Even if you are not a Spanish citizen but are a British national resident in Spain instead, you may be entitled to some benefits and support from Spanish statutory authorities.
1. for possible British government benefits you may still be entitled to instead while living in Spain, change to this page link instead.
2. if you are under 65 and are specifically interested in comments on unemployment benefit entitlement (or similar) as a working-age person in Spain, jump ahead on this page by clicking here. Otherwise: if you are over 65; or under 65 and not able to work in Spain; or have a general interest in types of benefits in Spain, please read on from here.
Most benefits from Spanish authorities will generally only be available:
- if you are registered as resident in Spain. This is the green document (A4 sheet of paper or green card) or the newer TIE photo ID card. Both are equally valid.
- if you have registered on the census record (padrón) of your local town hall. This entitles you to access a lot of council services and many benefits.
Even if you do not have a TIE or green paper, if you live in Spain full time you can still register on the local town hall ‘padrón’ with your valid UK passport. A padrón record on its own does not make you legally resident in Spain as a UK citizen but it can help you access certain council services and provide you with a better case for legal residency in the future.
If you are already registered on the padrón at the town hall (or even if you are not yet but your live locally and your situation is urgent), to find out what benefits you may be entitled to, below are the options of who you can talk to:
- Talk to your local council/town hall (‘ ayuntamiento’ )
Local councils generally act as a gateway to most social services in Spain, even if they do not run or fund them all themselves.
Many councils have a foreign residents’ department or representative who can explain in English how to access council services and advice.
If they do not have this department, many other councils have someone available to help with translation or explain processes in English, although you may need to ask for an appointment to access this service.
Typically if you need help, you will be directed to see a social worker (trabajador social) based at your local council’s Social Services department (servicios sociales) who will assess your needs.
Generally a local council will give you advice if you are registered on their census (empadronado). They will also help to register you on their census if you have not already done so.
Typical common areas of help and guidance available via your local council social workers include:-
- Emergency food/provisions/local meal centres
- Teleassistance/personal alarms – care monitoring service
- Processing requests for long-term home care assistance/dependency care and residential care under Spanish dependency legislation (requires a minimum length of time registered in Spain to qualify – typically to have been registered as living in Spain for five years in total in your life, including at least two continuous years in the period immediately prior to applying).
- Social housing
- Limited home help or access to residential care in cases of real need where personal means are very limited and dependency legislation minimum requirements cannot be met
- Advice on registering as disabled and any occasional subsidies that may be available
- Advice on the larger-family benefit card (if you have three or more children, or two children in certain circumstances)
- Non-contributory pensions. If you are on a very low income and have limited family help plus are registered as resident in Spain, you may also be entitled to a non-contributory pension as a UK citizen under Spanish law without having paid into the Spanish social security system. Normally you need to 1) be over 65. 2) have lived in Spain for ten years of your life since you were 16, including at least two continuous years in the period immediately prior to applying. If you have registered disabled status of 65% and are between 18 and 65, this residency time requirement is reduced from ten to five years. Your total annual income cannot be over 6,784.54 euros a year (2023 data), although your savings and a partner’s income will also be taken into account in making an assessment. (You are allowed a small additional income on top from a job if you are disabled). The maximum annual pension available this way is 6,784.54 euros and the minimum is 1,696.14 euros. This link in Spanish explains more on these non-contributory benefits which are paid for by the regional governments. Click here. Normally the town hall social workers can advise on applying (or the INSS social security offices, see lower down the page).
- Minimum Living Income allowance (Ingreso Mínimo Vital – IMV) – see part 3 below for more information
- Regional government-funded minimum income benefits programmes for people on low incomes or at risk of exclusion. Conditions vary by region and town hall social workers can provide information and help with an application (typically called “Renta Mínima de Inserción/Inclusión Social” or similar).
- Guidance on registering as a legal Spanish resident (the TIE card issued by National Police or old green piece of paper) if you are not already legally registered, including arranging legal advice to sort out your position if you have limited personal means and are at risk
For information on your local council/town hall, search here. (Enter the name of your town to narrow results).
If nobody who speaks English is available at your local council and you need someone to help you translate, click here to see any organisations in your area that might be able to help, (remember to enter your local town when required to narrow down results).
If you live in the region of Andalucía: Special card for over 65s: Teleassistance/telecare is available in this way if you hold the Junta de Andalucía’s Over 65 card (Tarjeta Sesentaycinco), which is available free of charge to all British residents over 65 resident in Andalucía. Click here for more details. It also offers subsidies/discounts including on hearing and sight equipment and some bus transport. Local town halls also often offer discount cards to older residents or those with limited resouces or a disability.
