If you decide to live permanently or mainly in Spain, then you should clock into the system. It's madness and expensive not to.
Health insurance is important and because of the language barrier many ex pats opt for private insurance in order to access the various 'private' ex pat clinics and hospitals. We have used both the NHS and PRIVATE over the last years and in our experience the NHS system and facilities are much better than those generally offered in the private sector.
The Spanish NHS is second to none in Europe including the UK. The doctors and consultants are world class and the facilities are top of the range. Prescription drugs are one or two euros per item with the 'state' picking up the rest of the bill. You can get an appointment to visit your own GP or the Nurse on the internet and normally the next day. If you have an emergency there is a 'team' who will visit you and treat you in your house. The hospitals are modern and well staffed with top of the line equipment which cannot always be said for clinics/hospitals in the private sector who because of the profit motive do not always have the most modern equipment. All your private prescriptions, blood tests etc are charged at normal rates and are not always covered by the insurance. The only thing you do not have in the Spanish NHS is a guarantee that English is spoken. To get round this use Google Translate or (pay for and) take an interpreter with you. In our experience the English spoken in Private facilities is not that much better than in the Spanish NHS. We do use private dentist and ophthalmologists just as we would in the UK.
You can take out private insurance anytime so it is worth giving the free of cost Spanish NHS a chance as it will save you an ever increasing private health care bill as you get older.
When you eventually sell your Spanish apartment or house, if you are not in the system, you will pay an extra 10-15% non resident sales tax. Your motor car will become illega if it does not have a valid UK - MOT l and if you are involved in an accident, even if it's not your fault, you stand the risk of being prosecuted for not having an MOT, no Road Tax, and possibly insurance, which is not valid. You will also have to pay an annual non resident's tax on your home.
It is a hassle to become a legal Spanish resident, and there are costs involved, but it is a one off operation and the benefits, not least of which is an excellent National Health service, properly insured motor vehicles for less than the 'dodgy' insurance offered to 'expats'. Spanish car insurance rates which are much lower than UK and for example Linea Directa do it all in English. Car Import to Spain
If you purchase any major appliance, open a bank account, reserve a ticket for almost anything you will be asked for an NIE number it is then only a small step to clock into the NHS system and convert to a Spanish driving licence
Some ex-pats try to live in Spain without ever clocking properly into the system. The Guardia Civil, who's wages are paid out of fines imposed, will prosecute you in a blink if you try to 'thumb your nose' at the system and get caught..
GETTING SPANISH ID - NIE number
If you want to be in Spain for more that 183 days of a year, buy a holiday property, or move permanently to Spain, then the ID registration is essential and comes in the form of an NIE number issued on a bit of paper for non residents. Sample Here
Without an NIE you are very limited to what you may purchase or do. It is your ID number for Spain and is associated with every transaction you make with government, local authorities, and suppliers. In fact there are some purchases you simply cannot make without an NIE. Many shops will ask for it when you make larger purchases and if you want to have a Spanish mobile phone, dongle or bank account it is essential.
In Spain you can obtain, without being a full resident, an NIE from the Police National station in a large town.
Most villages and small towns only have 'local police' but you need a National Police station where you will find a civilian manned office, in which you can fill out the form and eventually pay the 6-10€ it will cost to obtain the NIE. (If you are a couple you get separate NIE's.
Broadly speaking the 'Police Local' deal with traffic, parking, domestic issues. 'Police National' deal with domestic violence robbery, murder investigations and foreign nationals immigration issues.
This is how you register as a non resident.
The photocopy is an important part of most government operations. You must supply your own.
You will need to take with you to the National Police Station, in the big town, between 08.30hrs and 14.00hrs the following:-
1) Passport - plus photocopy of ID page
2) 2 passport size photographs
3) A valid document showing
the reason you need a NIE. If you are renting or going to rent, the
original of the rental contract plus a photocopy. If you are buying then
your Abogado (lawyer) or the estate agent, will provide a document
stating you are in the process purchasing a property.
In the National Police station Office, where they will almost certainly not speak any English, you can utter the words N I E por favor and they will hand you the relevant form to fill in. I found them to be really helpful and friendly. The form is in Spanish but is pretty straightforward. Worth taking your own pen!
Having completed it and handed it over together with the items 1-3, the details will be entered into the computer and you will be handed a slip of paper with the cost of the registration written on it.... This is the payment slip, but you do not pay in the office (and it's like the following whenever you make a payment to a government office) with this paper you leave the building and find the nearest bank. Virtually any Spanish bank will do.. Simply go to the cash desk in the bank - hand over the 6-10€ and the cashier will stamp your form and give it back to you.
Return to the Police station civilian office and hand over your receipted payment slip and in most cases you will be given immediately the NIE paper and that's it You make a few photocopies of it and always carry a copy of the NIE around with you.
You now have Spanish ID - not residency but ID, and you can open a bank account, take out contracts on mobile phones or buy a property!
