Official figures back up anecdotal evidence that expats are leaving Spain, especially in resort areas like the Costa Blanca which is popular with British and German nationals.

The data from the National Institute of Statistics (INE) shows that the number of foreign citizens living in Spain fell by 128,372 in 2015, a fall of 9%. And overall the expat population has been going down since 2012.

Moroccans and Romanians make up the biggest expat group with each having more than 700,000 residents in Spain. The British are the next biggest group of expats, followed by the Chinese, Germans, and French. But British expats fell 6% last year to 283, 243, and Germans by 7% to 130,911.


A breakdown of the figures shows that at the beginning of 2015 there were 4,601,272 foreign residents officially living in Spain in an overall population of 46.5 million. However, the drop in foreign residents pushed down Spain’s population by 99,439, despite an increase of 28,933 in the native population

Overall foreign resident numbers steadily increased up to 2012 but have fallen every year since driven by a big drop in expats from European Union countries. The number of EU nationals living in Spain fell by 111,526 to 1,835,584, a fall of 5%, whilst other nationalities fell by 16,846 to 2,765,688.

At the same time some groups of economic migrants like the Chinese increased by 8,023 or 3%, followed by Ukrainians up 7,850 or 3% and Moroccans up by 2,542, but this was not enough to compensate for the big fall in EU expats

According to Mark Stucklin, a British expat who runs property business Spanish Property Insight, this is bad news for the Spanish coast, and bad news for Spain overall. He believes that the most likely cause of this reverse is Spanish Government policy.

He put blame on the change in law which means that expats living in Spain must now declare their worldwide assets for tax purposes. “Expat numbers were growing until 2012 when this law was passed, and have fallen ever since. So Spanish Government fiscal policy is driving away EU expats, and this is clear from these numbers,” he said.

He pointed out that the worldwide asset declaration obligation was introduced to clamp down on corruption and fiscal evasion by locals. “But the main victims have been EU expats, who are either leaving Spain, choosing not to come in the first place, arranging their affairs to avoid being fiscal residents, or simply dropping off the radar,” Stucklin explained.

“All of this leaves Spain worse off in every respect. I suspect Spain is losing hundreds of millions, if not billions in lost taxes and economic activity, but nobody knows for sure because it has never been studied,” he added.

He also pointed out that Spain badly needs all the economic growth it can get, and attracting wealthy northern Europeans to retire to Spain should be a priority. “Expats buy homes and spend their money on goods and services in Spain. It should be rolling out the red carpet to boost this expat population as much as possible,” Stucklin said.

He thinks it is a disaster for area like Alicante, home to the Costa Blanca which has always been very popular with British expats. “With a smaller population these regions will get less public money and suffer lower economic growth as a consequence,” he said.

“Furthermore, a declining population compounds Spain’s problems. It pushes up the debt per capita ratio and makes it harder to grow the economy, which also puts pressure on the debt/GDP ratio. Spain is left with fewer people to pay an increasing amount of national debt,” he added.