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A Simple Guide to Living and Working Self Employed in Spain

In order for Zen-Sations, my massage, spa and beauty therapies treatment room and mobile business to get off the ground there were a few legal steps that I had to follow in order to be let loose in and around the Orihuela Costa.

Hopefully, if anyone else is thinking of moving, this will be of some use.

My first bit of advice before starting the processes needed to be able to live and work in Spain is to get several photocopies of all relevant documents, as the same documents are needed at every stage.

All the information noted below is relevant at the time of writing (it does seem to change often) and is relevant in Playa Flamenca (it does seem to differ depending on which town hall you attend).

Applying for an NIE Number

the first thing I needed to do was apply for my NIE number (Número de Identificación de Extranjero) This is a Spanish tax identification number given by the authorities to any foreigner. It is a legal requirement for all foreigners, whether resident or non-resident, with financial, professional or social affairs in Spain.

The NIE is needed in order to open a bank account, get a contract phone, start a business, pay taxes, apply for a job, buy a house etc etc etc, in other words you need it to do most things!!!

I had seen lots of waffle on the local sights all giving different versions of what I needed to do. I decided to ignore it all and go to the Ayuntamiento in Playa Flamenca to find out for myself. I called in before 11am, as it's appointments thereafter and I called in with a friend who can speak Spanish; this is a must as the police officer in charge doesn't speak English (a little on purpose me thinks). Anyway I was given the form to complete (I spilt coffee all over it so had to print off another, which can be accessed online at:-

I was also given a form to complete and take to the bank to pay a small fee of €9.50. My appointment was made for 2 weeks later at which I was required to bring; the form and a photo copy, the completed form from the bank to show I had paid, my passport and a photocopy. (This appointment also needs someone who can translate for you. I took my friend, but there are many people who charge around €20 per hour to translate at any appointments). My paperwork was processed and I was given the date of my final appointment to pick up my NIE. I attended the final appointment alone as I just needed to pick the things up. I found making an effort to speak some Spanish and a little innocent flirting very useful as by the last appointment the officer was speaking a little English to me and making more of an effort.

(Useful tip there)!!!

Setting up a Bank Account

NIE in hand the next step was to open a bank account.

As is in England there are different banks that offer different options, but please be aware banking is not free in Spain.

Thankfully it's not expensive either!

After reading up on the banks I decided to choose the bank that was closest to my apartment, hahaha, well you have to be practical. I called in to ask about my options and charges and thankfully this can be done without help as the bank staff all speak English. I was asked to provide my NIE number and my passport in order to open a non residents account. I am told this will be changed if and when I become a resident, but is simple enough. My appointment took around 30-45mins to complete all the paperwork and set up my online and phone banking and request a cash line card. I was asked to call back in a week later to pick up my card and be talked through the online banking service and that was that! Online was easy as you can choose to have the page translated to English.

Setting up my Autonomo

NIE and bank account in order, so now I need to go through the legal process to set up my business. As I am working for myself there were two options; autonomo or an SL Company (this is more suited to businesses that will make a profit of €50,000 +

I just walked in to my local accountants (as I know people that use them and had good reports) and had to wait a couple of minutes to see Fernando. I explained what I wanted to do and he explained the two systems, stating that autonomo would be the best choice for now and made me an appointment for less than a week later where I was required to bring a copy of my NIE number, a copy of my passport and my bank details. At the appointment I provided what I was asked for: my NIE was to be registered and my bank details were taken to enable them to take the initial fee out of €150 and then the 3 monthly fee of €181.50. It's an expensive system compared to the UK where you are just taxed on what you earn, but it's Spain and if I want to live here I have to do things their way. Overall we all know it is soooo much cheaper to live here. For the money he completes 3 monthly returns for me and then an annual return, I am able to call in or contact him at any time with questions and he will of course take all my invoices (Factura in Spain) and submit what he can on my behalf. The whole process took no more than 15mins and within 1 day I was legal to work!


It is obligatory by Spanish law to register on the Padrón at the Town Hall where you live.

Registration benefits your community because your local government receives funding depending on numbers of people registered on the Padron. On the Padrón states the names of all persons living at the property.

A Padron will be needed to register a child at school, register with a doctor, transfer an imported vehicle to Spanish plates or buy a Spanish car.

This was another simple task to complete, with no translator needed, as the extremely patient staff were able to speak English. As I am staying at my dads house and therefore have no bills in my name I had to take my dad with me. We both needed our passports and a recent utility bill and that was it! He had to sign a form declaring I was staying at his address, they took information from our passports and bill and printed off our Padron.

The Padron lasts on computer for 5yrs, but it may be necessary to call in the town hall to print off an up to date form when carrying out any of the tasks noted above a little annoying as there are always cues, but hey ho it's just Spanish red tape and we have that nonsense everywhere.

SIP Card (Sistema de Informacion Poblacional) As an expat, you are entitled to free state healthcare if you are:

  • resident in Spain and work in employment or self-employment and pay social security contributions,

  • resident in Spain and receiving certain state benefits,

  • resident in Spain and recently divorced or separated from a partner registered with social security,

  • a child resident in Spain,

  • a pregnant woman who is resident in Spain,

  • under 26 and studying in Spain,

  • a state pensioner

Registering with a Doctor

With Padron in hand I called at the SIP desk, which is also in the Ayuntamiento, again no translator was needed. The guy checked my Social Security number on the system (generated as a result of registering as autonomo) and he photocopied the relevant documents for me there and then, on this occasion the documents were my passport and padron and printed me a temporary card. This lasts for 3 months and in this time I need to go to the local medical centre and register with a doctor.

I called at the medical centre with my temporary SIP card which was replaced by a permanent card with my allocated doctors name on, easy peasy lemon squeezy!


I have decided to wait a couple of months until my business is running well before applying for my residencia and will update this post when I have done so.

Car Transfer

Second hand cars in Spain are very expensive. I drove my English car over and that means that at some point I will need to either sell it and buy another (not likely due to costs) or get my plates changed and register it as Spanish. I intend to do this next month so will again update this post with my experiences of dealing with this issue.

Well I've heard lots of stories of how difficult everything is to get done here in Spain, but with a little bit of patience and a little bit of help with your Spanish I felt it was all very straight forward and simple to do.

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