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MOVING TO SPAIN

Nine things you should know before moving to rural Spain

With remote working becoming more common in Spain, more people are swapping cities for villages for a quieter life in a beautiful natural setting. But what do you need to know before making the move to the Spanish countryside?

Nine things you should know before moving to rural Spain
The picturesque village of Camarasa in Catalonia. Photo: Erwan Martin

Village properties are much cheaper

You’d probably already guessed this was the case, but to give you a more exact idea, a 2020 study by property website Idealista found that properties in villages with fewer than 5,000 inhabitants were on average 52 percent cheaper than homes in provincial capitals.

The average price per square metre for rural properties in Spain is €834/sqm whereas in the big cities its €1,729/sqm.

If you’re looking to move to a village which is within driving distance of the region’s capital, the biggest price differences are in villages close to Barcelona, Madrid, Seville, San Sebastián, A Coruña, Salamanca and Zaragoza, all of which have rural properties at least 60 percent cheaper than in their provincial capitals.

They’re generally underpopulated

Even though Spain’s population has grown by more than 15 percent in the past 20 years, a third of Spanish municipalities have lost 25 percent of their population.

Eighty percent of villages in the regions of Castilla y León, Extremadura and Asturias have lost residents in the last two decades, whereas in Madrid and the Balearic Islands this rural underpopulation has been far less marked (6 percent).

There aren’t that many young people

In 2019, there were 311 villages in Spain without a single inhabitant under 20 and 402 “pueblos” where more than half the population was over the age of 65.

That means that if you have a family with young children, you should consider what it will mean for them to not have any friends nearby, and there’s a chance they might have to travel far to go to school.

The region with most villages with no young people is Castilla y León (168) followed by Castilla y La Mancha (69) and Aragón (47), all in Spain’s interior.

It’s worth noting that this trend isn’t as manifest in Spain’s coastal regions. 

The main street in the village of Valderrobles in Aragón. Photo: Vane Montes/Pixabay

Many offer incentives for you to move

If you need some convincing before choosing to move to rural Spain, maybe the prospect of being paid to relocate to a specific village or getting a job or rent-free home will do the job.

There’s a constant turnaround of villages in Spain offering incentives to individuals and families for them to move to their village.

The trouble often is finding the latest offers and taking advantage of them in time, as there generally tends to be a fair amount of interest from city dwellers in Spain who want to start a new life on the cheap en el campo (in the countryside).

READ ALSO: How to find Spanish villages that are helping people move there

The internet in Spanish villages is getting better

An increasing number of villages and regional authorities are realising that if they want to attract new inhabitants who are of a working age, especially with the advent of remote working, they need to offer good internet speeds.

In recent years some villages in Gran Canaria, Aragón, Cantabria and other regions of Spain have decided to install fibre optic internet specifically to attract remote workers, and Spanish telecoms giant Telefónica has helped bring free Wi-Fi to 1,000 villages in Spain as part of the EU’s WiFi4EU programme.

READ MORE: 500 Spanish villages that are getting free Wi-Fi.

However, not all of rural Spain has superfast internet yet. Unpopulated areas in Aragón, Galicia, Asturias and Castilla y León are lagging behind, as evidenced in this 2021 map by the Spanish government which shows the percentage of the population with access to 100Mbps connections in each region. 

Could remote working also mean more remote living?

A 2020 report in Spain’s El País newspaper titled “How teleworking is giving wings to empty Spain” highlighted how a number of Spanish villages have indirectly benefited from the coronavirus lockdowns and travel restrictions, with more digital workers choosing to make rural Spain their new home.

Aside from the improvement to rural internet speeds mentioned earlier, the acceptance and normalisation of remote working – something which was relatively novel in Spain before the pandemic – is resulting in more young people weighing up the pros and cons of living in a city or a village. 

The lower cost of living, the comparative amount of freedom that can be enjoyed in terms of mobility restrictions (with the threat of new lockdowns looming) and even the increasing number of rural coworking spaces dotted around Spain are all contributing to a change in mentality among many remote workers.

Speaking Spanish is a must

This usually applies to living in Spanish towns and cities as well, but in a rural setting, where residents are far less likely to have an international background or speak English, having a good grasp of the Spanish language is pretty much essential.

If you’re an English speaker who doesn’t think they can learn Spanish, you can always consider moving to one the villages in Spain where Brits outnumber locals, although you will obviously not get to truly experience what life in Spain is like.

Spanish people in rural communities are friendly and will probably want to stop to chat if they bump into you on the street.

Logically, you are far more likely to feel like an integral part of a close-knit community if you can communicate with them, whether it’s at the local bar, shop or hardware store.

You may also be able to offer your neighbours English lessons, as regional authorities with large rural communities such as Extremadura and Aragón are already trying to promote foreign language learning among villagers to help boost tourism opportunities.

Plenty of opportunities to do good and do business

If you want to make a difference and help to improve the lives of people in rural communities in Spain, there’s a growing number of organisations that will welcome your help and any bright ideas you may have.

