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Settlement, Residence and Citizenship for Expats in Spain

Author: Jim Newham
Submitted: July 2013

Within theEuropean Economic Area (the European Union plus Iceland, Norway and Liechtenstein) or Switzerland, you are in theory free to live and work where you want. However, some countries impose minor restrictions, and this is the case with Spain. If you are an EEA or Swiss citizen and are planning to stay in Spain for longer than three months, you must apply for a residence certificate using form EX18 before the first three months has elapsed. You can do this at your nearest Immigration Office (Oficina de Extranjeros) or your local police station. A detailed list, in Spanish, of all Immigration Offices can be found here:

When your residence certificate has been processed and returned to you, you will also receive a Número de Identificación Extranjeros (NIE, Foreign Identity number). This number appears on all official documents in Spain, so it is very important.

The residence certificate is the only main requirement if you are working or studying in Spain. Otherwise, you will also need to supply your last three months’ bank statements to prove that you can financially support yourself and your dependants in Spain. You may also be asked for evidence that you have health insurance.

If you not are from the EEA or Switzerland, you will need to obtain a Spanish residence visa from your country’s Spanish Embassy before you leave your home country. A list of Spanish embassies and consulates can be found here.

The residence visa, unlike the tourist visa, allows you to start the process of becoming a Spanish resident. The first stage of this process is, within 30 days of your entry into Spain, to apply for a residence card at your province’s Immigration Office, or, failing that, your local police station.

Documents required are variable, but they will definitely include:

The application will take around three months to process, and once the residence card is issued, it is valid for a year. It can subsequently be renewed for up to five years, at which point another residence card will need to be applied for.

One of the means of gaining Spanish nationality is by means of residence. To do this, you generally need to have lived in Spain for a continuous period of ten years before applying. This period is shorter for the following groups:

In order to qualify for nationality, you must prove to be a good citizen and that you have integrated well into Spanish society. You need to apply for nationality at your province’s Civil Registry. If your application is successful, you will have the right to live in Spain indefinitely and freedom of movement within the EU.



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