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Residing in Spain

EU citizens are entitled to settle in Spain, however they should apply for a 'Residences Document' which should be carried at all times as it constitutes a mandatory identity card for foreign residents in Spain.

Residence permits (cards, and more recently, paper documents) are issued by the Spanish Ministry of the Interior (Ministerio del Interior)

Residence in Spain for non-EU citizens it is more involved and 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 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 shall 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) or police stations in major cities.

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

Now for a few words of warning if you intend to live permanently in Spain.

You should be aware of the way things work in Spain. The following comments were provided by a well known Spanish businessman working in a large Spanish city -

"Our country of Spain is beautiful and varied, most people in Spain are friendly and helpful, but their whole life (for most of them) is about what they can get out of it from other people. This is just one reason why Spain can still be classed as a third-world country. Here are two examples - Politicians will often aim to be elected for the back-handers they can get from local people, and then they will step down (if they have made enough money, or if they think they may get caught). Businesses, and in particular shops which do not have price tickets on their goods, will often charge a higher price for foreigners than they would for the local Spanish people, sometimes as much as double. They believe foreigners have more money and because they often don't speak Spanish adequately, and do not understand or cannot argue about the price."

"Politicians and civil servants don't understand that tax payers are paying their wages and they should be helpful to them. Usually they are downright aggressive and obstructive. Planning is something we Spanish don't understand. We believe plans, law, permissions, etc., can be changed at a later date without any consideration to the people involved, or any expenses or fines involved to those people. A local authority can give permission to build a house and then change their mind a few years later - a problem which the owner has to sort out.

If I wanted to move to another country, it wouldn't be Spain, and I'm saying that as a Spaniard."

YourSpain thanks this businessman for being so frank and helpful.


My Place in the Sun