Spain is a dream for permanent and temporary relocation. However, dealing with Spanish bureaucracy can be a nightmare, especially when it comes to getting your Spanish residency in order. To help facilitate the paperwork, we have explained the different residency and nationality options below.
The procedures and required paperwork differ greatly depending on your status: Spanish residency and nationality law differentiates between European and non-European citizens. There are also options in place for investors and entrepreneurs. For advice on which one suits you, your family and your business, get in touch now.
- 1. Process for EU/EEA and Swiss citizens to obtain permanent residency rights in Spain
- 2. Process for a non-EEA/Swiss citizen to obtain initial temporary Spanish residency
- 2.3. What about my family?
- 2.4. Marrying a Spaniard/ EU Spanish resident
- 3. Process for non-EEA/Swiss citizens to obtain permanent residency in Spain
- 4. Becoming a Spanish national through residency
1. Process for EU/EEA and Swiss citizens to obtain permanent residency rights in Spain
EEA (European Union countries plus Iceland, Leichtenstein and Norway) nationals and Swiss citizens are allowed to live and work in Spain on a permanent basis without a visa. Nevertheless, if you want to stay longer than three months, you must register officially as a resident and prove that:
(1) you have the financial means to support you and your family; and
(2) you have healthcare insurance.
Where do I register for Spanish Residency?
At the Oficina de Extranjería (Foreigners Office) in the province where you are resident or the national police station (Comisería Nacional de Policía).
Do I need to wait until the first three months have passed?
No. You must apply for residency within the first three months of your arrival in Spain.
In which registry will my Spanish residency be incorporated?
You will be incorporated into the Central Register of Foreign Nationals.
What documents do I need to bring when applying for Spanish Residency?
- Valid passport or ID document
- Completed residency form (EX-18, downloadable here)
Depending on your circumstances, the documents required would be: certificate of employment or registration as self-employed plus proof you are paying social security in Spain (employed and self-employed EEA or Swiss nationals); proof of you have sufficient funds to support yourself and your family (in 2020, this was at least €400 a month per person) and have private or public healthcare insurance.
Will I be given a Residency card?
You will be granted a residency certificate which will include your name, address, nationality and your Foreigner’s Identity Number (NIE – número de identificación de extranjeros).
What is an NIE number?
A NIE is your identification and tax number in Spain, essential for all financial and administrative matters. You need it to buy a property, buy a car, hire facilities, pay taxes, get a phone or utility contract, make official claims.
What about my family?
EEA or Swiss citizens: members of your family (spouse, legally registered partner and dependants) who are also must apply for Spanish residency using the same procedure as above.
Non-EEA or Swiss citizens: members of your family (spouse, legally registered partner and dependants) have the right to live in Spain but must follow the following procedure to obtain residency in Spain:
(1) Apply for a visa from the Spanish embassy or consulate in their home country before their arrival in Spain.
(2) Within three months of arrival, they must register in person at the Foreigner’s Office to obtain a Residency Card for Family Members of EU Citizens (Tarjeta de Residencia de Familiar de Ciudadano de la Unión Europea).
Which documents do non-EEA/Swiss family members need to show when applying for residency?
(1) Valid passport
(2) Completed and signed application form EX-19.
(3) Proof of relationship with the EEA/Swiss citizen (birth, marriage, civil partnership certificates). These documents must be sworn translations (Spanish) and issued within the three months before your residency application.
(4) Proof of identity the EEA/Swiss citizen (passport or ID card)
(5) 3 colour passport photos
How long is the EEA/Swiss citizens residency card valid for?
It has no expiry date. Note, however, you can lose your right to permanent residence if you live outside Spain for more than 2 consecutive years. Holders of the Residency Card for Family Members of EU Citizens lose their right to residence if they leave Spain for a period of more than six months within a year unless the absence is for certain and justifiable reasons such as military service, employment or illness.
Unlike the registration certificate that is required in many countries, the permanent residence document is not mandatory.
However, it is useful for other procedures and saves you having to prove again that you have work, sufficient funds, medical insurance, etc.
Save yourself a lot of time, stress and trouble – let us help you with the procedures for applying for Spanish residency for you and your family. Contact us now for more information.
What about the permanent residency card?
If you’ve made Spain your permanent home, you may wish to apply for permanent residence. To do this, you must show that you have been living legally in the country for five years.
