FAQ: Basics

Below are some of the things I’m most often asked. If anyone has a question, please do read through them to see if it has already been answered. If not, just post it in the comment box at the bottom of the page. Just click on any question to expand it to show the answer.

















I’m often asked for “general” and/or “positive” advice, nothing specific, just things to bear in mind. I know full well that people want me to tell them that it’s a brilliant idea to move here, that the sun shines all the time, that the people are friendly, that the cost of living is cheap, and that it will be wonderful … just a few minor bureacratic hoops to jump through first.

The reality is different, and I have now had to say the following so many times that I decided to put it here as a postscript to all the individual answers above.

The best advice is to learn Spanish before you come because work is very difficult to find unless you’re prepared to work for low wages in a bar or in commission-only sales, or similar, and any good jobs will require very good Spanish. Be prepared, too, to do something other than what you’re familiar with. Flexibility will open your mind to employment possibilities you might not have considered – and most working people here are employed in fields other than those they were in before they arrived.

Come with enough money to last for at least six months because it can take longer to set oneself up here than you’d imagine. The average wage is around €12,000 to give you an idea, and although the cost of living is lower here, it has risen over recent years. And while talking about money, be under no illusions whatsoever – in Tenerife there will be any number of people who will be your BFF within five minutes with the sole purpose of taking it all off you.

Above all, trust no-one. Everyone has a story, and out of our own environment, without familiar social and cultural clues by which we judge everything without realising it, we cannot tell when we’re being lied to or conned. Sometimes it’s obvious – the former chief executive of a multi-national corporation is hardly likely to be the bottle washer in a bar with dirty tables and plastic seats, though one never knows, I suppose! – but most of the time it is utterly impossible to judge people’s own versions of their former lives.

This is the best advice I can give.


  1. Hi Janet
    I am resident in Tenerife and have the green paper dated 19/10/2011 do I need to renew it. I would prefer to have the small card rather than the green paper.

  2. Author

    You have the option to renew it, and they cannot refuse you, but you are under no obligation to renew it.

  3. Anne, bear in mind that the card-sized registro is very flimsy and the print rubs off in no time if you aren’t extremely careful with it. I personally would recommend that if you have the A4 certificate, you keep it and cherish it. In my experience, for all non-official purposes a colour photocopy of the green certificate works very well. My green certificate is still in pristine condition in its folder, from which I have removed it less than half a dozen times since 2007. The photocopy I carry with me is falling apart but nobody cares, when it’s had its day I’ll just make another one.

  4. Thank you Janet and thank you Nova that does make sense and I will colour photocopy the original.

  5. Hi Janet. We will be moving to Tenerife in a few months but feeling concerned. My husband is a type 1 diabetic and would need insulin. However he is taking early retirement so not planning to work. How would be the best or recommended way to get the insulin. As he wouldn’t be paying into social security to get Heath care. Thanks.

  6. Author

    Insulin will be readily available here, but without state healthcare, you will need private medical insurance. Indeed, to register with the police as you will have to do to be legal, you will need either social security contributions, or to be pensioners, or -as will be applicable for you – private medical insurance, as I describe HERE.

  7. Thanks Janet. I’ll be working and paying into the system so will my husband be classed as a dependent?

  8. Author

    yes, he will have to be registered as such, at Granadilla, but as long as you are paying social security contributions, he will then be your dependant.

  9. Hi.
    My parents live out in Puerto having retired there 20 years ago and are in their 80’s. I am mindful of the fact that they may need more help as they get older so I was wondering if there is the Canarian equivalent of visiting carers either private or through the healthcare system?

  10. Author

    I would think that the system would be run at municipal level, rather than the healthcare system as such. The best place to enquire is the Social Services department of their local Ayuntamiento.

  11. Thanks, I’ll try there.

  12. We are moving to Tenerife at the beginning of April. I will be coming over on the 28/3/17 to apply for an nie. We have a property already up and running in adeje. I know I have to go to the police station in Las Americas to apply for the nie. I am told it can take 15 days. I was hoping to get the children signed up for school in this visit, but is this not possible without the nie ??


  13. Author

    The NIE is issued immediately.

