Why Spain is second favourite country for Americans to move to

A study based on Google searches reveals that Spain is the second most popular destination of choice for US nationals looking to move overseas, and it’s the favourite in two states in particular.

Why Spain is second favourite country for Americans to move to
Spain is the second favourite country for Americans to move to. Photo: Photo: @jorgefdezsalas / Unsplash

Spain is the second-most visited country in the world just behind France, with a record 83.7 million international tourists visiting España in 2019. It is also among the EU countries with the biggest foreign resident populations, numbering around 6 million

So it’s perhaps not surprising that the country’s many attractions, from the weather and culture to the quality of life, have also proven a big draw for Americans.

According to a study by insurance company American Home Shield based on Google searches, Spain is the second most popular country for US nationals to move to.

The first is Canada, which is most likely due to the fact it’s next to the US and it shares the same language and has a similar culture.

“People in 31 cities, mostly in Texas and California, are currently looking for information on how to move to Spain,” American Home Shield revealed.

People in Tulsa, Tampa, Stockton, Santa Ana, San Jose, San Francisco, San Antonio, Riverside, Plano, Phoenix, Orlando, Oakland, New York, Miami, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Laredo, Long Beach, Houston, Glendale, Fresno, Fort Worth, El Paso, Dallas, Corpus Christi, Chula Vista, Bakersfield, Austin, Arlington and Anaheim put in more Google searches for “moving to Spain” than for any other country. 

Image: American Home Shield

Texas and California along with Florida are among the US states where you’ll find the most Spanish speakers, so it’s perhaps understandable that people from there would want to look for a country where they can already speak the language.  But Spain was also the most searched relocation country in Georgia, Arkansas, New Hampshire and North Dakota.

Image: American Home Shield

Many Americans have already made the move over here and Spain is the European country with the most US residents.

READ ALSO: Six hard facts Americans should be aware of before moving to Spain 

Spain saw a 13 percent increase in the number of US citizens moving to Spain between 2019 and 2021. The latest data available from Spain’s National Statistics Institute (INE) shows there are a total of 39,812 US nationals living in Spain.  

The current strong dollar against the euro could also be influencing why Spain is so high on the list, as evidenced by the spike in US tourists who came to Spain this summer. In June alone, more than 377,000 visited Spain, an 86.9 percent rise compared to the same month in 2019, a pre-pandemic year.

It’s not just Americans who want to move to Spain, however. According to a study by comparison site Compare the Market, Spain is the third most popular country in the world for people to move to.

For citizens from 12 different countries, including Sweden, Finland and the Netherlands, Spain is their top choice when it comes to deciding where to move to. 

Where do Americans choose to live in Spain?

Unlike most Europeans who favour the coast when they move to Spain, Americans prefer the inland capital region of Madrid.

According to the latest data from the INE as of 2021 there were a total of 11,717 Americans living in the region of Madrid. This was followed by Catalonia with 8,802 US citizens and then Andalusia with 6,658.

READ ALSO: What Americans moving to Spain wish they’d brought with them

How can Americans move to Spain?

Given the high unemployment levels, employment rules and great difficulties in getting some US professional qualifications recognised in Spain, getting a work visa for Spain isn’t easy, so most Americans opt for a different way.

There are several ways for Americans to be able to move to Spain, but one of the most popular and easiest is the non-lucrative visa (NLV). In order to be eligible, Americans need to prove they have a total of €27,792 ($31,390) for one year, an amount which rises if you include other family members. You also need to show that this money is from passive income, as you’re not allowed to work in Spain while on the NLV either for a Spanish employer or a US one.

Another way is the golden visa, which grants you residency in Spain if you invest €500,000 in property in Spain.

Spain recently announced the approval of its Startups Law which also includes a digital nomad visa which will be available from 2023. Find out more about it here


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‘Frustrating, but don’t give up’: Your advice for Brits to moving to Spain post Brexit

How easy is it to move to Spain from the UK given that freedom of movement ended with Brexit? Several Britons who have made the move tell The Local about the problems that emerge as well as the time and costs involved.

'Frustrating, but don't give up': Your advice for Brits to moving to Spain post Brexit

According to the results of a survey we posted on our website, by far the most popular way for Brits to move to Spain, post-Brexit was via the Non-Lucrative Visa or NLV.

Several respondents said they applied for NLV, which is a one-year visa (that can be renewed), which allows non-EU citizens to live in Spain by demonstrating that they have sufficient financial means for themselves and, if applicable, their families.

Crucially, however, you are not allowed to work while on this visa and have to prove that your income comes from passive sources such as renting out a property back in your home country. 

The NLV is also one of the most expensive ways to move to Spain. In 2023, you must show that you have savings of at least €2,400 per month, and more for extra family members without being allowed to earn anything here. 

