Guide to Applying for Residency in Spain

Have you fallen in love with Spain, its year-round sunshine and blue skies, friendly people, delicious cuisine and relaxed lifestyle? If so, you might be thinking of taking the next step and moving permanently to this charming Western Mediterranean country.

In this case, you probably have a lot to think about, such as where to move (the calm of the Costas or the bustle of Barcelona and Madrid?), finding somewhere to live (a coastal villa or a flat in the city centre?) as well as a job. Among these tasks, another thing to think about is applying for residency in Spain, of course. You’ll need to know how to apply, what paperwork to bring, where to go and how long it takes.

Well, in the following guide we walk you through it. The steps to take depend chiefly on whether you’re applying as a citizen of an EU (European Union) country or from elsewhere. Meanwhile, the steps for Brits (citizens of the United Kingdom) depend on whether you moved to Spain before or after 6th July 2020, when the Spanish government introduced new rules owing to Brexit.

So read on to find out how to officially make your new residency in ¡España! Alternatively, if you’re only going to be visiting Spain on holiday, find out more about the EU’s upcoming ETIAS visa waiver here; many nationalities including Brits and Americans will need this from 2022/3.

Spanish Residency Requirements for EU Citizens

You have a right to live in Spain if you’re a citizen of the EU, the EEA (European Economic Area) — so Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Norway — or Switzerland. According to EU law, “living in Spain” is defined as residing for over 183 days a year.

If you’re only visiting the country for less than 183 days, you don’t have to register your presence or request permission to visit. You’re free to come and go, as free as the wind!

As an EU citizen, you can reside in Spain so long as:

  • You’re employed by a company or you’re self-employed in Spain.
  • Or you can demonstrate the financial means to support yourself and your family, and you have full public or private health insurance coverage.
  • Or you’re a registered student at a recognised Spanish educational institution, with full public or private health coverage.
  • Or you’re a family member of someone who meets the above requirements, specifically:
    • If they’re a student, you’re their spouse, common-law partner, or child up to 21 years old.
    • In other cases, if you’re their spouse, common-law partner, child up to 21 years old or their ancestor.

If you meet these requisites, then you must register with the Central Register of Foreigners (Registro Central de Extranjeros) up to 3 months after you arrive in Spain.

How to Apply for Spanish Residency as an EU Citizen

There are 3 methods to apply for residency in Spain as an EU citizen:

  • You can do so online if you’ve got a firma digital (digital signature).
  • You can make an appointment to apply in person yourself.
  • You can ask or hire a third-party, such as a gestor (a special type of Spanish administrator), to apply for you.

Documents Required to Apply

The first step is to prepare the documentation you’ll need to apply as follows. Please note that the following steps are for if you’re applying in person; if you’re applying online, you’ll need digital copies of these documents to upload.

  1. Fill in and sign official form EX-18, available on the Spanish government’s website. You’ll need to print this, sign it and take it with you.
  2. Have your passport handy to take with you. Photocopy the personal information page (with your photo).
  3. If you’re applying as the employee of a company, you must take your contract.
  4. If you’re applying as self-employed, you’ll need to show you’re registered as an autónomo (self-employed person) on the Censo de Actividades Económicas (Census of Economic Activities).
  5. If you’re unemployed, you must demonstrate that you’ve got comprehensive health coverage and the financial means to support yourself and your dependants.
  6. If you’re a pensioner, you must show that you’re eligible for public health coverage.
  7. If you’re a student, you must:
    1. Demonstrate that you’re registered at an educational institution.
    2. Show proof of your private or public health insurance.
    3. Demonstrate that you can support yourself financially during your stay too.

It’s advisable to take 2 or 3 photocopies of each of these documents with you to your appointment, as well as the originals. You may need to submit the photocopies.

Also, depending on your circumstances, you may also require additional documents to register. If you think this might be your case, consult with Spain’s government authorities or a gestor to find out more.

Ways to Apply for Residency

Once you’ve prepared these documents, you’re ready to either submit your application online or make your appointment. Here are the steps to follow for these methods.

