How to get a Residence Permit in Spain

A Complete Guide to Spanish Residency
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How to get the Spanish residency

In Spain, you will find everything that you need: delicious food, the sun all year round, a charming vibe, a rich culture, and a landscape that will never cease to amaze you (mountains + sea). Hence the huge number of foreigners moving to the Spanish territory year after year.

But, how to do it? If you are considering moving to Spain, in this guide you will find everything you MUST know. What are the residence permit options for non-EU citizens in Spain? And if you are from the EU? How does the application process to obtain Spanish residency work, and what are the exact requirements you should meet?

Trying to answer these questions may sound intimidating, especially because there are plenty of alternatives and the process + requirements differs according to the one you choose. But after reading this guide all your doubts will be over. We will help you find which residence permit suits you (and your family) best, so that you can fully understand all the steps to follow.

  • We will carefully analyze your situation and determine which is residence permit is right for you
  • We will guide you step-by-step into all the legal procedures required to get your permit in Spain
  • We will help you get all the documents and send them to the relevant authority for you. All you’ll have to do is sign, we’ll handle the rest!

    1-on-1 consultation to understand how YOU can obtain residency

    ✓ We will assign you an expert immigration lawyer

    ✓ We will carefully analyze and study your situation

    ✓ Together, we will define what is the best path for you (and your family) to obtain residency in Spain

    ✓ We will outline the exact steps you must follow and solve any doubts you may have

    1-on-1 consultation to understand how YOU can obtain residency

    ✓ We will assign you an expert immigration lawyer

    ✓ We will carefully analyze and study your situation

    ✓ Together, we will define what is the best path for you (and your family) to obtain residency in Spain

    ✓ We will outline the exact steps you must follow and solve any doubts you may have

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      Do you actually need to apply for a Spanish Residence Permit?

      Before moving forward with all your options, we first need to understand if we actually need to apply for a residence permit in the country. And in order to answer that question, we must divide the answer between the two different groups of foreigners: EU and Non-EU nationals:

      Temporary Residence Permit in Spain
      If you are a citizen from a European Union country, from the European Economic Area (EEA), or from Switzerland, you just need to get your Identification Number in Spain (NIE) and your EU registry certificate. A visa or a residence permit won’t be required in order to stay legally in the country for the long run. Hence, EU citizens don’t need a visa to live in Spain.

      But, on the other hand, if you are a Non-European Union citizen, you will need to get your visa in order to work and live legally in the country.

      As you can see, no matter your nationality, an NIE number will always be required. In fact, it is one of the most important legal elements that will accompany you during your journey to Spain, as it is required to carry out any type of process. From purchasing a property to opening a business or a bank account, you must always get your NIE. You can learn more about how to do it here.

      4 types of residency authorizations in Spain:

       

      If you are planning on visiting or moving to Spain, you must be aware of the fact that there are 4 different types of permits or authorizations that will allow you to legally stay in the country. Choosing one or the other will depend on how long you plan to stay in the Spanish territory, or how long have you already been in the country:

      Short-term Visa

      The short-term visa or Schengen visa (also called a tourist visa) allows non-EU citizens to stay in the country for up to 90 days. Depending on your country of origin, you may be required to apply for one or not. Once those 90 days come to an end, you must move to a regular permit in order to stay in Spain. But bear in mind that the vast majority of permits can’t be obtained under a tourist visa. This means that, as a general rule, you can’t come to Spain with a short-term visa and get your residence permit afterwards; you need to apply from your country of origin. Nevertheless, there are some exceptions that we will explore later on.

      Temporary Residence Permit

      If you are planning to live in Spain for more than 90 days, you must apply for a temporary residency permit. Temporary residencies last 1,2,3 or 4 years (depending on the permit and if it is an initial residency or a renewal). But, usually, initial cards are for 1 year under the general immigration regime, and 3 years under the Entrepreneur’s law. Once that period ends, and provided that you still meet the initial requirements, you can renew your temporary residence permit for an additional two years. On the other hand, instead of renewing, you will also have the possibility of moving to a different type of residency. Finally, bear in mind that not all permits do allow you to work in Spain.

