When a person wishes to come and live in Spain, they may be interested in knowing their rights and obligations as citizens. According to statistics from the National Institute of Statistics (INE), Spain has more than 5 million foreign residents living in the country. This figure does not include those foreigners who do not intend to establish their permanent residence in Spain for more than 90 days.

It is very important to be informed about the rights and obligations established by Spanish legislation. If you intend to come and reside in Spain, this is a topic you should consider. 

In this article, we will provide you with the most relevant information, but it would be ideal for you to seek the guidance of experts if you wish to delve deeper into the matter.

The legal protection of foreigners in Spain


It is essential to know that the Spanish Constitution guarantees all citizens and legal residents a series of rights and freedoms, regardless of their nationality. This implies that foreigners have access to all these benefits established by the Constitution.

Also, you should be aware that any deviation from these principles carries serious consequences. In turn, Organic Law 4/2000, within its scope of application, provides protection to all foreigners who do not possess Spanish nationality. 

And with the purpose of establishing anti-discriminatory measures, Article 21 of the legislation defines actions that harm foreigners as acts of discrimination.


Which rights can a foreigner in Spain benefit from? 


In Organic Law 4/2000 on the rights and freedoms of foreigners in Spain, Article 3 establishes that foreigners in Spain enjoy a series of rights and freedoms recognized in Title I of the Constitution.

There are several rights and obligations that foreigners have in Spain. Below, we present a list so that you can be aware of your main rights:

  1. Right to documentation. You have the obligation to carry documentation proving identity, such as a passport or foreigner identity card
  2. Right to freedom of movement. The ability to move freely throughout Spanish territory, subject to legal or judicial restrictions
  3. Right to public participation. The possibility of exercising the right to vote in municipal elections, with facilitated voting rights in democratic electoral processes in their country of origin
  4. Right to assembly, demonstration, and association. The capacity to exercise these rights under equal conditions as Spanish citizens 
  5. Right to education. The obligation and right to education for minors under sixteen years of age, including free and compulsory basic education
  6. Right to work and Social Security. Authorization to engage in paid employment, either self-employed or employed by others, as well as access to the Social Security system
  7. Right to freedom of association and strike. The possibility of exercising these rights under conditions equivalent to Spanish citizens
  8. Right to health care. Access to health care in accordance with current health legislation
  9. Rights to housing. The right to access public housing assistance systems, with long-term foreigners benefiting from equal terms as Spaniards
  10. Right to social security and social services. Equal rights to access social benefits and services
  11. Right to effective judicial protection. The ability to access judicial protection under the same conditions as Spanish citizens
  12. Right to free legal assistance. The possibility of requesting free legal assistance, recognized if there is insufficient economic resources


Obligations that foreigners in Spain must fulfill


Foreign residents in Spain are subject to various responsibilities and requirements that differentiate their status, highlighting, for example, the obligation for those staying in the country for less than 90 days to have medical insurance.

All foreigners in Spain must respect the laws and regulations established; however, they are subject to a series of obligations, such as the following:

  • Keep documentation in order
  • Comply with local laws and regulations
  • Fulfill tax obligations
  • Collaborate with authorities
  • Respect the conditions established for entry and stay in Spain if holding visas


Respect and guarantee the freedoms of all individuals in Spain


To ensure that all rules and regulations are complied with and respected, it is essential for foreigners to be familiar with their rights and responsibilities according to Spanish legislation. Ensuring respect for rights and freedoms is as important as complying with laws and regulations in Spain.


Legally residing in Spain 


Of course, so that you can practice your rights with ease, you should not be in an irregular situation in Spain. As previously mentioned, it is your obligation to keep your documents in order. 

If you are a non-EU citizen and your intention is to reside in Spain for a period exceeding three months, obtaining Spanish residency becomes necessary. There are many residence authorization options in Spain, so it is important to determine the most suitable option for your situation. 


Two primary laws


Prior to exploring the various residency avenues, it’s crucial to note the existence of two primary laws governing Spanish residency. These laws, namely the general immigration regime and the Entrepreneur’s Law, encompass distinct permits within their frameworks. 

Opting for a permit under either law means different general processes, particularly given that permits under Law 14/2013 can be pursued directly from within Spain. For example, the golden visa, digital nomad visa, or entrepreneur’s visa.

Conversely, applications under the general regime usually necessitate initiation from one’s country of origin. Visas under the general regime include the regular work permit, non-lucrative visa, or student visa

Understanding these distinctions is fundamental for making informed decisions regarding your residency application process.

In case you need legal advice from an expert in the field, remember that you can always turn to any of our professionals to guide and assist you in any process or situation.


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