How to Live in Spain as an American
Updated: Jan 14, 2021
Want to sip sangria on a balcony overlooking a view like this one? Want a reasonable work life balance? Want to learn Spanish by immersing yourself in the language and culture? I wanted all of these things too, which lead me to research various ways to live in Spain after graduating college.
Whatever your reasons may be for wanting to move to Spain, there is a way to do it. While some methods are more difficult than others, it is possible. Living in the United States can be exhausting, and while Spain is not perfect and living abroad is always a challenge, the slower pace of life and lower cost of living will make for an easy transition into life abroad. So if you’re tired of the rat race, keep on reading.
Full Disclaimer: I am NOT qualified to give any sort of visa advice. For any questions regarding visas, please contact your local Spanish consulate.
Auxiliares de Conversacion: This is probably the most popular route (and the route I took!), but for good reason. The aux program allows Americans (and I believe Canadians and Brits as well) to live in Spain on a student visa, working as English classroom assistants. You are technically on a scholarship from the government, so you don’t pay any taxes. The monthly stipend is enough to live comfortably, and you work anywhere from 10–16 hours a week. It’s a pretty easy way to live in Spain, and the only requirement is a Bachelor’s degree. I will post more on this program specifically in the future!
College/Graduate School: Since the student visa is one of the easiest to get, this is another way to live in Spain as American, granted a more difficult one. However, if you speak Spanish, you can get your degree abroad and spend a fraction of what you would spend on your American education. I am a huge proponent of earning a degree abroad, as it is something that is accessible for anyone if they do their research. If you speak Spanish and don’t want to go into student loan debt, this might be the option for you.
Language School: Are you just looking for a fun, easy way to live in Spain past the 90 day limit? Want to learn Spanish? Sign up for a Spanish language school and go on a student visa. There are tons of reputable language schools, both local schools and through major companies like EF. A quick Google search should allow you to find one in your city of choice, which is great since this is something you can do pretty much anywhere in Spain. These cost money of course, but the price varies.
Search for Work on a 90-Day Permit: To be fair this option is much more difficult, but if you are able to get a 90-day permit to search for work in Spain, this is an option. Obviously double check the legalities of this with your Spanish consulate, as well as if you are able to legally search for work on a tourist visa. This one is much harder because the company would have to sponsor you, and they would have to justify hiring you over a Spanish citizen. You must be able to speak Spanish, but bilingual professionals are highly valued.
Freelance: Do you have a freelance or side gig? Do you teach English online, transcribe, run a successful YouTube channel? Basically, if you can support yourself financially and do your work from anywhere, why not go to Spain? There are a few different options here. You could go on your regular passport and follow Schengen guidelines, or apply for residency as a self-employed person if you'd like to stay longer-term.
Au Pair: Are you considering taking a gap year? Want to take a year off and live with a Spanish family? Try au pairing! There are many au pair agencies that work in Spain, and this is a great option if you’re young and enjoy taking care of children. But do be careful and do your research, not all au pair agencies are equal.
Dual-Citizenship: Do you have dual-citizenship in any EU country? No? Was your grandparent born in Europe? What about your great-grandparent? Many EU countries offer citizenship through ancestry, and it’s something worth pursuing if you know you have a direct ancestry connection to Europe. It’s definitely worth pursuing if you’d like to live there one day.
Fulbright/Fellowships: These can be hard to come by, but worth applying to if you find one that fits you. Check out openings on Fulbright here: https://us.fulbrightonline.org/#&panel1-3 .
Temporary Work Abroad Programs: Programs such as Workaway (https://www.workaway.info/) and WWOOF (https://wwoof.net/) provide an easy way for anyone to live abroad, and you don’t have to be skilled in anything specific. Workaway offers lots of different temporary work options, such as hostel jobs and nanny gigs, and WWOOF lets you work on an organic farm for room and board.
Your Current Job: Can you do your job remotely? Especially post-covid, more and more workplaces are going fully remote. If you are able to do your job remotely, why not do it Spain? Make sure you're following all Schengen guidelines!
Request a Transfer: Does your current company or organization have an office in Spain? See if your work has any work abroad programs, or see if they can sponsor your visa to transfer you to an office abroad. While this can be difficult, it doesn’t hurt to ask!
Marriage/Partnership: This is definitely my least recommended option, just because this is not something to take lightly, and you should only do this for the right reasons. However, if your partner or spouse is Spanish, you may be eligible for citizenship through them. I’m not suggesting you move to Spain and look for a Spanish cutie but if you did.. anyway.
Overall, while it isn’t easy to just pick up and move to Spain, it isn’t the most difficult thing to do either. There are many different programs that make this doable, it just takes a bit of research and proactivity on your part. There are some helpful Reddit threads, such as r/IWantOut. I also highly recommend checking out any expat Facebook groups, as they can give you a lot of more up to date advice on the legalities of everything. This list is also not exhaustive, as I am sure there are more resources! If you know of any other resources that would be helpful to people, feel free to post a comment here and let me know.