Almost Fearless

Want to Move to Europe, What's an American to Do?


So we’re looking for a home base… somewhere to settle down, and I came up with a long list of requirements and I knew, even before I wrote that post that it would probably be Europe (although I got so many recommendations for Sydney it gave me a short pause). Beyond my second language requirements (I want somewhere that doesn’t speak English primarily) the second big factor came down to climate — we want good weather. Lots of it. Or you know, at least half the year.

This gives us this short list:

  • Spain
  • France
  • Italy
  • Portugal

All four of these countries are in the schengen zone, which means I can spend 90 days in an 180 day period there on a tourist visa but after that, it gets more complicated.

We aren’t students.

We don’t have intentions of getting jobs in the country or finding a sponsor.

We’re not wildly wealthy.

But we are self-employed, with a regular income that can be documented via our tax records and bank statements. Can we get a non-working residency visa in these countries? YES. In theory.

How do you do it?

It’s complicated. The first major hurdle is finding out good advice from anyone who has done this before. But essentially the process is somewhat similar (I looked up expat forums, consultate websites and talked to an Italian immigration lawyer about this, so while this is my best stab at how it works, I am not an expert and things are constantly changing — even some individual embassies in the US have different rules, Miami might approve you but LA might reject. Yeah, it’s a pain. So even as I write this, I know people will jump in to tell me different things, and I appreciate that, but this is in no way a comprehensive guide to immigrating to Europe.)

Here is essentially what you will need:

2 copies of your visa application

2 passport photos

1 year left on your passport

A police certificate (usually translated into their language) that says you’ve never committed a crime, they may also want it notarized or from the FBI.

A medical certificate from your doctor saying you are free of illness.

Bank and financial records proving you have “enough income to support yourself” a phrase that is hard to define but ranges from 5,000 euros a year to at least a million euros in assets (seriously).

Medical insurance with a letter from the provider stating you’re covered up to a specific amount for medical costs in that country (varies by country)

(Plus like a ton of extra copies of all these things, and if you haven’t watched this youtube video, you may also need a stapler.)

How to choose?

Well if you decide on a country, I think the best way to go is to just dive in and commit to it, because it is impossible, really, trust me, to get some kind of reassurance that going through all this hassle will actually work. It might take more than one try. You can also hire an immigration lawyer, many who will work on a flat fee and help you. Here’s how I decided:

I loved the idea of Italy, but the income requirements are quite high. We would probably have to have at least 50,000 euros a year to even consider it, which we do, but people with five times as much have been declined. They really seem to view the non-working residency visa for the very rich, or the retired, which we are neither.

I had even found a French/Italian/English trilingual school for Cole in Florence, Italy that has activities like horseback riding and museum trips, but the stories of expats struggling with the visa were pervasive. When I told the immigration lawyer my yearly salary, he stopped responding to my emails.

So I crossed Italy off the list.

Portugal wasn’t really exciting me, so off it went too.

That left me with France and Spain. Drew and I are split on this. I love the idea of France, and he doesn’t. We both love Spain, but I wondered about job prospects for our kids.

Two things settled it for us. The path to citizenship and the monthly income requirement.

First, let me explain how it works after you get that non-working residency visa. You go to the country, you rent a place, then you register with the local police station or agency and get your temporary residency visa.

Eventually, if you live there long enough (legally) you are eligible to become a naturalized citizen.

In Spain, it takes ten years. After five years in Spain, you are eligible for permanent residency. You can legally work. That lasts for five years more years, then you can become a naturalized citizen. What does that mean? EU passport, your children can go to university, you pay taxes, you are a citizen. You can use the free healthcare. You can vote. You’re IN baby! (And continuous residency doesn’t mean you can’t travel, it just means you stay officially a resident there, you can come and go as you please).

In France it takes five years. But, there are two caveats, you must be employed in France and you must pass a fluency exam in French.

Between Drew’s hesitation on France and the fluency requirement (would we pass it?) France is off the list.

The final reason sealed the deal. Spain’s income requirement is quite low, I’ve heard recent stories of just needing 5,000 euros per person, per year, to get the non-working residency visa.

