Where are Expats choosing to move to in Spain?
Moving to Spain offers challenges and rewards for new arrivals. For some, the ideal is to dive 100% into the new language and culture, while for others, reminders of home ease the transition. In areas of Spain with communities from your country, you’ll hear your language on the street, see familiar items in local shops, and have a ready-made community. In other areas, you’ll be the only foreigner and be making local friends from your first day.
That’s why we found out which areas Expats chose when moving to Spain. We also did a deep dive into where Expats from the UK and USA are choosing to live in Spain.
Almeria is the most popular Spanish province for Expats, with foreigners making up 22% of the population.
Which provinces have the highest proportion of Expats from around the globe? Check out these cosmopolitan areas with Expats from Europe, the Americas, Asia, and more.
Note: Spain has 17 autonomous regions (including the archipelago of the Canary Islands in the Atlantic Ocean and the archipelago of the Balearic Islands in the Mediterranean Sea). Each autonomous region is itself divided into a total of 52 provinces – and these often have the same name as the local capital city to make it more confusing!
- Almeria – 21.89% of the population are Expats
The small province of Almeria in Andalucía takes the top spot, with an Expat population of just under 22%. Almeria is home to a total of 162,000 Expats with just 740,000 total population (the smallest in our top 3). The three largest nationalities for Expats in Almeria are Moroccan, Romanian, and British, which collectively account for more than 100,000 of the total.
- Girona – 20.46% of the population are Expats
With an Expat population of just over 20%, Girona takes second place. There are a total of 162,300 Expats living in Girona, which is slightly more than in Almeria. Moroccan, Romanian, and Honduran are the top three nationalities for Expats living in this province north of Barcelona..
- Alicante – 20.44% of the population are Expats
Alicante rounds out the top 3, with 20.44% of the population made up of Expats. Alicante is a large province, and so there are more Expats here than in first and second place combined, with over 380,000. The most common nationalities of Expats here are British, Moroccan, and Romanian.
4,036 people per 100,000 of Alicante’s population are British Citizens, higher than any other Spanish province
We’ve worked out the number of UK nationals living in each Spanish province per 100,000 of the population to reveal the most popular Spanish provinces for UK citizens.
- Alicante – 4,036 UK citizens per 100,000 people in the province
The Spanish province with the highest proportion of UK nationals is Alicante, with 4,036 per 100,000 people. Alicante also has the highest total number of Brits, with just under 77,000. Alicante is rich in culture, great cuisine, and great weather. For British newcomers, fish and chip shops, Premier League games in the pubs, and familiar items in the local shops make this home from home.
- Malaga – 3,262 UK citizens per 100,000 people in the province
Malaga takes second place with 3,262 UK citizens per 100,000 people. Malaga also had the second-highest total number of British people living here, with just over 56,000 people. Malaga has long, warm summers, as well as plenty of beaches, which makes it an ideal choice if you want to spend your days off at the beach. You’ll hear English commonly spoken here.
- Almeria – 2,332 UK citizens per 100,000 people in the province
Almeria rounds out our top 3, with UK citizens making up 2,332 per 100,000 people. Almeria had a total of 17,200 British people living in its city, which is the fifth highest of any Spanish province. Almeria has amazing weather and an exceptional quality of life, which explains why so many Brits have joined the community here.
Madrid is home to more US citizens than any other Spanish province, and it also has the highest proportion at 171 per 100,000 people.
The second most popular country for US expats is Spain, behind Canada which understandably occupies the top spot. So which provinces have US citizens chosen for their new homes? We looked at the provinces with the highest number of US citizens per 100,000 of the population.
- Madrid – 171 US citizens per 100,000 people in the province
Madrid takes the top spot with 171 US citizens per 100,000 people. The capital of Spain also had the highest total number of US citizens, with over 11,500 people. Madrid is considered one of the best places to live, not just in Spain but in Europe. It’s got great weather and is affordable compared to other capital cities in Europe. Some excellent American schools are an attraction for US parents.
- Malaga – 157 US citizens per 100,000 people in the province
In second place is Malaga, with 157 US citizens per 100,000 people in the province. There are a total of just under 2,700 US citizens living in Malaga, which is the third-highest total. Malaga is also the only Spanish province to feature in both top threes for UK and US expats.
- Barcelona – 142 US citizens per 100,000 people in the province
Our top three are completed by Barcelona, with 142 US citizens per 100,000 people in the province. Barcelona has the second-highest number of US citizens in total, with over 8,000 people. It’s a beautiful, cultured city with plenty of beaches and stunning architecture. Regular direct flights to major US hubs from Barcelona’s international airport are a bonus for Americans living in Barcelona.
Alicante is the most desirable new home for Brits, with 65,000 searches over the last four years.
We wanted to know which provinces are the most popular for British nationals wishing to put down roots in Spain. That’s why we’ve looked at the total number of Google searches for ‘houses for sale in’ for each province over the last four years.
- Alicante – 64,840 Google searches
Alicante takes the top spot with almost 65,000 Google searches over the last four years. Alicante has become popular with British people, with over 76,000 residing here. It’s one of the sunniest cities in Europe and home to endless sandy beaches, part of the reason this province is so desirable.
- Barcelona – 39,020 Google searches
Barcelona takes second place with 39,000 Google searches over the last four years. As of 2022, there were around 17,500 Brits living in Barcelona, which was the fifth-highest figure among Spanish provinces. Barcelona is a beautiful city with some phenomenal architecture. However, the cost of living is one of the most expensive in Spain.