If you live in the Canaries, residents are entitled to cheap bus/tram travel schemes on each island. Discounts vary by island but can reduce expenses if you use public transport regularly. Also 75% reductions are given on advertisied airfares and boat travel between islands and to the Spanish mainland under a well-organised scheme for all registered Canary Island residents (including UK citizens whose documents show they are permament residents). Your local town hall or a transport provider can provide more details. You must also be registered on your local town hall ‘padrón’.
If you live in the Balearics, residents are entitled to similar benefits as detailed above for the Canaries.
If you live in Catalunya, many town halls offer discount cards on public services, transportation and often on some private services/businesses as well to older residents, those with limited resources and/or those with a disability. For example the Tarjeta Rosa (pink card) from the city of Barcelona.
If you live in Comunidad Valenciana, (Alicante, Castellón and Valencia provinces), and are over 65 you are entitled to an older residents card (Tarjeta del Mayor) which gives small discounts on some participating businesses and services. Details in Spanish here. Local town halls also often offer discount cards to older residents or those with limited resouces or a disability.
If you live in the Murcia Region, contact you town hall to find out about any localised discounts for older residents or those with limited resouces or a disability.
Energy discounts if you live anywhere Spain: The Spanish government requires power companies to give discounts starting at 25% and rising on electricity supply to people on low incomes or the vulnerable. The discount is known as the Bono Social de Electricidad and is given if you are on the regulated floating tariff (known as the PVPC) and not special fixed tariffs or deals with the power companies. More information on the Bono Social de Electricidad (in Spanish) from the government on this link. To apply, contact your power supply company or search here for local organisations that may be able to help you fill in paperwork (add your town to filter results). If you obtain the Bono Social de Electricidad, you are also automatically entitled to the Bono Social Térmico which subsidises other heating costs (such as using gas).
2. Talk to your local health centre
If you have a medical condition you should ensure that you have enquired from your doctor about the possibility of medical-condition-related benefits.
Typical common areas of help available via your local health centre, besides healthcare and medicines are:-
- Temporary home care related to your medical condition
- Mobility apparatus prescriptions for a defined condition
- Disabled parking badge certification (on humanitarian, not long-term grounds; see here for long-term grounds)
- Advice on registering as disabled
To find your nearest public health centre click here. In ‘Your Town’ enter where you live to filter results more.
For more information on how to register for Spanish public healthcare, click here.
3. Your local Spanish social security office
In addition to talking to your local town hall or health centre (see above), in some circumstances the local social security office, known as the INSS or CAISS (both are the same thing), can offer additional benefits.
Minimum Living Income (Ingreso Mínimo Vital – IMV)
For people on very low incomes, the INSS coordinates applications for the Minimum Living Income benefit (Ingreso Mínimo Vital – IMV). This can be given principally to residents of Spain (including UK nationals) over 23 who live independently of a parental home and who do not benefit from other types of assistance such as an old age pension or a non-contributory pension and have low levels of job earnings, savings and other assets. Certain conditions need to be met.
- To find more background on the Ingreso Mínimo Vital see this link in Spanish from the INSS by clicking here.
- To see a simulation of what you might be entitled to click here (in Spanish)
- To see more from the INSS on the process of applying (first page in English) click here.
For information on your nearest Spanish social security office (Instituto Nacional de Seguridad Social-INSS) click here. Your local town hall social services department can normally help with an application.
Other benefits from the INSS Spanish social security office
Apart from the Minimum Living Income, benefits available from the Spanish social security office (INSS) will generally apply only if you (or in some cases a spouse/legal partner) has been working in Spain, (and you or your employer has been paying Spanish social security contributions), or if you are receiving a pension from the Spanish authorities. (Typical benefits for Spanish pension holders include reduced telephone and electricity bills, help with travel to day care centres or subsidised short-break programmes).
For information on your nearest Spanish social security office (Instituto Nacional de Seguridad Social-INSS) click here. You can choose any office in the province where you live. The online link for appointments by clicking here. (Telephone or in-person appointments available. If you don’t have a digital certificate on your computer, enter the link via the ‘Sin Certificado’ route when asked.)
Alternatively a small, very limited part of the national social security information website is in English at http://www.seg-social.es/wps/portal/wss/internet/Inicio
Useful Hint: If you have worked in Spain (even self-employed) and have previously worked in the UK (or a spouse has), you may be able to add together the time you worked and contributions in the UK with the contributions paid in Spain to reach the minimum requirements or improve the level of certain Spanish benefits. This is because Spain and the UK will continue coordinating many social security/National Insurance arrangements even for those who moved to Spain after 1st January 2020 after the UK left the EU. This will depend on the type of benefit so always tell the INSS office (also sometimes known as CAISS offices) if you or a spouse has also previously worked in the UK so they can take this into account in their calculations, if applicable. More background information from the EU here. (If you are planning ahead, requesting a past UK National Insurance contribution statement on a U1 form from the UK’s National Insurance dept. and keeping this in a safe place can speed this up in the future).
