Let’s say that you have been living in Spain for one or two years. Maybe you got your student visa, or maybe you obtained a regular residence permit. But, seeing how much you enjoy living in the country, you would like to extend the duration of your permit for the long run. How can you do it? Do you need to renew your student visa every single year? Or, if you have a residence permit, like a non-lucrative visa, also renew it every two? The answer is no. Because after 5 years in the country you can get the permanent residency, and then there is no need to renew again. You will be able to stay legally for the long run. But, how to do it? What exactly is the permanent residency in Spain?

In this post, we are going to exactly solve those doubts, plus provide you with all the information you should really know about this type of residency. What are we going to tackle exactly in this post?


What is the permanent residency in Spain?


The permanent residency is the status that enables non-EU citizens who have been living in Spain continuously and legally for 5 years to obtain an indefinite residence situation. This residency card is valid for five years and can be renewed. It allows to live and work in Spain, both as a self-employed or as an employee (cuenta ajena and cuenta propia), with the same rights as any other Spanish national.

Just to say again, this card is just for non-EU citizens.

Furthermore, it allows its holder to be outside Spain for 6 months without any kind of legal problem. This time period can be extended to a complete year inside the 5-year frame that the permanent residency is valid. This means that adding up all the time that you can be outside the country, it cannot exceed a total year regarding the 5 years you are allowed to legally be in Spain with the card.

Have you already been 5 years in Spain and now would like to get the long-run residency in order to avoid renewals and enjoy its vast benefits? Then let us help you!


How to get the permanent residency card?


Let’s take a step back and review what we have just said.

How exactly can you get the permanent residency in Spain? It’s really simple: let’s follow the timeline of an individual who has just entered the country with her first residence permit.

The first permit she obtains will enable her to legally live and work in Spain for one whole year. That is what we call a residence and work authorization. Once that period is finished, she will need to renew: obtaining a residency permit for the next two years. Again, once that two years come to an end (now adding up a total of 3 years in Spain), she will need to renew for two more years, until totaling up to 5 years in the country.

It will be in that precise moment, in the following renewal, that she will get the permanent residency card.

The next renewal won’t simply extend the permit she had. The renewal will imply obtaining a new type of residency (the permanent one), which will enable her to be in the country for the next 5 years. No renewal in between needed.

Nevertheless, there is something important you should bear in mind. Not all the years in Spain count the same.


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How to compute your year calculation: not all years count equal


As we have already explained, you need a total of 5 years in order to get the permanent residency in Spain.

The thing is that many times, depending on the type of permit you have, more than 5 will be required to actually get 5 years of legal and continuous residence in the country.

In this sense, we have three different options that affect the calculation:

  • Each year lived under any kind of regular residence permit count as 1. That is simple. If you have been residing in Spain with your non-lucrative visa for 5 years, then each of those 5 years count as one. The same happens with the golden visa, highly qualified visa or the entrepreneur visa, just to mention a few.
  • In the case in which you have an EU blue card, each of the years of residency in any other European country also counts as one. This will be viable as long as the last 2 years before the application you have been living in the Spanish territory. 
  • But here comes the problem. The years in Spain with the student visa count half for the permanent residency calculation. And we are referring to the situations of stay for studies, mobility of students or internships; they all count 50% of its duration. And the reason is simple: a student visa is not a residence permit, it’s an authorization to live in Spain while you study.

So let us exemplify what we have just explained.

Suppose that you have been studying in Spain for 6 consecutive years under your student visa, and then you transition into a regular work permit as an employee, under which you have already lived for one year. You could say that the addition is equal to 7. But regarding the calculation needed for the permanent residency, it’s not. It’s just 4 (as the 6 years with the student visa count half). So you will need to wait one more year with your work permit in order to be able to apply for the permanent residency.



Tip to exactly know how many years you have effectively been living in Spain

In order to avoid any mistake, you can do the following.

Go to the Police Office and get what is called the “certificado de residencia“. This is a certificate that contains both your name and the years as a student/resident you have been living in the country. It is stamped and signed by the police, so you will exactly know how much there is left for you to get the permanent residency.


Documents and requirements to get permanent residency in Spain


Obtaining permanent residency is not a complex process in terms of needed documents and requirements. You can view it as a reward for having lived in the country over the last 5 years. Therefore, its obtainment is something you will easily manage to do.

Which are the documents you will need to submit?

  • The payment of the corresponding fee
  • The presentation of the EX-11 form, completed
  • Current residency card (the one about to expire)
  • Original passport and copy

And which are the main requirements?

Simply, having clear background records, not being in a voluntary return situation and proving that you have lived in Spain for the past 5 years uninterruptedly will be enough.

In order to demonstrate this last point, you can show evidence such as your rental contract. Furthermore, your tax returns or working payrolls will be also valid to demonstrate how you have been working in the country.


When should you start the application procedure for permanent residency, before or after your residence permit expires? 

Our advice is to do it 60 days before your current permit expires. Bear in mind that bureaucracy can be slow sometimes and things cannot work out as fast as expected. Therefore you should do it as soon as possible.

