Moving from one town to another can be bad enough, upping sticks for a new life in a different country can be a whole different kettle of fish. Here are a few tips to prevent that kettle of fish turning into a can of worms.

PLANNING A MOVE

Always plan your move, be it across the street or across the continent, as it will often save time - and stress - in the long run. Leave time to check for repairs that need to be carried out and for cleaning the vacated premises. If you are leaving rented accommodation, you will need to give notice to the landlord, generally one month in advance, and this is a good time to make sure there is no damage to prevent you from getting back your deposit if not remedied. If you are selling a property, you will need to finalize the details with the buyers and any intermediaries such as notaries, estate agents, etc. Consider any services that you may have that will be affected by the move; telephone, electrical, gas/butane, water, satellite TV, internet, cleaning services, bank and other regular mail, insurance etc. You will need to notify numerous people/organisations of the change of address - continuation/discontinuation of services - and length of notice can vary considerably from company to company. You may need to request new services for your new location and don't forget to tell the bank to discontinue payment on any services that you are discontinuing if those bills are automatically deducted. Whether you are buying or selling, be sure there are no taxes due on either the new or the old property. To be certain that you continue receiving all your mail (if moving within Spain), go to the post office with your identification and the new and old addresses, and they will forward your mail for a period of one to two months ( called 're-expedición de correo'). You may want to check that you will be able to receive mail at the new address as some outlying areas do not have a mail service. In such cases, check out the possibility of a post office box (apartado de correos).

CHOOSING AN AREA

If you are moving as a family, there are a few things you should think about before you begin to look at houses. Living in the centre of the town, a common choice in Andalucia, gives you access to shops and services can be very useful for someone who does not drive. A disadvantage is needing a garage to park your car if you do drive. There is also the noise factor to consider. Choosing to live on the outskirts of a town or in the countryside will mean that you will be more isolated with respect to shops, schools, work, sports centres, hospitals etc. You will most likely be reliant on a car to go anywhere and will face the usual urban parking problems that those living in the centre of town manage to avoid by walking.

MOVING TO SPAIN

Moving to Spain from another country is fairly straightforward and there are numerous companies willing to pack your belongings and deliver them to your new home. Within continental Europe, your belongings can make the journey in an industrial-sized lorry as either a full or partial load. From the USA, removals are best made by contracting either a full or partial shipping container. You can find useful information and advice about making a move to spain at Wagoners Abroad. This family from America share their experiences on moving and the cost of living in Spain. For practical help on moving to Spain then Your Year in Spain can assist you. Bianca provides the resources to aid in making your move, including helping you find the best location to live, organising a house rental and practical advice on schools, visas etc.

IMPORTING YOUR POSSESSIONS

Formalities only exist for Non EU citizens. Import of household possessions is free of customs duty and is a once only concession. It is not dependent on the purchase of a property. A deposit of about 50% of the value of the goods will probably be levied, but this can be reclaimed within a year on production of a residence permit. Forms can be obtained from your local Spanish consulate. If the deposit is not reclaimed within one year it becomes forfeit.

IMPORTING CARS

Bringing a car into Spain from a non-European Union country can be one, long hassle and it is advisable to hire the services of a 'gestor' to deal with all the paperwork involved. Any EU or Non EU citizen taking up residence in Spain will be exempt from Import Duties, IVA (16%) and Car Registration Tax (12% or 7%). To benefit from this concession, you must have owned the car for at least six months, and you will need to obtain a certificate of 'baja de residence' - either from your old town hall if or from your countries' consulate in Spain. The procedure must be started not later than one month after your residence permit is granted. The services of a Gestor are definitely advisable as the procedure is very complicated, and expect the cost to be between 500 and 1000 euros.

IMPORTING PETS

The rules governing pets and their import differs according to the kind of pets you propose to import. In general, a pet can be imported into Spain if: It is accompanied by it's owner or his/her representative. It has a certificate of origin and health if it is more than three months old The certificate states that the pet has been under the supervision of the owner for a period of three months prior to importation The certificate provides a declaration that the pet is not intended for trade Where it is proposed to import a dog, the certificate should state that the dog has received anti-rabies inoculation and that the inoculation remains valid. The inoculation must have taken place in the last twelve months, although in certain cases this is reduced to six months. A certificate can be obtained from the Animal Health Divisional Office. Birds, monkeys and other species will need a certificate stating that there has been no local outbreak of disease that would affect the species for the last 60 days. If you wish to take your pet back to the U.K. you will need to ensure you comply with the Pet Travel Scheme (PETS). If you do not comply with PETS it may be necessary for your animal to go into quarantine.

LEGAL CONSIDERATIONS

When moving to Spain, much will depend on whether you are an EU citizen or not. Freedom of movement is guaranteed for EU citizens and the procedures required to reside permanently are quite simple. You do have to demonstrate means of support and proof of health care. Anyone who spends more than 182 days a year in Spain will be considered a resident whether they have obtained a formal residence permit or not. EU pensioners who can prove they are receiving the minimum EU state pension will be able to obtain a 'Residencia'.A pensioner should obtain a form E-121 from their own country to enable them to transfer their rights to state medical care. EU Workers can arrive in Spain and begin looking for a job. When they obtain employment or set up in business they will beaffiliated to the Spanish State social security and can complete the necessary paperwork for a residents permit. See also Visas and Permits and NIE Non Pensioned EU citizens who have decided to move to Spain and who do not intend to work will be required to demonstrate sufficient income/funds to support themselves and will also need to obtain private medical insurance. Non EU Citizens - See Visas and Permits and NIE

SAFETY

Although Andalucia is generally a safe place to live, building styles and materials used raise specific security issues. Terraces are the 'norm' in most Andalucian homes, so ensure that a terrace has strong, sturdy railings with bars close enough together to prevent small children going through or under them. Also check the height of railings or side walls. Stairs can be steep and, when tiled (as most are), they can become very slippery. Ramps should have a rough surface. Bathrooms and outdoor patios are also generally tiled and, prone to becoming wet, can be hazardous, particularly for the aged or infirm. Mats, handrails etc should be considered. Community garden and pool areas should be checked to see if they are fully enclosed (to prevent a small child getting lost or out onto the street), whether cars enter to access their parking spaces or garages and whether the pool area is 'safe'. Consider access to your house or apartment. Can you see who is at the door before opening it? Can you speak to whoever rings the bell before opening? Is there good community lighting in garages, near lifts and in hallways? Get to know your neighbours!

RENTAL CONTRACTS

There are two types of rentals contracts in Spain, 'short term' and 'long term'. Short term are designed for holidaymakers and long term for those planning to stay long term in the area or country. If you are planning to stay in Spain for a few years and you sign a short term contract, you might end up looking for a new home when the contract expires. A long term ('vivienda') contract will automatically give you the right to renew for 5 consecutive years and, during this time, the rent can only be raised to account for 'inflation'. A deposit is usually required when you rent, in keeping with Spanish law, which permits the landlord to ask for one month's rent for unfurnished quarters and two months in respect of business space and furnished homes. For your own protection you can always ask that the deposit be held by a neutral third party, such as an agency or the government office 'Consejería de la Vivienda'. If you have a long term rental contract and feel unfairly treated, visit the nearest municipal consumers' office (OMIC - Oficina Municipal de Información del Consumidor), where you should be able to present your case and obtain advice. Take your rental contract with you and any receipts or other documents that could be of use.