      Permanent Residency

      After 5 years of uninterruptedly living in Spain with your permit or visa, you won’t have to renew it anymore. You will be eligible to apply for permanent residency or PR (now called long-run residency), a permit that will allow you to live and work in Spain indefinitely. Bear in mind, however, just years lived under a residency status do count. All months/years under a student visa or under a stay status will not count to obtain PR.

      The requirements are simple. You just need your passport, current residency card, completed EX-11 form, clear criminal records for the last 5 years, and proof of payment of fees. And, most importantly, you can’t have left Spain for more than 6 months for any single year and no more than 10 months in total during the 5-year period.

      Citizenship

      If you want to apply for Spanish citizenship, you need to have resided in Spain for 10 years – but this differs for some countries and situations. Though the process may take some time, obtaining the Spanish passport will allow you to work in any EU country, and freely travel to 183 countries. There are four main ways in which you can obtain Spanish nationality: citizenship by residency, citizenship by descent, citizenship by marriage, and citizenship through your children. Read more about it here.

      Residence Permit in Spain for Non-EU Citizens

      As we have mentioned, if you are planning to stay for more than 3 months in Spain, you must apply for Spanish residency. Let’s now explore in greater detail the different residency options available for non-EU citizens, and how to get them step-by-step. This section is of utmost importance, as you must fully understand all possibilities in order to define the right option for yourself. Then, you can learn more about the specific requirements for your chosen option (as they do differ from residency to residency).

      But before diving into the different options, let’s also mention that there are 2 big laws regulating Spanish residency. Each law (the general immigration regime and the Entrepreneur’s Law), have different permits under them. Applying for a permit under one or the other has crucial implications, especially considering that permits under Law 14/2013 can be applied directly from Spain, while those under the general regime require starting your application from your country of origin:

      Spain Paper Process
      Permanent residency in spain
      Spanish residency
      residency in spain

      Non-Lucrative Visa

      Let’s say that you do not want to work in Spain. You would like to retire in the country, or you want to travel around Spain and Europe for a year, or you would like to immerse yourself in a new culture without embarking on any economic activity. Then, the retirement or non-lucrative visa will be the best option for you. Its requirements are really straightforward:

      • You need private health insurance.
      • It is also required to demonstrate the possession of sufficient economic funds. The legal requirement is €28,800 but depending on your consulate that amount can increase (and you can even see that a rental contract is required).

      There are two options to obtain this permit: apply from your country of origin, or directly from Spain but just if you are moving from another residency or from a student visa (as you can’t get an NLV as a tourist).

      This is for sure one of the most sought permits in Spain, and at our offices we weekly receive clients from all countries who wish to obtain their non-lucrative visa as it offers a straightforward application and great advantages.

      spain paper process

      Golden Visa

      Many of the residency permit application procedures can be tedious, long processes requiring a lot of documents and requirements. But in order to avoid this situation, the Investor Visa or Golden Visa may be the perfect solution. You just need to invest €500,000 in Spanish real estate and you will easily get your residency. The investor permit may be one of the easiest ways to start living in Spain, as it offers a fast-track application in just 20 labor days, it can be applied directly from Spain as a tourist, and allows you to include your relatives.

