YourSpain Heading


Documents and Visas

Spain is well known for the amount of (un)necessary paperwork which has to be processed before you can do almost anything. There are hints that this situation is improving - but only hints. Examples would be the gentleman who paid cash for a bed, gave his name and address for delivery, but was still asked for his passport number, two photocopies were made and each was stamped twice and signed. Or a local authority providing a document signing off a property which has been constructed, but was illegal because other papers were needed from other departments at the local authority because they don't work together. All these papers will have to be stamped and signed a number of times by all and sundry, and endless photocopies taken - for what purpose you can only quess. This can get extremely frustrating and very costly, especially if you have to get a solicitor involved. Most ex-pats will have come across stupid situations like this. BE PREPARED.


Most EU citizens, as well as those from Norway and Iceland, can visit Spain for up to ninety days with just their national identity card or passport. EU citizens do not need work permits in Spain, however EU nationals wishing to stay longer than ninety days need to apply for a permiso de residencia (EU residence permit) in Spain. This is needed for many things including opening a bank account, buying a car, voting, and the list goes on.

For citizens from European counties not in the European Union, there are different rules, and this varies from country to country - See below.

A temporary residency permit is valid for up to a year, and you'll need an extension after that (valid for up to five years). You'll be able to make applications at the 'Oficina de Extranjeros' in the main cities or at the larger police stations near to where you'll be taking up residency. Naturally all paperwork will be in Spanish, and if you find this all too much, consider asking for help at an Abagado or at an Asesoria. They are to be found in all towns and cities.

Keep in mind, however, that visa requirements do change and it is always advisable to check the current situation before leaving home. EU nationals can apply for a permiso de residencia (EU residence permit) once in Spain.

Residence in Spain for non-EU citizens is regulated by the Aliens Act under the responsibility of the Ministry of the Interior. The non EU-foreigners need the residence permit to inhabit in a Spanish territory. To enter the Spanish territory, you would be required to show your valid passport and the corresponding visa. After a period of time exceeding 90 days, in order to remain in Spain it is necessary to obtain either an extension or a residence permit. There are different types of residence permits:


  • Temporary residence permit: It allows you to remain in Spain for a period of time between 90 days and 5 years, your residence permit may be renewed after that limit.

  • Permanent residency permit: It is available to all foreigners who have held a normal residence permit for a continuous period of 5 years. It should be renewed every 5 years.

  • Residency permit for special circumstances such as for non-EU foreigners 'moved considered'; for non EU-foreigners whose asylum application had been rejected and whom the Spanish Ministry of Interior had authorized them remaining in Spain.

  • Residency permit for reuniting families: this permit entitles the non-EU foreigner residing in Spain to apply for the Spanish residence of his closest family. The applicant shall have been legally residing in Spain for at least 1 year and he/she must have authorization for another year residing in Spain.

The residency permits applications are to be made in person to the Foreigners' Office (Oficina de Extranjeros) or to the National Police Station with a foreigners' department nearest the city or town where you are going to live. An applicant will be required to present some documentation depending on the type of residence permit applied. For further information, consult the Embassy of Spain, or MSC staff to provide you with this.

Renewals of residency permits are available, provided that neither personal nor economic situations of the non-EU foreigner have changed, these shall be made at least a month before the residence permit has expired, otherwise the foreigner could be fined. Residence permits are issued by the Spanish Ministry of the Interior (Ministerio del Interior)

You should carry your residence paper (or card) with you at all times as it constitutes a mandatory identity card for foreign residents in Spain.

All the forms can be obtained at the web site of State Secretary of Immigration and Emigration.

The alternative to all the above is to enter Spain as a holidaymaker, as is most countries, there is no one to check that you leave the country a few weeks later. However you will run into trouble if you ever need official documents, forms or even health care (for whatever reason) at some time in the future. Not worth taking the chance, although many people do it.