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All the excitement of moving to Spain to teach English and live in a foreign country can come crashing down very fast when you are trying to figure out all the things to do when you arrive in Spain as an Auxiliar de Conversacio´n.
However, don’t worry! This guide breaks down everything you need to know about what to do from the second you arrive in Spain when working as an auxiliar de conversación through the Spanish government.
It has everything from how to open a Spanish bank account to how to do your TIE appointment to how to get a Spanish SIM card, as well as other tips that will make your life easier in Spain from day one!
*Some of these things to do when moving to Spain are just for auxiliares in certain autonomous communities.
We recommend booking it for at least one week, so you have time to get settled and hunt for an apartment in Spain.
If you happen to set up an apartment in Spain before arriving, you can head straight there, but be aware that there can be scams out there!
1. Get a Spanish SIM Card
Right when you get to Spain, you should get a Spanish SIM card for your phone. This will get you a Spanish cell phone number and make setting up the rest of your life in Spain a lot easier, unless of course, you want to pay for expensive international roaming plans.
In Spain, most phone companies sell pre-paid SIM cards where you pay per month for the amount of data and phone calls you want. It’s a lot cheaper than cell phone plans in the United States, but remember that you will need to have an unlocked phone in order to use the SIM card.
An unlocked phone is a phone that is not tied to a specific cell phone provider. In the United States, phone plans are way more expensive than in Spain because you pay for you phone per month over the course of the 2 year plan.
Read more about What to Bring to Spain as an Auxiliar de Conversación.
In Spain, you generally buy the phone outright and then insert a pre-paid SIM card allowing you to use data and call.
If you have been with the same cell phone provider for over 2 years in the United States and/or you are eligible to upgrade, it usually means your phone can be unlocked because you no longer owe the company for the phone. Ask them to unlock it for you, and you’ll be all set to go!
If your phone is still under contract, you can buy an unlocked phone and use it with any Spanish cell phone company.
You can also pause your cell phone plan while in Spain and keep your US phone number. This is perfect if you are not sure how long you will live in Spain.
There are plenty of cell phone companies you can go through in Spain, and most are generally the same. We have a plan through Vodafone, which also does our internet, but you can also use Orange, Movistar, or Yoigo to name a few.
We each pay 10€ per month with Vodafone and get 24gb of data, 300 minutes of national calls, and unlimited calls to other Vodafone customers.
This is more than enough data and minutes for us during a month.
To get your Spanish SIM card, just go to the local branch of any of these providers with your passport, an address (could be your hostel), and a method of payment. They will get you all set up, and your new Spanish cell phone will be good to go in minutes!
2. Open a Spanish Bank Account
The second thing to do when you arrive in Spain is to open a Spanish bank account. In theory, you should be able to open a bank account in Spain with your passport number and an address. You can use your school address on your carta de nombramiento and change it to your apartment address later.
With most Spanish banks, you can open an account for free if you are under 30. However, if you are over 30 there is often a fee.
There are plenty of Spanish banks to choose from, including:
If you go to one of the banks—or even one of the bank branches—and they are going to charge you to open an account or give you a hard time, just say ‘No gracias’ and head to the next bank…or even another branch of the same bank.
For whatever reason, some workers at specific locations will give you a hard time. Don’t bother with them and move on.
Recently, there are also a few online banks, like N26, that you can use. This is the bank we have, and don’t have any complaints about it at all.
Once you have your Spanish bank account, it will be a lot easier to make payments, such as rent, utilities, and simply get your life set up in Spain.
3. Find an Apartment in Spain
Finding an apartment in Spain is one of the most overwhelming and daunting things you have to do after you move to Spain. After all, you will be living here for at least a school year!
Without a doubt, these websites have the most apartment listings in Spain, no matter what city you are in.
You can also find an apartment in Spain from seeing Se Aquila signs on buildings and calling the number.
On all of the Spanish apartment websites, you can contact people via the website, but calling them is the best way to get in touch with them. You are much more likely to get a fast response and an apartment showing this way!
Calling someone on the phone in Spanish can be very intimidating, but just remember that they want to rent the place out! You are not are a potential renter and are not annoying them by calling in broken Spanish. Ask them to slow down if need be, and remember you got this!
There are also occasional postings in the Auxiliar Facebook groups about potential apartments or rooms available within apartments. This can be a great place to an apartment in Spain, especially if you want to live with other English speakers.
