Moving abroad with your business

By Sandra Young

Life in London could be exciting, stimulating and fun, but after five years there it was time for a change. Now I am here in Cáceres, forging a new life for myself in Spain.

I don’t know if many of you reading have thought about making the move to your source language country before. I have wanted to move to Spain for a long time, yet it took me until this year to take the plunge.

Before moving to Cáceres worries nagged at the back of my mind – the bureaucracy, the cumbersome self-employment contributions, the higher rates of tax in general. And then there was the fear that the business I had worked so hard to build would come crashing down around me as a result.

In the end, my desire exceeded my fears.

What I want to do is give you a step-by-step guide in setting up as self-employed in Spain, according to my experience. Hopefully this will provide some useful advice to anyone thinking of doing the same.

So, what do you need to do when you move to Spain?


  1. NIE number and EU citizen resident status in Spain

If you have never worked in Spain before then you will need to get an NIE (número de identidad de extranjero). To do this you have to go to either the Oficina de Extranjeros or in some cases directly to the National Police station in your town or city. You can find more information through this link.

Technically if you are coming to live in Spain you should request the Certificado de Registro de Ciudadano de la Unión (residence card for EU citizens in Spain) immediately. However, this requires you to either have private health insurance or to be registered with social security in Spain. Therefore, my advice is to explain this and request a temporary NIE (the one on white paper). You can use this document to complete all the following steps (including opening a bank account), and then return to the immigration office to request your residence card.

When applying for a NIE, you will need to bring your passport and the completed application form (with photocopies). They will give you a form to take to a suitable bank (ask which banks in your area accept these payments) to pay the fee (around €7), and then return to finish the application process.

  1. Open a bank account

In the UK you need utility bills as proof of address to open a bank account. In Spain you need the NIE. Really you need your residence card, but if you go to the bank with your temporary NIE, explaining that you will bring the permanent document once you are registered as self-employed, they will usually accept this.

  1. Register as self-employed

I arrived in Spain in February this year, two months before the end of the tax year in the UK. According to British legislation, as I had spent more than six months of the 2014-2015 tax year in the UK, then I was a UK tax resident for that year. This gave me some time to sort out a house and various other things before becoming self-employed in Spain.

It also had the added benefit of allowing me to become self-employed in Spain at the beginning of the second quarter, giving me three months before having to complete my first tax returns (which are done quarterly in Spain). It is worth thinking about this when making the move as it might make your life easier!

To register as self-employed you have to go to the AEAT (Agencia Tributaria). All the forms are now electronic – you fill them in online, print them and then hand them in at your nearest tax office. I couldn’t get the online form to work, so I went in, and one of the staff helped me to complete the form on a computer there. I want to mention that I have found the staff to be very helpful and friendly at every step of the way, and they have really eased what could have otherwise been quite a painful process.

You need to fill in a Modelo 036 if you are going to be working with any companies that are not based in Spain, and you need to register on the ROI (Registro de Operadores Intracomunitarios) as this will give you an EU-VAT number, which I would say is essential for anyone in our line of work.

  1. Register with Social Security

This was another step that was easier than I had feared. Spanish friends had warned me that at the INSS they can make your life difficult. The advice I had been given was to wear a low-cut top… however, without any provocative clothing, I found the person who attended me to be friendly and helpful. Follow this link for the application form.

If you have never been self-employed in Spain before you are now entitled to discounts on your self-employment contributions for different amounts of time, with varying discounts. Please follow the link for more information.

  1. Residence card

Now you have this, you will have to return to the Extranjería to apply for your residence card. As with the NIE, you will have to take photocopies of your passport and the signed application form, as well as the other documents as described here (your social security registration). You will have to pay a fee of around €10, in the same way as for the NIE.

If you are not an EU citizen, or have other particularities about your situation, this link should be useful.

  1. Health card

With your social security number, you can now go to any doctor’s surgery and ask for your health card, which will give you access to public health services in Spain.

  1. Empadronamiento (registration at the local Council for residence and voting purposes)

They may or may not request this for your residence card application. I had to have it as I had previously been on the EU citizens’ register at a different address. However, if you are going to spend more than 6 months in the country it is a legal requirement, and also gives you the right to vote in elections. It is a very simple process – just turn up and fill out a short form. Don’t forget to take your passport and NIE or residence card with you. They will take their own photocopies.

Do you have any experiences of moving abroad to share? Or any questions or doubts about moving your business abroad? If so, I’d love to hear from you! Please leave a comment below.


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