4. Unemployment/back-to-work benefit (SEPE) for contracted workers
Unemployment benefit is not handled by the INSS but by the government’s SEPE agency instead. Different types are available and one may apply to you even if you have not worked very much in Spain, although you will have to show you are actively looking for work.
If you have worked with a contract in Spain for at least 360 days in the last six years before becoming unemployed, you may be entitled to Spanish unemployment benefits for a certain period of time (generally from four months to two years depending on how long you paid contributions for)*. A lesser benefit may be available if you have worked and paid 3 months contribution (if you have a family) or 6 months.
For those over 52 who have used up their unemployment benefits entitlement* and have continued signing on looking for work, an over-52 unemployment benefit can normally be payable until retirement age or until a job is found, depending on level of other income and if you have paid into the system for a minimum number of 15 years*. Similar alternatives, but generally with less generous levels and timeframes are also available through SEPE which include for over 45s or those with children up to 26 years old to support (‘Ayuda Familiar’).
Back-to-work benefit if you have never worked in Spain (Renta Activa de Inserción): In a few specific personal situations where it may be hard to find work, SEPE offers a time-limited benefit for those on low incomes where it is not necessary to have worked in Spain before and which can be available to residents in Spain from other countries. Beneficiaries must actively seek work. These limited personal situations include: long term unemployed (signed on) over 45, those born in Spain returning to work aged over 45, victims of gender or domestic violence and people registred as 33% disabled or above.
The local employment centres (SEPE) can provide more details (in Spanish) on these and exact details checked with them www.sepe.es.
*Hint: Always tell SEPE (or your ‘gestor’ or advisor) if you have worked in the UK as your past National Insurance record in the UK could be used to improve the level of Spanish unemployment benefit or help you reach the minimum level, if you qualify. Time worked in the UK can often be added to time worked in Spain. This still applies to all UK nationals resident even after Britain has left the EU.
5. Self-employed workers’ unemployment/low-activity benefits
Legally registered self-employed workers are known as ‘autónomos’ in Spain. All autónomos pay a contribution as part of their social security payments towards a benefit if their activity has to stop (or is drastically reduced/constrained for certain reasons but they do not wish to deregister as self-employed). The benefit is know as ‘prestación por cese de actividad’. It is similar to unemployment benefit in conditions for salaried workers but in this case it not handled by SEPE but by the mutual association (‘mutua‘) approved by the government that is alloted to the self-employed worker when they register as self-employed. The list of ‘mutuas’ is on this link. For more information and to make a claim, an autónomo should contact the mutua that covers them and/or for general information contact the Social Security INSS office (see above). Applying for self-employed unemployment benefit in this way can be complex, even for Spanish speakers, and to ensure maximum entitlement, those affected usually use a professional gestor (administrative manager). to steer them.
6. As a worker in Spain, checking your work history for benefits entitlement
If you need to find out how many days you have been registered as working in Spain and what your status is, this link from the Social Security department can tell you. You will need (or the person doing it for you will need): a Spanish digital certificate on the computer to access it; or CLAVE access code for online government services; or your mobile number will need to be registered with Social Security so they can send you an SMS access code to your phone. This is known as the Vida Laboral (Working History).
If you need to see how much Spanish state pension you might be entitled to based on your contributions* this link from the Social Security department can tell you. You will need (or the person doing it for you will need): a Spanish digital certificate on the computer to access it; or CLAVE access code for online government services; or your mobile number will need to be registered with Social Security so they can send you an SMS access code to your phone.
If you cannot access this information from a computer, you will need to ask for a phone or in-person appointment at an office of the INSS in the province where you live. Or alternatively ask for the assitance of a ‘gestor’.
*Combining the years you have worked: In addition, if you have worked some years in the UK and then some years in Spain, but you have not reached enough years to qualify for the minimum state pension in one or both countries, it could be possible to add the years you worked in the UK to those in Spain, even for people that came to live in Spain after January 2021, under the agreement between the UK and the EU. Click here for our page about British benefits for more information.
If you need extra help understanding or more support applying for Spanish benefits or Spanish government services, please see this list of possible contacts who can help you with understanding forms or translating. (Enter the name of your town or village to narrow your search).
UK government benefits: If, like most British nationals on a pension living in Spain, you are in receipt of a UK pension and not a Spanish one, click here for more guidance. You may be due more UK benefits that can help pay for services and support, even if you live in Spain.
Please note that applying for benefits from Spain or the UK is not an immediate process. It is recommended to apply as soon as possible, even if you are unsure about your long-term residency plans in Spain, as other temporary emergency help you receive could be limited to a short period of time.