State pensions

The UK basic state pension is payable in Spain.

Where to apply for your UK State Pension

If you currently live in but have never worked in Spain, you should claim your UK state pension by contacting the International Pension Centre in the UK.

If you currently live and have worked in Spain, even for just a short time, you must apply for your UK state pension via the Instituto Nacional de la Seguridad Social (INSS) in Spain. You can download the application form from the INSS website. This is a form specifically for people who have worked in more than one European country and is only available in Spanish. When filling in the form, remember to declare time worked in all EU countries, including the UK.

The INSS office is then responsible for processing your claim and bringing together records of your contributions from all the countries you worked in.

Please note, your claim for a UK State Pension may be rejected if you apply directly to the International Pension Centre (IPC) but have worked and made contributions in Spain.

Entitlement to a Spanish Retirement Pension

After working in more than one European Economic Area country, it is possible for your contributions from each one to be taken into account when calculating your pension or benefit. If you have worked in Spain for at least one year you may be entitled to a Spanish retirement pension, provided you meet other entitlement conditions. For information on how and when to claim your Spanish retirement pension or how your contributions in the UK can contribute toward your entitlement to a Spanish retirement pension, contact your local office of the Instituto Nacional de Seguridad Social (INSS).

When applying you must give as much information as possible about your working life.

Life certificates for UK state pensions

If you have received a life certificate from the UK Pension Service it is important that you reply as quickly as possible otherwise your benefit may be stopped. You'll need to either: get it signed by a 'witness' and send it back, as instructed on the form OR obtain a Certificado de Fe de Vida (Proof of Life Certificate) from your nearest Civil Registry in Spain and return it together with your form.

To get a Certificado de Fe de Vida you need to take with you to the civil registry:

  • your town hall certificate (certificado de empadronamiento)
  • your passport
  • your residence certificate (certificado de residencia)

If you decide to get your life certificate signed by a witness, check the list of people who can witness a life certificate. This is now the same as the list of people who can 'countersign' a passport photo, although they don't need to live in the UK, or have a British or Irish passport.

UK Benefits in Spain

If you receive a UK benefit and are going abroad, even for just a short time, you should notify the office that pays your benefit before you go. In fact any change in your circumstances, such as moving in with a partner, starting work, or even moving house, should be reported immediately to the relevant authority paying your benefit or pension.

Spending time out of the UK, whether for a holiday or to live, doesn't necessarily mean your benefits will be affected. But failing to notify your local benefit office of time spent abroad is considered an offence and could lead to prosecution, imprisonment and even the confiscation of your home and possessions.

You may still be able to claim some benefits if you travel or move abroad, or are already living abroad, and what you're entitled to depends on where you're going and how long for.

Spanish contribution-based benefits

Working and paying contributions in Spain gives you entitlement to a number of Spanish social security benefits. These benefits include unemployment benefit, and permanent and temporary incapacity benefit.

Note that paying contributions as a self-employed worker or 'autónomo' does not give you entitlement to unemployment benefit in Spain.

If you have worked in Spain but have been told that you do not have entitlement to Spanish social security benefits as you have not paid enough national insurance contributions, you must make sure you declare the contributions you have made in the UK or any other EU country. This is because previous contributions paid in these countries can often be used to make up any entitlement as though they were paid in Spain. Also make sure that, as for any benefit application, you apply in writing.

Taxation

Britain has a double taxation agreement with Spain to ensure people do not pay tax on the same income in both countries.

In accordance with Spanish and international law, all residents in Spain (nationals and non-nationals alike) are required to declare assets or groups of assets held outside Spain. Assets may include bank accounts, securities, rights, insurance, annuities, property, etc and the declaration is a separate exercise to the annual tax return.

To reinforce this obligation, and as part of the Spanish Government's anti-fraud law, the Government requires all residents in Spain to file an annual informative declaration of assets held overseas by 31 March each year. Severe penalties for incorrect, incomplete or late reporting can be incurred and the legislation also means that criminal charges can be brought in the case of non-compliance.

Taxation is a complex issue and it is strongly recommended that professional advice is sought.

Driving licences and vehicles

Importing your UK-registered vehicle from the UK to Spain

If you spend longer than six months of the year in Spain with your UK-registered car, Spanish law says you must register your vehicle with the Spanish authorities.

Driving licences in Spain

The minimum age required to drive is 18 years. Information about how to convert your UK driving licence to a Spanish Driving Licence (Spanish version only) (you may need to produce a 'Certificate of Entitlement' for this process, which you can apply for from the DVLA information about registering your UK driving licence with the Spanish authorities (Spanish version only). For further information please visit Dirección General de Trafico.

Spanish motor insurance regulations

Spanish insurance regulations differ from those in the UK. It is important to check carefully what cover your policy provides.

Documents you must carry in the car

When driving in Spain, if stopped by the police you would need the following:

  • driving licence
  • green residents certificate
  • ID document (ie passport)