Wendy Hendry who moved to the Alicante province from Scotland said that the process of applying took around four to five months, while Terry Mulchinock said it took him a total of six months. Howard Evans who moved to the Valencia area on the other hand, was incredibly lucky when it took him just one week to apply because it was during the height of the pandemic in February 2021. 

READ ALSO: How long does it take to get a non-lucrative visa for Spain?

There was, however, a split between those who applied for the NLV themselves and those who used a lawyer to help them with their application. 

Shirley Johnson who moved to Galicia from Lancashire said: “I made the application myself (many people use lawyers and it costs thousands of pounds). There is guidance from forums and also from the Spanish Embassy in Manchester. I was not rejected”. 

While Hendry agreed that you “should try and apply yourself because companies who offer these services will try and rip you off”. 

On the other side, both Mulchinock and Evans disagreed and said that you should use the services of a lawyer to help you with your application instead. 

Mulchinock said: “We employed a lawyer who was very competent, copied our paperwork, bank statements, got police checks, medical forms … nothing difficult”. 

Evans agreed that the whole process was quite straight forward and he was pleasantly surprised because of his “excellent solicitor”. 

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

Readers who applied for the NLV said they spent anywhere from €2,000 to around €3,500 on the application, including all the lawyers’ fees and paperwork, while those who paid the higher amount also included the cost of the private health care needed for the application. 

“With a year’s private health care for two people all in was nearly £7000,” explained Mulchinock. Evens paid a little less, but without health insurance, “approximately €3000 paid to Spanish solicitor,” he said. 

Family connections

But, although the the NLV was the most popular way, it wasn’t the only way that Brits have managed to move to Spain post-Brexit.

Some respondents said they applied for visas to live in Spain due to family connections, either through the family reunification visa or by getting a residence card by being a family member of an EU citizen. 

The family reunification visa allows non-EU nationals to bring family members to live with them in Spain, provided that they have already been legally resident in Spain for at least one year, while the residence card is for family members of EU citizens such as spouses, partners, dependent children, and dependent parents. 

READ ALSO – Q&A: Can EU nationals bring non-EU family members over to Spain?

Half of these people said that their applications were relatively straightforward and easy, while half said it was a lot more difficult than expected. 

Lili, who moved to the Valencia area from Malta, said they when she tried to apply for a residence card for her British husband, she found it very challenging. 

“I’m dual citizen, EU/British, so for me it was easy. My husband is British and whilst technically we should have no issues with his residency, we repeatedly faced situations where I have no problem (as an EU citizen) and he’s treated worse and we have to jump through hoops to fight for his rights,” she said. 

“The experience was maddening. We spoke to a few lawyers and each one was telling us something different about the paperwork we had to submit, different from what’s listed on the Spanish government website even. I think there is a lot of confusion since they think of him as a non-EU citizen not a husband of an EU citizen. Eventually, I submitted the documents myself and we’re still waiting for a decision,” Lili added. 

On the other hand, Josh Goodwin who applied for the family reunification visa and moved to Mallorca from Leeds, said he was “pleasantly surprised” and that although the paperwork was “tricky”, using a good lawyer helped.

Working visas 

Several other readers found other ways to legally move to Spain since Brexit had come into force. Some respondents said they applied for visas for highly skilled workers through their companies, but that these were mostly for temporary periods lasting around six months. 

Even though the companies mainly organised and paid for these types of visas, the applicants said they were very expensive and it was very difficult having to have all their certificates and documents apostilled and translated, the legal fees and the visa charges. 

One reader who preferred not to be named said: “Don’t expect anything to happen quickly or electronically – everything seems to need a visit in person… It was just so much easier pre-Brexit”. 

The final number of readers who answered our survey were in the process of trying to apply for various types of visas in the hope that one of them would be successful. 

Vanessa Campbell from Surrey who is trying to move to Jávea to look after her sick mother said that her residency application was rejected as she couldn’t prove she had enough savings, so she is trying the family reunification route instead.

She said the process “is far more complicated than I had thought. Be prepared to be frustrated but don’t give up hope”. She added that there had been no compassion from the authorities because of her difficult situation.

Overall, most of the people who answered our survey had found the process of moving to Spain post-Brexit very challenging and a lot more difficult than they had originally expected. 


The majority of respondents agreed that using a lawyer definitely helped and urged others to find a good one and do the same.

“Do your research and definitely use a lawyer,” one reader said, while another echoed these sentiments. “Use a reputable solicitor and follow their advice,” they advised. A third simply said: “Get a lawyer to do it, if you can’t afford a lawyer stay at home”. 

Those who did the applications themselves encouraged others to do as much research as they could. “Research, use forums for help, and keep the faith!” one said. 

Others simply thought the process was too difficult and urged Britons to fight back against the situation if they want to be able to move to other EU countries.

“Put pressure on the British government to join Single Market in a similar way to Switzerland or Norway, with freedom of movement, otherwise, you should have A LOT of patience, time and money,” they added.