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Expats Relocating with Families and Pets in Spain

Submitted: August 2013

Relocation with Families

When relocating to Spain with your family,  it is a good idea to plan well in advance as it can be a lengthy process to get the paperwork sorted for all family members, find appropriate schooling options and family-friendly housing.

While there are no restrictions in place for EU citizens moving to Spain with their families, non-EU citizens should familiarise themselves with the visa requirements early on. To ensure  that accompanying partners and children can move to Spain simultaneously, it is important to name them on the expat employee’s work permit application. Then after the work permit gets approved, the family visa applications can be submitted at the same time as the employee’s visa application. If, however, your family members also wish to work in Spain, they will have to file separate work permit applications, which means that the visa process might not be completed for everyone at the same point. To read more about visa options, have a look at the Ministry of Exterior Website on types of visa and see the Expat Briefing section on Family Members and Marriage for Expats in Spain.

As with schooling and childcare the key to a satisfactory arrangement is to start planning as early as possible. Namely, Spain operates a points-based system for schooling applications and one of the determining factors for getting accepted is your proximity to the school. This means you will have to make schooling arrangements before buying a property, otherwise your child might not be able to attend the preferred school. Similarly, it is a good idea to inquire when the seasonal application dates for your school are, as your chances of getting accepted are much higher if you apply during the regular application time. 

Since Spain has no reliable school ranking schemes in place, the best way to ensure that you find a good school is to rely on word-of-mouth and possibly visit several schools in advance. It is also a good idea to have a look at online forums and compare school websites. To find your local schooling options have a look at the Register of non-university teaching centres in Spain (‘Registro Estatal de Centros Docentes no Universitarios, RCD’). To search for universities turn to the Register of Universities (Registro de Universidades, Centros y Titulos, RUCT’). For more information on the educational system in Spain see: EDUCATION.  

Family values are very important in Spain; therefore you will find that cities, large and small, tend to be very welcoming to families. There are usually well-maintained playgrounds and a variety of extra-curriculum activities on offer for children. If you are relocating with smaller children, you will find many toddler groups in larger cities. For more information on activities in individual areas see the local websites. For example, ¡Madrid!, Ayuntament de Barcelona, Sevilla or Ayuntament de Valencia. To find other local websites have a look at the Website of the Spanish Federation of Municipalities and Provinces (‘Federacíon Española de Municipios y Provincias, FEMP’) or google “ayuntament” and the respective city. If you are moving to Barcelona, another useful resource is the Kids in Barcelona Website.

Finally, you should take ample time to prepare your children for the move. If approached the right way, the move will be an exciting new start for your children too. If you are not a Spanish native-speaker, it is recommendable to enrol your child into a Spanish language course prior to departure. Also make sure to tell your children about Spain and Spanish culture. For other useful guidance on preparing children for relocation, see Resources for People on the Move: Kids’ Relocation Issues.

To read more about family life in Spain, see Family Life and Childcare for Expats.

Relocation with Pets

When relocating to Spain with your pet, you will have to obtain the necessary documentation and ensure that your pet meets all the requirements set out by the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Environment (‘Ministerio de Agricultura, Alimentación y Medio Ambiente, MAGRAMA’). If the Spanish Border Agency finds that your pet does not meet the rules and regulations, it will be put in quarantine or sent back to the country it travelled from at your expense.

If you are relocating to Spain with your pet dog, cat or ferret, your pet will generally need to have a microchip (compliant with standard 11784/11785), vaccination against rabies, and an EU pet passport or an official third country veterinary certificate. Dogs will also have to be vaccinated against Distemper, Hepatitis, Parvo and Leptospirosis, and cats for Feline Viral Rhinotracheitis, Calicivirus and Panleukopenia.

It is important to remember that your pet must get the microchip before getting the rabies vaccination. Note also that all vaccinations must have been received at least 4 weeks prior to arrival to Spain and not longer than 12 months prior to arrival to Spain. Additional blood testing is required for animals travelling from the UK, Ireland, Malta, Switzerland and several non-EU countries.

For detailed regulations and for information on travelling with other pet animals see the Government Fact Sheet and the Ministry of Exterior Website on Travelling to Spain with Animals. Furthermore, the following Government Website allows you to search for rules and regulations according to country of origin and type of animal: https://cexgan.mapa.es/Modulos05/Publico/InformacionMercados.aspx?proc=6



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