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Residencia in Spain


Residencia and Permits in Spain

EU foreigners do not need a visa to enter Spain, but just a passport or an official ID in force. Non-EU foreigners, on the other hand, do need a visa to enter Spain, except if there exists an agreement between Spain and the foreign home country, by means of which the requirement of a visa is eliminated for citizens or residents of such countries when they will be staying in Spain for up to 3 months within a 6 month period, or for a transit stay of maximum 5 days.

Once you have lived in Spain for a certain time (depending on your country of origin), you are no longer considered a tourist and should apply for a residence permit. Fortunately, the revised foreigner’s law, which went into effect on 1 March 2003, makes it easier for European Union citizens to apply for residence; also, those EU citizens who are working in Spain, do not need to renew their permits.

The normal residence permit is renewed once every five years and renewal is usually a fairly straightforward matter.

Normally, you apply for your residence card at your local police station or “oficina de extranjeros”. As laws constantly change and tend to vary slightly anyway from one area to another, it is best to pop along first to ask for a list of exactly what you will need to present.

How long can you expect to wait before actually receiving your card? This varies from town to town and can be days, weeks or even months in smaller towns. However, you should be supplied with a document showing that you have applied for residencia, which can be used in place of the residence permit.



Since 1 March 2003, two groups of EU citizens no longer need to hold residence cards: those people who are legally working in Spain and presently paying Spanish Social Security; also, retired workers entitled to a Spanish State pension who have lived in Spain for more than three years and have worked in the 12 months prior to retirement. Having said that, and although it isn’t obligatory for these people, the residence card is always useful as easy proof of your status.

Everybody else should apply for a residencia.

EU citizens no longer need to show proof of income nor that they have medical insurance – either private or, for example, the British E111 form.

European Union citizens can freely enter, exit, travel and remain in Spain, and are not obliged to get the residence card (the European Community registration card), in order to live or stay for longer than 3 months in Spain. The residence card is not any more, as it used to be after the incorporation of Spain into the European Union, a formal requirement for EU citizens to establish their residence in Spain, although they can apply to get one if they wish to obtain it (in this case, the government employee must inform the EU citizen about the non obligation to get the card).

The temporary residence cards are issued for staying periods between 3 months and 1 year, the permanent residence card is issued for 5 years, which is automatically renewable.

You must apply for your residence card in person to the foreigners’ office (Oficina de Extranjeros) or the national police station (Comisaría de Policía Nacional) with Foreigners’ department from the city where you are going to live.

You will be required to present the following documentation:
Your passport valid for at least six months.
Three photographs of the correct size.
Medical certificate, when required.
Proof of family relationship, when applying for reuniting family members.
Proof of your financial support while you are in Spain, your pension, or copy of your work contract if you are going to work in Spain as employee, or documented proof that you meet the necessary requirements to work on your own account, when you are going to work in Spain as self employed.

You should carry your residence card with you at all times as it constitutes a mandatory identity card for foreign residents in Spain.

Your residence permit will include a número de identificatión de extranjero (NIE), which identifies you to the Spanish tax authorities.


What is an NIE number and why do I need one?

In Spain you cannot legally buy property, a house, car, boat etc without having applied to the police for your NIE number and had your NIE documentation returned. Likewise, you cannot enter into a contract for the supply of electricity, water or a telephone line etc without giving your
NIE/NIF number together with your bank details because these services will only accept clients whose bills are paid automatically from a bank. Neither can you arrange an insurance policy or order goods or services, sign on for the National Social Security, Health Service or commence a job without showing your NIE number.

The Decree (Real Decreto 338-1990) of 9th March establishes that everyone, of whatever nationality, resident or not, who has any “official business” in Spain, must have a fiscal number (NIF/NIE) which is used to identify them on all official documents.


What is the difference between an NIE and NIF number?

People often talk about or ask for your NIE or NIF number. In actuality they are the same. The NIE is used for confirming your identification whereas, if you wish to carry out any fiscal function such as opening a bank account, buy a property, car, boat etc it is referred to as an NIF (fiscal) number. Application requirement and the document issued are the same.

Without a Residencia – you are not legally entitled to stay in Spain for more than 90 days before returning to the UK or your home country, or applying for a Permanent or Temporary Residencia Permit

(Due to changing laws, we strongly recommend you consult the nearest Spanish consulate in your own country, or any “oficina de extranjeros” in Spain for any special requirements regarding your own particular situation. More information on residence permits may also be found on Spains Home Office webpage).