So that’s it. We’re moving to SPAIN. In 10 years our kids will be European and American citizens (UPDATE actually Spain requires you to renounce your US citizenship) (and Stella will still technically have her Mexican citizenship but we’re not pursuing that). Our kids will speak Castilian Spanish and correct us on our terrible accents. They will eat olive oil poured over crunchy baguettes for breakfast and jamón ibérico will be treated with a reverence that can only equal an American child’s lust for hotdogs.

It’s a good fit for us, I think, I hope, although I know culture swapping is difficult and it’s never as rosy as you imagine. But I don’t feel like I could fit in back home, in the States, and the prospect of giving my children some extra options in life seems like a good investment. Plus it’s so easy to travel around Europe, North Africa, the Middle East. It seems, well, perfect. We get to settle down and travel at the same time.

The only question now is, which city to pick? Keep in mind that each region of Spain speaks with a different accent and there are several places that have a second local language (like in Barcelona, they speak Catalán). So instead of learning one language, we could be looking at learning two (all the areas below that are not a shade of purple are bilingual with a regional dialect on top of Spanish):


So many options… Madrid, Barcelona, Granada, Seville, Valencia, Cadiz, Cordoba (is the north, like San Sebastian too rainy?)… back to the research. Your opinions much appreciated!

But for now, we know one thing: We’re moving to SPAIN!


Christine Gilbert

I’ve been dragging my husband around the world since 2008 always with the promise that, “Yes, Drew there will definitely be hammocks there.”



  • SOO exciting!!!! One of my very favorite countries and the Catalan area in particular I could easily move to as well.

    Wish I had some advice but I will definitely be looking forward to following the journey.

  • I have to tell you, this is soooo helpful. After traveling mostly around the U.S. full-time for the past 4 years we’re heading off to Europe in 2014. We’d love to spend 4 years or more traveling through Europe and are planning to bop around from Schengen area to non-Schengen area. We also think somewhere like France or Spain would make a good permanent base for us, but have assumed that moving to either place is mostly impossible. Now we have reason to think differently. We’ll definitely follow up on what you’ve started here. Thanks!

  • Really looking forward to following your adventure. My husband and I, along with our 6 month old and 3 year old, are hoping to do the same…and Spain is our first choice. AND we’re in PV yearly on vacation. Maybe our paths will cross at some point 🙂 Best of luck!

  • Everyone is different but I personally wouldn’t like Madrid as I think it’s nicer to be within an hours drive of the sea. Hope you find what you are looking for though! 🙂

  • You would LOVE Granada in Spain, my all time favourite Spanish city. Neither too small nor too big, has diverse communities with a Moorish, artistic, progressive vibe. And it is gorgeous, with close proximity to the wonderful mountain range of the Sierra Nevada for winter sports. You can literally snowboard in the morning and sit sipping a fino sherry in a warm sun filled Andalucian square the same afternoon. It’s a wonderful place.

  • Hello, I am a big fan of your blog. I read this post and felt like it would be very helpful to an American family who was looking to move to Europe. Also, it’s clear how your family will benefit from living there. However, I’m wondering, what is your family going to offer Spain? How will Spaniards benefit from your family living in Spain? I think a future expat family would like to know your initial thoughts on how to pursue a true cultural exchange – other than a family just “being” there. Thanks, Kristin

    • You know it’s hard when you travel, you’re just not there long enough. I feel like settling down like this will give me the first real opportunity to truly learn another culture — and this is after living in countries many months — it’s just not enough time, I think it takes years. Everyone I’ve spoken with says that having children will help you plug into the community that much faster. And since we’re going through the legal process to become residents and eventually citizens, we will be doing things like paying taxes and putting money into the economy (but not taking any Spanish jobs for at least the first five years). For my part, I intend to become more Spanish than the Spanish! I will be studying up not just on the history and language but it’s literature, pop culture and everything in between. In order for my kids to be successful, I think anyway, it’s better if the parents adopt the host country’s culture as quickly as possible. As far as giving back? Well, I don’t know, I think in my own small way, I’ll be promoting Spain as a tourist destination through my writing. Maybe we have some cultural insights to offer the people we meet. I think really though my impact will be small. I think the short answer is that we will feel our way through it. We aren’t moving to Spain to retire on a beach, we are looking to start our lives and build a community.

