Visas & Immigration

How to apply for permanent residence in Spain

Discover how you can apply for permanent residence in Spain, including the various requirements, costs, processes, renewals, and more.

Spain permanent residence

By Gayatri Bhaumik

Updated 13-3-2024

After putting down roots in a new country, it is only natural that you might want to consider making it more official and applying for permanent residence. And, if you happen to live in Spain, this may be very tempting.

After all, the country has a lot to offer expats; including a lively and vivid culture, numerous historical sites of interest, and incredible cuisine. But beyond these perks, they can enjoy an excellent healthcare system, a reasonable cost of living, and stunning natural landscapes. It’s no wonder, then, that many expats are drawn to moving to Spain.

While there are various visas available for living and working there, obtaining permanent residence in Spain comes with a host of benefits.

Here’s what you need to know: 

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Permanent residence in Spain

Applying for permanent residence in Spain means that you can legally live and work in the country for a period of five years. And, during this time, your status will be more or less equal to that of a Spanish citizen. Although there are different pathways to becoming a Spanish permanent resident, you will generally have to spend several years in the country on a different visa, first. And, of course, the journey to permanent residency in Spain is different for EU and non-EU nationals. 

Spain visa

Generally speaking, Spain’s Ministry of Interior oversees immigration services in the country. However, while applying for permanent residency in Spain, you are more likely to deal with your local police station. This is because, in Spain, the police are the main point of contact and application point for permanent residency. They then forward applications to the Ministry of Interior to handle. 

The difference between citizenship and permanent residence in Spain

Although in Spain, permanent residence and citizenship offer almost equal status and rights, there are several differences that you should be aware of. For instance, to acquire permanent residency, you need to live in Spain for five years. To receive citizenship, however, you must live in the country for 10 years.

Furthermore, if you choose to take up Spanish citizenship, then you will likely have to renounce any other citizenship you hold. That said, there are some exceptions to this rule. And finally, Spanish citizenship allows you to vote in elections and access all local social services, which permanent residency does not.  

Requirements for permanent residence in Spain

Although Spain makes it quite easy to obtain permanent residency, there are still a few hoops to jump through. The most important requirement, though, is that non-EU nationals must have legally lived in Spain with an NIE for five years. If you need an NIE, services such as NIE Express can assist you in obtaining one.

Of course, you will have to meet other criteria, too. These include: 

  • Proof that you have adequate income or financial resources
  • Proof that you have health insurance that is valid in Spain

It is important to ensure that you carefully calculate the five years in Spain you need for permanent residence. Generally, a non-EU citizen will have to spend these years in Spain on a different type of visa, such as a work visa. Just bear in mind that because these are often issued for periods of one or two years, you might need to renew your visa several times in order to reach the required five years. 

EU Blue Card Network

That said, depending on the type of visa or residency permit that you have, the rules may be slightly different. For example: 

  • If you are an EU citizen or have an EU Blue Card from another EU member state, you only need to live in Spain for two years to become a permanent resident. 
  • Student visas are only valid for 50% of the total duration. Therefore, if you are studying in Spain for three years, for example, you are considered to have lived there for only one and a half years. 

To ensure that you have the correct number of years to apply for a permanent residence permit, you can obtain a certificado de residencia from the Spanish police. This official document will state exactly how many years you have been living in Spain and will help you figure out how much more time you need before you can apply for permanent status. 

How to apply for a permanent residence permit in Spain

Once you have the required number of years for living in Spain, applying for a permanent residence permit is quite easy. You will simply need to take the application form and necessary documents to the relevant police station in Spain. In some cases, however, you may be able to go directly to the immigration department. Importantly, you should make sure to apply for permanent residency about three months before your current visa or permit expires.

Headquarters of the Ministry of the Interior in Spain
The Ministry of Interior in Madrid, Spain

As well as the application form (the EX-17 form), you will need to present a number of documents when applying for Spanish permanent residency. These include the following: 

  • Your current passport and residency permit 
  • Proof of residence in Spain, such as a rental agreement
  • Medical certificate and health insurance 
  • Proof of living in Spain for five years, such as payrolls or tax returns

In certain cases, you may also need to show criminal record certificates from Spain or your home country, or marriage or divorce certificates. 

If your application is approved, you will receive an official notification. After this, you can go to the local police station to submit your fingerprints and complete the application process. Then, within a month, you will go back to pick up your permanent resident card. 

Permanent residence costs in Spain

Unlike most other countries, it is not expensive to apply for permanent residency in Spain. That said, there may be some small fees (less than €20) to get some of the documents you need. And, you might have to pay for translations if some of your documents are not in Spanish. The application itself, however, is only €80.

Renewing your permanent residence

Once you become a permanent resident of Spain, your residency card is valid for five years. After this period, you can easily renew your card for another five years. You simply need to fill out another EX-17 form, show proof of your address, and present your original residency card and passport. You will then resubmit your fingerprints and pay the renewal fee. 

Importantly, renewing your permanent resident status in Spain does not require you to have lived in the country for the full five years. This caveat only applies when you apply for permanent residency the first time. However, to renew your status, you should not spend more than one full year outside Spain or the EU.

Permanent residence in Spain for family members

As a non-EU citizen moving to Spain, you will be able to bring your family into the country under the family reunification visa. As such, you will be able to bring your parents, spouse, or children to Spain. However, you will have to move to Spain first under the appropriate visa and wait a year before you can apply for a family reunification visa for your family.

Family on a beach in Spain

As such, it is likely that you will rack up five years in Spain and become eligible for permanent residency before your family does. Because of this, your family members will have to apply for permanent residency separately. 

Of course, the situation is different for citizens of other EU states. All EU citizens can legally live and work in Spain without a visa, so if your spouse is from the EU, they can come to Spain with you and take up permanent residency after two years. However, if you are an EU national with family members from a third country, they would usually be able to come to Spain with you. They would then need to authorize their residency in Spain and be eligible for permanent residency after five years.   

Losing your permanent residence rights in Spain

Getting permanent residency in Spain is one thing, but keeping it is another. Generally speaking, after becoming a permanent resident, you should not be outside of Spain for more than one year at a time. Additionally, you should not be away from Spain for more than 30 months in total over the five-year period. If you do spend more than the acceptable time away from Spain, then you might lose your permanent resident status. Should this happen, it is possible to regain your residency status, although you may have to jump through a few extra hoops to do so.

What to do if your application for permanent residence is rejected

Unfortunately, some applications for permanent residency in Spain are refused. However, if this happens, you will be told the grounds for refusal and you might be able to appeal the decision. If you want to file an appeal, then you can do so at Madrid’s High Court of Justice. And you will need to do this within two months of receiving the refusal. 

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