  • To apply online:
    1. Enter the official Autorizaciones de Extranjería (Immigration Authorizations) portal and click on the ‘Continuar’ button. Please note, the page is in Spanish!
      Below the Acceso Individual (Individual Access) heading, click on the ‘Continuar Individual’ button.
    2. A pop-up will appear asking you to confirm the details of your firma digital. Click ‘Accept’ to confirm these.
    3. Select ‘EX-18 Solicitud de inscripción en el Registro Central de Extranjeros_Residencia ciudadano de la UE’ (Application for Registration in the Central Register of Foreigners – EU Resident Citizen).
    4. Enter your details and submit your documents!
  • To make an appointment:
    1. Visit the official Administraciones Públicas (Public Administrations) website.
    2. Where it says ‘Provincias Disponibles‘ (Available Provinces) select where you’re living in Spain.
    3. Where it says ‘Trámites Cuerpo Nacional de Policía’ (National Police Force Procedures), select ‘Policía – Certificado de Registro de Ciudadano de la U.E.‘ (Police – Registration Certificate for EU Citizen).
    4. On the next page headed ‘Internet Cita Previa‘ (Internet Appointment), click ‘Entrar‘ (Enter).
    5. Here, select ‘Pasaporte’ (Passport) and enter your passport number. Below, where it says ‘Nombre y apellidos‘ (Name and surnames), type your full name. Then click ‘Aceptar‘ (Accept).
    6. Next, select ‘Solicitar Cita’ (Make Appointment) and choose the office where you’d like to attend the appointment. The options available will depend on the province where you reside. When you’re ready, click ‘Siguiente’ (Next).
    7. Next, enter your telephone number (teléfono) and email address twice. You’ll be sent a justificante (receipt) of the appointment to the email address you enter. When you’re done, click ‘Siguiente’ (Next).
    8. Here, you’re asked to select an appointment date. Select the date that most suits you from the options available and then click ‘Siguiente’ (Next). A pop-up will appear asking you to confirm that you’re making the appointment, so click ‘Accept’.
    9. Attend the appointment at the time and location you’ve accepted with your accompanying documents!
  • For a third party (such as a gestor) to arrange your residency, either in person or online, speak to them.

When your application is accepted, you’ll be issued with a Spanish NIE (Número de Identidad de Extranjeros). This is a green A4 or credit-card sized piece of paper. It includes your name, date of birth, birthplace, address in Spain, issue date and, most importantly, your NIE number.

You’ll need this number in all sorts of situations in Spain, such as receiving mail. You’ll also require the NIE to do things like open a bank account, so guard the document closely! Please note that, since the NIE does not include your photo or biometric data, it’s not a legal form of ID; there is no NIE ID.

How to Get Spanish Residency for UK Citizens

If you’re residing (or planning to reside) in Spain as a Brit, the residence requirements depend on when you arrive(d) in the country. This is because, on 6th July 2020, the Spanish government introduced new rules to do with the Brexit transition period and the UK’s new status as a third-party country fully outside the EU from 2021. In brief, there are 3 categories:

  • UK citizens already living in Spain who registered before 6th July 2020.
  • UK citizens already living in Spain who registered after 6th July 2020.
  • Brits living in Spain who register after January 1st 2021.

We’ll look at the residency rules and requirements for each group in turn.

Spain Residence Permit for Brits Who Registered Before 6th July 2020

If you’re living in Spain and registered before 6th July 2020, you’re in luck! Under the Spanish government’s new rules, the green paper Spanish residence permit you obtained, the NIE (Número de Identidad de Extranjero), remains totally valid.

This is the case whether it’s the A4-sized or credit card-sized document. In both cases, your NIE remains proof of your rights under the UK’s Brexit Withdrawal Agreement. So you don’t need to take any additional steps to apply for residency in Spain!

That said, it’s worth bearing in mind that from 6th July 2020, the Spanish government has introduced a new document for Brits residing in Spain, called the TIE (Tarjeta de Identidad de Extranjero). This is a durable, plastic document that includes your photo and serves as a legal form of ID. Spain’s government advises that the TIE could help with lots of bureaucratic procedures in future.

If you’ve already got your NIE, there’s no obligation to apply for the TIE. However, you’re permitted to do so and, if you wish to obtain this new form of ID, we explain how below.