When you make your application, you must present several supporting documents depending on your situation (employee, self-employed, job seeker, pensioner, student, etc.). For example:
-Valid registration certificate issued upon your arrival in the country
– Proof you live in Spain, such as utility bills or rental agreements
– Documents such as your payroll, bank statements or tax returns, that show you have worked (for others or as self-employed) or studied, are retired or looking for work.
You receive your certificate of permanent residence in Spain within three months of your application. It is valid for ten years and automatically renewed with no conditions attached.
Can I lose my right to permanent residence?
You can lose the right to permanent residence if you live outside the country for more than two consecutive years.
Do my family acquire the same rights?
The same rights apply to family members who are EEA or Swiss citizens. They are also entitled to permanent residence in Spain as long as they have legally resided with you for five consecutive years.
What do I need to do if I am working in Spain as an EEA/Swiss citizen?
You need to register with the Spanish Social Security system. If you are an employee, your employer will do this for you; if you are self-employed it is your responsibility.
What about registering as a local resident (padrón)?
In Spain, it’s advisable to register locally on the patrón (similar to the electoral roll in the UK). Having a certificate (certificado de empadronamiento) showing you are registered, allows you access to local education and health services and certain income-related benefits and social care. In some areas, registered local residents also benefit from deductions on local taxes and inheritance tax. In addition, being registered gives you the right to vote in local and European elections.
What documents will I need to register at the Padrón?
- Passport or official ID
- NIE or residence certificate or card
- Recent utility bill in your name / or
- Copy of your rental contract/ title deeds (escritura)
2. Process for a non-EEA/Swiss citizen to obtain initial temporary Spanish residency
Non-EEA/Swiss national must submit a residency request before Spanish authorities.
There are different types of residency and work permits, depending on the purpose of your stay:
- 2.1 Working and living in Spain
- 2.2. Enterpreneurs and investor visa
- 2.3. Family
- 2.4. Marrying a Spaniard
- 2.5.Student visa
- 2.6.Schengen visa
2.1. Working and living in Spain
If you’re planning to live and work in Spain you need to have a work visa in place before you arrive.
What’s the process to get a Spanish work visa?
You first need to find a job and your employer needs to start the process.
The general rule is that work permits are granted if:
(1) the job is in a market which has a shortage of qualified applicants
(2) has been advertised locally without finding a suitable candidate from Spain or another EU country.
The employer will have to prove before the Spanish Work Authorities that they’ve sought candidates in Spain and the EU first with no results. Your employer will also have to show your professional qualifications.
The paperwork for Spanish residency and work visas can be overwhelming especially if you don’t speak Spanish. Our expert team are more than happy to help you and your family ensure you have the right documentation and follow the right procedure to get your permits. Find out how we can help you now.
What are the general requirements work visas in Spain?
- You must not be an EEA (EU countries plus Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway) or Swiss national or a family member of citizens of these countries.
- You must not have entered Spain illegally.
- You must not have a criminal record in Spain or a record for anything regarded as a crime by the Spanish legal system in any of the previous countries you lived in.
- You must not be prohibited from entering Spain nor in any of the countries with which Spain has signed an agreement in that sense.
- You must not have agreed voluntarily to the commitment of non-return to Spain.
- You must pay the fees for processing your residency and work permits.
What about employment requirements to get a work visa in Spain?
To get a work visa in Spain, you (or your employer) need to fulfill the following conditions:
- The job that you are going to take on in the company must be included in the list of jobs that are difficult to cover. The list is published by the Public Employment Service on a quarterly basis.
- The Spanish Immigration Office considers that it has not been possible to cover the post according to the certificate issued by the Public Employment Service for the job offer.
- You must present a contract signed by you and your employer that guarantees the employee a continuous activity during the period of validity of the authorization to reside and work. The start date for the contract must be conditioned to the moment of the effectiveness of the permit for residency and work.
- The conditions established in the work contract must be adjusted to those established by current regulations. If the contract is part-time, the remuneration must be equal to or greater than the minimum inter-professional salary for full-time and annual computation.
- Your employer must be enrolled in the Social Security system and be up to date with their tax and social security obligations.
- The employer must have sufficient economic, material or personal means for his business project and to meet the obligations in your contract.
- Have the training and, where appropriate, the professional qualification legally required for the exercise of their profession.
What documents do I need for a Spanish work visa?
Once your employer has initiated your application for a working visa, you have one month to complete the application at the local Spanish embassy in your home country. When you submit your application, you’ll need to complete an application form, and present it together with the following documents:
- Certified copy of your employment contract
- Passport with at least four months validity left
- Clean criminal record from the past five years
- Medical certificate
Will I be called for an interview?
