Leaving Spain and Moving On
Information on what to do when moving from Spain; including notifying schools and residency officials, closing bank accounts, ending contracts for utilities and insurance, exporting cars and moving pets...
When leaving Spain and moving on, there are a number of tasks to be completed before departure.
Anyone who registered with their Embassy on arrival now should advise them that they are leaving.
All foreigner residents in Spain need to have a foreigner's tax identification number, an NIE (Numero de Identificatión de Extranjero), regardless of whether or not they are also obliged to have a residency card.
The NIE number is used extensively in Spain when dealing with the authorities as well as many businesses, including utility companies. Anyone intending to be in Spain for more than 3 months should have registered at the Foreigner's Offices (Oficinas de Extranjería).
Prior to departure, contact the nearest police station that has a foreigner's department, or the offices of the local regional government and notify them of departure.
If a residency permit has been issued then the issuing office should also be contacted.
Give schools a reasonable amount of notice of a child's departure. There may be outstanding bills for school fees, transport or meals to be settled.
On registration at a new school in the new country, a parent may be asked for a certificate stating the latest grade passed by the child. Request this from the school when giving notice of departure. Schools will normally be happy to provide a summary of a child's progress and up-to-date test results.
Leave a forwarding address for any correspondence.
In Spain, it is normal to give one to three-months' notice of intention to vacate. The exact period will depend on the rental contract. The notice letter should be sent by registered post (certificado).
Consult the rental contract for any other clauses relating to termination of the rental/tenancy. Most commonly this may include an inventory of the property before a landlord will agree to return a deposit.
Short-term tenants have fewer rights and are often required to vacate a property at the end of the rental period. Typically, this type of contract is used for holiday rentals, however they can be used for up to one year.
Beyond one year, a contract is considered to be a long-term contract. If there is no stated duration on the rental contract then it is assumed to be one year.
Tenants pay a deposit at the start of the rental period (usually equivalent to one month's rent) and this should be returned at the end of the rental. Any damage or repair costs are deducted from this deposit. The owner has a month to return the deposit in-full or in-part as appropriate.
Charges associated with the property such as community fees or real estate tax (IBI) are usually paid by the owner. However if the tenant has been paying these, notice should be given to the authorities and possible tax refunds arranged.
Estate agents in Spain handle most property sales although it is possible to sell a property privately, for example via the Internet. This may be of interest to those who have been living in tourist areas and have property to sell which is likely to appeal to other would-be expatriates.
Properties purchased with a mortgage will have had life insurance in place which may not be cancelled until the sale is completed.
Signing of the final deed of sale (escritura) is considered the legal completion of a sale. Anyone who cannot attend the event in person (for example because they have already left Spain) may give power of attorney (a poder) to a third party to sign on their behalf.
House insurance can be cancelled once a sale is completed and in some circumstances a partial refund may be due. It is best to cancel all insurance in writing and by recorded delivery.
As with any house move, there are utility bills to be settled and meters to be read. If meters are not outside the property, access will be required. Utility bills in Spain are commonly paid by direct debit so these will need to be cancelled once final payment has been made.
Leave a forwarding address with all the companies involved.
Electricity and Gas: The Spanish electricity market was deregulated in 2003. As a result, most homes in urban areas have a choice of electricity suppliers, though in rural areas it is unlikely there is more than one supplier.
Cancellation of an existing contract should be done in writing. Send a letter to the supplier attaching a copy of the account holder's passport or Spanish NIE number.
A similar situation exists for gas supply. Mains gas is usually only available in larger cities. If this is the case, contact the supplier and ask for a final bill to be prepared.
If there is no mains gas then it is likely that supply has been by butane bottled gas (bombonas). Most people will have had a contract in place for supply and delivery which should be cancelled. The bottles should be returned for the deposit refund.
Water: Contact the local supplier and ask for a final bill to be prepared. This should be done in writing with an attached copy of the account holder's passport or Spanish NIE number.
Telephone and Internet: Spain has several companies providing telephone and Internet services, though Movistar is the national supplier for landline services. Therefore most people will need to contact them to cancel their contract.
In any correspondence be ready to quote the customer reference numbers (which can be found on bills) and the NIE and passport number of the account holder. They often also ask for bank account details.
Health Care and Social Security
Any private health insurance cover which has been in force may need changing or cancelling. Ensure that health insurance remains valid until arrival in the new country of residence or continues as appropriate.
Anyone who has received medical treatment while in Spain should have their records forwarded to their new practitioner or ask for a copy.
Spanish residents who have been employed or self-employed will have been required to join the social security system and will have been paying monthly social security contributions. In return, they will have been issued a social security card entitling them to free hospital and medical care.