Spain Permanent Residence for Brits Who Register After 6th July 2020

If you’re a UK citizen who moved to Spain before the end of the Brexit transition period of 31st December 2020, yet didn’t register before 6th July 2020, your rights are still protected under the UK/EU Withdrawal Agreement. This means that you can continue to live in Spain. That said, to register there’s a 2-step process:

  1. Submit your residency application.
  2. Apply for your residency document (TIE).

Notably, if you’re registering after 6th July 2020, you’ll be issued the Spanish government’s aforementioned TIE rather than the NIE. There are 2 TIEs and which one you’re issued with depends on how long you’ve lived in Spain:

  • If you’ve resided here for fewer than 5 years, you’ll be issued with a temporary TIE valid for 5 years.
  • If you’ve lived here for over 5 years, you’re issued a permanent TIE, valid for 10 years. If, once you’re issued a temporary TIE, your residency length exceeds 5 years, you can immediately apply for a permanent TIE; you don’t have to wait for the temporary one to expire.
  • To renew your TIE, you can do so up to 1 month before or 3 months after its expiry date. When your TIE is due to expire, you must renew it.

Documents to Apply to Register

To register you’ll need the following documentation:

  • Official form EX-20, filled in and signed.
  • Your passport, plus a photocopy of the personal details page.
  • Proof of your residence in Spain before 31st December 2020.
  • Evidence of your public or private health coverage.
  • Evidence of your financial means to support yourself and your family.

Once you’ve compiled these documents, it’s best to print 2 or 3 copies to take with you to your residence appointment. Spain’s civil servants may require them for their records.

Steps to Apply for Residency

Next, you’re ready to submit your residency application. Here’s how:

  • If you have a firma digital, you can apply online:
    1. Enter the Autorizaciones de Extranjería (Immigration Authorisations) portal and click on the ‘Continuar’ button.
    2. Below the Acceso Individual (Individual Access) heading, click on the ‘Continuar Individual’ button.
    3. A pop-up will appear asking you to confirm the details of your firma digital. Click ‘Accept’ to confirm these.
    4. Select ‘EX-20 – Documento de residencia Artículo 50 TUE para nacionales del Reino Unido‘ (EX-20 – Residency Document Article 50 for nationals of the United Kingdom).
    5. Enter your details!
  • To make an appointment to attend in person:
    1. Visit the official Administraciones Públicas (Public Administrations) website.
    2. Where it says ‘Provincias Disponibles‘ (Available Provinces) select where you’re living in Spain.
    3. Select ‘Trámites oficinas de extranjería’ (Procedures for immigration offices).
    4. Select ‘Trámite para la documentación de nacionales de Reino Unido (Brexit)’ (Procedure for documentation of nationals of the UK (Brexit)).
    5. (In some Spanish provinces, such as Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia and Malaga, the above option is not available, so instead you’ll see an email address when you should submit your application. The email address differs depending on the province you selected.)
  • Speak to your gestor or third-party representative for them to submit your application for you, either online or at an appointment.

Steps to Obtain Your TIE

Once your residency application is approved, the next step is to obtain the TIE. Here’s how.

  1. Compile the necessary documentation. You’ll need:
    1. Official form EX-23, filled in, printed and signed.
    2. Your passport, and a photocopy of the personal details page.
    3. To pay the fee for form ‘Tasa modelo 790 Código 012’. You’ll need the receipt.
    4. A valid passport-sized photograph that will appear on your TIE.
    5. (Be sure to take photocopies of all these documents to the appointment with you.)
  2. Make your appointment as follows:
    1. Visit the official Administraciones Públicas (Public Administrations) website.
    2. Select which province you’re living in.
    3. Select ‘Policía Exp tarjeta asociada al Acuerdo de retirada ciudadanos británicos y sus familiares‘ (Police – issuance of card associated with the Withdrawal Agreement, British citizens and their family members).
    4. Once you’re TIE is ready, you’ll need to collect your new Spanish residency card. Be sure to take your passport with you as proof of your identity!

How to Apply for Residency in Spain for Brits From 2021

At the time of writing, the UK and the EU are still negotiating their mutual immigration rules for 2021 onwards. So it’s still to be clarified what steps Brits who move to Spain thereafter will have to take.

However, since the UK will become a third-party country outside the EU, it’s likely that the residency application process will resemble that for other non-EU nations, such as the USA, Australia or India. We’ll look at this process in the next section!