      Furthermore, you will just need to visit Spain once per year in order to renew your golden visa, fact that will help you avoid becoming a tax resident in the country.

      spain paper process
      residence permit spain for non-EU citizens

      Entrepreneur Visa

      Can you set up a company and get the residency at the same time? With the entrepreneur visa, you can. If the project that you would like to start in Spain is of economic interest to the country, innovative, and involves a high level of technology, you can easily have access to this 3-year visa. If you just want to create a regular company, a work permit as a self-employed individual will be the best alternative, as the entrepreneur visa requires that your business idea is completely new and does not exist in the market already. Bear in mind that one of the most important requirements for this permit is developing a business plan, in which you must specify how you will obtain financing, how your operations will work, a marketing plan, and how you will create employment for the Spanish economy. Our business lawyers will assist you in all steps to set up your business in Spain and with your tax optimization.

      spanish residency

      Student Visa

      Do you want to do your masters or Ph.D. in Spain? Start a Spanish course or complete your professional training for a specific sector? Then the student visa is for you. This residence permit allows non-EU citizens to study in Spain. After the immigration updates from 2022, you can even work up to 30 hours per week on a student visa, and to internship.

      Its application process is also beneficial, as you can apply directly from Spain as a tourist within the first 60 days of your stay.

      Besides, the student residence permit becomes many times the perfect gateway to enter Spain and stay for the long-run. That is because after completing your studies you can easily transition into a work permit, eliminating the complex work visa requirements.

      If you are unable to find a job during your studies you can apply for the residency called “búsqueda de empleo”. This job search permit allows foreign students in Spain to extend their stay for up to two years to look for a job or start their own company. The student must have finished their studies at the time of application, and can apply for this permit 60 days before their student authorization expires or 90 days after.

      spanish residency
      how to get residency in Spain

      Internship Residency

      Students who have finished or have currently been taking level 6 studies or higher for the last 2 years, can transition from a student visa to this permit. This authorization is obtained through a: traineeship contract or internship agreement, and the internship should be within the same scope and qualification level as the higher studies taken. Once the contract or agreement finishes, the individual can transition to an employee’s residence permit, which can be renewed until permanent residency.

      temporary residency in Spain

      Research Visa

      A special type of permit designed for researchers and the scientific community. This is for those who travel to Spain to work in an R&D center or do authorized research. It can also include teachers hired by universities or higher education centers. The permit lasts for 3 years or for the duration of the research contract. While it can be applied for directly from Spain or your home country, the application must be initiated by the research institution that is hiring, and submitted completely online through the electronic system of the Ministry of Inclusion, Social Security and Migration. 

      temporary residency in Spain
      how to get permanent residency in Spain

      Work Permit

      Obtaining a regular work permit in Spain can become a quite complex task, and that is why we always suggest to aim for any of its alternatives. Depending on your situation, professional profile and the job offer you have, there are different types of work visas you can apply for. Each has its own requirements and the application differs:

      • The regular work permit must be applied for from your country of origin. Just a few job positions will be valid for this type of work permit (those under the shortage occupation list), which makes it really completed to be obtained. Your employer from Spain will be the one to request the residence permit for you, while you are in your country of origin (as it CANNOT be applied directly from Spain).

      • If you have a job offer as a highly qualified worker, the procedure to get the residence permit can start while in Spain. This visa is granted to those who get an offer as managers or any other technical position, and who earn over €50,000 per year.

      • The Intra-Corporate Transfer Visa applies to multinational company employees who need to relocate to the Spanish headquarters to continue working or to take any type of training.

      • Similar to the skilled professional visa you also have the EU blue card, which allows you to work in the whole European Union area.

      temporary residence permit in Spain

      Family member of an EU Citizen visa (tarjeta comunitaria)

      Under this immigration procedure, European Union citizens living in Spain can bring their Non-EU relatives with them. The residence permit as a family member of a European Union citizen is usually formalized after constituting a civil partnership (pareja de hecho with the non-EU national) or via marriage. Parents and children of the European Union citizen can also benefit from the right to get their residence and work authorization as relatives. This family member visa can be applied as a tourist, and grants a 5-year residency card that also allows you to work in the country.

      temporary residence permit in Spain
      spanish residency requirements

      Family Reunification

      Through the family unification process, relatives, civil partners, and in-laws of Non-EU citizens residing in Spain can apply for family reunification, under the condition that the said foreigner living in Spain has been in the country for at least one year (with a valid permit). This residency card allows the applicant to live and work in the country.