Yes, if the embassy have any questions about your application
Will my Spanish work visa grant me the right to work in any EU country?
Only possible if you are highly skilled (Bachelor’s level university degree/ five years of senior professional experience), and have a binding job offer or active work contract.
You can apply for the Blue Card that does entitle you to work in any EU country. Its procedure is typically quicker than other forms of work visa application. You can find information on the process here
What if I am just a seasonal worker?
You need to apply for a work permit in the same way as anyone else. You will also have to show that you have the money to cover your travel and that you have arranged housing to live in during your stay. You will have to show prepaid plane tickets to prove you intend to return to your own country.
2.2. Entrepreneur and Investor Visas in Spain
What are the requirements for Entrepreneur and Investor visas?
To obtain either of these visas, you need to meet one of the following requirements:
- Invest at least €2 million in Spanish government bonds
- Purchase at least €1 million in shares of Spanish companies or bank deposits at Spanish financial institutions.
- Buy real estate in Spain to the value of at least €500,000 per applicant.
- Start a business project that will be developed in Spain and is considered of general interest. ‘General interest’ is measured by the performance of at least one of the following conditions:
1. Creating jobs.
2. Making an investment with relevant socio-economic impact in the geographical area in which the activity will develop.
3. Making a significant contribution to scientific innovation and / or technology.
There must also be substantial capital investment made by a company that is established in a territory not considered a tax haven by Spanish law. The applicant must own, directly or indirectly, the majority of the voting rights and have the power to appoint or remove a majority of the company board members.
You can find further information on this process on the official website
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2.3. What about my family?
Who has rights for residency in Spain through family reunification?
Those foreigners who have been living legally in Spain for one year and have obtained authorization to stay at least one more year. If you are intending to reunite ascendants (e.g. your parents), you must be a long-term resident in Spain.
There are cases when reunification is possible without previous legal residence:
- Holders of an EU long-term residence permit in another Member State of the European Union
- Holders of an EU Blue Card or beneficiaries of the special regime for researchers.
Which family members can be reunited?
• Spouse or person in a relationship similar to marriage (proof of this is required).
- The resident’s unmarried children or those of the spouse or partner, including adopted children.
- Direct descendants over 18 with disabilities.
- Children or other persons over 18 with disabilities whose legal guardian or representative is the resident applying for reunification.
• Parents of the resident, or those of the spouse or partner, over 65. Exceptional Spanish residency may be granted on humanitarian grounds for parents under 65.
How do I apply for family reunification?
You need to fill out the official application form and present the following documents:
• Proof of family ties and relationships, age and legal dependency.
• A copy of the passport, travel document, or valid ID of the applicant and the person they wish to join in Spain.
• Proof you have employment and/or sufficient economic means to be able to support the family, including health care cover (if not included under Social Security System).
• Written evidence, according to the regulations, of having adequate housing for the family’s needs.
• If you are applying to bring your spouse or partner to join you, a sworn statement that you do not live in Spain with another spouse or partner.
2.4. Marrying a Spaniard/ EU Spanish resident
A foreigner who marries a Spanish citizen or a resident is entitled to Spanish residency. To obtain it, you must go to the Foreigners Office in the province you live in and submit the following documentation:
- Application form: EX-19, in duplicate, duly completed and signed by the spouse of the Spanish/ EU Spanish resident citizen.
- Full, valid and current passport of the non-Spanish spouse.
- Certificate of marriage to prove the existence of the family bond with the Spanish citizen or resident.
- Identification card ( DNI) of the Spanish citizen or certificate of registry as an EEA citizen in Spain
- Proof of funds/ economic situation of the EEA Citizen. Depending on your status, this is:
* If you are employed:
– Employer contract, letter of intent statement or employment certificate, including, at least, the name and address of the company, tax identification and Social Security Account code.
– Work contract registered in the Public Employment Service.
– Document proving registration with the corresponding Social Security system.
* If you are self-employed:
– Registration in the Economic Activities Census.
– Justification of its establishment through Registration in the Commercial Registry.
– Document proving registration with the corresponding Social Security system.
* If you do not work:
– Proof that you have public or private health insurance contracted in Spain or in another country covering healthcare in Spain during your period of residence, equivalent to that provided by the National Health System. Pensioners may comply with this condition by providing certification of their healthcare from the state from which they receive a pension.
– Documentation that proves the citizen has sufficient funds for their period of residence in Spain.