  • How exciting! Madrid is a fantastic place, so much constantly going on and culture, history and food around every corner. If you aren’t set on a huge city, life in the South is pretty amazing too– Seville, Granada, Cadiz… It all depends on the lifestyle you are looking for, and what you’d like your kids to grow up surrounded by– museums and culture, or more of a rural setting. You won’t be disappointed with Spain (well, maybe with the bureaucracy…)

    • I think we want more culture. Because the metro is so fantastic in the bigger cities like Madrid and Barcelona, I’d even consider those places.

  • So exciting! Was sad to see you cross Italy off the list but Spain’s not so far — I just visited for the first time last month and LOVED Madrid, so I’m definitely going back to visit more of Spain in the future and maybe our paths will cross! 🙂

  • Thank you, good advice all around. For our kids, if they go to school in Barcelona (for example) they will learn Catalán so I would definitely want to learn it too. I do like the idea of being on the coast.

    • Another vote for San Sebastian! 🙂 Although we will probably leave to travel during the summer…

  • Sounds like I need to stop bitching about all the hoops we’ve jumped through and money laid out to get legal residency visas for my family. The income requirements are now ridiculously high for how much it really costs to live here, but six weeks after starting the process, we should be all set next week.

    If you’re ever in Guanajuato, Mexico, come visit. I think you’d like it. Looks very Spanish and has better weather.

    • Ah well you should have had a baby in Mexico, apparently it makes it much easier 🙂 I do need to take a massive roadtrip around MX before we leave, I’ll ping you if I make it out that way. 🙂

  • Exciting, and you just settled a lot of research for me, because Italy and France would also be at the top of my list for Europe, as well as Spain. But I’m focused on Colombia until I can get my income up, and then I might consider it more seriously.

    Having visited Barcelona and Madrid in January 2008, you do know it can get bitterly cold there! But I imagine it’s a shorter winter than Germany, and less rainy than the UK.

    I loved Girona when I visited for TBEX, but that’s maybe smaller than you’re looking for. I’ve only been to Barcelona and Madrid besides that, and preferred Barcelona because it’s on the coast. I’ve met others who much prefer living in Madrid over Barcelona.

    I don’t think you can go wrong, and you could always spend time in different parts of the country over the years, though guessing you prefer to get it right the first time to limit disrupting the kids’ school and social lives. I’m excited for you, and because I get to visit 🙂

  • Fascinating! I didn’t even know a non-working residency visa was a thing!!! Good to know if I ever feel like not being a nomad 🙂

    Good luck with the process! Can’t wait to read about it!

  • Great news!
    Right now the situation might be difficult,
    And there’s not enough jobs around, but by the time the kids grow up,
    No worries! I don’t think this situation will last for 2 decades anyway!
    Also I’m pretty excited we’re going to be in the same country again.
    Do you have a preference for the city? I’m sure you’ll make the right choice.
    And don’t hesitate to ask anything if you need to.

    (hope the subliminal message works! hahaha)

  • So exciting! Congratulations and thanks for the interesting information about the visas! It’s definitely something I’d be interested in looking into in the future. Best of luck!

  • Congrats on the choice! I’d love to live in Spain… Like Daniel said, I wouldn’t worry too much about job prospects – it’ll be years before the kids are looking for them. I’m so jealous of you guys picking a place to live. The possibilities are endless! As much as I like travelling, I’m kind of looking forward to choosing a long term base someday.

  • We’re looking into a similar thing… San Sebastian leads the way atm, because my other half needs to surf. We’re a blended family and my kids have EU citizenship (Austrian passports as well as Australian) but my partner and his kids don’t. Spain appeals for lots of reasons. (But we need to be close to good surf!!!!) Look forward to watching your adventures there unfold.

    • San Sebastian looks amazing, the food is supposed to be fantastic. I have to look at the weather — but surfing would be a definitely plus. We’ve been teaching Cole to boogie board here in Mexico, I think he’d love it.

