Find out how to register on ‘el padrón’, Spain’s population register, which is mandatory for foreigners to carry out certain procedures in Spain.
El padron is essentially Spain’s population register, where the official addresses of all residents in Spain are recorded for the purpose of carrying out certain civil procedures, alongside the NIE number that is also required by foreigners. This guide explains what the padron is, what el padrón is used for in Spain and how to register on the padrón and get your padrón certificate.
Definition of el padrón
In simple words, the padrón is a local certificate that you get when you register at the town hall in the area where you reside in Spain. The certificate for the padrón in Spanish is called ‘certificado de empadronamiento’.
If you have several properties in different cities in Spain, you can only be registered in one padrón system.
What is el padrón used for?
The padrón in Spain has two main purposes:
- Local, regional, national or European elections.
Through the census, authorities calculate how many public services (health, police, administration, etc.) each area needs. The more people registered, the more services an area receives. You can read statistics about Spain’s population (INE padrón).
Regarding voting, at election time you will receive a letter to let you know which facility you have to go to vote. If you are not registered on the padrón, you won’t be able to vote.
To clear up any misconceptions:
- The padrón is not a form of ID.
- The padrón is not your Spanish residency.
- The padrón is not a required document to keep in your vehicle.
- The padrón does not have to be renewed every so often, just when the town hall says so.
Who needs a padrón registration?
In the case of foreigners, the main advantages of being on the padrón are:
- Spanish residency – you will need to get on the padrón to become a resident, so that the Spanish authorities know where your home address is.
- Spanish driving licence – the padrón certificate will be required when you exchange your driving licence for a Spanish one, for the same reason as above.
- Spanish health card – another procedure where the padrón is used as proof of address. It’s a way of determining which medical centre you will attend depending on your home address.
- Persioner’s card – the padrón certificate will show the local authorities where you live.
- School registrations – through the padrón, certificate schools know where children live.
There are other procedures that you’ll need a padrón for, but essentially these are the most common.
How to register on the padrón
The best advice is to ask at the town hall or relevant local office which documents you need, as Spanish town halls are autonomous entities with their own rules and conditions can vary. Generally you’ll need to take along your passport, property rental contract or title deed (for owners), electricity or water bill, and proof of Spanish residency.
Since you need the padrón certificate to become a Spanish resident, yet you cannot give the padrón office your residency until you apply for it, the padrón offices usually give you up to a set period to return and present your Spanish residency; in the Alicante province, for example, it’s three months. After this period of time you may be removed from the padrón register if you don’t take your residency certificate, although this varies.
All documentation should be in Spanish; read about preparing official translations and legal documents in Spain.
Read more in the ultimate guide to the Spanish padrón certificate.
David Ruiz is an author, adviser, translator and interpreter devoted to helping people from all nationalities who visit or live in Spain. His websites torreviejatranslation.com and usefulspain.com offer free advice for living and visiting Spain. You can also visit his Amazon page to see his books.