* If you are a student:
– Proof of registration at an education centre, public or private, recognised or financed by the competent educational administration.
– Proof you have public or private health insurance. A European health insurance card valid for the period of residence may be valid in some instances.
– A statement declaring that you have sufficient funds for yourself and your family members during your period of residence in Spain.
Once the application is submitted, the authorities have three months to examine your petition.
If it is accepted, all the foreign spouse has to do is to get their residence card, a process that includes fingerprint taking.
This Spanish residence permit is valid for five years and allows the spouse to work under the same conditions as a Spaniard, both as self-employed or an employee.
2.5. Studying in Spain
The requirements for Spanish residency for students vary depending on whether your stay or short or long term.
SHORT stay (less than three months)
You don’t need to apply for a student visa if you are staying for less than three months in Spain and you hold a valid passport issued by a country approved by the Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Ministerio de Asuntos Exteriores y de Cooperación).
Here you can find an official list of nationals who do not require a student visa for Spain.
LONG stay (MORE than 3 months)
You must apply for a student visa unless you are from a European Union (EU) country. Below you can find all the requirements to apply for this kind of visa.
Requirements to apply for a Student Visa in Spain
- Passport and/or national ID card
- Letter of invitation from the Spanish school/university
- Proof that you have enough financial means for the length of your stay
- Medical insurance with international coverage
Additionally, if you are applying for a period longer than 180 days you will also need to present:
- Medical certificate to prove that you are in good health
- Certificate of no criminal record issued by your national police
2.6. Schengen Visa
Who needs a Schengen Visa?
The Schengen Visa is issued to Non-EEA citizens wishing to travel as tourists for a maximum of three months to the Schengen Area. It can be granted as (1) single entry, so you will just be able to enter the Schengen Area once or (2) multiple entries.
What documentation is required?
- Official application form
- One recent passport photo.
- Passport valid for at least three months after your departure and with at least two blank pages. You also need to provide copies of all previous visas granted.
- Proof of reservation of a return ticket for the time intended to be travelling.
- Medical insurance covering any medical emergency with hospital care and travel back to your home country for medical reasons. This health insurance policy must cover expenses up to €30,000 and be valid in all Schengen countries.
- Proof of accommodation booking.
Where do I submit the application?
You need to submit the application to the consulate or embassy of the country you will enter first or spend most time during your trip.
How long is the visa valid for?
A tourist visa is commonly valid for stays of no more than 90 days. If you are travelling through multiple Schengen countries it’s advisable to apply for a “multiple entry” visa.
If you wish to stay longer, you will have to apply again in your embassy.
How long does it take to receive the visa?
It is advisable to apply for it at least two weeks prior to the planned trip. The Embassy Consulate generally replies within 10 working days.
3. Process for non-EEA/Swiss citizens to obtain permanent residency in Spain
What are the requirements for a long-term residence permit?
1. You and your family must not be EEA/Swiss citizens.
2. You must not be in Spain illegally.
3. You must have no criminal record in Spain or a record for crimes listed in the Spanish legal system in countries you have previously lived in.
4. You must not be prohibited from entering Spain or countries with which Spain has signed an agreement in that sense.
5. You must be in one of the following situations:
a) Have resided legally and continuously in Spanish territory for five years.
Continuity is not affected by absences of up to six months, provided that the total time spent outside Spain does not exceed ten months within five years. If the absence was for work purposes, the maximum permitted is one year within the required five years.
b) Have held the EU Blue Card for five consecutive years, lived in the European Union and two years immediately prior to the application date lived in Spain.
Continuity is not be affected by absences from the EU for up to twelve consecutive months, provided that the total time spent outside the EU does not eighteen months within the required five years of residence.
c) Be a resident beneficiary of a contributory retirement pension, included in the protective action of the Spanish social security system.
d) Be a resident beneficiary of permanent or major disability pension, in its contributory form, included within the protective action of the Spanish Social Security system or similar benefits to the previous ones obtained in Spain and consisting of an income for life, not capitalizable, sufficient to live off.
e) Be a resident and have been born in Spain and upon reaching the legal age, have resided in Spain legally and continuously for at least three consecutive years immediately preceding the application.
f) Be Spanish originally, but have lost Spanish nationality.
g) Be a resident who at 18 has been under the tutelage of a Spanish public entity for the immediately preceding five consecutive years.
h) Be a stateless person, refugee or beneficiary of subsidiary protection, be in Spanish territory and have been recognised as such in Spain.
i) Have contributed notably to the economic, scientific or cultural progress of Spain. Or to the projection of Spain abroad. In these cases, the Ministry of Labour will be responsible for granting the permanent residence permit, following a report from the head of the Ministry of the Interior.
