There comes a point in the life of any foreigner in Spain when she can finally apply for a long-term residence card. This is a great change, since this type of residency radically simplifies all the procedures that the foreigner will have to carry out in Spain in the future.

However, foreigners in this same situation tend to face a very important doubt, since there are different types of 5-year cards and knowing which one is the most appropriate for the particular case is not always an easy job.

Thus, in this post we will explore the main similarities and differences between the long term card and the EU long term card in detail so that you can solve all your doubts.


Similarities between the long-term and long-term EU card


Let’s start by analyzing which are the exact points that both cards have in common, and that are the main generations of doubts and confusions (even though in practice they are are two very different cards).


Both cards are obtained after 5 years in Spain


This is the most important aspect and the one that most identifies these two permanent or long-term residences together.

The main condition one has to consider in order to obtain the permanent card (both of them) is that they can only be applied for and subsequently obtained after 5 years of legal and continuous residence in Spain as a foreigner.

In other words, the foreigner will enter the Spanish territory with a temporary residence card, and when she completes 5 total years in the country with the required card renewals, she will finally be able to access a long-term or EU long-term card.

It is important to mention that the phrase “continued residence” is of special importance here.

That is because in order to successfully apply for any of these two cards, it is not possible to register absences of more than 6 consecutive months in a period of 12 months, nor a total of 10 months in the past 5 years if we add all the periods in which the foreigner has been out of Spain.


They indefinite residences


Once these 5 years of residence are completed and one of these two cards is requested, the foreigner will be granted the right to stay in Spain indefinitely.

That is to say, although it is true that the two cards must be renewed every 5 years, what is renewed is only the physical or plastic card, since the right to reside in the Spanish territory will be from then on something guaranteed for life.


Both allow to reside and work legally in Spain


The two long-term residences offer the possibility of living and working in the country legally under the same conditions as any other Spanish citizen.

That is to say, the foreigner will be able to work for any company in Spain or to perform economic activities as a freelancer (called “autónomo” in Spanish); without being tied to any particular company as it happens with a regular work permit.


Common requirements


Although it is true that they differ in their most fundamental requirements, there is a list of common requirements that the applicant must meet in order to apply for either of these two cards.

In addition to the need to demonstrate continuous residence in the national territory, those common requirements are:

  • Not being a citizen of the European Union or European Economic Area
  • Not having the entry prohibited to Spain or any other country within the Schengen area
  • Not registering police or criminal records in the last 5 years


Same application form


To obtain both residences you must download, fill in and submit the same application form, form EX-11.

You can click here to view and download this form.


Before diving into the differences between these two permanent residences, remember that our immigration lawyers can answer all your questions online:

I want to talk to a lawyer


Differences between EU long term residency and the general long term residency


Let’s now move on to the most important part: the differences between the EU long term residency and “regular” long term card.

As we will now see, these differences come from two main sources: the requirements that the foreigner must meet to apply for them, and the advantages that both cards offer.

Let’s take a look.

Possibility to live and work more easily in another EU country


This is the main benefit of the EU long-term card and the characteristic that gives it its name.

One of the advantages of this card (in exchange for having to fulfill a series of more extensive requirements as we will now analyze) is that the foreigner who has obtained it in Spain, will be able to move in the future much easier to any EU country to settle and work there.

This does not mean that the EU long-term card carries an implicit work permit within, and that the foreigner could work in France, Italy, or Germany (or in any other EU country) directly with it.


This means that the foreigner will have it much, much easier.

In the case of wishing to move to any of these countries, she would not have to start the residency application process from scratch. Being the holder of a long-term EU card, the destination country would exchange this residency for the homologous or more similar card it has in its territory.

Therefore, it is still necessary to carry out a procedure to work in another EU country with this card, but the process is much faster and more agile compared to doing it without it.


Need to prove the possession of financial means


One of the main points of the long-term residency is that it is usually the first moment in the life of the foreigner in Spain in which she does not have to prove the possession of sufficient funds to obtain the residence.

That is to say, it is not necessary to be working at the time of the application, nor to prove the possession of enough money in the bank.

This requirement simply disappears.

However, in the case of EU long-term residence, the situation is completely different.

There exists the need to prove the possession of stable and regular means of living. We are talking about 150% of the annual IPREM for a family unit of 2 members (50% extra for each additional family member).

The foreigner residing in Spain has 3 different ways to prove it:

  • Working for a company (his monthly salary, if it represents an amount that reaches the minimum mentioned above, is the proof that verifies it)
  • Being a self-employed worker (proven by your tax returns)
  • If you are not working, you must provide a bank certificate proving that you have such funds


Having medical insurance


Very similar to the previous point, the EU long-term residency also demands an extra requirement that is not found in the case of the general long term card.

We are talking about the need to have medical insurance, either public or private.

If the applicant is not working or if she is self-employed, then she must contract private insurance with full coverage and without co-payments (equating to the benefits offered by the Spanish public health system).

But if the foreigner is employed by a company at the time of the application, it will not be necessary to contract private health insurance, since she is already registered in the Social Security and, through her salary, she already makes regular contributions to be covered by the country’s health system.

Conclusion: when to apply for long term and when to apply for EU long term


So far the main differences and similarities between the two 5-year cards.

It is likely that after reading all these points you still have doubts about whether it is better to apply for one card or the other in your particular case.

In order for you to get out of those doubts definitively, here are 2 really useful pieces of advice.

The first one is that, if you consider that in the future (near or not) you will want to move to another EU country and live there for a period of time or indefinitely, you should apply for the EU long-term residence permit as soon as possible.

Many foreigners who currently meet the labor and health insurance requirements apply for the “regular” long-term card and months later, when they finally decide to move to another country, regret not having applied for the EU one before because now they do not meet those requirements.

So if you can, apply for the EU long term in the first place (although you can always change from one to the other without problems).

The second piece of advice is to seek specialist advice. Our immigration lawyers will be happy to learn about your situation so that they can advise you in detail.

Often this external help is what you need to avoid legal problems in the future and to know for sure which path is the most appropriate for you and your family.

So if you have any doubts, ask us anything here:


Book a consultation with one of our lawyers and solve all your doubts


4.5/5 (4 Reviews)