      When applying, the individual should show adequate housing conditions in Spain, and, as always, sufficient economic means. In the case of family reunification, the Spanish or European citizen needs to show that they can support their arriving relatives (i.e. the applicant). There are four main ways to do this. They can show that they are employed by a company, that they are a registered self-employed worker, that they are an enrolled student declaring financial support, or that they have at least 150% of IPREM.

       

      spanish residency application process

      Digital Nomad Visa

      If you plan to work remotely from Spain for a foreign company, or as a freelancer with clients outside Spain (as long as your total turnover coming directly for Spain does not exceed 20%), you can get the digital nomad visa.

      This is a great option, as you can apply for it both from your country of origin and from Spain. Plus, thanks to being the holder of this residency, you will pay fewer taxes, (just a flat 24% on your income), as you will be able to benefit from the Beckham Law.

      But this permit has many other advantages, like the ability to include your family members in the application, the possibility of receiving a resolution in less than 20 days (fast-track application), or the fact that it is a residence for 3 years (renewable for 2 until you obtain permanent residency).

      When it comes to the main requirements, there needs to have already been an existing contract with the foreign company/client three months prior to the application, and this company must have already been operating for at least 1 year. For personal requirements, the individual must demonstrate sufficient economic funds through an annual salary of €31,752 for the main applicant. They must also prove that they have 3-years worth of work-related experience, or graduated from a reputable academic institution.

       

      spanish residency application process
      spanish residency for non-eu citizens

      Arraigo

      Arraigo is the regularization process that allows foreigners who have overstayed (spent more than the allowed 90 days with a tourist visa) and want to legalize their situation after living in Spain for a minimum period of time. There are currently 4 different types of arraigos, each with different requirements:

       

       

      Arraigo Social

      If you have been living in Spain illegally for 3 consecutive years, and have a valid employment contract or can demonstrate suffice to economic means, you can apply for arraigo social. This job offer must pay at least the minimum salary in Spain, and be of a minimum of 30 hours per week (but there is no minimum contract duration required).

      Besides, you will need to obtain a favorable integration report. This is done through an interview with the town council of the relevant locality, showing a link with Spain (knowledge of culture and language), and learning about your background. In case you have relatives in Spain, there is no need to get this report. You will also need to speak a certain level of Spanish, and possibly the language of the autonomous community you are applying in (like Catalan in Catalonia).

       

      Family Arraigo

      If you can prove a direct family link (e.g. parents to child, a spouse, children, legal guardians and even caretakers of a Spanish citizen with a disability) to a Spanish citizen, residency via family arraigo can be requested regardless of time spent in Spain or economic means. This type of arraigo is granted for 5 years and does not require any minimum time in the country prior to its application.

       

      Labor Arraigo

      If you are currently in an irregular situation, but have been living in Spain for two consecutive years, and have been legally working under cuenta ajena or cuenta propia (i.e. for a company or as a freelancer), you can apply for labor arraigo.

      For cuenta ajena, you should have been working 30 hours a week for a duration of six months, and 15 hours a week for a duration of one year. For cuenta propia, the individual should have been economically active for six months out of the two years in Spain.

       

      Arraigo Para La Formación

      Arraigo para la Formación is for you if you have been illegally living in Spain for at least two years, and wish to begin specific studies or qualification training for employment.  This job should be listed in the National Catalog of Professional Qualifications in the field of labor administration.

      Keep in mind that the course needs to be 100% face-to-face and not part-time. You can study for 12 months (extendable up till a total of 18 months), but cannot work while studying. Nevertheless, once you finish your studies you will be able to move to a work permit.