Spanish Visa Application for Non-EU Citizens

There are more steps to apply for residency in Spain as a non-EU citizen than for your European cohorts. Importantly, before you can legally register your residency, you must first obtain a visa to be allowed to enter the country to move here.

Here’s a list of Spanish visas you can acquire to live on a permanent basis here:

  1. A student visa, intended for those studying at the university level (Bachelor’s, Master’s, PhD).
  2. A business visa, for people who’re founding a company in Spain. There are 2 kinds:
    • An entrepreneur visa for innovative or hi-tech projects.
    • A self-employment work permit.
  3. A non-lucrative work visa for those not planning to work in the country. To acquire this, you need at least 25,000 EUR and health insurance coverage.
  4. A work permit as an employee. There are 2 sorts:
    • A highly-qualified professional visa, for those in managerial positions earning over 40,000 EUR. You can apply for this from inside Spain.
    • A normal employee visa. In this case, it must be demonstrated that you’re filling a position for which there’s a recognised national skills shortage.
  5. A Golden Visa, for people buying a property worth over 500,000 EUR, investing over 1,000,000 EUR in a Spanish company, or buying over 2,000,000 in public debt.
  6. A family grouping visa, for family members of people who already reside in Spain.

To learn more about the requirements and make your Spanish visa application, consult your nearest Spanish embassy or consulate. They’ll tell you which visa is most appropriate for you given your circumstances.

How to Get Residency in Spain for Non-EU Citizens

Once you’ve obtained your visa and arrived in Spain, the next step is to apply for residency with the Spanish authorities. You must do this within 30 days of arriving.

When you register, you’ll be issued with what’s called a TIE (Tarjeta de Identidad de Extranjeros). This is a plastic, credit-card sized document that includes your name, photo, date of birth, birthplace, your address in Spain, your visa type and the TIE’s issue date. The TIE is initially valid for 1 year and can be renewed annually for up to 5 years, at which point you’re eligible for permanent residency. It’s proof of your legal residency in Spain!

To apply for your TIE you must first compile the following:

  • Official form EX-17, filled in and signed.
  • Your passport, with a photocopy of the personal details page.
  • 2 or 3 passport photos.
  • Proof of your address in Spain.
  • To pay the fee for the form ‘Tasa modelo 790 Código 012’. You’ll need the receipt.
  • Supporting documents for your application, depending on your circumstances. For example, if you’re an employee in Spain, this might be your work contract. Meanwhile, if you’re a student, this could mean proof of your enrollment on your course.
  • Proof of comprehensive medical coverage.
  • Evidence of your financial ability to support yourself and your dependants.

Ensure you print several photocopies of all these documents, as Spain’s civil servants may require them for their records. Also, all documents must be translated into Spanish.

Once you’ve gathered these documents, the next step is to request your appointment. You can either do this yourself to attend in person or, if you’ve hired a third-party like a gestor (a special type of Spanish administrator), ask them to do so on your behalf. Here’s how to make your appointment:

  1. Visit the official Administraciones Públicas (Public Administrations) website.
  2. Select which province you’re living in.
  3. Select ‘Policia – Toma de huellas (expedición de tarjeta) y renovación de tarjeta de larga duración’ (Police – fingerprints taking (card issuance) and renewal of long-term card.
  4. Enter your:
    1. Pasaporte‘ (Passport number)
    2. Nombre y apellidos‘ (Name and surnames)
    3. País de nacionalidad‘ (Country of nationality)
    4. If applicable, the ‘Fecha de caducidad de su tarjeta actual’ (Expiration date of your current card).
  5. Select the location and date of your appointment.

Once your application has been accepted, you’ll be notified by telephone or email when your TIE is ready. You’ll have to return to pick up your valid document.

Register with the Padrón (Municipal Census)

If you’re living in Spain, then regardless of whether you’re from the EU, UK or elsewhere, you must also register with the municipal padrón as well as Spain’s central government. The padrón is the local townhall’s list of everyone who lives in the area, while larger cities like Madrid or Barcelona are split into districts.

You register with the padrón with your address. This is the case whether you’ve bought a property, you’re renting a property or even just a room. You have to register to be able to:

  • Sign up at your local doctor’s.
  • Enrol your children at local schools.
  • Register a car with a Spanish license plate.
  • Receive income-related benefits and other social care.
  • Vote in Spain’s local elections (for EU citizens).
  • Get tax deductions.
  • Get travel discounts if you live on a Spanish island.