If you find an apartment using an inmobiliaria (rental agency), you will have to pay them a 1 month fee. Yes, it will feel like a total scam, but in some cities, like Madrid, it’s more common than not. In smaller cities and regions in Spain, you can probably find an individual landlord and rent directly through them.
You will generally also have to pay 1st month rent and a 1 month security deposit. Some landlords also require a 1 month fianza, which they deposit with the government and use it as part of your deposit in case you don’t fulfill the lease.
However, most leases in Spain are guaranteed for 6 months. After that, you can get out of your lease with 30 days notice, and you are locked into the rental price for up to 5 years.
For more specifics on the apartment search in Spain, read our How to Find an Apartment in Spain guide, and take a look at our apartment in Madrid below!
4. Get Your Empadronamiento
*This step is not 100% necessary in all autonomous communities. It is necessary in Madrid though!
Once you find your apartment in Spain, you will need to schedule an appointment for your empadronamiento, which basically officially registers you at an address in your city.
All you need to make your empadronamiento appointment is a lease that is signed by you and your landlord and Hoja Padronal (Empadronamiento Madrid Form).
You will book your empadronamiento appointment at this website.
Click “Seleccione Pedir Cita Previa.”
Under ‘Seleccione Tipo de Servicio’ select ‘Padrón‘ if it is your first time applying.
Under ‘Seleccione Gestión’ select “Padrón.’ You select ‘Certificado de Empadronamiento” if you are changing or renewing your address.
Lastly, under ‘Seleccione Oficina’ select an office near you. If the one closet to you does not have any availability, which you can see on the calendar, try selecting a different one. It doesn’t matter which one you go to. What’s more important is that you have this done before the next step: Your TIE Appointment.
5. TIE Appointment
If you thought applying for the Spanish student visa was a bureaucratic headache, we hate to break it to you, but it’s not quite over…
When you arrive in Spain as an auxiliar de conversación to teach English, your student visa is only good for 90 days, so you will have to apply for a temporary residency card: TIE.
On your student visa, you should have a NIE—número de identificación de extranjero. This will follow you the entire time you live in Spain.
However, while you have the NIE, you also have to apply for the TIE—tarjeta de identificación extranjero.
The exact process for applying for your TIE will be a little different depending on which autonomous community you are living in.
In some smaller autonomous communities, you may be able to walk in without making an appointment ahead of time, take a ticket, and when your number is called, show them your documents. If all goes well, you have to come back in a month to pick up your TIE, and you are all set!
For your TIE in Madrid, you have to make an appointment which you can do at this website. Once your TIE appointment is made, gather your documents, show up on your appointment day and time—expect to wait in line—show the official your documents, and if you have all the correct TIE documents, you will have to make another appointment to return in 30-40 days to pick up your TIE.
In order to make your TIE appointment, go to the website and in the menu select Madrid and click Aceptar.
On the next page, you will first have to select the office you want to go to. Most will go to the first office CNP AVDA POBLADOS, Avda. de los Poblados, S/N which has the most appointments. However, like your empadronamiento appointment, you can try different offices.
Under that, in ‘Trámites Cuerpo Nacional de Policía‘ select ‘Policía – Toma de Huellas (Expedición de Tarjeta) y Renovación de Tarjeta de Larga Duración‘ and click Aceptar.
On the next page, scroll down and click ‘Entrar.’
You can then create an appointment with either your NIE or Passport number.
For either, you will need your NIE/Passport number, first name and last name(s), Country of Nationality, Expiration Date of your Passport/TIE.
If it is your first year in Spain as an auxiliar de conversación, use your passport. If you are renewing, you can use your TIE since it will have an expiration date.
Click ‘Solicitar Cita.’
Enter your telephone number, email, and email again.
*Remember you need a Spanish phone number because they will text you a confirmation code.
Select the day and time for your appointment on the calendar in any of the ‘Libre’ spots and then select ‘OK.’
From there, enter the code you received via text in ‘Codigo’ and click the two boxes.
Lastly, click ‘Imprimir’ to print of at least save your confirmation page as a pdf to your computer. You will need to print these out as part of your documents you need for your TIE appointment in Madrid.
Speaking of, here are all the required documents for your TIE appointment in Madrid as an auxiliar de conversación:
- Printed page of your poof of appointment
- EX-17 form, printed and signed (original and copy)
- Passport (original and copies of all pages)
- Tasa Modelo 790 codigo 012 printed and paid (you can pay at a bank ATM)
- Color, passport sized photo (32mmx26mm)—Different size than US passport photos!
