Moving to Spain from Ireland

Irish citizens moving to Spain for residency need proof of funds, healthcare, and residency. Follow our 11 tips for a smooth relocation.


8 minute read
Updated on 15 Aug 2023

Nearly 15,000 Irish citizens live in Spain because of reasons such as cheaper cost of living, high quality of life, and sunny beaches. This makes them the 3d largest English speaking group in Spain. If you’re considering moving to Spain, read this guide where we’ll cover:

  • When do Irish citizens need to apply for residency in Spain?
  • Under what conditions can Irish citizens live in Spain?
  • What are the steps to becoming a resident in Spain?
  • What needs to be arranged after arriving in Spain?

Do I need a visa to enter Spain?

Irish citizens don’t need a visa to enter Spain if the visit lasts less than 90 days (3 months) within a period of 180 days.

Are you from Northern Ireland with only a British passport? You'll need to apply for an ETIAS visa waiver from 2024 to enter Spain for trips shorter than 90 days.

How Long can an Irish citizen stay in Spain?

Irish citizens can stay in Spain for up to 3 months without needing to obtain Spanish residency. If you plan to live in Spain for more than 3 months, you’ll need to get a Certificate of Registration after arriving in Spain.

Can Irish citizens live in Spain?

Irish citizens can live in Spain with an Irish passport as the Republic of Ireland is part of the EU. So you’ve got the freedom to move and live in any other EU country, such as Spain. You only need to meet certain conditions to apply for Spanish residency.

If you’re from Northern Ireland and only have a British passport, you’re subject to the same rules as British citizens. In this case, read our guide on how to move to Spain after Brexit.

Spanish residency for Irish citizens

Irish citizens can apply for Spanish residency if they meet the following criteria:

  • You’re an employed worker in Spain
  • You’re Self-empoyed in Spain
  • You’re a student in Spain with proof of financial means and health insurance
  • You’re unemployed or retired, with proof of sufficient funds and health insurance
  • You’ve proof of living arrangements in Spain, such as a rental contract of at least 6 months or a purchase agreement of a house.
  • You’re a financially dependent family member of an EU citizen who meets the above conditions*

*Family member refers to direct ascendants, descendants, and spouses or registered partners.

How to move to Spain from Ireland?

To legally reside in Spain as an Irish citizen, you need to apply for a Certificate of Registration (Certificado de Registero de Ciudadano de la UE) within 3 months of your arrival. This certificate will contain the important NIE number– foreigner identification number – that you need for various activities such as applying for health insurance or buying a car.

  1. Step 1: Make an appointment online to apply in person at the local Foreigner’s Office (Oficina de Extranjeros):
  • Select the province you live in
  • Select Policia - Certificados UE
  • Enter the details necessary
  • Select the date and time of your appointment

In case of no Foreigner’s Office, apply at the nearest police station.

  1. Step 2: Collect the necessary documents, depending on your situation.

If you’re working-

  • Work contract
  • or Employer’s contract statement containing name and address of company, and employer’s tax ID and social security number.

If you’re self-employed-

  • Registration in the Census of Economic activities
  • or Mercantile Registry
  • or Consent to access the data shared with social security or the tax agency

If you’re a student-

  • Confirmation of university enrollment
  • Proof of EHIC or private health insurance
  • Proof of financial means to support yourself and any dependents

If you’re unemployed or not planning to work-

  • Private health insurance
  • or Proof of being a pensioner to be eligible (under certain conditions) for public healthcare in Spain
  • Proof of sufficient funds – in the form of income or owned assets – is set at a minimum of €579.02 for an individual per month and is based on Spain’s income index called IPREM.

If you’re a dependent family member of an EU citizen in Spain-

  • Proof of family ties such as birth or marriage certificate
  • Proof of financial dependency on the EU citizen since before moving to Spain
  • Proof that the family member is either (self)employed or has sufficient funds and health care coverage.
  • All these documents must be translated to Spanish and legalised or apostilled.
  1. Step 3: Pay the fees (€12) prior to the appointment.
  • Fill out Modelo 790 code 012 (select Certificado de registro de residente comunitario o Tarjeta de residencia de familiar de un ciudadano de la Unión)
  • Pay online by direct debit or print the completed form and bring to any bank to pay.
  • Keep the proof of payment safely and bring to your appointment.
  1. Step 4: At the appointment, bring the following documents and their copies:
  • Passport and valid ID
  • Filled in Modelo EX18 (you can leave the NIE field empty as it’s your first time)
  • All documents needed (mentioned in step 2)
  1. Step 5: Receive your Certificate of Registration immediately if all documents are in order. This is a tiny green piece of paper that contains your name, address, nationality, date of registration, and NIE number.

Remember that you can't laminate your Certificate of Registration and that it's not a substitute for a valid ID as it doesn’t contain your photo.

It's valid as long as you indicated in your application or until there’s some change in your details, such as an address, marital status, etc.

After arriving in Spain

To start your new life in Spain, there’re some important things you need to arrange.

1. Register with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

This's an important step for Irish citizens living abroad. Doing so means the Irish embassy or consulate has your contact details and can provide you with assistance when needed or in emergencies.

2. Find housing in Spain

Spain’s housing market can be quite competitive and so we recommend starting your search early and online.

