Is there a way to legally reside in Spain long-term? Do I have any advantages if I have been living in the country for a long period? The answer to both questions is yes, and it is called permanent residency.

A residence authorization with many advantages that will help you avoid tedious renewals and Spanish bureaucracy; but at the same time generates many doubts (especially in terms of terminology).

But after reading this article, all those doubts will disappear.

What exactly is permanent residency, what are the requirements, do all the years in Spain count the same to get it?

Keep reading to find out all this and more!


What is the permanent residency in Spain?


Permanent residency in Spain is an authorization that allows an individual to reside and work in the country indefinitely. That is, without having to constantly renew the actual residency authorization.

Much to the confusion of many, there are actually two types of permanent residency processes in Spain. There’s the Permanent Residency under the Community Regime, and Permanent Residency under the General Regime.

Permanent Residency under the Community Regime is the process for EU nationals and family members of EU nationals.

On the other hand, Permanent Residency under the General Regime is for non-EU nationals in Spain. It is a national process more specifically called “Long Term Residency.”

In this article we will be focusing on Spain’s Long Term Residency process. However, you can find out more about the differences between the types of long-term residency cards here.


So, what is long term residency in Spain?


Long term residency is the status that enables non-EU citizens who have been living in Spain continuously and legally for five years to obtain an indefinite residence situation. Although the residence situation is indefinite, the physical residency card is valid for five years and must be renewed. 

Long term residency allows one to live and work in Spain, both as a self-employed individual or as an employee (cuenta ajena and cuenta propia), with the same rights as any other Spanish national.

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 timeframe that the long term 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.


How to get the General Regime permanent residency card?


As we have previously mentioned, the General Regime permanent residency card being referred to here is the long term residency in Spain. You can get a long-term residency card by continuously and legally living in Spain for five years.

But what exactly would those five years look like?

It’s quite simple. Let’s follow the timeline of an individual who has just entered the country with their first residence permit.

Depending on the residence permit or visa they obtain, they will be able to legally live and work in Spain for one to three years. This is what we call a residence and/or work authorization.

Depending on the duration of their first residence permit, they will have to keep renewing in order to reach a total of five years in the country. Once they’ve been in Spain for five years, they can apply for the long-term residency card.

The long-term residency card will last for the next five years until they need to request for a new one.

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


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Calculating your number of years in Spain


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

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

  • Each year lived under any kind of regular residence permit count as one. 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
  • Now, here comes the hard part. The years in Spain with the student visa count as half of the permanent residency calculation. We’re referring to all situations of being in Spain for studies, mobility of students, or internship. These all count for half of their duration. This is because a student visa is not a residence permit, it’s an authorization to live in Spain while you study

Let us give you an example of this.

If you’ve studied in Spain for six years under a student visa and then worked under a regular work permit for one year, in reality, you would have lived in Spain for seven years.

However, for a long-term residency calculation, it’s different. The six years with the student visa only count as half, so you’ll need to wait one more year with your work permit before applying for long-term residency.


A tip to know exactly 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.


Requirements for permanent residency in Spain (General Regime)


Obtaining long term 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 five years. Thus, getting your long term residency in Spain should be relatively easy.

Which documents will you 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 what are the main requirements?

Firstly, it is important that you don’t have any criminal records. Next, you must not be in a voluntary return situation. Finally, you must prove that you have lived in Spain for the past five years uninterruptedly.

In order to demonstrate this last point, you can show evidence such as your rental contract. 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?


Our advice is to do initiate the application procedure 60 days before your current permit expires. Bear in mind that bureaucracy can be slow sometimes and things may not work out as fast as expected. So, it’s important to plan ahead, and not wait until the last minute.

After you submit the required documents, you should receive a resolution in around three months. If it is positive, you will have to go to the Police Office to have your fingerprints taken. After around a month, you will be able to pick up your long-term residency card, valid for five years.



How to renew the long term card


Renewing the long-term residency card is also quite straightforward. The long term residency card is renewed five years after it was obtained. You’ll just need to repeat the process of having your fingerprints taken at the Police Office.

Compared to the renewal processes of the rest of the permits, this one is really simple. This is because you are not renewing your legal status as a foreigner in Spain, just the physical card itself.

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

The documents you’ll need to renew are:

  • The EX-17 form, filled-out
  • Your census registration (empadronamiento) if you have changed your address
  • The expired card and a photocopy of it
  • Your passport
  • Proof that you have paid the corresponding fee

Bear in mind that, for the renewal, it is no longer necessary to prove that you have been living interruptedly in Spain for the last five years. That was only a requirement for obtaining long term residency, but not for the card’s renewal.

Nevertheless, you cannot be outside Spain or the European Union for more than one full and consecutive year. So, at the Police Office, they may ask for a document that confirms this.


When should you renew this permit?


You can only renew the General Regime permanent residency card once it has expired. You cannot renew the long term residency card while it is still valid. However, for maximum efficiency, it would be a good idea to schedule an appointment at the Police Office for as soon as it expires.

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


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Permanent residency in Spain under the Community Regime


To clarify, permanent residency for EU nationals is an optional document. If you’re from an EU country and have been living in another EU country legally for five years continuously, you can get permanent residency there.

This permanent residence document shows you can stay there without any restrictions. It can be helpful when dealing with officials or doing paperwork.

Having it might mean you won’t have to prove you have a job, enough money, health insurance, and other things to the authorities.

If you are a family member of an EU citizen, and have the five-year Community Card, you can also apply for permanent residency in Spain. The main condition is that, during those 5 years, you haven’t been out of the country for more than six months.

This permanent residency under the Community Regime is valid for 10 years. However, it does not allow you to live or work outside Spain or in any other EU country.

If you would like to obtain a long-term residency permit that will allow you to work in another EU country, you need to obtain the long-term EU residency.


Long term EU residency


Now let’s look at a different situation. 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, instead of applying for General Regime permanent residency (a.k.a. long-term residency), a better option would be to get the EU long-term residency.

It is possible to apply for the EU long-term residency after you have been living in Spain for five years. It is also possible to apply for the EU long-term residency even if you have already obtained the national long-term residency.

Compared to the national long term residency, the requirements for this procedure are a bit stricter.

Your work situation must be very stable, you must demonstrate adequate financial means, you cannot have criminal records, and you must have full coverage health insurance.

This permit is advantageous because as a long-term resident in the EU, you can move to any other European country to become a legal resident there.

For example, you could leave Spain and go to France. Then, if you find a job, you would be able to get your French residence permit much easier than if you simply had the national long-term residency in Spain.


What are the differences between long term 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 long term residency, you only need five years of continuous residence in the country. Whereas to obtain Spanish citizenship, you generally need to have lived in Spain for 10 years.

Bear in mind that individuals from certain countries do require less than 10 years if there is an agreement between both countries.

Nevertheless, getting the Spanish nationality offers some benefits.

Although 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 of Spain, you will be allowed to travel to all the countries that have tourist agreements with Spain. This is something that does not happen with long term residency. Long term residency, does, however allow for free travel within the Schengen Zone.


Get your permanent residency with us!

So, 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 of immigration procedures, and let us do the tedious part for you.

Book a consultation with one of our lawyers and we’ll answer all your questions:


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