All EU citizens are free to come and live in Spain without applying for special permission from the Spanish government.
However, at a certain point you will need to make your Spanish residency official. This is required by Spanish law, and by common sense too. Being an official resident of Spain means you have the same access to local and state services as any other Spaniard.
Official residency is also crucial in proving to the HMRC that you are a non-resident in the UK, which you need to do for tax purposes. This is important if you don’t want to have any arguments with the HMRC concerning your tax obligations.
When you move to Spain, there are three pieces of paperwork you need to obtain to make your life as easy as possible:
- Residency and an NIE
- Registration on a Padrón (registering as a local resident in your Town Hall)
- TSI – health card (you can find more information in our Healthcare & Health Insurance in Spain guide)
Inside This Guide:
Residency in Spain (Residencia)
After three months of living in Spain by Spanish law, you need to register as a foreign resident. For this you need to be added into the Central Register for Foreign Nationals or Registro Central de Extranjeros.
Requirements for Spain residency applications
To be eligible for residency in Spain, EU nationals who wish to reside in Spain for a period of over three months must meet the following requirements:
- Be employed in Spain or self-employed or
- Have sufficient funds to support themselves and family members (8,000€ minimum in a bank account in Spain)
- Be registered with a public or private health care policy that covers them during their time in Spain
Documents you need to submit with your Spanish residency application
The requirements may vary depending on where you live, but usually the following documents will be necessary:
- Your valid passport and a photocopy (all pages, including the cover)
- Two filled-out originals of the EX-18 form. The form has to be filled out in Spanish, but if you’re not confident in your Spanish and there’s no one near to give you a hand, Google it and you can find plenty of information on how to fill it in.
- Payment of about €12 (£10.7) with the payment form 790-012. The form is available online, so print it out and fill it in before you go to a bank to pay it. The bank will give you a receipt as proof of payment.
- The form S1 if you are in receipt of UK state pension, or proof of health insurance (without excess) if not. You can obtain your S1 form from the Department of Work and Pensions (read more about the S1 form application in our Healthcare in Spain section).
- Proof that you can support yourself in Spain.
Proving your financial self-sufficiency in Spain
You will need to show that you have a sufficient income – minimum €800 (£717) per person per month. You will also be asked to show our last 3 months of bank statements.
When it comes to actual proof of your income, it can be anything from regular income, investment income, pension or income of another kind, or from ownership of assets. You may prove it by presenting legally admissible evidence, such as property deeds or a bank certificate.
If you get your UK pension paid into a Spanish bank account, you can present a bank certificate. If your pension is paid into a British bank, you need to get in touch with the UK pensions office. They will send you a letter confirming your pension income, which you need to get translated by an official legal translator.
If you’re employed, you need to present your contract or certificate of employment.
If you’re self-employed, make sure you can demonstrate it by providing the details of your registration on the Economic Activities List “Censo de Actividades Económicos” or in the Mercantile Registry “Registro Mercantil”.
Where to apply for your Spanish residency certificate
You need to book an appointment online for your nearest National Police station to submit your application and all the documents.
You can also apply at the Oficina de Extranjería – the immigration administration office of the Spanish government. Every main city in each province in Spain has a branch of the Oficina de Extranjería .
Once you are on the Register, you will be issued with a Resident Certificate – Certificado de Residente – which will include the date of registration, your name, address, nationality and NIE number.
Permanent residency in Spain
If you have lived in Spain for five years and already have Certificado de Residente, you can apply, if you wish to, for permanent residency.
For this you will need to use the same forms and pay the same tax. No additional paperwork should be required, however, the authorities might ask for proof you have been living in Spain for five years.
For this, keep your bank receipts, rental contracts, utility bills, and any other official letters with your name and address from the very beginning of your settlement in Spain.
What’s an NIE and why you need one
An NIE or foreigners’ identification number is the expat equivalent of the local Spaniards’ DIE or Documento Nacional de Identidad. It is a bit like the British National Insurance number and is necessary when you deal with various local or state services.
An NIE number is mandatory for all foreigners with financial, professional or social affairs in Spain, regardless of whether they are a resident or non-resident in Spain.
You are asked for it if you buy a property in Spain, buy or insure a car in Spain, if you want to open a Spanish bank account or set up utility bills, or sign up for the state healthcare system. You will also need it if you conduct any financial and/or professional in Spain regardless of whether you are a resident or non-resident in Spain.
Children also need a NIE number in order to, among other things, get social security.
In short, any kind of paperwork you must do in Spain as a foreigner will require the NIE number.
You will be automatically issued with an NIE when you apply for your Residency Certificate.
Applying for an NIE only
If you don’t need a residency in Spain (if, for example, you aren’t going to spend more than 3 months in a year in Spain), you can apply for a NIE only.
The application procedure may vary depending on where in Spain you apply. Generally, to obtain a NIE number, you need to:
- Fill out the NIE application form (EX-15). You can download the form online and print it out, or you can get it at any NIE office. You must fill in the form in Spanish. If you need help with it, there is advice available online, just google “filling in EX-15 form Spain”.
- If you’re already in Spain, go to your nearest police station or Oficina de Extranjeros. Outside of Spain, find a Spanish Consulate (the “Consulate dept legalizaciones”, not the Embassy) to submit the documents.
Together with two originals of EX-15 form you need to file in the following:
- Your passport and a copy of your passport (all pages)
- A small fee ( just over €10 in 2018), payable at the bank using a 790 NIE form. This can now only be filled in online and printed out. Find the form online and take it to any bank to pay before going to the police station
You need book an appointment at the National Police station. It can be done online.
You will be given a white certificate with the number on. In some cases you may be asked to collect it another day. NIE numbers always begin with the letter X, Y or Z.
Registering on a Padron
All Town Halls in Spain keep a register of the residents of their area – the Padron. It’s used by the government and local authorities to make sure they know how many people live in the area.
If you live in Spain for more than six months in a year, you should register on the Padron.
You will find you need it when registering with a family doctor, or applying for facilities offered via Social Security, or sending your children to a local school.
You need to apply at your local Town Hall. Make sure you know the requirements – they differ from area to area.
Normally you would need the following:
- Your original passport and a photocopy
- Your title deeds and a photocopy if you own a property
- Your rental contract in Spanish and a photocopy if you’re renting
The certificate confirming your registration on the Padron only lasts for 90 days. You will only need the certificate when you are asked to prove that you are registered.
It doesn’t happen so often, but when you need it, you just visit your local council to get a fresh one.
You might find useful:
- Taxes In Spain For Residents & Non-Residents – includes capital gains taxes in case you sell your Spanish property, local council taxes and the Spanish succession tax and inheritance;
- Moving To And Living In Spain Guide – everything you need to know to settle down in Spain successfully: paperwork, healthcare, banking, removals, driving & transport, best places to live in Spain and many more;
- Visit our homepage for a comprehensive range of Retirement Abroad guides.