BECOMING RESIDENT IN SPAIN
One you decide to move to Spain permanently - spend more that 183 days in any 12 month period, you must take out residency. This has no effect on UK income or pensions, which continue to be taxed in the UK (but you should inform the UK tax authorities, pension authorities of your move) The UK health authority will issue you with a new EU health card which then covers you for free medical care throughout Europe including the UK even though you are not resident there.
Before you can get a full Residencia from the Police National you need to register in the village or town in which you are now resident:-
When you register you will be given a
'Padron' - 'Certificado de Empadronamiento'
This is the document which confirms you are a resident in the town or village and enables the local authority to receive payments from central government for each person they have resident.
(In order to buy or import a car and for many other things, you need to prove you are actually resident in your town in Spain and this proof is a Padron - 'Certificado de Empadronamiento' . You go the local Town Hall - Ayuntamiento and ask them for a .Padron - 'Certificado de Empadronamiento.)
The Town hall - Ayuntamiento will require the following documents in order to issue this.
1) Passport and photocopy
2) Your new NIE original paper & photocopy.
3) Proof you live in the town. This can be a rental contract, The title deeds from the property you have purchased or a letter from your lawyer (Advacado) showing you own a property. With a photocopy
There will be forms to fill in with questions about voting both in Spain and for EU representatives. It may take a day or so to issue the paper.
The town hall receives funds from central government relating to how many residents they have so it is to their advantage to 'have you on the books!'
When you receive the 'Padron' you will see it is only valid for 3 months. When it expires, if you need another one, its simpler requireing the presentation of the old one, your NIE residents card and passport, and the town hall will look you up in the computer, print out and signal a new one in minutes. Like many things the first time is hardest...
Typically town halls are only open on weekdays between 0.830 and 14.00.
Examples of a 'Padron' here
REMEMBER THAT THE SPANISH IMPOSE A 12% 'MATRICULATION TAX' (IMPORT DUTY BY ANOTHER NAME) ON ANY VALUABLE ITEM YOU BRING INTO THE COUNTRY AS A RESIDENT. A CAR, BOAT, AEROPLANE ETC. YOU CAN AVOID PAYING THIS TAX LEGALLY IF YOU APPLY TO REGISTER THE ITEM WITHIN ONE MONTH OF TAKING RESIDENCY!
How to do this here
(If you move address in Spain, you need to cancel your Padron and go to the town hall of the new place and take out a new one. You would also need to change the residency card with the National Police but need to have the Padron first in order to do this.
You now need to change your status with the Police National from non-resident to resident and get a 'Resicencia' and receive a .
you go once again, to the Spanish Police National Station with:
1) Passport - plus photocopy of ID page
2) 2 passport size photographs
3) A valid document showing why you are registering as a resident. A rental contract or a house purchase contract or deeds of a house (with of course photocopies)
4) Your new 'Padron' - 'Certificado de Empadronamiento'
There is another simple form to fill in - a payment slip is handed to you which you take to the nearest bank and pay in the few Euro involved. With the slip receipted by the bank you return to the police station for your Residency card. Normally this has been printed out and is waiting for you. picture of card here
Now you are a resident of Spain you need to tell your Spanish Bank so that they can change the account from 'visitor' to 'resident' - normally makes no difference to the account number and other details, but very important they are notified and they will want to see the residents card of which they will make a photocopy.
This is the moment to press ahead with avoiding Immatriculation tax on your car or boat of 12% by registering within 3 months (one month for motor cars under new legislation - more here for cars and for boats. if these have a value of less than around 5000€ then it's probably not worth the hassle - just change the registration to Spanish and pay the fees/tax. see:- Car import to Spain and Boat Import to Spain
You now have the last 2 issues to address:
1) Spanish Health Service registration (the excellent Spanish National Health system) There are lots of good reasons to 'clock' into the system even if you are taking out private medical insurance. Most private schemes do not include reimbursement for drugs and blood tests outside hospital. If you are retired then the Spanish NHS will pick up almost all of these bills.
2) Spanish Driving Licence because you are now resident in Spain your UK licence is not valid for a Spanish Resident. If you are retired the UK law requires you to have a medical examination every few years, to renew your driving licence. So does the Spanish system, but it is much simpler and you now live in Spain.
There are several advantages with the Spanish driving licence system and if you ever return permanently to the UK you can simply change the Spanish licence for a UK licence.
Spanish Health Service
is considered one of the very best in Europe and is internationally rated higher than our own NHS. Even if you have private medical insurance, which typically costs around 1000€ a year, it is well worth joining the Spanish Health system. Visits to GP's and specialists are free of charge but they may not speak English. The system begins with the local health centre in which you register once you have 'clocked' into the system. There is a sophisticated appointment system with x-rays and blood tests, nurses etc all based in the building. The x-rays arrive on the computer screen of your GP moments after the picture is taken. The cost of medication is tiny. Once the GP puts your prescription into the system on the computer you can go into any chemist, even without the paper prescription, and present your medical card which will entitle you to the medications for a few cents per item. Brilliant system. Many ex-pats report that the hospitals work even better with surgeons and senior staff speaking English or if not getting somebody in to translate for them. It is quite smart to combine your private health insurance or payment by cash with the state system.
