Relocating to Spain with a Family

Moving to a different country alone is a life-changing step but moving with a young family is another ball game entirely, as there are many extra considerations than if you were relocating alone.

When choosing a location, you will need to keep in mind the kinds of things your children enjoy, the availability of friends of their age, and access to child-friendly beaches or other outdoor activities. The Spanish way of life offers excellent health benefits to children, as they grow up playing in the fresh air and get plenty of sunshine.

Spanish schooling system

The number of excellent local schools is likely to be a deciding factor if you are moving to Spain with children. However, entrance to Spanish state schools is usually dependent on the catchment area, so it is a good idea to discuss nearby schools with your estate agent when viewing properties. Spanish schools take children from the age of two to sixteen years and is compulsory for all children between 6 and 16 years. The school system is free and maintained by the national government and the governments of each of the country’s 17 autonomous communities.

The school year lasts from the middle of September until the end of June. You must apply by January for the upcoming autumn’s intake.

To apply for a state school, you need to register at your local town hall to get a document called the “empadronamiento,” to prove you are resident in the area. The admission process differs by region and school. You may need to attend an interview and show proof of ID.

State schools in Spain are of a high standard, although the teaching language could be in the language of the autonomous community such as Catalan or Valencian. If you have young children, they will quickly pick up the new language, but an international school may be a better choice if your children are older.

Here in Javea, we are fortunate to have two excellent international schools; you will find that most cities and resorts popular with expats have a good selection of international schools, although fees can be high. Furthermore, they are often located on the outskirts of the town. Make sure you factor the possible cost of schooling into your purchase and budget decisions.

Importing a car to Spain

If moving to Spain with a family, you will likely need a car. If your car is registered in your home country and you spend more than six months in Spain, you will need to register the vehicle with the Spanish authorities. Registering involves changing the license plates, and also the headlights and perhaps the taillights. You may be liable to pay registration tax, road traffic tax, or VAT.

Although used cars tend to be more expensive in Spain than the UK, many newcomers opt to buy a Spanish vehicle as the process is more straightforward than bringing a UK car into Spain.

Bringing pets to Spain

Your pets must have an ISO pet microchip and be vaccinated for rabies and various other conditions at least 21 days before the travel date and not more than a year before travel.

If your animal was vaccinated before it was microchipped, it will need to be vaccinated again after the chip is inserted. If your pet’s microchip is not ISO 11784/11785 compliant, you have to bring a compatible microchip scanner.

If you are traveling from the US or Canada, an accredited USDA or CFIA vet must fill in the bi-lingual Annex II for Spain forms for approval by the USDA or CFIA.

Restrictions on pets entering Spain

Unvaccinated dogs and cats less than three months old may enter Spain, as long as specific regulations are met. For example, some aggressive dog breeds are forbidden.

All other pets (birds, tropical fish, reptiles, mammals such as rodents and rabbits, etc.) are not subject to the same regulations as cats and dogs or the anti-rabies vaccination. However, other requirements may be applicable, including the number of animals permitted, and you might need a certificate related to diseases.

Working in Spain

If you move to Spain with a family, you are not likely to be retired and will need to earn a living in your new country. We are still waiting for the UK and Spanish governments to reveal the regulations for UK residents wishing to work or start a business in Spain post-Brexit. At the time of writing, if you are moving from a country that is part of the EU, you can live and work in Spain without requiring a permit or visa. You have the same rights as a Spanish national when it comes to wages, working conditions, and benefits.

If you are from a non-EU country, you will, in most instances, need a work permit to work in Spain legally. When you have found a job, the employer can apply for a work permit on your behalf.

If you are a Spanish resident, you will pay tax on all income earned worldwide, whereas if you are not a resident, you only pay tax on income occurring in Spain. As a resident, you need to fill in an annual tax return and a declaration of overseas assets if applicable.

Making the Move

As a family, you will have more items to bring with you than most people moving alone. Help keep stress levels down by using a reputable international removal company to help with the packing, moving, and, if necessary, storing your belongings. Ask your estate agent and other expats for recommendations and contact prospective removal companies at least three months before your move date.

There are customs regulations that you need to be aware of including:

    • Soil cannot be taken into Spain, including clumps that may be stuck to garden appliances, so clean all items of garden furniture and tools.
    • Petrol and oil must be drained from machinery before transit.
    • Remove batteries from all items to prevent corrosion.
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