This guest blog post about moving to Spain from the US was written by David Ruiz, Relocation Adviser, of Torrevieja Translation. Here he uses his unique style of humor and storytelling to explain the importance of doing it correctly.
On emigrating to Spain from USA (and avoiding the James Bonds and the smiley souls)
Let me tell you story.
Two American citizens decide to move to Spain with their spouses and children.
- They love Spain.
- They love the Spanish language.
- They are excited about starting a new live in Spain, where so many countries from the old Europe will be around the corner.
- They want to discover a country that, over history, has been the crossroad of civilizations, culture, architecture.
- They can’t wait to enjoy the Spanish gastronomy.
- Money is not an issue. Both families have their own financial means through savings, income, and business.
The previous points are what they have in common, besides being from the USA, of course.
But when it comes to planning the move, one family takes the wrong path which ends up in a complete disaster.
The other family does well from day 1.
I will call them “Familia Mar” and “Familia Bosque”.
The Internet: Welcome to heaven (and hell)
Familia Mar loves the internet.
As many people, Familia Mar believes that, since the information you will find on the Internet is free, it must be accurate.
So, Familia Mar begins to collect information here and there for emigrating to Spain from USA:
- The visas
- The Spanish residency cards
- Buying/renting property
- Driving in Spain
- The first steps in Spain
The list goes on and on.
Everybody seems to have something to say about Spain:
- The bloggers
- The lawyers
- The travel websites
- Relocation advisers
- The amateurs who share their stories
- Facebook Groups
- The official website from the Spanish consulates
“Well, applying for a visa does not seem to be so hard”, they think. The decision has been made; they will do it on their own.
Spain is not a place where they want to spend one or two years, but their entire lives. So, instead of renting, why not buying?
Familia Mar finds a bunch of real estate websites, from which they get a bunch of promises and beautiful words. Familia Mar falls deeply in love with a house on the coast.
The agent they speak with seems to be really professional. So polite. So charming. Perfect British English. He sounds like some kind of James Bond.
Familia Mar sends a deposit of $10,000 to secure the home.
The area is South Costa Blanca, where the foreign population is very high.
A multicultural place.
Happiness can be almost seen around the beautiful pictures of their future home.
What can be wrong?
Familia Mar books an appointment at the consulate.
Not a single requirement is right.
Well, only the application form which they downloaded from the website of a funny smiley blogger.
After months waiting for the application day, the Spanish public worker in the consulate shows them an official list of requirements. Totally different to what they collected on the Internet.
They bring their US health insurance because another smiley blogger said it was accepted during his application.
The Familia Mar does not even take any financial means proof. In a forum, an anonymous person (probably another smiley soul) said he did not have to print anything, that it was enough showing a screenshot on the cell phone.
Nobody said they would need official translations either.
“Sorry, you must book another appointment”, they are told.
Familiar Mar books a second appointment to apply for the visas, several months after.
Everything is right this time.
Family Mar works hard on the requirements and finds a certified translator licensed by the Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs to translate the documents that are in English.
The visas are approved.
All of a sudden, they are in Madrid, the capital of Spain. They can feel the Spanish air caressing their faces. It’s heaven. Life looks great further ahead, up by horizon.
South Costa Blanca, where they will get hit by the second time (and harder) after they discover that there is no real estate office.
James Bond does not answer the phone, neither his emails.
The dreamed property is not in the address the agent told them.
Only a few old Spanish houses around, orange trees in the back, and several goats wandering around which seem to have escaped from the shepherd.
Now they realise they did not even check the home on Google Maps.
In big letters:
FAMILY MAR HAS BEEN SCAMMED
In the USA, the police may have the authority and the tools to act quickly.
In the USA, James Bond might be arrested before he sips the piña coladas he bought using your stolen money.
In Spain, this kind of criminal activities must be started with a police report so that there is a proper investigation.
Yes, it’s exactly what you are thinking: a slow process. After all, you are in a foreign country, with different laws.
By the way, Family Mar had to find their own interpreter because, guess what, Spain is not an English-speaking country.
As you can imagine, Familiar Mar is devasted.
There is no house.
They were ripped off before they moved to Spain.
Their money gone.
Emigrating to Spain from USA is not as easy and nice as they thought.
Thanks to Internet (truth be told, there are good things on the Internet), the Familia Mar are able to find accommodation for the night. After a few days, they find a nice place to rent for one month, by the sea, again in South Costa Blanca.
This time they will be more careful.
They have learned the lesson.
They will explore the area before they even commit themselves to long-term rent.
Times goes by.
The Familia Mar discover many small beautiful towns off the beaten path, nice restaurants, monuments. They love it there, so it’s time to find a reputed estate agency.
How do you find a reputed estate agency when you don’t know the area and after being scammed?
Many people ask the friends, look at local newspapers in English, but never bother on doing a bit of a research or pay for it.
Well, this time the Familiar Mar were lucky.
After a month or so, the new (and real) agency finds the property of their dreams.
Only when things seem to be going well, during the property legal purchase process, the Familiar Mar discover that:
They are illegally living in Spain because they did not apply for the Spanish residency card on time!
A smiley fella on Facebook said that they had 180 days to do it.
Now it’s too late.
It should have been done within the first 30 days after entering Spain.
The only option now is to go back to the USA before they get caught and deported.
Will their visas be granted again at the consulate?
On records, the Familia Mar has already an illegal stay in Spain.
Emigrating to Spain from USA the right way
It’s not rocket science.
When you need a car, do you build your own car?
When you need a computer, do you build your own computer?
When you want to travel, do you construct your own airplane or create your own airline?
Familia Bosque from day one finds a reliable business that guides through everything:
- The visas
- The place they will live
- The property
- The first year in Spain
- How to register in Spanish schools
- Advice to avoid mistakes like the Familia Mar
In short, the line between disaster and success is really thin (most times not more than a few hundred bucks which most of us spend in silly things almost every month).
I, David, the witness
This story I’ve told you is some kind of “fictional autobiography” based on experiences I have witnessed first-hand.
The Internet is full of:
- James Bonds following the trail of easy preys.
- Smiley people who know nothing about legal steps for living in Spain.
There are also legitimate businesses and good people, of course. However, you must read between the lines and stop trusting everybody because they speak English, have nice websites or have a big smile.
I’ve been in the industry since 2010, helping EU and non-EU citizens move to Spain and begin a happy life free of trouble (in the past, I’ve been called “mercy angel” and “Mr Fix it”).
Over the years, I met many people who:
- Thought that emigrating to Spain from USA was like moving from one US state to another.
- Were scammed by real estate agencies, lawyers, solicitors
- Got astronomical fines from the tax office because they simply did not know there was something pending.
- Were living illegally in Spain without being aware
- Had their visas and Spanish residency cards rejected for being in DIY mode
- Spent fortunes in properties in the middle of nowhere or full of issues (impulsive mode)
- Had to go back to their countries because they got totally crushed after they went through some of the previous.
And, guess what: you could be one of those people.
Remember, just a little bit of money will eliminate the stress and potential risks when you move to Spain 😊
To your prosperity and happy life in Spain!
David is a relocation adviser with Torrevieja Translation. He helped me move from California to Madrid and he can help you too! Click here to read more about his Living in Spain Guide for US Citizens and to reach out to him.
Photo credits (Creative commons): httpss://flic.kr/p/cVCdKA httpss://flic.kr/p/vv85H9
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My name is Karen & travel is not only my passion but also my profession.