the cost of living in Italy tends to be much higher than in Spain.

Spain and Italy have entered into a bilateral agreement that avoids double taxation: in practice, if I take up residence in Spain, my pension will be taxed only by the Spanish government and not by the Italian one. In this way, the pensioner will be able to enjoy his pension by granting a much lower rate to the host state, which will allow him to maintain a better standard of living. But be careful: this privilege is not granted to INPDAP pensioners.

As regards INPS pensioners, on the other hand, tax relief in Italy is granted only for pensions of contributory origin, therefore those accrued by paying taxes on their salaries, annuities, earnings; welfare pensions, such as invalidity pensions, on the other hand, remain under Italian control and jurisdiction.

The main steps to take to get the pension transfer are as follows.

  • Subscribe toAIR (Register of Italians residing abroad).
  • Consult the website of the Revenue Agency to check if you have the necessary requirements to obtain tax exemption in Italy.
  • Fill in the Application for Exemption from the Italian Pensions Tax, an international form - generally bilingual and accepted by all EU countries - called EP-I.
  • Forward the application to the territorially competent INPS office.
  • In order to achieve a first essential prerequisite for receiving the pension according to Spanish taxation, it is necessary to reside for 183 days (half a year plus one day) in the new country of residence.

Living in Spain: pros and cons

In short, is it really worth living in Spain after all? Let's try to outline the advantages and disadvantages.


  • Relatively low cost of living.
  • Ease of learning the language.
  • Customs and habits relatively similar to those in Italy.
  • Mediterranean climate similar to the Italian one (of course, if you prefer the Atlantic Coast, things change).
  • Good job opportunities, especially for skilled professionals and seasonal workers.
  • Advantageous tax policies.
  • Great sensitivity towards social rights and minorities (including foreigners).
  • Relative proximity to Italy, possibility to return when you want with a few hours of flight.


  • Economic crisis. It has also hit Spain, and although the country is struggling to get out of it, it still has problems - as we have just seen - in absorbing domestic labor demands in some sectors particularly affected by austerity. Let alone the external ones.
  • At times cumbersome bureaucracy. The example of the double application to obtain the NIE is quite significant but it is even worse.
  • For pensioners: the various clauses that exclude certain types of pensions from the tax transfer agreement.

Audio Video How to live and work in Spain
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