  14. Hi Janet,
    Wonder if you have any knowledge about bringing leased car to Tenerife? Car owner is leasing company in Lithuania (guess no difference from UK) and I am driving this car here for more than six months. Do I have any tax risk? Not sure how I cam change the car plates to Spanish as I doubt leasing company wouldnt agree…. Thank you in advance!

  15. Author

    I don’t know, I’m sorry Tom, this isn’t an area I have any knowledge of.

  16. Hi Janet,
    Do you know what the regulations for driving a moped/ scooter are if you haven’t a license? ie can you drive on a provisional license and how/where would you apply for such? Thanks

  17. Author

    If you mean a British provisional licence, the answer is no, never. Please see HERE, Driving section, third question. If you mean how one starts from scratch here, then you register with a driving school which takes care of all the paperwork.

  18. Thanks Janet, Yes I meant starting from scratch here.

  19. Hi im self employed and own my own business out hers but im 5months pregnant amd very ill and the doctor may have to sign me off work do i get any help from the goverment seeing as i cant work but still have a business and house to pay for?

  20. Author

    The self-employed can be entitled to some government help but it depends on the level of the contributions they made as autonomo. I’m afraid that that’s as far as I can advise because you need to ask an asesor who deals with work and accountancy issues. Try Diana McGowan HERE.

  21. I need to register my daughter for school, just at this minute I cannot find her birth certificate, will her uk passport do ??
    Thankyou in advance

  22. Author

    I’m afraid you’ll need to ask the school what they require. I’m sorry but I don’t know whether her passport alone will be sufficient.

  23. Hi Janet ,my question concerns CCTV and personal videoing of people .
    We have an ongoing “debate” over the legality of installing CCTV on our complex and what the law allows- can you expand please ?
    Another issue is ,some unsocial people on our complex are causing problems by videoing individuals and posting on social media as a means of harassment – is this legal and what steps can the President/ Adminstrator take to prevent this ?

  24. Author

    I’m sorry John but I can’t. The law on CCTV is complex and frequently updated, so it needs a qualified lawyer to clarify. As to posting images on social media, that is clearcut – it is illegal without the permission of the person whose image is being used. Usually this is done unthinkingly, but where it is being done as a form of harrassment, that is something that should be denounced to the police.

    I posted a comment in reply to Stephanie on THIS post only the other day. As I said there:

    I quite agree, Stephanie. In particular I dislike the posting of photos, without the consent of the subject, of those who have not yet been guilty of any crime. It doesn’t matter how appalling the alleged crime is, if someone’s photo is published and they are subsequently found not guilty of any offence, they could well prosecute for defamation. At the moment, on Facebook, there is a photo going round with a request to share it widely. In my opinion it is at least libellous, and at worst, an incitement to violence (a serious offence in its own right).

    It is worth stressing that anyone who publishes a photo without the subject’s consent, and where that publication could have a negative effect (on reputation, or financially, or in terms of work, etc), is committing an offence which carries a prison sentence of up to four years. It has been my view for a long time that naming and shaming is senseless in a range of ways, but now, with the “gag law“, I think that “idiotic” is a more appropriate word.

  25. Hi Janet loveTenerife go often i know Tenerife is not in the EU although Spain is, My husband and my self are looking to move permantely to Tenerife when i retire in 2 years ( Hubby retires 2 years later) we have funds to retire there. As UK where we have worked and lived all our lives are now coming out of EU ,do you think the free health care in Tenerife for pensioners UK could change

  26. Author

    Tenerife is in the EU because it’s part of Spain. There are separate customs rules that apply to us because we are an “ultraperipheral region” (as defined by the EU) but we are an autonomous region of Spain, and Spain is in the EU. As to what might happen in the Brexit negotiations, please see HERE.

  27. Hi Janet thankyou so much for your reply much appreciated

  28. Author

    Banca March refuse to renew my wife´s debit card until she produces evidence of where our money comes from – but a letter given to us by the bank in Las Galletas says they require, basically, a statement that our income (in our case UK State pension) is paid automatically into the bank. I think it assumes it to be a Spanish bank, but we simply transfer money from our UK bank account, and I cannot see the Dept of Works and Pensions giving us a special letter explaining what we get. The girl in the bank was otherwise unhelpful.

    My card expires in a year and they will require the same from me. Our pension is paid directly into our bank, but the girl said a bank statement is no good. We´ve had the account in Tenerife since 2004, mainly to pay the direct debits on our Tenerife property. We offered our passport and NIEs as confirmation of identity but they didn´t want them.

