Updated: Oct 31, 2019

When you come to live in Spain, you’ll soon find out that you need certain documents in order to stay here or to do business. The different documents and procedures can be somewhat confusing when you’re new in Spain. Here’s a short explanation.

All citizens of the European Union have the right to enter, leave, travel, live and work in Spain.

When your stay is for less than 3 months, you don’t need any documentation  other than your valid passport or national identification document. If you stay longer than 3 months you need to register with the authorities. You have to apply for a Certificado  de Registro (Registration Certificate), which can be applied for at the Oficina de Extranjeros in the province where you are staying (Almería, Granada, Murcia, also in Lorca or Baza). In every province there’s a slightly different procedure for making an appointment, documents you’ll have to hand in etc.

In some offices you’ll have to apply for an appointment (by email).

You will have to take 2 signed copies of the application form, which can be downloaded here:

Before you hand in the form you will have to pay the corresponding fees, which you can pay at any bank by filling in a form. This form can be downloaded here:

You need to take the copy of this payment form.

Also, you need to show proof of your income and show proof of medical insurance that is valid in Spain. All documents that you hand in , should be translated into Spanish by an official translator, that is registered in Spain.

Some offices ask for photo’s as well, and/or a proof of your empadronamiento. You do not need to have a N.I.E. number before you can apply for the certificate, but if you have one, take your N.I.E. document (original and copy). You also need to show your original (valid) passport and hand in a copy.

You will receive a green card as a proof of your (compulsory) registration. Not register although you stay longer than 3 months in Spain could be sanctioned with a fine. This green card is NOT an identification document. In Spain you will always need to be able to identify yourself with a valid passport.

Residencia, or a residency card, does not exist anymore since April 2007. EU citizens do not need, and cannot obtain residencia in Spain. The only obligation you have when you come to live or stay in Spain, is the aforementioned registration certificate. After having stayed in Spain for over 5 years, you automatically get the right to permanent residency. You can apply for a certificate for this permanent residency status, but this is not compulsory.

An N.I.E. number (Número de Identificación de Extranjeros), is a unique number that foreigners need when you get involved in issues with the authorities or taxes. The first time most people are confronted with this, is usually when they want to purchase property in Spain. As soon as your sale will be formalized (usually at the Notary Public), you need to have an N.I.E. number. An N.I.E. number can be obtained at the same offices that handle the registration certificates. Please note that you need to go there and make the application in person, only in exceptional cases this can be done by power of attorney. At some offices you’ll get the number immediately, in other places it can take 10 days or more. It is also possible to get this number through the Spanish consulate in your home country. You will always need to explain why you need this number, so documents that proof that you are about to buy or rent property, a work contract or others are required and need to be shown to the authorities.

The form can be downloaded here:

Don’t forget to fill in and sign 2 copies. You will need to bring your original valid passport (+ a photocopy), and proof why you need the NIE number (contract, escritura etc.).

The fees for the N.I.E. number must be paid in advance at a bank with the corresponding form, to be downloaded at

Empadronamiento or register on the padrón means to be inscribed in the municipality in Spain where you live. Even though you don’t live permanently in Spain or if you still have another address in another country, you should register. One of the reasons is, that you will count as a citizen in the place where you reside, and the Spanish towns get appointed the amenities and budgets they need based on the number of citizens (doctors, hospitals, municipal services, monies for maintenance etc.). You register at the town hall, showing a contract or escritura of the place you bought, or a rental contract.

As a European citizen you do not need any kind of work permit to work in Spain. You do need an N.I.E. number and registration certificate (in case you stay for more than 3 months) though.

As a European citizen you will become a tax resident in Spain when you live more than 168 days a year in this country and you are supposed to fill in the yearly tax returns in May or June declaring all your income from Spain or abroad.

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