      You can find the list of valid centers and training in the following links:

      State Registry of Non-University Teaching Centers

      SEPE search engine

      How Balcells Group’s clients got their Spain residence permit successfully (and how you can, too)

      Documents and application process to obtain Spanish residency

       

      Now you have all the options you have in order to start living legally in Spain and obtaining residency as a non-EU foreigner. The question that immediately pops up is: how to do it? Which documentation will I need to provide? Which conditions do I need to fulfill in order to be eligible?

      Each residence permit is different. Each type of visa has its own requirements and differs in terms of the documentation you need to send to the Spanish Immigration Office. Nevertheless, there are certain commonalities that you will need to bear in mind no matter the path you choose. 

      Overall, the diagrams below show the general process you must follow when applying for Spanish residency either under the General Immigration Regime or Entrepreneur’s Law: 

      How to get temporary residency in Spain
      Temporary residence permit spain
      Residency in spain
      How to get Spanish residency

      General Requirements and Documents

      As we have seen, each residency has its own requirements. Nevertheless, there are certain documents you must always submit no matter your particular situation, and general requirements to be met. What are these?

      • Make sure you have your NIE NUMBER. The NIE should be on your visa received at the consulate, as it is the basic identification number every expat needs in order to start a legal procedure in Spain. Opening a bank account, buying a property, acquiring a car or even applying for a regular residence permit will require you to have a NIE. Both EU-citizens and non-EU citizens need it.
      • Upon arriving in Spain and finding a place to live, get your empadronamiento, as this is also a necessary requirement. It is a document that states you are registered at a certain address in the country.
      • Prove that you have sufficient funds to sustain yourself in Spain. This amount changes depending on the residency card you apply for. You can show proof through a job contract, money in your bank, or via your activity as a self-employed worker. You can ask our lawyers for more information.
      • Demonstrate clear criminal records for the last five years (not just in Spain, but in any country you have resided in during this period)
      • Have health insurance with full coverage throughout the whole country, no matter whether it is public or private.
      • Requirements specific to your residence permit
      • Visa application form
      • Payment of the corresponding administrative fee (exact price changes according to the permit, and some don’t have one)
      • Copy of all the pages of your passport

      We will submit your application online!

      Our team will take care of managing your initial application or renewal completely online, so you don’t need to visit our offices and enjoy an effortless and easy process.

      Everything You Need to Know About Spanish Residency (Frequently Asked Questions)

      Can you get the residency as a tourist?

      Yes, but only under specific circumstances. As a general rule, every permit application procedure is first initiated from your country of origin, unless:

      • You want to get a student visa. You can enroll in any Spanish university as a tourist and process the application for your visa later on, without living Spain. 
      • Any permit under the Entrepreneur’s law; like the entrepreneur visa, golden visa or highly qualified work permit. 
      • The family member of an EU citizen. You can enter Spain with your tourist visa, constitute your civil partnership, and then process your application. 
      • With any arraigo procedure. 

      Can my family join?

      Yes. Whenever you formalize your application you can also include your spouse and children and do a joint application. They will be granted the same residence authorization as you. But, if you would like to bring them later on, you also can do it. You will just need to wait after renewing your initial authorization and trough the family reunification process you will be allowed to bring them. 

      Which is the corresponding immigration law?

      There are two main laws that regulate your condition as a legal foreigner in Spain: 

      Depending on the type of visa you apply, you will fall under the regulations of one or the other. 

      How long does it take to get my visa?

      The immigration office has 3 months to issue their response when you submit your application. If, after that period you didn’t get any, it means that your application got denied trough administrative silence. So, in order to estimate the total amount it takes to get your permit, you should also consider how long it takes for you to prepare all the documents and when you can get an appointment to submit them.

      That is why, in total, you can count 5-6 months as a general rule; even though it can go faster.  

      can i get residency if i buy a property?

      Yes. As long as you purchase a property valued over 500.000€, you will be granted a residence permit called golden visa or investor permit.