    Have you come across this before?

  29. Author

    Hi Allan, this sounds like the Know Your Customer / Anti-Money Laundering stuff that banks are under increasing scrutiny to carry out thoroughly now, though I can only guess at why it’s being requested now or why your wife’s debit card is being held to ransom over it. Nevertheless, banks are required to know where their customers’ income comes from. I used to work for Santander and to my knowledge, customers in receipt of a UK pension usually receive a pension statement from the DWP at least annually and that is usually perfectly sufficient. If you don’t have one for any reason, I don’t see that there’s anything wrong with asking DWP to send you one. They will be familiar with KYC/AML too.

  30. Author

    Thank you, Janet. The annual statement from the DWP was all we could think of, and we have them back in the UK. Now we need to find out whether they have to be presented personally or whether they can be sent. We were just surprised that the girl in the bank hadn´t apparently come across this before – but there must be hundreds of retired UK citizens who deal with that bank who are all in the same position. Thank you again.

  31. Author

    Thank you Nova … Allan it was Nova who answered you, and in this respect, her expertise is far greater than mine! I would have thought that you could send any required documentation by email … indeed I would have thought that that would be preferable for the bank because they would then have it electronically from the off.

  32. Author

    I’m happy to help when I can. 🙂 Ideally you would give the bank the original document for them to take a photocopy but usually they will be more interested in meeting their obligation as easily as possible. In which case I see no reason why they wouldn’t accept an emailed scan.

  33. Author

    OK. Thanks, Nova. We have a meeting with our solicitor next week who thinks he can get a definitive answer. I´ll post on here, in case others are interested.

  34. I am a US resident and been living in Madrid for 2.5 years illegally and I want to make it legal … what is the fastest way to do so … any helpis appreciative … Brian

  35. Author

    The best thing you can do is speak to the US Embassy. I can’t advise on non-EU nationals’ rights or the legal prerequisites, I’m sorry.

  36. Regarding the bank´s requirements for carrying on with our account, our solicitor has been told by the bank that indeed the UK´s DWP pension statement should be sufficient. But they still require us to contact them while they have my new debit card in order that they do not send it back. Once that is done I doubt whether I will be able to get another!

    I assume this is EU money-laundering rules…though how they can insist that a Spanish bank be given details of money paid into my UK bank is beyond me.

  37. Hi Janet,
    Should I have received the pink Información Fiscal from Santander 2016? It is usually dated 31st March.


  38. Author

    I understand they only started sending them out a couple of weeks ago, so it’s possibly still in the pipeline.

  39. From what has been said I am probably talking about something completely different but if its of any use I received my annual Santander letter detailing interest, commission and expenses on 28 January. Mine was electronic via online account access and my wife’s copy through the post.

  40. Having looked again at the document I have it is not pink just a bit red, brown, black and white so it is not the document David was asking about.

  41. Hi Ive lived here for 3 years and been a resident for this time, I have a UK driving license photo card with less than 10 years expiration. Am I right in thinking I only have to change it to Spanish when it expires???

  42. Author

    Yes, as it says in the answer to the first question in the Driving section above, “Drivers living in Spain who already have the usual photocard licences with clear ten year expiry dates do not have to do anything about them until the licence expires, and when it does, they will be required to renew here, as their country of residence. This meas that they will need to exchange for a Spanish licence at that point.”

  43. Hi Janet, we have been renting an apartment since 1/10/16 and was given a 6 month contract. The contract ended on 31/3/17 but we were never given another. We have found another apartment that suits us better, how much notice by law do I have to give the owner as the old contract says 2 months.
    In his original advert he said the rent would be 850€ for 6 months and 650€ for 12 months, although the old contract says 650€, but he has never got back to us, just emails us the bills which we pay at the bank.
    Where exactly do we stand with this

  44. Author

    You are out of your contract period so you are accepted as tenants without a contract. Your contract was not a normal short-term one anyway because they don’t have periods of notice (see HERE). Rather, tenants have to vacate on the date of termination of the contract, and are responsible for rent to that date even if you leave early. But even though your contract was not a normal legal one, once any contract has expired, there can be no notice terms because there is no contract in law.