  • Viva España! I studied in Spain in college and have been wondering if there was any way to live there again long-term and legally. I see stuff all the time about people teaching under the table and stuff but that just seems sketchy and kind of uncool considering the current economic situation. Will be following your journey closely because it sounds like a dream come true!

    • A lot of people just live in Spain without proper visas, they are very lax about that. My friend lives in Belgium and married an EU citizen so he has an EU ID card, but as an experiment he has been just using his American passport for years and no one has ever questioned him. But there’s a lot of good reasons to go legal, esp ethically!

  • That looks like a very long process. But I’ll be waiting for more updated about this blogs. I wish you good luck guys.

  • We’re excited for you, Christine and Company:) I’m a Francophile but I sure fell in love with Spain when we visited there this past March. We visited Malaga, Granada, Girona and Barcelona. In Malaga, they have parrots in palm trees the way we have crows or pigeons. We loved the smell of orange blossoms everywhere. I believe you’ve never eaten a “real” orange until you’ve eaten one from Spain:) We loved the olives and tapas, too.

  • Have you considered the islands? Palma (capital of Majorca) is a beautiful city, like a mini-Barcelona – but without as many tourists as Barcelona. The island has stunning beaches and mountains too. The area is also Catalan speaking; not sure about the language of education.

    Based on what you previously said about your criteria, the north is definitely too wet and Madrid too cold in winter, so otherwise you’re best off on or near the southern or eastern coasts. I wouldn’t get overly worried about the particular local accent – you’ll still be understood everywhere. My pick of those areas would also be Granada. Beautiful, friendly, culturally lively city, close to the mountains (and skiing!), but equally close to some of the finest beaches in Europe, not too far from other great cities like Seville & Malaga, also not too far from Morocco or from Portugal (which I love by the way – why did you write it off out of interest?)

    • Well I’ve heard from Spainards (when I lived in Madrid and did intercambios) that they have a hard time being understood in some places in Latin America… especially the Andulucian accent which drops sounds, like ¿como eta? for ¿como estas? Of course my Guatemalan teacher could barely understand a movie with a Barcelona actress in it, so maybe that’s just a Castilian-vs-Latin America thing.

    • Oh and re: portugal, I loved Lisboa, but I don’t know, I just loved Spain/France/Italy a little more. Maybe it was the context of my trips there but the cities felt more cosmopolitian.

  • Glad to hear Spain won the contest. It did for us too. If weather is important, then south of Spain has the best weather in Europe (maybe Faro, Portugal comes close to it). We did not like Malaga, too much of city-feeling for us, but loved Nerja and the white villages around it. Marbella area is touristy, but has the most offers in terms of properties and my guess also in schools. Ronda is nice too, but the drive there is on a very winding road which made me very sick. Good luck!

  • Loved Spain, and also thought Porto was awesome but it’s not all that warm. I traveled with my 4 year old granddaughter (her mom and dad, too) in the Andulusia region. Further south in Spain, better the weather. Malaga is close to everything and I thought it was kid-friendly. Airport is there, too. Plus, close to fabulous Granada! And Sevilla is not so far and is a very colorful city with a lot of playgrounds, as well. Lots of kids in Sevilla; my granddaughter had fun. Not to mention the annual Feria which we were there for in 2012. I sometimes fantasize how awesome it would be to “winter” in the Malaga region to get away from the Seattle weather. But wherever you land, I am happy Spain is your choice!

  • Very cool, glad you will continue and deepen your Spanish language learning!!! I really like Spain, love Madrid, and it’s much easier to travel from there than Barcelona, but the trade off is no beaches… San Sebastian is lovely but I only experienced it from a tourist’s perspective, so I’m sure how it would be to live there… I’ve always dreamed of Seville, never been but love the whole Moorish influence and just a hop, skip and a jump to North Africa… Aah Morocco, one of my favourite places!! Okay, I have serious wanderlust this morning, thanks Christine 🙂

  • Just make sure to keep your trips out of country within whatever limits there are for yearly and possibly total days as well for both residency and also for citizenship. Otherwise you might find your time clock resetting to zero. Now, I don’t know what they are for Spain or if there are any, but it’s something you don’t want to overlook.