When you’re registered, you’re what’s called ‘empadronado’.

How to register depends on where you live in Spain. If you’re residing in a larger city like Madrid or Barcelona, you make an appointment online. In rural villages, you might have to visit the town hall in person. You’ll typically need documents such as:

  • Your NIE or TIE and passport.
  • Your house deeds or rental contract.
  • A recent utility bill as further proof of address.

You may also have to pay a small fee to register, depending on where you live.

Once you’re registered with the padrón, you’ll be issued with a certificate to this effect. This is usually done in the moment, although you may have to return later in the same day.

When you’ve signed on to both your municipal padrón and the Registro Central de Extranjeros, the registration of your residency in Spain is complete. ¡Felicidades!

FAQs

Above we’ve given you clear steps about applying for residency in Spain. That said, if you have further queries, please find below the answers to some of our most frequently asked questions.

How Long Can I Stay in Spain Without Becoming a Resident?

Legally you’re regarded as a resident in Spain if you spend more than half the year (183 days) here. So if you’re from the EU, this is how long you can remain in Spain while retaining your legal residency in another country. If you’re from outside the EU, you can only visit as a non-resident for up to 90 days in each 180-day period.

How Long Can I Stay in Spain as a Tourist?

If you’re from the EU, you can spend less than half a year (183 days) in Spain as a tourist. If you’re from elsewhere, you can spend up to 90 days in each 180-day period. If you’re visiting Barcelona, ShBarcelona offers a range of short-term and longer-term apartment rentals.

How Long Do I Need on My Passport to Travel to Spain?

If you’re from the EU, you can travel to Spain so long as your passport remains valid; there are no minimum validity requirements. If you’re from outside the EU, your passport must have at least 6 months’ validity left.

What Does the Proof of Income for Spanish Residency Look Like?

The proof of income can either take the form of some recent bank statements or a letter demonstrating your entitlement to another source of funds, such as a public pension. Typically, you need to show an income of at least Spain’s minimum wage of 1,050 EUR per month.

What Does Health Insurance for Spanish Residency Look Like?

If you’re employed by a company or you’re self-employed in Spain, you’ll receive health coverage via the Spanish public health system. Also, you’re eligible to access Spanish public health if you’re a pensioner from another EU country residing here. In other circumstances, you may need private health insurance.

What’s the Difference Between a Registration Certificate and Permanent Residence?

If you’re an EU citizen, then your registration certificate is the green NIE (Número de Identidad de Extranjero), either in its A4 or credit card-sized format. If you’re from outside the EU, or you’re a Brit registering after 6th July 2020, your certificate is your TIE (Tarjeta de Identidad de Extranjero). These documents differ from permanent residence as follows.

In the case of EU citizens, the NIE doesn’t expire and is always valid. Moreover, after 5 years here, you automatically gain what’s called permanent residence under EU law. If you want this to be formally recognised, you can apply for a permanent residence NIE that says ‘Residente comunitario permanente’ (Permanent community resident). That said, except for under extraordinary circumstances such as Brexit, this is mostly a formality.

For non-EU citizens, you’re also eligible to apply for permanent residency after 5 years. When issued, this card is valid for 5 years, which is considerably more convenient than during your first 5 years in Spain, during which your permission must be renewed annually!

What Is the Spanish NIE?

The Spanish NIE stands for ‘Número de Identidad de Extranjero’. It’s a 9-digit sequence beginning and ending with a letter, such as ‘Y1234567B’.

For EU citizens, this number appears on a green A4 or credit-card sized document that EU citizens receive once they’ve legally registered their residency in Spain. For non-EU citizens, the NIE appears on your TIE (Tarjeta de Identidad de Extranjeros).

You use the NIE number for all sorts of day-to-day tasks such as opening a bank account or collecting packages from the post office.

What Is the DNI in Spain?

The DNI stands for ‘Documento Nacional de Identidad‘. It’s a credit card-sized form of legal ID issued to Spanish citizens. As a foreigner in Spain, you won’t be issued with a DNI; instead, you’ll receive either a NIE (for EU citizens) or TIE (for non-EU citizens).