How to become a resident in Spain

The documents you need to be registered

Spanish Law Wednesday, April 19, 2017
How to become a resident in Spain

If you wish to make Spain your home, how should you go about it? In this article Paloma Paris from our conveyancing department explains the process for members of the EU.

You have made the decision to come and live permanently in Spain. Now you must make it legally your home. If you are here for a total of 183 days then you are classed as being a tax resident of Spain.  

There are three important items you will want to secure if you wish to live here:

  • Residencia
  • Padrón
  • SIP (health card)

The exact requirement for each of these will depend upon where you wish to live as well as your own status. For example, depending on whether you are a pensioner, an early retiree or if you are working in Spain, there will be slightly different documents needed. However, the information below gives a general guide to what you will require at each step in the process.

Residency certificate

Your residency certificate (residencia) is the piece of paper that registers you as living in Spain. It is issued at the appropriate Foreigner’s Office or National Police station depending on where you live. In many areas you need to obtain your residencia certificate before applying for your padrón but this does vary.

You can usually obtain your residencia on the same day that you apply, provided you have all the necessary paperwork. What this consists of varies from one town hall to another so should always check before hand.  You usually require:

  • NIE - your foreigner’s tax number
  • The form S1 if you are a pensioner or proof of health insurance if not
  • Confirmation of payment for the residencia in the bank
  • The completed residency application form
  • Passport
  • Proof of income

You must be able to demonstrate that your life in Spain is financially sustainable. You will be expected to show bank statements that cover the previous three months and that you have a monthly income of above €800 per person. If you have come to Spain to work then your employer should provide you with un certificado de vida laboral – which is proof that you have work here.

If you are under pensionable age then you must have proof of health insurance if you are not on contract to work. The insurance must cover everything and you may also need to show proof of payment. There are local health schemes in many parts of Spain that might be an alternative.

The convenio especial, enables you to pay into the National Health System on a monthly basis. However, you need to have been resident here for a continuous year to be eligible. The convenio especial does not cover the cost of prescriptions, health transport services or health cover when in another EU country.

There has been some confusion recently about the length of time a residencia applies. If you are a member of an EU country then your residencia does not need to be renewed. If you are not, then renewal is every five years.

The padrón

The padrón is the certificate that enables you to apply for a SIP (health card) and other local benefits within your town such as enrolling your child in a local school, obtaining a bus pass and using the local library.

To obtain your three-monthly certificate, first you must register. You can do this at a town hall office. You will need to take with you:

  • Proof of where you live e.g. rental contract or Title Deed
  • Passport
  • Residencia – in the case that you apply for this first in your local area
  • The last water bill and electricity bill (now asked for by some town halls) 

Once you are registered then the certificate you are issued with lasts for three months. After this you can return to the same office and they will print off a new one for you if you take your passport and previous padrón.

You should renew your registration on the padrón every five years in order to ensure that your name is kept on the register. Town halls may contact people who have not had their certificate reissued for years and ask them to reaffirm their presence in the area. This is a quick process and helps them to confirm who exactly is living in the town.  


With your residencia and padrón you are now able to apply for your SIP card. This is the health card which will entitle you to health treatment and discounted prescription charges as part of the national health service in Spain.

In order to obtain this very important little card you need to book an appointment at your local social security office. There you will need to show:

  • Your NIE
  • Passport
  • S1 - if you are a pensioner
  • Padrón
  • Application form TA1

They will then give you a registration number and with this you can go to your local health clinic and obtain the SIP card itself.

Once you have your residencia, padrón and SIP, you will have acquired the basic documents you need to live as a resident in Spain. The sooner you have these in your possession the sooner you can relax and enjoy the new life you’ve chosen. 

Do you have any questions?

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You mention that after 183 days in Spain you are resident. Yet, by law, you have to get the (green) residencia if you are here for 90 days and intend to stay longer.

The way you've written the article is confusing lots of people.

I think -

90 days and you have to sign on the list of foreigners and get your residency certificate.
after 183 days (in a calendar year) and you are automatically fiscally (tax) resident.

Do you agree?

Hi Mervyn

Thank you for your comment. I have changed the wording by 183 days to include 'tax' resident which, of course, is what we are most concerned with. The 90 days is a little absurd in that people can live in Spain for up to 182 days as a non-resident which makes the requirement of applying at 90 days seem a little pointless. However, officially, this is correct. Thanks again for clarifying this. 

You mention that the NIE is an important document but I don't see a section on how to get it.

Hi Fred

There is some information in this article written by David Ruiz . I believe he also helps people to get NIEs if you would like more information from him you can try 

Can you confirm if an expatriate who takes up residence in Spain on, say, 31 May 2017 is tax or fiscally resident from the 01 January 2017. I have been informed that Spain has an exemption from the standard OECD procedure regarding residence exceeding 183 days.
If true then legal tax breaks in EU countries availed after 01 January 2017 and prior to the arrival date in Spain will not applicable for tax purposes in Spain, for example, the 25% tax free pension lump sum in the UK and the capital gain on owner occupied properties will be subject to Spanish tax. A tax trap for unsuspecting expatriates moving to Spain in good faith if true?

Hi John

Spain does not work on a split year system so if you are in the country for 183 days you are taxed from the 1st January to 31st December and any lump sum payments or capital gains tax are taxable here. 

We are looking to move to Fuerteventura (Canary Islands) and apply for residency in March 2019, just before BREXIT.

Both are below retirement age, but have fully paid property in Fuerteventura, NIE A4 paper albeit issued in May 2015, so now (Feb 2018) expired, have been paying all taxes (IBI etc) but also Modelo 210 (impuesto Sobre Bienes).

We will NOT have proof of income to show €800 per person per month, but will have savings in the bank to sustain us for 8 years at the level stated. The funds shall be held in the UK bank.

In addition we will be paying for our own private health insurance.

So, my question is IS THIS SUFFICIENT for Spanish authorities to grant us residency?

Many thanks.


Hi Alex

I'm afraid there isn't a general answer. It very much depends upon the local area and town hall. The only people that can clarify the requirements are the administrators at the Fuerteventura police station, where you will need to apply.  
You can check the Spanish National Police official web page for the Canary Islands. Here you can find the Fuerteventura office and contact them:

Ineed to put my car on spanish plates. Ive been told because the eu emmissions number is not on my car registration document ,i have to get residencia to do it .can i get residencia by purchasing full years medical insurance ? I have padron and NIE number and social security number .thanks

My recommendation is that you query at the relevant office before applying for your residency as this does tend to change. You only have to take out one year of private health insurance. 

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