Retirement in Spain for Expats

For many retirees the dream of relaxing on a warm, sunny beach in a village or town that offers a laid back and safe way of life comes true when they move to Spain. One of Spain’s biggest appeals is the quality of life on offer. Retirement in Spain offers expats year-round sunshine, stunning countryside and beaches, and a low cost of living. Retirees are attracted here by the fulfilling post-retirement lifestyle that is on offer as well as the financial benefits that arise from inexpensive housing and healthcare.

Living Expenses

Spain remains a relatively cheap place to live, especially when compared with other western European nations, and will offer retirees a good standard of living for their money.


Spain has a well-developed national health system that is available to all, even those from abroad, although there are some limitations to this latter group. However, the health service here does experience high demands for services and there are often long waiting lists for treatment and operations. Many people opt for private healthcare in order to avoid this and people who are seriously considering retirement in Spain may want to research the cost and availability of such care.

Note that as a foreigner in Spain, it is highly unlikely that you will qualify for local health insurance, so it makes sense to get an international health insurance policy.


The housing market in Spain, as with many countries throughout the world in recent times, has suffered from over speculation and there is now a shortage of affordable homes. Retirees may wish to delay intended house purchases until the housing bubbles have been fully resolved.

Spain is extremely popular as a retirement destination for Europeans, many of whom choose to settle in the Costa del Sol, part of the Andalucia province. This area is particularly attractive to retirees as it offers an excellent infrastructure together with a proliferation of English-speaking service providers. However, this area is often criticized for feeling more British than Spanish and retirees who are seeking a more Spanish experience often opt for areas in and around Benicassim.

Social and Political Climate

Unfortunately, in the past, Spain has been a victim of terrorist attacks, but frankly, the risks are quite low and should not be a big concern. Attacks are rare but retirees should be aware of the risk of them occurring. The crime rate is considered quite low in Spain, but petty crime does occur. Be especially aware in Barcelona.


Spain is a developed country that offers good communication and transport infrastructures. There are no major issues within the developed areas of the country.

Retirement in Spain: Visa Requirements

European Union Citizens

EU citizens are required to obtain Spanish documentation when they wish to live in Spain and will need a foreigner’s card. Any EU citizen who wishes to live in Spain as a retiree needs to obtain EU form E-121 before traveling. This form entitles them to obtain health care in Spain, providing they have paid all relevant social security in their home country. If you are not entitled to a state pension in your home country you will need to demonstrate that you have a regular income from an alternative source.

Non-European Union Citizens

Non-EU citizens will need to obtain a visado de residencia from the Spanish consulate in their home country prior to traveling to Spain. This will be needed when you apply for residency upon arrival in Spain. The visado de residencia provides Spanish officials with permission to examine your financial situation.

The requirements for retirement visas do differ according to which country you are from but, in general, you will be asked to provide the following:

  • Certificate from a public or private institution that proves you will be receiving a regular pension, together with details of that pension.
  • Proof of any other sources of income you have together with the details of any properties in Spain you own.
  • Proof of ownership of any property in Spain that you own.

For full details about the latest visa requirements for living in Spain please see our international relocation guides. These contain full and up to date details of the visa requirements and application process for retirement in Spain.

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