- Murcia – 33,810 Google searches
Number 3 is Murcia, with just under 34,000 Google searches in the last four years. Murcia was the fourth most popular city for British nationals, with just under 17,600 Brits residing here. Murcia is one of the cheaper options in Spain, but it still has plenty to offer. The weather, the wine, and the beaches are all part of Murcia’s appeal.
The most desirable new home for Americans is Valencia, with 32,500 searches.
Where are Americans looking to settle permanently in Spain? We’ve used the same Google search data to reveal the most popular Spanish provinces for Americans to look for a property to purchase in Spain.
- Valencia – 32,480 Google searches
In first place is Valencia, with just under 32,500 Google searches over the last four years. With around 2,500 US citizens registered and living in Valencia, it is the fourth most popular province for US Expats. This beautiful beachside city has a lower cost of living than Barcelona or Madrid but still offers excellent infrastructure and a vibrant cultural community. It is also famous for its cuisine, making it a favorite with foodies.
- Barcelona – 30,250 Google searches
Barcelona takes second place with just over 30,000 Google searches over the last four years. It’s the second most popular province for US Expats, with just over 8,000 people. Barcelona is also the only Spanish province to feature in both the UK’s and the US’s top three most desired cities, proving just how sought after it is.
- Madrid – 14,240 Google searches
Number 3 is Madrid, with just over 14,000 Google searches over the last four years. The capital of Spain is also home to more US citizens than any other Spanish province, with 11,500. While Madrid is the most expensive city in Spain, it’s not as expensive as other European capitals, like Paris and Copenhagen.
Barcelona had the most searches in 42 states, more than any other Spanish Province.
We’ve also used our search data to find the most searched-for Spanish province in every US state over the last four years.
Despite having fewer searches in total over the last four years, the idea of living in Barcelona was the most exciting for 42 US states. Valencia, Madrid, and Palencia were the only other provinces to come out on top as the most searched-for province in a state. Valencia being a firm favorite in California, pushed it to the number one spot in the US overall.
Expats from around the world choose Spain as their new home
Spain has a long history of welcoming Expats from many countries and cultures. There’s a wonderful cosmopolitan feel in many Spanish cities, which at the same time retain a strong Spanish identity and culture.
- Morocco – 883,243 people living in Spain
The country with the most Expats living in Spain is Morocco, with more than 880,000 people. Despite being on two different continents, southern Spain and northern Morocco are just 36 miles apart, separated by the narrow Straits of Gibraltar.
- Romania – 627,478 people living in Spain
Romania takes second place with over 600,000 people living in Spain. Despite being surrounded by Slavic countries, Romania’s language is a romance language, which means it’s based on Latin. As Spain is also a romance language, it shares many similarities with the Romanian language, making it easier for Romanian people to settle in Spain.
- Colombia – 314,679 people living in Spain
The South American country of Colombia completes our top three, with over 300,000 people living in Spain. Despite a lengthy journey, it’s a more seamless transition for Colombians moving to Spain as they share the same language. While learning a new language can be exciting, being familiar with or fluent in the local language can help you settle much more easily.
Visas for US Expats are more expensive than for UK Expats
After settling in a Spanish province, the next step is to secure your visa. The cost of your visa can vary depending on where you’re from and what type of visa you need. Below, we have detailed the varying costs to secure your visa.
The Spain visa types vary depending on the purpose of your long stay. However, your visa will cost just £69 for UK Expats, regardless of the type you need. For US Expats, the costs vary depending on what visa you need, ranging from $135 to $261. Non-lucrative residency, religious activities, work visa exempt from work permit, and family reunion are the cheapest, and self-employed work visa is the most expensive.
Once you’ve decided on the Spanish province and sorted out the visa, then you can start putting the move into motion. Moving abroad can be daunting; however, there are plenty of options to ensure that your belongings make the move with you. We’ve looked into the costs of those options when moving to Spain from either the UK or the US.
Moving from the UK to Spain will cost you anywhere between £400 and £3,000, depending on how many items you need to ship. In a 40ft shipping container, you should be able to fit furniture, kitchen appliances, and a vehicle, which will cost between £650 and £2,155.
Get easy quotes on removal costs to Spain here.
If you’re moving from the US to Spain, then the costs will vary between $2,500 and $10,500, which is significantly more compared to the UK. If you want to take your car with you, then this will cost between $1,600 to $4,000.
Alison Johnson, Owner of Moving to Spain, commented on the new Spanish digital nomad visa and working remotely in Spain.
“The new digital nomad visa is a great option for remote working in Spain for a US company. The visa is open to anyone over the age of 18 and a non-EU/EEA citizen; you must either work for a non-Spanish company or be self-employed and/or a business owner (with 80% of all revenue from outside of Spain), along with this, you’ll need to be able to show qualifying income. Just remember that the visa has very specific requirements and the application process must be followed to get approval.”
“There are many benefits for Brits wanting to work remotely from Spain, such as getting to work a high-paying job (wages in the US and UK are typically higher than in Spain) while also benefiting from the better weather, more laid-back lifestyle, and lower prices of Spain. There are also some excellent tax breaks on offer.”
- INE (Spain’s National Statistics Institute) for data on province populations, Expat populations, and Expat nationalities.
- Google Keyword Planner for the number of searches between July 1st, 2019, and June 30th, 2023. We removed Toledo and Guadalajara from the US searches.
- Moving to Spain for visa costs.
- Get a Mover for the removal costs for the UK.
- International Van Lines for the removal costs for the US.