After you submit the required documents, you will receive, in 3 months, a letter stating the approval of the permit. You will then need to go to the Police Office to introduce your fingerprints; with that, you’ll receive a guard. After 30 days you will go back to the Police Office, and after presenting your passport and prior residency card, you will receive the permanent residency card, which will last for 5 years.

For additional information on how to renew your long-term residency, this article will be of great help.


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How to renew the long duration card


The renewal, again, is really simple. The permanent residency card is renewed 5 years after it was obtained. You just need to go to the police office, introduce your fingerprint and get your document renewed.

Compared to the renewal of the rest of the permits, we are talking to a really simple procedure. Why? Because you are not renewing your legal status as a foreigner in Spain. You are just renewing the card itself.

That is why the Spanish Immigration Law establishes that, even though you don’t renew your card, you will still be considered a legal resident in Spain. Nevertheless, there will be an economic penalty if you do not renew in time.

You will just need to bring the ex-17 form, your census (empadronamiento) in the case that you have changed your address, the original card and a copy of it (the expired one), passport and proof that you have paid the corresponding fee.

Bear in mind that, for the renewal, it is not necessary to prove that you have been living interruptedly in Spain for the last 5 years. That was something required for obtaining the permanent residency card initially, but not for its renewal.

Nevertheless, you cannot be more than 1 full and consecutive year outside Spain or outside the European Union. So, at the Police Office, they can ask for any document that confirms this for an effective renewal.


Common mistake: when should you renew this permit?


When should you exactly renew it? When it is still valid? Wrong.

The card must be expired for its renewal. That is why you should schedule an appointment at the Police Office sometime before the expiration date, so you can have it for the following day of that time to renew.

Permanent residency in Spain under the community regime


If you have been living in Spain for 5 years under the community regime, which simply means that you got your permit as a family member of an EU citizen, you can also obtain the permanent residency easily. The main condition is that, during those 5 years, you haven’t been out of the country for more than 10 months.

If you fail to meet that requirement, you could keep renewing your permit as a family member of an EU citizen for two more years consecutively.

There are some specificities of this card.

It is valid for 10 years, and it does not allow you to live or work outside Spain or in any other EU country. Furthermore, it does not make things easier to get a permit in any other European country, something that the regular permanent residency permit did.

But there is something positive. Because, if the condition of being the relative of a European Union citizen disappears (let’s say, for example, you get divorced), you will still keep your right to ask for the permanent community card. 


Want to become a legal resident in the future in another EU country? EU permanent residency


Let’s say that you are planning to leave Spain in the future in order to start your new life in another EU country. Then, the best alternative is, instead of applying for a regular permanent residency, is to get the EU permanent residency.

With this variation, different from what we have been talking up till now, the individual who has been living in Spain for 5 years or the individual who already has a permanent residency card, can get the long-run residency for the European Union.

The requirements are a bit tougher.

Your work situation and means to sustain your living must be really stable, you cannot have criminal records, and your medical situation must be fully covered with health insurance.

Which are the main benefits of this permit?

It allows you to accredit the situation as a long-run resident inside the EU and makes it really easy for you to travel into any other European country in order to become a legal resident there. For example, you will be able to leave Spain and go to France, and if you find a job offer, you will be able to get your residence permit much easier than if you simply had the permanent residency in Spain.

Important caveat. Do not ask for the long-run residency card for the EU when you need it. Do it before, when you don’t. Many individuals ask for this type of permit once they find themselves in Spain without a job, and they are willing to move to another country to find one. Then the application will be denied. Because, as we have mentioned, it is a requirement to have a stable work situation. Therefore, do it when you don’t need that card.

You can find out more about this EU long-term card, plus all the differences and similarities with the general long-run card here.


Which are the differences between permanent residency and Spanish Citizenship?


Let’s go over the main differences between both. 

First of all, the years required to get one and to get the other. For the permanent residency, you just need 5 years of residence in the country; whereas to obtain the Spanish citizenship you need to have lived in Spain for 10 years. Bear in mind that some individuals from certain countries do require less than 10 years if there is any treatment between both countries. 

Nevertheless, getting the Spanish nationality offers some benefits.

Even though to obtain it you will have to reject your current nationality, you will enjoy the same political rights as any other Spanish citizen. This means that you will be able to vote in the country.

Furthermore, if you are a citizen in Spain, you will be allowed to travel to all the countries that have agreements with Spain, something that with permanent residency does not happen.

But under a permanent residency, if you would like to apply for a visa to the UK, for example, it won’t be the same as if you have temporary residence; it is easier to work in other European Union countries as you can easily exchange with the countries that have an agreement with Spain.

Get your PR with us!


Would you like our immigration lawyer team to help you out with the application procedure? Then do not hesitate to contact us!

We will prepare all the required documents and submit them to the competent authority so you don’t need to worry about anything. Avoid all the legal hassle that the immigration procedures carry within, and let us do the boring part for you.


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