How to get your Spanish residence permit as an international


Updated on May 24 • 3 minute read

Spain's rich cultural heritage, breathtaking landscapes, and thriving economy make it an attractive destination for many. No matter your reason for relocating, obtaining a Spanish residence permit is a pivotal step when moving to this country.

Obtaining a Spanish residence permit requires careful planning, documentation, and adherence to the application process. Keep reading to find out what you should expect when requesting your residence permit in Spain!

What is a residence permit in Spain?

A Spanish residence permit grants non-EU citizens the legal right to enter and live in Spain for an extended period.

There are 2 types of residence permits in Spain: temporary residence permits and permanent residence permits.

A temporary residence permit authorises a stay in Spain for a period of more than 6 months and less than 5 years. After 5 years, you’ll be eligible for a permanent residence permit which allows you to stay indefinitely in Spain.

Temporary residence permit in Spain for a non-EU citizen

All non-EU nationals planning to live in Spain for more than 6 months need to obtain a temporary residence permit. It’s designed for individuals who want to reside in Spain for purposes such as work, study, family reunification, or other long-term stays.

To obtain a temporary residence permit, you first need to apply for an appropriate residence visa. The 5 most common visas allowing non-EU nationals to get a temporary residence permit in Spain are:

Once your residence visa is approved, you need to fly to Spain and apply for your temporary residence permit.

Requirements to apply for a Spanish residence permit

Once you arrive in Spain with a temporary residence visa, you need to apply for a foreign identity card (tarjeta de identidad de extranjero or TIE) within 1 month. Your foreign identity card or TIE card serves as your temporary residence permit and proof of your legal status as a resident of Spain.

Your TIE card will contain information such as your full name, residence duration, and your unique foreign identity number (NIE).

How to obtain a foreign identity card in Spain

You must file your TIE application at your local police station or immigration office within 30 days of your entry into the country.

Documents for obtaining the TIE card

Foreign Identity card has fixed requirements for all applicants:

  • Valid passport and photocopy
  • Valid residence visa for Spain
  • 3 passport-sized colour photographs
  • A filled-in EX17 application form and 3 copies
  • Proof of address (padron certificate)
  • Health insurance coverage in Spain
  • Proof of payment of the administration fee (€15.76)
  • Proof of financial resources (for those not intending to work)
  • Proof of school enrolment (for students only)

How long does it take to get your foreign identity card?

You receive a copy of your application immediately upon filing it. Your actual TIE card arrives within 3 months of the application filing.

How long is the foreigner identity card valid?

The TIE card is valid until the end of your residence visa. You can extend it after your residence visa is renewed.

Can I leave Spain while waiting for my TIE card?

Do you need to leave Spain for an emergency but have yet to receive your residence permit?

Luckily, when you've applied for your TIE card and are waiting for it to arrive, you can leave Spain by applying for Autorización de Regreso, an authorisation to return.

You need to apply for it at your local police station by presenting a valid reason to leave, such as an emergency. Usually, this will be issued in a few days and will be valid for 90 days from the moment it's issued.

It's important to note that you should book a direct flight to Spain as you're legally only given permission to enter Spain.

Residence certificate for an EU citizen

If you're an EU citizen, you don’t need a residence permit to enter or live in Spain. Yet, any stay in Spain for more than 3 months calls for you to get a residence certificate to be legal.

You file your application at your local Foreigner’s office, with only some areas requiring you to book an appointment in advance. File your application within 3 months of your arrival in Spain.

When attending the appointment, you’re required to provide the following documents to support your application. Those are:

  • Foreigner tax identification number (Número de Identificación de Extranjero - NIE)

  • Valid passport or national identity card

  • Copies of a valid passport or national identity card

  • Proof of address in Spain (padron certificate)

  • 2 passport-sized photographs

  • A filled in EX18 application form (Solicitud de certificado de registro de residencia comunitaria)

  • Proof of fee payment (€21.44)

  • Proof of valid healthcare insurance

    Additionally, the following documents must be provided depending on the individual situation of the applicant:

If you're set to work in Spain as an employee in a company, you’d have to provide a confirmation of your employment.

You’ll be self-employed for the period of your stay? Then you’d need to provide proof of self-employed status in the form of registration on the Mercantile Registry (Registro Mercantil).

How long is the residence certificate valid?

The residence certificate remains valid as long as your circumstances in Spain remain the same as described in the application. This means that a change in your address or marital status requires you to apply for a new residence card.

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