Two deadlines give structure to your timeline. The first one is simple: school applications are due in March (in Andalusia and most of Spain) for the school year beginning in September.
You can determine another deadline, for your visa applications, by working back 120 days from your planned arrival in Spain. For example, if you plan to arrive in August, you’ll want to submit your visa applications in late April or early May, because the approval process can take up to three months. Once your visas are approved, you have 90 days to arrive in Spain.
The documents you include with your visa application, things like your criminal background check, new copies of birth and marriage certificates, statement of good health must be dated within 90 days of your application. So if you want to apply for your visas in late April, it makes sense to begin gathering your documents in February.
Which comes first – housing lease or visa? You may not have a choice.
There are roughly two approaches to planning a sabbatical year in Spain.
– Approach number one: apply for your visas and leave the rest (housing, school enrollment) until you arrive.
– Approach number two: find housing, which will help you narrow school choices, and then apply for your visas.
However, even if approach number one appeals to you, your consulate’s visa application requirements may force you to take the second approach. That’s right, different Spanish consulates interpret visa requirements differently, and some consulates require visa applicants to have proof of accommodation for a minimum of three months. (Thankfully, meeting the visa requirements almost always results in a visa, so it’s not quite as risky as it may sound.)
That brings us to housing. If you have school-age kids, knowing where you’re going to live will help you narrow your school choices. In that case, early February is a good time to look at properties with the goal of signing a rental agreement before the school application window closes at the end of March.
Even if school registration is not a factor, try to give yourselves six to eight weeks before you submit your visa applications to find a rental and complete the paperwork. Depending on your consulate (remember, different interpretations?), you may be required to provide both a signed rental agreement and a nota simple, which is an official document that lists the owner of the property. Landlords will need time to request a copy of the nota simple dated less than 90 days before your application, and sometimes they need additional time to bring the nota simple up to date.
There’s one more moving part to keep in mind. Not all rental property owners are willing or able to sign a lease with a foreign family to take effect six months in the future. Rental websites (https://www.idealista.com, https://www.fotocasa.es) can be useful for getting an idea of local prices and general availability, but they’re not a viable way of conducting your housing search because they only list properties currently available and the realtors typically only respond to inquiries by phone, not to messages sent through the site.
Your Year in Spain team can help you find a rental property that meets your needs, as well as answer questions you have about timing and deadlines.