  • Congrats on this decision! Narrowing down a region inside a country is a bit easier than deciding which country based on all the different factors. We recently went through the process of getting freelance residence permits in Berlin. Lots of paperwork, but with perseverance and help from friends it’s definitely doable. One thing that we noticed in Germany and Czech Republic (where we had residency before) is that the authorities are getting stricter with the health insurance accepted. Our travel/expat insurance was not longer accepted so we had to get local insurance (more comprehensive, but more expensive). Also, in the Czech Republic they would accept credit cards as part of the proof of financial solvency – not sure if that would work for Spain 🙂

    You probably already know that Lindsay & Ross are in Barcelona right now with their new baby. I believe they went through this process a few years ago so might have some good, firsthand advice. Good luck narrowing things down to choose a city!

    • Interesting to hear re. the insurance requirement. Do you mind sharing what company you ended up using? Though not sure if it’s one we could get in Italy. If we get residency there next year (we own a house in Sicily & the Man is British) I’d hoped my usual travel insurance would work. But for EU residency purposes, apparently not.

  • Looking forward to hearing more about this journey! We’ve lived in Italy for three years, but have been thinking about house shopping in Spain, with the ultimate plan of settling there.

  • Tough decision. You could stay close to the beach like you guys like but away from the touristy places. So that leaves one of the Andalusian areas, somewhere between Cadiz or Cartagena. But it’s so far away from big cities. If it were me I’d find a quiet little town on the outskirts of Madrid, smack-dab in the middle of the country! Good luck!

  • Ah, me encanta Espana! I lived in Madrid about a million years ago but I like other people’s recommendations of Granada or somewhere in the south. How about Cordoba? It’s a much smaller city but on the main high speed rail line between Madrid and Sevilla.
    Congrats on making the decision. It sounds like a good one.

  • Hola y buenos! I think it depends on how much you plan on travelling later on…Barcelona and Madrid are the only truly international hubs. Everywhere else either has a limited roster of flights or you have to fly into Barcelona and Madrid. Sometimes the connections work out OK, sometimes they’ll extend your journey by a good 5 or 6 hours. Tough if you need to either get the kids back for school or get back to see them before they go to school!

    Granada is beautiful but it’s tricky to make flight connections. Like its Andalusian counterpart, Seville, it’s rich on heritage and tradition but slightly slower on the newer things in life. Valencia and Barcelona are very dynamic and forward looking. Malaga isn’t as bad as people make out either (there is a heavily Brit-laden tourist patch but there’s also a beautiful old town, inner countryside and a few more flights on offer.)

    Madrid has the typical pros and cons of a capital city. Weather wise? Northwest is rainy and cold enough of the time to make that a con! And Seville gets far, far too hot (45 degrees) – there’s a reason why the siesta lives on down there! The sea breeze takes the edge off in Malaga and Valencia. Less so in Madrid and Barcelona is far enough north (and by the sea) to make the sunshine bearable.

    So there you go! If I had my time over again, I’d probably pick Barcelona (with Valencia in first place if they had better flight connections.) Have fun!

  • Congratulations, that’s a huge step! Personally, to live I’d prefer Barcelona or perhaps
    Valencia. Better international connections (at least for Barcelona), access to beach and hilly countryside, great foodie culture and a hard-to-pinpoint but general feeling of openess and progress that I did not feel in Madrid or Seville (can’t speak for the other towns). Also, your family will get to master two languages, not just one.

    Not sure how crucial this is to you right now, but Catalan is also better off economically relative to the rest of Spain – might mean better infrastructure and less social unrest (aside from potential separatist movements!). But I’d not worry about future job prospects for your infant and toddler – if the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, chances are good your kiddies won’t be averse to wandering to find work – or work while they wander! 🙂

    As a tourist, I loved Seville but it seemed too dependent on tourism for me to consider living there. My German husband and I (a Canadian) live in Paris but are trying to figure out how we can live at least p/t in the countryside for access to cycling, biking, and sun. The thing that’s an issue with these lovely French towns and villages we visit on holidays is that they are moribund in the off-season according to the locals. Not sure if it’s similar in Spain, but that was the impression I had with Seville.