      It not only allows you to live in Spain, but also work. Bseides, you can also include your relatives in your application, and you will just need to visit Spain once per year in order to renew it.

      Everything You Need to Know About Spanish Residency (Frequently Asked Questions)

      Can you get the residency as a tourist?

      Yes, but only under specific circumstances. As a general rule, every permit application procedure is first initiated from your country of origin, unless:

      • You want to get a student visa. You can enroll in any Spanish university as a tourist and process the application for your visa later on, without living Spain. 
      • The permit is under the Entrepreneur’s law; like the entrepreneur visa, golden visa, highly qualified work permit or digital nomad visa
      • You are a family member of an EU citizen. You can enter Spain with your tourist visa, constitute your civil partnership or register your marriage, and then process your application
      • It is an arraigo procedure, for which you must stay under an irregular status for 2 or 3 years first

      For all permits except for the residence authorization to internship and the búsqueda de empleo, you can process a joint application and include your spouse and children from the beginning of the application. They will be granted the same residence authorization as you (and for the same duration). If you would like them to join you later on, you also can do it. You will just need to wait after renewing your initial authorization and through the family reunification process you will be allowed to bring them to Spain.

      Can my family join?

      Which is the corresponding immigration law?

      There are three main laws that regulate your condition as a legal foreigner in Spain: 

      Depending on the type of visa or permit you apply for, you will fall under the regulations of one or the other. 

      Legally, the immigration office has 3 months to issue their response after you submit your application. If, after that period you don’t receive any, it means that your application was denied through negative administrative silence.  Nevertheless, currently, may immigration offices experience important delays, and many times end up granting resolutions after 4-5 months (even if the negative silence would have rejected the application).

      On the other hand, in order to estimate the total amount it takes to get your permit, you should also consider how long it takes for you to prepare all the documents and when you can get an appointment to submit them.

      That is why, in total, you can count 5-6 months as a general rule; even though it can go faster.

      But there is an important exemption. If you are going to apply for any visa under Law 14/2013 (entrepreneur visa, HQV, digital nomad visa, etc.) you will enjoy a much faster resolution in just 20 labor days. That is thanks to the UGE (Unidad de Grandes Empresas) processing applications. And opposite to the general case, for these visas positive administrative silence applies, meaning that if after those 20 days you don’t get a resolution, your application is considered accepted.

       

      How long does it take to get my visa?

      Can i get residency if i buy a property?

      Yes. As long as you purchase a property valued over €500,000 (or several properties whose values add up to 500k), you will be granted a residence permit called the golden visa or investor permit. It not only allows you to live in Spain, but also work. You can include your relatives in your application, and you will only need to visit Spain once a year to renew it. Read more about how to do this here. 

      Getting Your Residency in Spain Shouldn’t Be Difficult, So Let Us Make it Easy for You

       

      Following all the steps required to get a visa in Spain can be really tedious and many times puzzling. How can I make sure that I know all the required documentation? Am I meeting all requirements properly? How can I make sure that my application will be approved no matter what your situation is? Where should I send the application?

      The good thing is that you don’t need to worry about that. Because there is a (recommended) alternative. You can let us do the boring part, so that you can focus on enjoying your move and your new life in Spain.

      No matter your country of origin and situation, we will analyze and determine, not only which is the right permit for you, but also which are the required steps for you to successfully apply for a visa. Our specialized immigration lawyer team will help you get your residence permit. How?

      We will:

      Permanent Residence Permit SpainHave an initial consultation with you (online or at our offices) to guide you step by step.

       

       

       

      Spanish Residency

      Help you prepare all your documents so that we make sure you enjoy a successful application.

      Temporary residency spain

      Be next to you throughout the entire process, solving any doubts you may have along the way.

      We have helped over 1000 clients successfully over the years, and now we want to help you create a new life in Spain. We want to be the ones next to you throughout the whole process, assisting you in anything you may need.

      Do you have any questions? We will be glad to answer them!

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