What documents do I have to submit for a long term Spanish Residency permit?
1. Official application form (EX-11) in duplicate, duly completed and signed by the foreigner, except in the case of having contributed to economic, scientific or cultural progress, which will be instigated officially by the Directorate General of Immigration.
2. Copy of your entire passport, travel title or valid registration card.
3. If you are a resident: a certificate issued by the appropriate authorities or by the educational centre certifying that minors in your care and of compulsory school age have been at school.
4. If you are not a resident in Spain at the time of the application, a criminal record certificate issued by the authorities of the country of origin or the country or countries where you have resided for the last five years.
5. Depending on the situation ( as per above):
• a): documentation accrediting periods of prior residence as a Blue-EU cardholder in another EU state.
• b): birth certificate.
When documents from other countries are submitted, they must be translated into Spanish or co-official language of the territory where the application is submitted.
Who can submit the application?
– If you are already a resident in Spain, you can present the application personally or through representation.
– If you are not a resident at the time of submitting the application, you must submit the application personally.
– In the event of having contributed to economic, scientific or cultural progress, the General Directorate of Immigration, upon the proposal of a public authority with competence related to the merit on which the petition is based.
Where does the application need to be submitted?
-If you are resident in Spain: at any public registry and addressed to the Immigration Office in the province where you live.
-If you are not a resident of Spain and living in Spanish territory: at the Immigration Office in the province where you have your residential address.
– If you are not resident in Spain or in Spanish territory: at the Spanish Embassy or Consulate in the country you are resident in.
How long does it take for the application to be considered?
Three months from the day following the date on which it has been entered in the registry.
Applying for a Spanish residence permit can be time-consuming, stressful and difficult. Make it easy for yourself by putting everything in our hands. Find out how we can help now.
4. Becoming a Spanish national through residency
What are the requirements for Spanish nationality by residency?
As a general rule, to apply for Spanish nationality by residence, you need to prove you have lived legally and continuously in Spain for 10 years prior to your application. Note that time spent as a student does not count as part of the 10 years. The 10-year requirement is reduced in some cases:
- 5 years of residence for Spanish nationality for those who have obtained refugee status.
- 2 years of residence for Spanish nationality for nationals from Ibero-American countries, Andorra, the Philippines, Equatorial Guinea, Portugal, or persons of Sephardic origin.
- 1 year of residence for Spanish nationality for those born in Spanish territory, married to a Spaniard, widows or widowers of Spaniards, born outside of Spain with a family history of Spanish kinship, and for those who did not previously exercise the right to acquire Spanish nationality.
In any of the cases, in order to qualify for nationality by residence, the interested party must prove that he or she has had good civic conduct and that he or she has a sufficient degree of integration in Spanish society.
Do I have to take the Spanish Nationality exams?
Yes, you do. These exams test your knowledge of the Spanish Constitution and social and cultural aspects. Minors and people with some forms of disability are exempt.
These exams take place in Cervantes Institute centres. The registration dates and deadlines can be viewed on its website.
Do I have to submit criminal records?
Yes, criminal records in Spain and in your country of origin will have to be submitted
Does the time of residency have to be continuous?
Yes, for nationality by residence to be approved, legal residence be stable and continuous before and during the application process. Any prolonged departure from Spain could be considered as a reason to deny nationality.
Who can apply for Spanish nationality by residence?
- Interested parties over 18 years of age and not dependants.
- Those over 14 years of age assisted by their legal representative.
- The legal representatives of children under 14 years of age.
What documents do I need to apply for Spanish nationality by residence?
The required documents include:
(1) Birth certificate: requested in the city where you were born (or registered).
(2) Certificate of no criminal record. Two documents are required – the certificate of criminal records from your country of origin (if you were not born in Spain) and one from the Spanish authorities.
(3) Certicate of local residence (padrón) from your local town council.
(4) Proof of legal residence in Spain.
(5) Proof you have sufficient economic means to live in Spain. For example, a work contract or bank guarantee.
(6) Copy of your NIE or residency card.
(7) Copy of all pages of your passport.
Further documentation may also be required.
Our experts offer help and advice on all aspects of Spanish nationality and permits to live and work in Spain. Contact us now to find out how we can make the paperwork and procedures quick and easy.