  • Christine, you are doing a great job of researching what will work best for you and your family. My sister lives just south of beautiful Granada, half an hour from skiing in the Alpujarras and half an hour from the coast. Granada is a university town filled with rich history – a great combination of old and new. Winters are not warm though and the economy is in disarray … lots to consider …

  • Great to hear you’re moving to Spain, what an adventure!

    I haven’t lived in any of the countries you mentioned for longer than two months, but I’ve spent quite a lot of time in all of them, and they all have their own charm.

    Many places in Spain would be very easy (sometimes too easy, i.e there are more Germans and Brits in the area than there are Spanish people, like in Alicante and surroundings) to live in.

    My aunt has lived in Catalonia for 30 years and learned to speak both Spanish and Catalán, they certainly are quite different from each other so I understand your doubts about it.

    Will be fun to see where you end up, but personally I would LOVE to move to San Sebastian, the only thing keeping us from doing it at the moment is that is seems rather difficult finding an apartment there..

    Good luck!

  • Hi there. This is a wonderful blog entry and gives a lot of people hope. Could you be so kind as to post links to the laws you’ve researched that allow people to move to European countries with a stable income, regardless of having a job offer in the country they’re moving to?

  • Really interesting to read this post and the issues of language, citizenship etc. which you will encounter! I moved to France 3 years ago near the border with Spain (so the best of both worlds!) and after frequent trips to Spain we are really in love with Catalunya. The cities and towns are amazing, the climate isn’t too hot / cold and the landscape is beautiful – gorgeous coast and mountains. I’m about to start learning Catalan. Re naturalisation, could be a wise move to choose Spain – my husband is French but it will apparently still be quite a complex process for me to naturalise. Loved the You tube video – that just about sums up the bureaucracy here lol.Can’t wait to read which area you choose!

  • Great article. Have been a fan for quite some time. Have always thought about living in Europe, but have the same issues that you both do (I’m Canadian). My one burning question is, and it’s one that would be great to get a discussion going, is: does Spain, or Europe in general, consider conducting ‘workshops’ online as ‘working’? Or is it do-able to make money through PayPal in US or Canadian dollars and be on another countries’ terra firma? The idea of a non-working residency visa is great, but won’t they question that somehow? I have seen many people advertise international workshops on their photography/design/travel sites, but often wonder whether these workshops that are conducted elsewhere are considered working where they are conducted. Very curious to hear other’s opinion regarding this ‘missing’ link.

    • People do it. I don’t know if it’s legal or not. The income source is coming from another country and if you can explain it as “my freelance photography business” then they probably get away with it. I think this happens in every country though, people teach classes and workshops as expats. Interesting question, but I have no idea, I guess it would depend on how big you got!

  • Sorry, one more thing. There is quite a long article written by, run by an American woman living in Paris. She recently wrote quite a detailed version of finally getting her permanent residency permit after years of being an ‘entrepreneur’.

  • What an exciting time this will be! I found your blog recently through another travel blog website, and it’s a great read. Well done you 🙂 I can relate to what you’re going through; I’m an American, 31 years old, who has been living in France and now Italy for almost nine years. My favorite part about living and working here is getting to see the world – not just Europe, but Africa, Asia and the Middle East, too. I love to hear stories about people like you and your your family, who grab these opportunities when they come up, plan like crazy and sieze the day. Good luck, and here’s to making it happen!

  • I love your blog and came across it when I was searching for non-lucractive visa. Spain has also been on my mind. However, I read a lot of information from different blogs that the financial requirement for the non-lucrative visa is very high. Where did you hear stories about 5K euros per person per year? I read at least $100K from different sources.

    I’m considering to start a blog about my journey to getting the visa for Spain. Do you have any pets? I’ll take my cat with me if they grant me a visa.

