Relocating to Spain as a developer

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Valentina Sauchelli
August 31, 2020
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This is the third post in the series of blog posts for developers about relocation. We already described the details of moving to Northern Europe, namely Finland and Estonia. Today let’s talk about someplace warmer. Spain is a perfect combination of career opportunities and sunshine.


Income tax in Spain can range from 19 to 45%, depending on the number of children and the level of income, the higher the salary, the higher the rate. Besides, each of the 17 autonomous regions decides on its own tax rates. The tax is typically paid by the employer, so you don’t need to deal with declarations. If you want to know the estimated amount, you can use this tax calculator.

There is a special tax regime for foreigners coming to work in Spain on an employment contract with a Spanish company. Under the regime, taxes only apply on Spanish income at a rate of 24% up to earnings of €600,000. For more than €600,000, a rate of 45% applies. There’s no capital gains tax payable on interest outside of Spain. If you are a Spanish tax resident, i.e. spending more than 183 days a year in Spain, and have not been resident in Spain in the last 10 years, you can apply to be taxed under this regime within six months of arriving in Spain. You can reduce your taxation level for up to five years.

Cost of living

The cost of living in Spain is not as high as in Central or Northern Europe. Leaving aside rent payments – and depending on your lifestyle – a couple could easily live on 20,000 to 22,000 euros a year and still eat out regularly. Once you know where to go, a meal for two with wine or beer can cost as little as 25 euros. Because of the warm climate, many basic food items are inexpensive here. Locals also don’t use public transport that much as they prefer bikes or scooters. This is not only cost-effective, but also enjoyable, especially if your journey to work goes along some scenic landscape. The average monthly cost of utilities in Spain is between 100 and 130 euros, including the cost of electricity, heating, cooling, water, rubbish collection and Internet.

Work permit

Technical professionals need the work permit for a Highly Qualified Foreign Professional or "Permiso de Trabajo Como Trabajador Altamente Cualificado en España" in Spanish. It is a work permit that enables citizens from outside the European Union to live and work in Spain legally, provided that they will start working in a managerial or qualified position.This kind of permit is valid for a period of one year and can be renewed for two years the first time and two more years the second time. From then you can get permanent residency in Spain.

To apply for the permit, both the employee and the company must meet certain requirements. The chances of receiving the HQP work permit are higher for those who have a master's degree or Ph.D. The application must be made by the company that wishes to hire a foreign national. Once the application is approved, you must apply for a national long-stay visa.

Keep in mind that work permit applications can take from 20 business days up to eight months to process.

When you apply for a Spanish residence permit you can do a joint application. This means that the main applicant can also obtain a residence permit in Spain for their family, i.e. spouse and children. It gives them the right to live and work in Spain as a freelancer or an employee.

EU, EEA and Swiss citizens have the right to live and work in Spain without a visa or permit, but if you’re staying longer than three months, you will have to register with the authorities and obtain a residence certificate, which requires you to prove you can support yourself financially and have healthcare insurance.

Finding a new home

Spain is famous for its seaside resorts and attracts many tourists so the prices vary significantly depending on the season. All in all, the contract is usually signed for a year and provides for a lease term of up to five years. Rent can be paid monthly or for 6 months in advance. The deposit is typically one or two months’ rent and the agency fee is usually one month rent.

According to Numbeo, the average rent for a 45m2 apartment is about 650 EUR. In Madrid, you could pay an average of 1,000 EUR for a one-bedroom apartment in the city center, whereas outside of the center a one-bedroom sets you back 700 EUR per month. Barcelona ranks just slightly behind Madrid in terms of housing costs. A one-bedroom apartment in the city center costs on average 950 EUR. If you opt to live outside of the packed city, you will save 250 EUR.

Bringing your family with you

When your family members arrive in Spain, they have a month to go to their local Foreigner’s Office and get their Foreigner’s Identification Card (Tarjeta de Identidad de Extranjero) with the Foreigner’s Identity Number (Número de Identidad de Extranjero), and register as a resident at the local town hall. Your family temporary residence permit is valid for the same length of time as yours. Good news is that your spouse and children older than 16 can work without applying for a work permit.

For younger children there are three types of schools. Public schools are free and any kid can enter them. Semi-public schools are paid, but inexpensive: 25 to 100 euros per month. But beware that people in different regions of Spain speak not only Spanish but also their local languages and the education process in schools can be in one of them. Private schools have higher prices: at least 500 euros per month.

All in all, Spain is a nice place to relocate to: it offers a great lifestyle and favourable climate and there are many IT-companies welcoming expat developers.

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