The requirements for residency in Spain is a subject that I am often asked about and, perhaps unsurprisingly, the number of requests has risen substantially during the last few weeks following Brexit. Although this is a subject that I have written about on a number of occasions, I felt it was time for a refresh, since the rules and requirements rapidly change.

Even so, intending expats should always check current information before committing themselves on the strength of this article. Also, please bear in mind that Spain is composed of autonomous regions, including the Canary Islands, and so procedures may vary according to where you are applying.

Requirements for Residency

If you plan to live for more than 3 months in Spain, you must register with your local police station or foreigners’ office (oficina de extranjeros). The application for residency will need to be completed in Spanish; however, you will find a copy of this document in English on my website, which you may find helpful. You will receive a residence certificate that states your NIE number (numero de identificacion extranjeros), which is a very important number that you will often need, as well as your name, address, nationality and date of registration.

The original residence certificate has to last a long time, so you may wish to carefully protect it in a plastic cover. A notario office or friendly police station can authenticate your photocopies with a legal stamp, for a fee, that many places accept instead of your actual residence certificate. However, for legal and town hall business, the original document is nearly always required.

You also need to show evidence that you can support yourself financially, as you will not be eligible to claim state benefits until you have worked in Spain with a contract for several years.

You will be asked to show that you have private health care insurance or that you have paid to join the Spanish National Health service if you are under the age of state retirement. Residents over the age of state retirement currently have full access to National Health services in Spain, although this may change if/when the UK leaves the European Union.

You will always need to show your passport when visiting police stations, foreigners’ offices, tax offices and town halls, as well as your residence certificate. You will also be often asked for photocopies of your passport, and it is useful to have a supply of these. A notario office and police station can authorise your photocopies with a legal stamp that many places accept instead of your actual passport, but for legal and town hall business, the original will nearly always be required.

If you have a contract of employment with a Spanish company, you need to provide these details.

If you are self employed, you need to register at the local Social Security Office.

If you are not employed, then you need to prove you have other income or assets that you will use to live on, to avoid becoming a burden on the Spanish state; some regions may request that a specific amount of cash is readily available in your Spanish bank account. Your Spanish bank will provide information about your account and the money that you have deposited with them if you collect a form 790 from a local police station for a small charge.

As mentioned earlier, residency requirements can vary between the different regions of Spain, and you may often be asked to provide a padron certificate that you can collect from the local town hall. This padron (similar to the electoral roll) is important for the local town hall as it gives them information about how many people are living in the municipality, which can increase their funding.

It is in your interests, as well as that of your municipality that you register at the town hall; registration will also give you the right to vote in municipal and European elections (whilst the UK is a member of the EU), but not national or regional elections.

Documents that are needed can be different across regions of Spain, so check with the police station or local town hall.

A certificate of residency is a very important document, and is needed for many day-to-day activities. Just one piece of further advice; if you do not speak reasonably fluent Spanish, you should use a gestor who speaks English to complete and register these forms for you. It can also save you many hours of waiting at the police station. If you do decide to do it yourself, prepare for a long day, take drinks, sandwiches and a comfortable picnic chair, as this is one piece of Spanish bureaucracy that I would try to avoid at all costs!

You can find a copy of the application form in English on my Expat Survival website: in Spain/

If you enjoyed this article, take a look at Barrie’s websites: and or read his book, ‘Island in the Sun’ (ISBN: 9780992767181). Available in paperback, as well as Kindle.

© Barrie Mahoney