Everything you need to know about residency, registration certificates and voting in Spain

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Non-EU nationals living in Spain, which now includes British citizens, must register on the central register of foreign nationals (‘registro central de extranjeros’) and with their local town hall (‘padron municipal’). With many documents to collect, appointments to arrange and paperwork to fill out, this can be a stressful and time-consuming task.

This Euro Weekly News explainer guide will tell you everything you need to know about registering as a resident as an EU or a non-EU citizen and the voting system as an expat.

If you are struggling with the process of obtaining your Spanish residency, rest assured that you are not alone. Language barriers, Spanish bureaucracy, lots of paperwork and arranging appointments make the process a confusing and time-consuming procedure. That’s why we have put together this explainer article on how to get your residency, how to register your residency and voting in Spain.

Residency in Spain explained

The Spanish government established a new residency card, the Tarjeta de Identidad de Extranjero, on July 6, 2020, for UK nationals living in Spain who have rights under the Withdrawal Agreement (TIE). This biometric card expressly says that it was issued to the holder in accordance with the conditions of the Withdrawal Agreement.

All UK nationals lawfully residing in Spain on or before January 1, 2021 are eligible to apply for this card.

If you register as a resident after July 6, 2020, but lived in Spain before January 1, 2021, you must complete a two-step process to receive your TIE. If your application is approved and you meet all of the conditions, you will be given the TIE. Children must also be registered and issued a TIE.

For more information on the residency procedure, read the Spanish government’s residency FAQ.

Types of residency in Spain for non-EU citizens

There are various types of Spanish visas based on the reason for visiting, nationality, and length of visit. Many nationalities can currently enter without a visa for periods of up to 90 days including the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Argentina, Brazil, and Japan.

Let’s take a quick look at the types of long-term visas available, or click here for a more in-depth explanation, complete with costs.

Business Visa

A Schengen Business Visa is a unique form of visa that allows you to travel to the Schengen Area for business purposes. Like the tourist visa, it permits travellers to stay in the Schengen Zone for up to 90 days (out of any 180-day period). To apply for a business visa, applicants must visit an embassy or consulate of the nation where they intend to conduct business.

Work Visa

All individuals wishing to work in Spain must apply for this visa. Spain is a magnificent destination to live and work, rich in culture, history, food, and gorgeous beaches – the country is always on the lookout for highly trained individuals and has a shortage jobs list.

Student Visa

This is a long-stay visa that permits you to stay in Spain for more than three months to pursue educational opportunities. These include taking or extending studies at an authorised teaching centre to achieve an official degree, doing research or training activities, engaging in public or private exchange programmes for students, completing non-work placements, or volunteering as a student.

Golden Visa

This is an investment-based residency programme that allows you to move to Spain if you invest a specified amount in real estate.

Non-Lucrative Visa

Not everyone who relocates to Spain intends to work. If you want to live in Spain and have enough money to sustain yourself and your family/dependents, you can apply for a non-lucrative resident visa.

Digital Nomad Visa

The remote work visa or digital nomad visa allows non-EU citizens to reside and work in Spain for up to five years. It’s part of the new Startup Act, which was approved by parliament in November 2022 and intends to promote entrepreneurship and strengthen the country’s innovation landscape.

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How to get your residency in Spain as a non-EU citizen

Lawyers can help you with the process for a fee. A list of English-speaking lawyers is provided on the British government website here and the list is divided into autonomous regions and specialities, including immigration.

If you are going to arrange the documents, fees, paperwork and appointments, here is an overview of what you need to do.

You will need to fill out the relevant form which can be downloaded by clicking here or collected from your local Extranjeria office (immigration office). Forms and information must be completed in Spanish.

After completing the necessary forms, you must schedule an appointment with your local immigration office here. You may also make an appointment over the phone. The website is available in English, French, and Spanish. Morning appointments are available. Most immigration offices are only open from 10am until 2pm.

You must prepare the following documents for your residence appointment:

  • A valid passport and a full copy of it
  • 3 passport sized photos
  • Application form for your visa type
  • Proof of finances (bank statement)
  • Private health insurance unless employed by a Spanish company
  • Clean criminal background check
  • Pay a fee (tasa) if it is required for your type of visa

You will be requested to hand over your paperwork to an immigration officer at your appointment. The appointment will be held in Spanish, so if you don’t speak Spanish, we suggest taking a translator with you.

When you submit your papers, you will receive a submission receipt with a code that you may use to monitor the progress of your application. You may use your code to check the status online here.

In most situations, the authorities make a judgement on residency within 15 days. You can then pick up your documents via an appointment. To receive your paperwork, including your visa, you must bring your submission receipt.

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How to get your resident certificate as an EU citizen

To register as an EU National living in Spain, book an appointment online with the Oficina de Extranjeros. Select your province and the option “Policia-Certificados UE” – Tramites Cuerpo Nacional de Polica tab -, and then follow the on-screen instructions.

When you complete this procedure, you will be scheduled for an appointment at an Immigration Office or your local Police Station on a certain date and time.

When you arrive for your appointment at the appropriate office, you must bring the following papers to support your application:

In addition, depending on the applicant’s personal status, the following papers must be provided:

If you are employed

Job contract or documentation of employment status or proof of registration in the economic activities registry (censo de actividades economicas) or other evidence of your job status.

If you are not employed

Sufficient financial resources (bank statement/certificate) to sustain yourself and your family (mirrors the information on our website to apply under the scope of the withdrawal agreement) and health insurance that is recognised in Spain.

*Pensioners must show proof of public health coverage.

residency certificate voting
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Voting in Spain

The majority of Spain’s electoral system is based on the d’Hondt method of party-list proportional representation. This is reflected in elections at the country’s four administrative levels: national elections, regional elections, municipal elections, and European Parliament elections

General elections are held on Sundays, and municipal elections are frequently held on the same day as regional and national elections.

General elections are only open to Spanish nationals. You can vote in local municipal elections if you are an official resident of Spain and an EU citizen. While living in Spain, EU residents can vote in European elections as well as in all other EU member states.

You can register to vote in Spain’s elections in person (if eligible according to the two sections above) at your local municipal hall (ayuntamiento). Once you’ve been legally registered as a voter (the Registro Censal), you’ll be issued a Tarjeta Censal containing information about your registration and where you may vote.

voting spain
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Written by

Laura Kemp

Originally from UK, Laura is based in Axarquia and is a writer for the Euro Weekly News covering news and features. Got a news story you want to share? Then get in touch at editorial@euroweeklynews.com.