To 'clock in' to this excellent and mainly free service, you need to find the administrative offices of the
Spanish National Health Services. Sistema Nacional de Salud, SNS.
It my be called National but in fact it is run regionally as follows and each time you change 'community' you need to re-register.
Having found the local administrative offices of the Spanish Health Services. Sistema Nacional de Salud, SNS you need to go along with:-
1) Passport - plus photocopy of ID page
2) 2 passport size photographs
4) Your Padron
5) Residency card
Not sure if the system is the same everywhere, but it normally takes at least 2 visits to the administrative offices and considerable waiting time.
On the first visit, your application is entered into the computer system and your details verified. You might visit two separate desks to get to the end of the application stage.
You should then receive an appointment to meet with the official, who agrees your application, a few days later.
At this meeting which is basically rubber stamping what has gone before, you sign a couple of pre-prepared forms, and that's it.
When the card arrives in your post box take it (with your residency card) to the local health centre in your town or village. At this point you register with GP at the local health centre and you are in the system. You can ask for a GP who speaks English but there is no guarantee that anybody does. The card not only gets you to see Doctors, Nurses, x-ray, tests and hospital operations free of charge, it also gets you all your medications for only a few cents per item. It is also the passport to getting an 'invalid parking' if you need it.
the last thing to become 'legal is a
Spanish Driving Licence
As you get older, the UK driving licence system takes away some of the 'features' of your licence like HGV and other permissions.
The Spanish system allows you to retain your HGV element for as long as you hold a car licence. When you reach retirement age it only requires a 'medical' every 4 years rather than annually or bi-annually like the UK system.
Before you can apply for a Spanish Driving Licence you need to go to the special centre that does medicals taking your UK licence with you. There is a driving 'medical' centre in most towns but often the opening hours are limited to one or two evening a week. I would ask at the local police station where the nearest centre is then go there and check the opening times which are always displayed outside. It is worth getting there early as all Spanish drivers are required to take this test every 4 years.
Having got your appointment you have to sit and wait for your number to come up.
The Car Licence Medical test is split into 3 totally separate items and there does not appear to be any particular order for doing each item. They are an examination by a doctor, examination by an eye specialist - ophthalmologist and a series of simple tests of co-ordination.
The doctor seems to be only interested in your blood pressure and pulse rate. I think they enquire about any serious illnesses but when I did mine my Spanish was at the 'poco vino blanco' stage...
The eye specialist requires no real command of Spanish - you read from a chart on the wall and I am pretty dam sure he didn't know what the hell I was saying, so doing it with conviction seems to be the answer.. There are some rudimentary colour tests which are self apparent and if you wear glasses he checks them out (Spanish driving law requires you to carry as second pair in the car at all times)
The co-ordination test requires you to play a few computer games. They too are pretty self explanatory although there is one where you drive two cars at the same time up two different tracks and the tracks start changing directions independently! That got me going a bit and I bet my pulse rate was way too high but it would appear that the pass mark is pretty low so it's not to worry about.
Having completed all three items you go back to reception where the receptionist asks what sort of licence you want. My UK HGV was out of date by years so she asked if I still wanted it? I said yes and she produced a computer printed form for all the items on my UK licence. I was required to pay in cash around 20€ for the rather nervous making series of test but walked away with a medical certificate to allow me to apply for a driving licence.
NEXT is a visit to the local Spanish equivalent of the DVLA. http://www.dgt.es/ and these are only in large towns. They deal with vehicle registration, fines and of course driving licenses. There is a special department for foreigners changing their existing licence to Spanish so you hardly have to queue at all.
You must bring with you with photocopies of all
1) Your UK driving licence
2) Your new medical form for a driving licence application
3) Your passport
4) Your NIE number
5) Your residents card
6) Your Padron
Most of the application is completed by the official on the computer and you just sign a couple of papers. At the end of it they retain your UK licence and hand you a paper licence that IS ONLY VALID IN SPAIN! It takes 3-4 weeks for your Spanish driving licence to arrive in the post. If you intend returning to the UK or going into a neighbouring country by car during that time you do not have a valid international driving licence... They will ask again here what sort of licence you want and you are entitled to ask for all categories on your UK licence even if they are out of date.
If - when you return to live permanently in the UK or indeed any other EU country, it is easy to change the Spanish licence for a UK or whatever.
Changing the number plates for Spanish plates is eventually essential if you are going to be properly insured and have the 2 yearly MOT done to keep the car legal. This is a separate issue and details of how to do this are HERE