The residence of foreign citizens in Spain is governed by the Constitutional Law 2/2009 on rights and obligations of foreign citizens in Spain and their social integration.
Spain is a member of the Schengen Area: certain nationalities must apply for a visa beforehand. There are four main types: A, B, C or D. For more information, check out our Schengen Visa article.
How to get a residence permit
A residence permit (Permiso de Residencia) can be temporary (valid from 90 days to five years — renewable) or permanent (to foreign citizens with five years temporary residence — renewable every five years).
Residence permits are granted on the following grounds:
- entrepreneurial residence permit
- investment visa (“Golden Visa”)
- family reunification
- political asylum
- university studies
Documents required for the resident permit card (Tarjeta de Residencia):
- completed application
- three photos (2 x 3 cm)
- passport valid for at least one year and two copies of all pages
- valid visa
- criminal record check issued by the authorities of the country (countries) where the applicant has resided over the last five years
- medical certificate confirming absence of diseases requiring a quarantine in accordance with International Health Regulations
- medical insurance (certificado medico)
- proof of family status (marriage/divorce/birth certificate)
Documents must be translated into Spanish and filed with the Immigration Office (Oficina de Extranjeros) at the place of the applicant’s planned residence. Applications are managed by the Ministry of the Interior (Ministerio del Interior).
A certificate of registration at the place of residence (certificado de empadronamiento) is mandatory to get a residence permit and for all foreign citizens regardless their residence status. It is required to obtain various documents: residence permit, employment permit, driver’s license or Spanish passport, etc. It is issued by the city hall (Ayuntamiento) of the applicant’s place of residence.
For extensions, the application must be filed at least one month prior to the permit’s expiration. Otherwise, fines are imposed. Residence permit holders in Spain need to remain in the country for at least 183 days per year or the permit will not be prolonged.
Investment residence permits
The 2013 law on support for entrepreneurs (Ley de apoyo a los emprendedores y su internacionalización) offers residence permits to real estate buyers and investors in other assets in Spain. Holders of an investment residence permit can apply for an employment permit.
Foreign citizens who live in Spain for more than 183 days a year become tax residents of Spain. When buying property in Spain the applicant can choose live outside the country for more than six months per year, thus avoiding tax resident status.
Applications can be filed by individuals as well as by companies. A residence permit is issued for two years and can be prolonged.
Residence permit are granted under the following conditions:
― holder of
― purchase of real estate: one or several items of residential or industrial property or land in Spain worth at least €500,000 for personal accommodation or rental purposes. This law is not retroactive: those who purchased €500,000 or more before the law came into force cannot apply for a residence permit.
― purchase of government bonds worth at least €2M
― €1M+ investment into a Spanish company and national financial institutions
― business and employment creation in Spain
― family reunification for parents, spouses and children under 18 of the investor.
Employment or entrepreneurial residence permit
Employment residence permits (Permiso de Residencia y Trabajo) are issued on the basis of an employment contract or the creation of a company in Spain that employs several local citizens. When a residence permit is issued for income generating activities, the validity of the document is equal the employment permit.
Residence permit without right to employment
A residence permit without the right to work or engage in commercial activity (Permiso de Residencia no lucrativo) is delivered for one year with the possibility of extending it twice for two years upon property purchase. In order to apply, the applicant must own property in the country and hold funds in an account at a local bank.
Proof of sufficient funds for the duration of the stay is required. Applications from those with considerable funds on their bank account and monthly family income exceeding €2,130.04 for the applicant and €532.51 for dependent family members get preferential treatment.
There are no work rights associated with this document so employment in Spain cannot be the source of income. If the income originates from securities of a company registered in Spain, this company must provide proof that the applicant is not an employee.
Student residence permit
Potential students must have a DSE exam certificate confirming advanced knowledge of Spanish or enrol on a Spanish language course at an institution accredited by the Cervantes Institute.
Student resident permits (Permiso de Residencia de estudiante) require the following documents:
- proof of enrolment
- proof of funds to cover cost of studies, living expenses and departure from Spain
- parental (or guardian) consent to leave the country of residence (for minors)
Students with a residence permit can get an employment permit in Spain authorising work for maximum 20 hours per week.
Family reunification residence permit
Family members of a residence permit holder (spouses, children under 18 and relatives) can apply for a permit on the grounds of family reunification. The validity of this residence permit depends on the time the initial residence permit holder lived in Spain and the grounds for their residence permit.
A permanent residence permit can be applied for after five years of legal residence or upon marriage to a Spanish citizen. The document must be renewed every five years. Holders of permanent residence permits cannot leave Spain for more than six months in a row.
Permanent residence gives its holder the same social benefits and guarantees as the citizens, excluding the right to vote and be elected or to serve in the army or police.
How to get citizenship
Spanish citizenship is granted:
- by birth or to those of Spanish origin
- by naturalisation for applicants who have lived in the country for more than 10 years or — in exceptional cases — for one to five years.
Spain allows dual nationality.