Once residency and employment in Spain ceases, these cards should be returned to the authorities.
- The Spanish social security website has more information in English
Retirees and anyone in receipt of benefits from the Instituto Nacional de la Seguridad Social (INSS) needs to inform them of their relocation.
Those who have made contributions to a pension fund (state and/or private), should inquire about the possibility of transferring benefits as well as provide a forwarding address. EU citizens can normally transfer benefits between countries quite simply.
Business and Tax Issues
A Spanish bank account should be kept open for a short period to settle final bills (in Euros).
Standing orders (domiciliación de pagos) and direct debits (domiciliación bancaria) are the most popular ways to pay regular bills in Spain. Make sure that these have been cancelled once final payments have been made.
Some banks will allow accounts to be closed in writing instead of in person. Check with the bank for requirements.
Credit card companies will also need to be notified of a new address for statements.
This is an extremely complex issue and individual circumstances will dictate if there are any outstanding liabilities upon departure from Spain.
The Spanish Taxation Agency (Agencia Tributaria) has some helpful information in English on its website.
Be aware that under some circumstances the proceeds of property sales will be subject to Spanish capital gains tax. Anyone selling a property should seek professional advice.
Personal taxation in Spain is equally complex. Expatriate residents may or may not have been treated as residents for tax purposes.
On 10 June 2005 the Spanish government approved Royal Decree 687/2005 implementing the Personal Income Tax (hereinafter, PIT) regulations in relation to article 9.5 of the Spanish PIT Law, which is commonly known as the "Beckham law" and regulates the procedure to apply for the new Spanish tax regime for expatriates in force since January 1st, 2004.
As a result of this law some expatriate residents have been able to opt for assessment under Spanish Non-Resident Income Tax rules for a period of up to six tax years.
To ensure that each individual understands their own obligations with regard to tax liability on departure from Spain it would be wise to seek professional advice.
- More information can be found on the Spanish Government Tax Office site: Click here (in Spanish)
A redirection service is offered by the Spanish post office (Correos).
This should be arranged at least one week prior to departure. It will redirect mail for one, two or six months. As part of this service the post office will provide 20 pre-paid cards for notifying contacts of the change of address.
- For information, visit the Correos website: Click here (in English)
Vehicles and Driving
Foreign cars are always initially issued with temporary registration plates. These are valid for a six-month period in any one year and must be renewed annually. Upon obtaining full residency status, vehicle owners will have changed to full national plates and paid the appropriate Special Tax (Impuesto Especial) of 12 percent.
If exporting a Spanish-registered car, contact the traffic office (Jefatura Provincial or Local de Tráfico) to notify them of the intended move.
- Find addresses and opening hours of traffic offices on the DGT (Dirección General de Tráfico) website (in Spanish)
Embassies in the new country of residence can provide information on the importation of personal goods. Links to a number of them are given at the end of this article.
All EU driving licences are recognised in Spain so it is likely that many foreign residents will not have applied for a Spanish one unless the original licence expired.
Drivers with non-EU licences will have had a year grace period to drive either with a translation of their original licence or on an international licence. At the end of this period they should have applied for and obtained a Spanish licence. The original licence will have been returned to the appropriate office in the country of issue at this point.
Therefore it may be necessary for some drivers to apply for a new licence when they relocate. Holders of a Spanish driving licence should contact the traffic office (Jefatura Provincial or Local de Tráfico) before departure.
- Find addresses and opening hours of traffic offices on the DGT (Dirección General de Tráfico) website (in Spanish)
Depending on the destination, some animals may require a period of quarantine. Their move will almost certainly require documentation and possible additional vaccinations or similar medical treatment.
The EU pet passport covers dogs, cats and ferrets for movement within Europe and the Pets Travel Scheme (PETS) allows qualifying domestic pets to travel to and from the UK without a period of quarantine. There is a waiting period after vaccination before a vet can carry out blood tests and issue a passport. Local vets can provide information and documentation.
Travelling to other EU destinations with pets with passports (cats, dogs and ferrets) is relatively straightforward but relocating to a non-EU country will be more complicated. It is best to contact the Embassy in the new country of residence for up to date information.
As a general rule, animals have to travel in approved containers and by approved routes. Be aware that sudden outbreaks of diseases (such as avian flu) can affect pet travel. Embassy websites are also good sources of information.
- UK Visas (information for returning residents)
- British Embassy, Spain
- United States Embassy, Spain
- Australian Embassy, Spain
- Returning to New Zealand (from the New Zealand government website)
- Spanish Ministry of the Interior (in Spanish)
- European Union information regarding moving pets and animals