With a platform like HousingAnywhere, you can look for housing in Spain stress-free by setting up an alert about new rentals and filtering by city, price, size, amenities, etc.

If you’re curious, most Irish citizens live in Madrid, Barcelona, Málaga, Valencia, Las Palmas, Basque County, Canary Islands, and the Balearic Islands.

To help you find your ideal apartment, studio or room in Spain, we’ve curated a list of the best neighbourhoods in the top 4 Spanish cities:

3. Register at the Town Hall to get your Empadronamiento

It is mandatory for all residents in Spain to register at the town hall (ayuntamiento) and receive an empadronamiento. Registering will put you on the padrón (census) and make you an official resident of the neighbourhood.

An empadronamiento is useful when you need to prove your address for official purposes. Learn more about how to apply for empadronamiento.

4. Register with the tax authority

If you’re an Irish citizen working in Spain, you’ll need to register with the tax authority called Agencia Tributaria to pay your taxes.

Bring these documents with you:

  • Passport (and copy)
  • Empadronamiento
  • NIE number
  • Modelo 030, a form for first-time taxpayers

After registering, you’re obliged to file your annual tax return between April to May of the following year using Modelo 100. You need to remember to declare your income and assets in Spain and abroad as both are taxable. But due to the double taxation agreements between Ireland and Spain, you can get some tax reliefs.

The tax system in Spain is complex and we highly recommend reading more about the different taxes and tax reliefs.

5. Apply for social security

All working individuals are required to contribute to social security. This offers great benefits, such as coverage for health insurance, unemployment, parental leave, work injuries, and contribution to pension.

You can register for social security online or in person at the TGSS office (Tesorería de la Seguridad Social). Bring the following documents with you:

  • Passport (and copy)
  • NIE number
  • Empadronamiento
  • Work contract
  • Form TA1

Registering for social security will issue you with a certificate that entitles you to healthcare in Spain. You need this to apply for public health insurance.

6. Apply for the mandatory health insurance

It's mandatory for every citizen in Spain to have health insurance. Since your EHIC will only cover you for 3 months, you’ll need Spain’s public health insurance.

But only working individuals and their dependents get free access to Spain’s health care system since they contribute to social security, which funds the healthcare system.

If you’re unemployed or retired, you’ll likely need private health insurance to cover you during your stay. Irish students can continue using their EHIC until they’re 26.

To use the healthcare system for free, apply for your personal health card (TSI- Tarjeta Sanitaria Individual) at a local health centre. Bring your:

  • Passport
  • NIE
  • Empadronamiento
  • Social security number
  • Certificate obtained from social security stating you’re entitled to healthcare.

7. Open a bank account

Although your Irish bank account already has euros, we still recommend opening a Spanish bank account. It has several benefits, including signing up for utilities in Spain, direct debit of monthly social security contributions, ability to start your own business, buy a property, access to loans, etc.

Bring the following documents:

  • Passport (and copy)
  • Empadronamiento
  • NIE number
  • Proof of employment or study enrollment

8. Get a local SIM card

Having a Spanish SIM can certainly help as local rates for calling and data packs are much cheaper.

You could get a pre-paid or contract by showing the following documents:

  • NIE number
  • Passport or valid ID
  • Empadronamiento or Certificate of Registration
  • Bank account details

9. Register to vote at elections

Irish citizens can vote in Spain if they’re:

  • In possession of an EU passport
  • Are 18 years old
  • Have an empadronamiento and a Certificate of Registration
  • Voluntarily signed up on the electoral roll (censo electoral)

Do keep in mind that as Irish citizens living abroad, you can't vote in any local elections or referendum in Ireland, unless you’re an Irish official or direct family member of an Irish official.

10. Exchange or renew your driving license

You’re obligated to exchange your Irish driving licence for a Spanish one if:

  • Your driving licence is lost, damaged, or stolen
  • You’ve committed a traffic offence in Spain
  • You’ve lived in Spain for 2 years and your driver's licence is valid for 15 months or indefinitely.

To exchange or renew your driving licence, you need to hand in your Irish licence to the DGT or Provincial Traffic Headquarters. Bring the following documents:

  • Passport or any valid ID
  • Certificate of Registration or empadronamiento
  • Irish driving licence
  • 2 passport photos
  • Application form, which confirms you’ve never been banned or suspended from driving nor do you possess another EU driving licence
  • A psychophysical aptitude report in case of licence renewal
  • Proof of payment made in case of voluntary exchange- €28.87
  • Proof of payment made in case of renewal- €24.58

In all other circumstances, you can continue using your Irish driving licence in Spain until it is valid. Or exchange it for a Spanish one voluntarily.

Note that if you had a British driving licence, it is no longer valid in any EU country since 31st December 2020.

11. Learn Spanish

There’re certainly big expat communities in Spain’s big cities. Although it’s easy to get by with English within those immigrant communities, we highly recommend learning Spanish if you don’t want to miss out on making local friends, have more job opportunities, fill in governmental forms with ease, understand announcements, visit the doctor, etc.

We’ve listed some language schools in Spain’s big cities to get you started.

Irish citizen living in Spain

It’s easy to get Spanish residency for Irish citizens who want to spend more than 3 months in Spain. You just need to show proof of funds, healthcare, and residency. After arriving in Spain, follow the 11 tips to make the most of your life as an Irish citizen living in Spain.

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