- Empadronamiento form with the same address as your EX-17 form (original and copy)
- Student Visa in your passport
- Spanish Health Insurance Card or paper saying you have healthcare that you got from the Auxiliar Program (original and copy)
- Carta de nombramiento (original and copy)
It will feel like overkill with all the originals and copies, but please just make them. The worst thing you can do is get ready, go, and stand in line only to have the person tell you your documents are not correct…
Be sure to make all the copies and double and triple check that you have everything!
Unfortunately, they will probably only look at a few documents, but that’s how it is.
Once you finish your appointment, they will tel you to come back to pick up your TIE! Luckily, this is much easier, but you will have to make another appointment via the same website.
6. Visit Your School
Since the Auxiliar de Conversación Program in Spain simply places you in a random public school, it’s both comforting ad important for you to reach out and contact them before you arrive in Spain. Most schools will respond welcoming you to the school, and some might even be able to help you get settled in your city with finding an apartment in Spain.
Others, however, will never even respond…
If your school does respond over the summer—when most auxiliares receive their placements—you should contact them again once you arrive in Spain and visit your school before October 1st, your official start date.
This will give you some comfort with knowing how to get to your school, what it’s like, and will allow you to get to know some of the teachers and students. It also shows that you are excited to start working there, even if you are truly just doing the program as a way to live in Spain.
Again, visiting your school isn’t 100% necessary, but it’s recommended as it will make your first day of work smoother and better your relationship with the teachers and students you will be working with.
7. Get the Necessary Documents to Work*
*This step will vary by autonomous community and maybe school-by-school.
One thing you will 100% have to give your school as an auxiliar de conversación is your bank account number, IBAN, and as of 2021, your COVID Vaccination Record.
Other than that, the documents you will have to submit can vary greatly. In Madrid, you will have to submit:
- Copy of your Carta de nombramiento
- Copy of the Código de buenas prácticas
- US FBI Criminal Background Check from your student visa (or a background check from wherever you were last year—if you were in Spain, it’s the Antecedentes Peñales)
- Copy of Certificado de delitos sexuales
- Copy of your health insurance coverage from your healthcare provider with the auxiliar program
You should have most of these documents already, so unfortunately, that means going to make more copies. Your school might even let you make copies at your school if you ask them.
You can make your appointments for the Certificado de Delitos Sexuales and Antecedentes Peñales here. These appointments do not take very long as they are both quick background checks, but you do have to make your appointments for them in advance.
For the appointments, simply select the date and time you want to go and enter your personal information. You will need to bring the form they need filled out, your passport, and the confirmation email with QR code, which can be on your phone.
8. Metro Card
If you are an auxliar de conversación in Madrid, Barcelona, and possibly some other regions in Spain, you will definitely want a metro card. In Madrid, having a Personal Public Transport Card for the metro and buses will be more cost effective than buying 10-trip cards or paying per ride.
The process is fairly simple and can be done completely online in Madrid. You can also go to a metro station with an office, like Sol.
Getting your Metro Card in Madrid is super easy online. You first go to the Metro website and click Quiero obtener una Tarjeta Transporte Público.
Select either El solicitante tiene entre 7 y 25 años or El solicitante tiene 26 años o más depending on your age.
Enter your passport or NIE number, name, phone number, and address. You will need a Spanish address and phone number, which is why this is lower on the list. If you do not have a permanent address yet, you can use City Life Madrid’s office to send your card to.
Lastly, you will need to upload a color passport sized photo and pay a 4€ fee. You can just use the passport photo from either your TIE appointment documents or from your student visa application.
Within about 3-4 weeks, your Madrid Metro card will arrive, and you’ll be able to pay one monthly fee for all the metro rides you want within a given zone!
With these 8 things completed, you will be all set to really start living your live in Spain as an auxiliar de conversación!
When you arrive in Spain and are trying to figure out what you need to do, it can be much more confusing and challenging than you might have originally expected, but remember that others out there are going through the same thing.
While it might feel overwhelming at first, especially with trying to learn your new city, experiencing new things, and all the emotions that come with simply moving abroad, remember that once these appointments are completed, your life will start to come together more as you won’t be running around doing this time consuming and annoying appointments.
You will, then, finally be able to relax and live in Spain as you dreamed of before you arrived!