READ MORE: How Spaniards are helping to save the country’s 4,200 villages at risk of extinction

There are already initiatives such as adopting an olive tree, offering meals on wheels to remote villages and repopulating villages with newly arrived migrant families.

There may be an invaluable service that you can provide to a village in Spain that you turn into a business as well, offering local solutions to local problems.

Village life isn’t for everyone

Even though there are signs that repopulation and modernisation is breathing new life into many villages across Spain, most of the usual challenges that come with living in a rural setting persist.

There are fewer shops, services, health centres, schools and kindergartens. Jobs are few and far between and many properties aren’t refurbished and will need to be made more energy efficient and habitable (remember that much of Spain’s interior is scorching hot in the summer and bitter cold in the winter).

On the other hand, you may make huge quality of life gains by moving to a peaceful, natural setting where you have a simpler but more fulfilling day to day.

The decision, as well as the choice of location, is ultimately yours.

Moving to the countryside appears to be experiencing a rebirth in Spain currently, with new websites such as venteaviviraunpueblo.com (cometoliveinavillage.com) offering Spaniards and foreigners the chance to handpick the Spanish village that’s right for them.

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VISAS

Residency through passive income or pension: Is Spain or Portugal better?

Spain's non-lucrative visa and Portugal's D7 visa are both designed for non-EU citizens to be able to live in these Iberian countries and are ideal for pensioners, but how do they compare? Which is easier and offers more benefits?

Residency through passive income or pension: Is Spain or Portugal better?

Spain’s non-lucrative visa, also known as the NLV, is an authorisation that allows non-EU foreigners to stay in Spain for a period of more than 90 days without working or carrying out professional activities in Spain, such as retirees, by demonstrating that they have sufficient financial means. 

Portugal’s D7 visa provides residency status in Portugal to non-EU citizens, including retirees, who receive regular passive income. 

While they both sound similar at the outset, they are quite different when it comes to the requirements and what they offer.

Here’s a breakdown on Spain’s NLV vs Portugal’s D7. 

What are the income requirements?

NLV: For Spain’s NLV, in 2022 you must prove that you have a passive income of €27,792 per year. This number usually rises yearly as it must be 400 percent of the IPREM, so if you’re planning on applying in 2023, you’ll have to budget a little more.

READ ALSO: What are the pros and cons of Spain’s non-lucrative visa?

D7: For Portugal’s D7 visa, you only have to prove that you have 100 percent of the minimum wage which is currently €7,620 per year. Portugal wins hands down in this case as you’ll have to have at least €20,000 more per year if you want to move to Spain.

Can I include family members?

NLV: Yes, the NLV allows you to bring dependent family members such as a spouse and children, however, you will need an extra €6,948 per year for each family member included.

D7: Portugal’s D7 also allows you to bring family members, but again it’s a lot more affordable than Spain’s NLV. You can bring your spouse or your dependent parents for an extra €3,810 per year and your children for an extra €2,292 per year.

Can it be renewed?

NLV: The NLV visa is a one-year visa, but it can be renewed for a further two years and then another two years after that. After five years of residency, you are eligible to apply for long-term residency and won’t have to keep renewing your NLV.

D7: The D7 is initially valid for two years, unlike the NLV. Afterward, you’ll be able to renew it for an additional three years.

Can it lead to citizenship?

NLV: Yes, you can eventually apply for Spanish citizenship after 10 years, but you will need to apply for long-term residency first.

D7: Yes, after you have five years of residency, you are able to apply for Portuguese citizenship, this is half the time that it would take in Spain.

Do I have to pay tax?

NLV: Yes, if you stay more than 183 days in Spain you will become a tax resident and will have to pay tax on your worldwide income. It’s worth remembering, however, that there are double tax agreements with certain countries meaning that if your passive income has already been taxed in your home country, you won’t be taxed again in Spain.

D7: Like in Spain, once you have lived for more than 183 days in Portugal you are subject to paying tax rates there, however, Portugal offers a special Non-Habitual Resident (NHR) status, which you can apply for if you have a D7 visa. This special tax regime offers free incentives and reduced tax rates for some for their first 10 years in Portugal.

Can I work with these visas?

NLV: No, as the name suggests, it’s a non-lucrative visa and you shouldn’t be working in Spain, even if your employer is based abroad. After your first year though you are able to exchange it for a work permit or to become self-employed (autónomo) through a process called residence modification.

READ ALSO: Should I change my non-lucrative visa for another residency permit in Spain?

D7: Like the NLV the D7 is only supposed to be for passive income and you do not have the right to work in Portugal, however, if you later apply for a residence visa, then this restriction will be lifted and you will be allowed to work.

Do I need private healthcare?

NLV: Yes, you will need to apply for private health care in Spain in order to apply for the NLV. Surprisingly private healthcare can be very affordable in Spain at around €50-200 a month and the services are very good.  

D7: Portugal’s D7 also requires you to get private health insurance. Private health care in Portugal can be slightly cheaper than in Spain at between €50 to €100 per month.

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