    • My friend just did it two months ago, that’s where I heard that number, then I looked it up on spanish govt website and they quoted something similar. I just quickly googled it again (sorry I don’t have that link I found before) but maybe this will be helpful this form says $25k euros a year, which is still a lot lower than $100K a year. Regulations change too. Maybe it used to be more. If you’re concerned, just contact an immigration lawyer who specializes in Spain, they will know!

      • Thanks for the information. I’m from Canada. The websites from all three different cities don’t even mention about the amount. Perhaps the requirements vary?? Quite a few websites mention about the non-luractive visas are for the wealthy. I hope not!
        Let me know how it goes. I’ll visit the consulate to find out more.

  • A bit late in leaving a comment here, since this post is from beginning of the month 🙂 But I am so interested in learning how your move to Spain will go, that I really want to follow your new adventure:-) Reason is, I have so many friends in Brazil (my home country) that would probably love to do something similar, but simply can’t find the way. Like you, they are self-employed, with steady income, have some savings, but just can’t find the right way of doing it. To be honest, I don’t know either. I have lived in Europe for 15 years now, got my British Citizenship 2 years ago after living for 8 years in the UK. I have also lived in 6 years in Germany/Austria (and the last year in Norway, where I now reside), but all my residency visas were granted on the grounds of studies (2 years MSc. in Austria) or employment (Germany and UK), i.e., I had job offers from German/British companies which opened the way for a work-visa, later permanent residency and then finally the citizenship (the British Citizenship is a great one, as you do not need to give up your original one). But I have never heard of non-work residency visa…Is that the same as self-employed visa? Please tell us more…
    I am so happy for you, and really hope you move to Europe…I do not know much about Spain (more of a France fan myself :-), but I am sure you will love there…
    All the luck in the world to you and your family and keep us posted…

  • Looks like I’m late to the party on commenting, but HOW EXCITING! So much to do for visas and permits and insurance, but just keep jumping through the hoops and it will all come together. You’re giving your children (and yourselves) a tremendous gift. Can’t wait to follow your journey. Best, Megan

  • We lived in Toscana for six months and had planned to settle their permanently. We vetoed moving to Antibes, where I grew up, because I don’t like the inspections and general harassment of homeschoolers that is rampant there. Firenza is lovely, we were about an hour away from it ( Cortona). Spain is lovely too though! But I say if you can got to venice!! Such a magical place.

  • Congratulations on this decision! I can relate to trying to find the place that feels like home and nurtures movement at the same time.
    I felt compelled to comment on your blog as there were several references that made me giddy with recognition. Number 1, your style of writing makes me feel as if we’re old friends. I hope we are friends that just haven’t met yet! Number 2, I was also in Madrid in 2008, taking a ESL certification course, (i felt totally stifled there!) so I moved to the Pyrenees to the ski station of Baquiera Beret, where i met my husband. We then spent a summer in Barcelona together before starting to travel together. You’re going to LOVE Barcelona, and like everywhere there will be a few quaint oddities that will drive you nuts.

    Unlike you however, after we had children, i fell victim to the “need to have a stable life for your children fear mongering,” and we’ve been dreaming of traveling with our children whilst trapped in the american nightmare for the last 4 years.
    BUT…just last week we obtained Spanish nationality for my Argentine husband (grandson of a Spanish citizen) and our two chidden. I was issued permission to work. I feel like I’ve just won the citizenship lottery! Affordable schooling and healthcare, yes please!
    I discovered your blog and you and your gorgeous family are a infectious source of inspiration for us as we begin to craft a lifestyle we are meant for. I’m going to try very hard to make that workshop in May – if feels like divine coincidence, because you are who i want to be when i grow up : )
    I’ve got a terrible start on a site at, but once I have time to commit to it- i think you could coach me right into greatness : )
    I’ve just signed on to follow your blog. Looking forward to hearing more!

    • Yay! Congrats! That’s so great you were able to get the kids and your husband citizenship, that makes it so much easier for you guys! I can’t wait for Barcelona, we’ve never really spent a long period in Europe (just three months) so this will be a big change. I hope to see you at the workshop! That would be so cool, bring the kids… another blogger is coming down from Norway with her two children, so we’re thinking of doing something with the kids while the moms are in class 🙂

      • THAT would be awesome!! I’m looking into the airfare with my miles this week and will make a decision before the end of the month! The will is there– i have to find a way.
        Our children will be three and five by that time, so pretty easy to entertain, and our life finally doesn’t involve diapers!

