Home Living in Spain Government & Law El Padrón: Spain’s population register
Last update on 17/02/2023
Written by David Ruiz 

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. Here, 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 for, 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 you receive after registering at the town hall where you live. The certificate for the padrón in Spanish is the 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 for?

The padrón in Spain has two main purposes:

  1. Census
  2. Local, regional, national, or European elections.

Through the census, authorities calculate how many public services each area needs. The more people registered, the more services an area receives. You can read statistics about Spain’s population (INE padrón).

Casa consistorial de Sevilla, Spain

Regarding voting, at election time you’ll receive a letter informing you where to vote. If you are not registered on the padrón, you won’t be able to vote.

To clear up any misconceptions, el padrón is not:

  • A form of ID
  • Your Spanish residency
  • A necessary document to keep in your vehicle
  • Something you need to renew 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:

  • Residency in Spain – 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 license – the padrón certificate is necessary when you exchange your driving license for a Spanish one, for the same reason as above.
  • Spanish health card – another procedure where the padrón is proof of address. It’s a way of determining which medical center you will attend depending on your home address.
  • Pensioner’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 in Spain.