  45. Thankyou for that Janet. So we are paid up in rent and utilities until the 31/7, so would we be able to move on the 25/7 and not have to pay anymore rent ?

  46. Author

    I’ve given a general opinion, and you are clearly out of your contract, so under the terms of which contract could you be paying rent? If you want legal guarantees, however, then you need to consult a qualified lawyer.

  47. Hi Janet
    I have recently moved, can I change the address for my spanish driving licence at the ayuntamiento in Adeje/ do it online or will I have to go to Trafico in Santa Cruz?

  48. Author

    I believe you can do it at the ayuntamiento.

  49. Hi Janet
    My Daughter is working in Majorca as a singer and opened a spanish bank account. She has found 2 amounts of 7 euros 5 cents and 15 euros deducted from her account that she was unaware of. The bank told her that the Police take it from non residents.Can you shed any light on this please

  50. Author

    I imagine it’s for the non-resident certificate as I describe HERE, but really this sort of explanation from the bank is sheer laziness on their part. Advise your daughter to demand that they explain what the police have taken it for! No-one can just take money from someone else’s bank account for no reason, even the police! And they could not do so, anyway, simply and purely because someone was a non-resident! But residence or non-residence confirmation certificates are acquired from the police, so it’s probably what the bank means.

  51. Hi David, that sounds right. The €15 is what the non-resident certificate costs and the €7 will be the bank’s administration charge for their role in obtaining the certificate. Your daughter could complain that the bank didn’t advise her of this when she opened the account but since the certificate is mandatory for non-resident bank accounts, I think the chance of a refund is zero. As a heads up, these charges repeat approximately every two years for as long as the account-holder is non-resident. (Disclosure: I used to work for Santander)

  52. Are living wills legal in Tenerife and what is the correct name for them here please?

  53. Author

    They are known as a “Declaración de Voluntad Vital Anticipada”, and I believe they are recognized the Canaries as part of the Dignified Death legislation we have in this region. A qualified lawyer or notary will be able to confirm the exact procedures.

  54. Hi I have been trying to have Movistar installed in our apartment in los cristianos ( we live in uk it’s our holiday home) however after several emails and no response and no contact number I have discovered by visiting the Movistar shop that they have installed it in a different apartment on a different complex. I have been told there’s nothing I can do and am basically paying for someone to have wifi NOT ME can this be right? I had no prior phone call to advise installation and no contact to say they had installed it. The shop say as I did it online they are unable to do anything. If I cancel I am in breach of my 12 month contract. Please can anyone help or advise. They state they are English speaking but unfortunately they aren’t and I can’t speak Spanish at all. Thanks in advance x

  55. Author

    You need to make a complaint through their website. In my experience it is the only way to get anywhere with Movistar. You might need to engage someone to do it on your behalf though I believe it’s possible to complain in English on their website. Certainly you will get a reference number and a formal means of taking the matter forward.

  56. Hello Janet
    I purchased an apartment some years ago for 110 thousand euro and now had an offer of 110 thousand.
    So I will break even (less legal costs), but I am being told I will have to pay tax on what the government value my apartment at not what I sell for.
    Is this correct and if so how do I find how much tax I will have to pay to sell.

  57. Author

    It not necessarily correct. As vendor, you will either have to submit a capital gains tax return if you’re tax resident in Spain, or if you’re non-resident for tax purposes, you will have 3% of the sale price withheld from you at notary, and paid to the tax authorities on your behalf in lieu of settlement of any capital gains tax. The value you sell at may well be accepted, and if it is, there will be no tax because there is no capital gain.

    The technical possibility, exists, nonetheless, as in the UK, for the tax authorities to assess to tax where they think it appropriate. They will only do this, however, where there is a pretty significant reason to think the selling price might be artificially low … and at that point they will also be going after the new owner for what they will consider underpaid sales tax on an under-declared purchase value.

    Please see HERE and HERE for explanations of the costs of selling, the 3% non-resident retention, and capital gains tax … and on the first of those two links see the first question in the Valuations section for an explanation of the tax value, and how to find out what it would be. Bear in mind too that as vendor you will also need to pay plusvalía to the council even though since you are not making a profit you should be able to claim it back later. That is explained in the Plusvalía section HERE.

  58. can you get a social security number without an address

  59. Author

    no, you need to provide ID and proof of employment.

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