  • I so envy you and your family! My husband and I have talked for years about picking up and moving to Europe. We are ready to have a new way of life for our kids and ourselves. My father spent 5 years traveling/working in Europe and they were the best years of his life. I look forward to reading about your adventures and maybe it will continue to prod us into making our own leap at some point. My biggest concern is work. I work in insurance and my company has recently opened up branches in England and Ireland so here’s to hoping for a transfer someday!

  • Hi Christine,

    Did you succeed with your relocation to Spain? I am thinking about moving part of my team to Spain and looking for a person who can answer a couple of questions.

  • Hey guys. I’ve been living in Span legally for nearly seven years and am now helping other do so, too. The non-luc visa is a great option for people with families, and it’s clear you’ve done a great deal of research. I’ve been asking about the renouncing of American citizenship business, and have heard both sides. The American consul here in Seville doesn’t require you to do so, and my business partner has her interview to become a full-fledged citizen next week. The man at the office in the town where she’s registered is convinced she needs to renounce it. Unfortunately, Spanish red tape is a daily headache we have to deal with here, and there’s no blanket laws because most of the rules are set up by regional governments. I’ve found that persistence and bugging the civil servants enough gets you pretty far! Whatever you decide, ánimo!!

  • I’d like to chime in here, having done this just last year (Spain), and now into my second year. I also did this 10 years ago,and left it. I was going to write a post about it, but I’ll start here!

    Bottom line is it took 1 month total to get approved, and within 2 months from the start I was in the country legally.

    CAVEATS: I already have lived in Spain on and off for 10 years, so I spoke the language and knew my way around govt offices. And since I legalized 10 years ago I already had a Spanish id number.

    One thing to be aware of is that to come here on this visa, you have to immediately sign up as self-employed, which means paying around 280 euros per month from a Spanish bank account, and quarterly account reports. Thankfully people will do this for you for cheap, around 40-60 euros per month.

    One plus is that if you still do business in the US as I do, you can keep your accounts and even LLC there, and avoid having to pay self-employment tax if you can prove you paid it in Spain.

    You can open a local non-resident bank account with a passport until you get your ID.

    I gathered all the paperwork mentioned above, plus one more thing Spain asks for which is proof of residence. That sounds odd, but they want proof that you have a house or a rental lease. Anyway, you can just go there, rent a place and start the process. In most places anyone will give you a contract with a passport. Good enough.

    I’m a freelancer so I just brought in some bank statements and invoices as well.

    So I live in Seville, Andalucia because I play flamenco and prefer the lifestyle and weather. It’s a place that’s traditionally slow with paperwork. Last time, it took 9 months to get this done. But things are better now.

    Anyway, I presented all the documents at the Consulate in Chicago. They won’t answer the phone or email, you just have to get an automated appointment and show up. They are friendly, especially if you speak Spanish. They just took the papers and reviewed them briefly. They asked me about my work, IT sounded good, and I left.

    1 month later they sent a letter to my address in SPAIN. I’m not sure if that’s because I had an ID number, or if thats just part of the game.

    Last thing, after 1 full year of residence and an approved renewal, your partner and family are eligible for residency as well. Before that, technically they are not but nobody is going to stop you coming in and out if you are white Americans, unfortunately. If you are look latino, asian, etc you may have a harder time. Plenty of people I know come and go regularly for 6 months at a time, without issues. Of course I’m no lawyer.

    Above all, I’d recommend to anyone doing this that they spend a few months in their target country. Good to know if you really like it.

  • so did you or would you actually have to renounce the US citizenship or you can keep residency for as long as you want? Do you have a plan yet?:) Good luck, it all sounds like an awesome adventure!:)

  • Hello, im very glad to see you picked spain, im from the UK and move there in april, i have gone for Andalucia and chosen the city Almeria, its beautiful, coastal, traditional oh and the weather is AMAZING. good luck whatever your choice x