Spanish visas and permits

A guide for EU/EEA/Swiss citizens moving to Spain

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A guide for EU, EEA and Swiss citizens – and their family members – coming to live, work or study in Spain.

EU, EEA and Swiss citizens have the right to live and work in Spain without a visa or permit, but if you’re staying longer than three months, you will have to register with the authorities and obtain a residence certificate, which requires you to prove you can support yourself financially and have healthcare insurance.

EU/EEA/Swiss nationals moving to Spain

Within three months of your arrival in Spain, you have to go in person to a Foreigners' Office (Oficina de Extranjero) or local police station to register and be added to the Central Register of Foreign Nationals. Find your local Foreigner's Office to apply. 

You will need to have a valid passport or ID document and – as of July 2012 – be able to show documentation to prove that you can support yourself (and any dependants), and may also be asked to show evidence that you have private or public healthcare insurance.

This documentation will vary according to your own circumstances, but can include:

  • a declaration or certificate of employment, or evidence of self-employment (such as registration on the Mercantile Registry – Registro Mercantil);
  • evidence of healthcare insurance (or European Health Insurance Card if valid for the duration of the stay);
  • proof of sufficient financial resources (through income, assets, etc);
  • proof of enrolment at an educational institution.

If everything is in order, you will be given a residence certificate (Certificado de registro como residente comunitario), which will include your name, address, nationality and your Foreigner’s Identity Number (NIE). This number is essential for all financial and administrative matters in Spain.

You must inform the authorities of any change of address or personal circumstances, such as marriage or divorce. Carry the certificate, along with your passport or national ID document, at all times.

Family members of EU/EEA/Swiss citizens

Family members – legally registered partners, spouses and dependants – who are EU/EEA/Swiss citizens must apply for the same registration as detailed above.

Those family members who are not from the EU/EEA or Switzerland have the same right to live to Spain, but they may need to apply for a visa from the Spanish embassy or consulate in their home country to enter Spain. Find out if who needs an entry visa for Spain in Expatica's complete guide to Spanish visas and permits.

Within three months of arrival, they must register in person at the Foreigner’s Office in order to be issued with a Residence Card for family members of EU citizens (Tarjeta de Residencia de Familiar de Cuidadano de la Unión).

Non-EU/EEA/Swiss family members will need to show:

  • a valid passport,
  • completed and signed application form,
  • proof of relationship with the EU citizen (birth, marriage, civil partnership certificates),
  • ID of the EU citizen, and
  • colour passport photos.

The residence card will be valid for five years, after which it has to be renewed.

Working in Spain

If you will be working in Spain you should also register with the Spanish Social Security authorities, the General Social Security Fund (Dirección General de la Tesorería General de la Seguridad Social – TGSS). If you are an employee your employer will do this for you; if you are self-employed it is your responsibility. See their website for information on how to register, contributions and benefits. There are provincial offices throughout Spain.

If you are from Croatia you’ll need a work permit to work in Spain up until 30 June 2020.

For more information see Work in Spain: Guide to Spanish work visas and permits.

Mandatory registration on the padrón

The padrón is a list of all the people living in the town and it’s obligatory for everyone, including EU/EEA/Swiss citizens, to be registered on it (the term empadronarse is the act of registering on it).

While it’s a form of census registration and helps the town’s provision for schools and health centres, being on it has other benefits, including access to certain income-related benefits and social care, possible reductions in community charges and inheritance tax –  as well as the right to vote in local and European elections.

Go to the padrón office at the town hall shortly after your arrival, where you will need to show:

  • your passport or official ID,
  • your NIE or residence certificate or card,
  • a recent utility bill in your name, and
  • a copy of your rental agreement for where you live or your house deeds.

You may be issued with a Certificado de Empadronamiento then and there or have to return to collect it.

Tips for preparing your Spanish residency application

Legal documentation can be confusing in Spain as requirements differ between regions and can change regularly. This is why your first step should be to ask the relevant Spanish National Police office within the area you live, where you'll eventually deliver all your paperwork. It's rare that English is spoken, so if you don't speak Spanish you might consider taking a translator. Below are some tips from the Ultimate Guide on Spanish Residency on how you can prepare for your Spanish residency application.

1. Pensioners
If you are on a pension from your country of origin you should be able to obtain an 'S1 form' or 'E-121 form' – or similar equivalent – to cover the 'health assistance requirement' in your application.

Another important part of your application will be to prove your financial means. Some police stations require you to have your monthly pension sent to a Spanish bank for at least three months before you apply for your residence certificate. In addition, depending on the police station, there might be a required minimum amount of pension, which in Spain is sometimes referred to as your 'minimum wage' (EUR 655.20 in 2016). Your relevant police office will confirm exactly what you need.

2. Employees
If you are working in Spain, you won’t need to present proof of health coverage from you country of origin, as you and your Spanish employer will typically pay monthly contributions into the Spanish social security system, giving you access to the Spanish healthcare system (as well as a pension when you retire).

However, some police stations will require you to prove you have been employed in Spain for at least three months and earn at least the minimum wage specified in point one.

You can prove your employment by downloading a working record certificate or vida laboral (Click here and you'll see 'Employment history and contribution bases notification for workers', 'Working life report' and 'Limited employment history report').

If you use the government online service to download your vida laboral, the certificate will not download if the information you input does not coincide with what they have on their social security system. If you have problems, you can always go in person to request your certificate. You may need an interpreter if you don’t speak Spanish.

3. Self-employed
The requirements are similar to 'employees' in the previous point. Similarly, you must get a working certificate (vida laboral) before your apply for your Spanish residency.

As self-employed people don’t have a fixed salary, there is no minimum wage requirement, however, some police stations may require proof of bank savings. 

4. Unemployed
You must be registered at the unemployment office of the Spanish region where you live. The requirements may vary depending on your region, however, as a general rule you will need to prove you have financial means and private medical insurance policy.

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Note: The information given here is for guidance only and you should seek specific advice from the Spanish embassy or consulate in your home country.

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3 Comments To This Article

  • Help posted:

    on 5th January 2016, 03:55:44 - Reply

    As soon as anyone becomes an official Spanish resident, benefits are the same for everyone regardless of nationality or marriage.

    You can read about all the benefits that apply once you become an official resident and start paying social security in Spain.

  • Jasper posted:

    on 1st January 2016, 17:27:59 - Reply

    It would be good if could do an article on the benefits that family members of EU/EEA/Swiss citizens eligible for once they get their initial residency in Spain.

    The government websites aren't user friendly for this.

    [Moderator's note: You can also post questions on our Ask the Expert service]

  • Anonyous posted:

    on 16th May 2015, 22:38:48 - Reply

    Regarding the following: "EU, EEA and Swiss citizens have the right to live and work in Spain without a visa or permit, but if you're staying longer than three months, you will have to register with the authorities and obtain a residence certificate, which requires you to prove you can support yourself financially and have healthcare insurance." In case you cannot provide such documentation, will your stay (not working, just 'enjoying life') in Spain as a EU citizen become illegal? Could one be deported back to his home country (being this country also an EU member)? I thought EU citizens could stay as long as they'd wish in any of the EU membership states without restriction, this looks an awful lot like restriction of immigration from other EU membership countries. I would appreciate it if someone with knowledge on the matter could comment on this. Thanks in advance for any feedback.

    [Moderator's note: Please post questions on our Ask the Expert service]