Claiming Benefits as an Expat in Spain

If you’re currently living in Spain, or are thinking of moving to Spain, then you may be wondering what benefits you’ll be entitled to as a British expat living in the country.

As a general rule, you cannot move to Spain and secure a visa unless you can demonstrate that you are financially independent and won’t be reliant on benefits, but no one knows what changes of circumstances they might experience, so it’s good to know which benefits are available in Spain, as well as which (if any) UK benefits you can continue to claim even if you’re living in Spain.

Here’s everything you need to know:

Claiming UK Benefits in Spain

Whilst Brexit has changed many elements of moving to Spain as a Briton, one thing that has not changed is your eligibility to make a claim for UK benefits from Spain as a result of Britain leaving the EU. That means that if you were living in Spain before Brexit (31st December 2020) then you can continue to receive any UK benefits you were claiming for as long as you continue to live in Spain and meet the eligibility requirements that you met when the benefits were first awarded. If you work whilst you're in Spain, and therefore pay into the Spanish social security system, then the social security contributions that you paid into the UK will be taken into account when you apply for any Spanish contribution-based benefits: this could have an impact on the value of any Spanish benefits you are eligible to apply for.

Below is a breakdown of the UK benefits that you can claim in Spain, though your eligibility will depend on whether you became a Spanish resident before or after Brexit, and whether you are a permanent or temporary resident of the country:

UK Pension

Perhaps the most important benefit that many British ex pat are concerned with, particularly those that are already retirees, is their UK State Pension. The basic UK state pension is available to retirees living in Spain, but you are only eligible for this if you live (or lived) in Spain but not if you work or worked in the country. If you have worked in Spain then you would need to apply for your pension via the  Instituto Nacional de Seguridad Social (the Spanish equivalent of the Social Security Administration).

UK Disability Benefit of Personal Independence Payment

Disability Living Allowance (DLA) has been replaced in the UK by the new PIP (Personal Independence Payment) which is for adults aged between 16 and 64, whilst children under 16 are still eligible for DLA for Children. The amount you can claim in PIP or DLA ranges from between £23.20 to £152.15 per week. If you’re living in Spain then you are still eligible to apply for PIP or DLA for children.

To claim PIP you can call the Department of Work and Pensions either from the UK or from overseas between the hours and 9am and 5pm, Monday to Friday.

Telephone: 0800 917 2222
Textphone: 0800 917 7777
Calling from abroad: +44 191 218 7766

If you’d rather apply in writing then you can write and request an application form to: 

Personal Independence Payment New Claims
Post Handling Site B
WV99 1AH

If you’re making a DLA claim for a child under the age of 16 then you can download the application form here or call the DLA helpline between 9am and 5pm, Monday to Friday, on:

Telephone: 0800 121 4600
Textphone: 0800 121 4523

If your disability is considered severe enough that you require a carer then you can also apply for carers allowance, which is valued at £67.60 per week. You can find out more about your eligibility and applying for this benefit from overseas here.

UK Child Benefit

If you are a UK citizen living in Spain with a child (or children) under the age of 16, or under the age of 20 and in full-time education, then you are eligible to receive your UK child benefit if you are either working as a Crown Servant or are paying UK National Insurance, meaning that you are working in the UK. If you are living in Spain temporarily for up to 8 weeks, you can also continue to receive your UK child benefit without having to inform HMRC that you are out of the country. You can also receive your UK child benefit if you are in Spain for up to 12 weeks in order to receive medical treatment. Finally, if you are leaving the UK for more than 52 weeks then you may still qualify for child benefit, depending on whether you are already receiving UK national insurance-related benefits.

UK Tax Credits

As a general rule you cannot receive UK tax credits if you are living and working in Spain but, if you are a crown servant or a cross border worker then it may be possible to receive these payments. Alternatively, if you are currently receiving a state pension or have a child under 16 (20 if in university), you may also be able to claim UK tax credits: the eligibility criteria are complicated, and you can find out more about these here.

Very few people in the UK continue to receive Tax Credits, having moved to the Universal Credits system. This benefit cannot be claimed by individuals who live in Spain permanently.

UK Benefits that Are Unavailable in Spain

If you’re living in Spain permanently then they cannot apply for Jobseekers allowanve in the country, and the winter fuel allowance is also not eligible in Spain (as the winter temperatures are so much higher in Spain than they are in the UK). You can also not apply for Housing Benefit, Council Tax Benefit, Pension Credit, Income Support and Means-Tested Incapacity Benefit under any circumstances, if you’re living full time in Spain.

Claiming Spanish Benefits as an Expat in Spain

If you work in Spain then you will be making regular contributions to the Spanish social security system, and this will open you up to a wide range of different Spanish benefits, regardless of whether you are a British citizen or not.

Spanish Pension

In order to be eligible for a Spanish state pension you must have been a resident of the country for at least ten years, have been in employment in the country, and be at the eligible pension age (which is currently 65 but is due to rise to 67 in 2027). You must have been in employment for the two years before you reach retirement age and apply for your pension. The amount of state pension you receive will depend on how long you have been working in the country with the minimal number of social security contributions standing at 15 years; to receive your full pension you must have worked in the country for 35 years.

Spanish Child Benefit

Regardless of whether you have paid into the social security system in Spain or not, you are eligible for Child Benefit in the country, but the amount you receive will vary. Anyone can apply for non-contributory child benefit, which is currently  €341 a year per child or €28.41 per month, and anyone with a household income of under €12,536  can apply for this ( or an income of 18,867 if you have three or more children) The application for this benefit can be completed online here. If you are working in Spain (either employed or self-employed) then you are also eligible for a tax allowance based on the number of children you have – this is effectively a tax break to encourage mothers to return to work after they have started their families.

You will also be entitled to maternity and paternity leave in Spain. Just like child benefit, there are two forms of this: contributory and non-contributory, and the amount you receive will depend on how much social security contributions you have made before you apply for them.

Contributory Unemployment Benefits in Spain

If you become unemployed and have previously contributed to the social security system for a minimum of 360 days over the past 6 years, you will be entitled to contributory unemployment benefit. The rules surrounding claiming unemployment benefits are complicated, but the payments are generous, and you can unemployment benefit in Spain via the SEPE (Servicio Público de Empleo Estatal) website here.

Housing Benefit in Spain

Housing benefit is available in Spain for those who are eligible. In 2021 the minimum payment was €525 per year, but this is reviewed regularly. You can find out more about housing benefit and whether or not you are eligible here.

There are a number of other benefits that you can claim in Spain if you’re eligible. These include:l

  • Death and survival benefits
  • Temporary disability benefit
  • Permanent disability benefit
  • School insurance
  • Medical assistance
  • Benefit for risk during pregnancy
  • Benefit for risk due to breastfeeding

The benefits system in Spain is very generous, but the key to taking anything from the system is to have paid into it in the first place: because so many of the benefits are contribution-based, the more you have contributed, the more you will receive if you need it.

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