How to get a residence permit in Spain

Are you thinking of moving to Spain? We’ll tell you how to get a residence permit without the complications or frustrating fine print.

7 min read

Emigrating to another country involves bureaucracy and paperwork—that’s just the way it is. If you’ve decided to start a new life in Spain, packed your suitcases, and found somewhere to live, the first thing you need to do is apply for a residence permit.

This is an authorization granted by the Spanish government to citizens of non-EU countries. It allows them to live legally in the country for more than 90 days. 

It’s important not to confuse a residence permit with a short-stay or Schengen visa. While a residence permit gives you the right to live and, in some cases, work in Spain, a Schengen visa only allows you to stay in the country as a tourist for a maximum of 90 days.

To save you some of the painful bureaucratic jargon, we’ve put together this practical guide on how to obtain a residence permit in Spain. Plus, we’ll explain what types of visa are available and the requirements to stay in Spain legally—so that you can live the Iberian fantasy of your dreams.

Types of residence in Spain

Permits in Spain are divided into two types: temporary residence and long-term or permanent residence

These visas are exclusively intended for non-EU citizens. Citizens of countries in the European Union have the right to move freely throughout the EU and the procedure for obtaining residence in Spain as an EU-citizen is much simpler, as we’ll see later.

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Temporary residence

As its name suggests, a temporary residence permit authorizes foreign citizens to live and work in Spain short-term—more than 90 days and less than five years.

Long-term or permanent residence

This type of permit enables foreigners to live and work with the same conditions as Spanish citizens. But to get one, you’ll have to meet certain requirements—for example, being a resident of the country for at least five years.

Residence permits in Spain for non-EU citizens

Unlike for EU citizens, there are different types of visas for non-EU citizens, each with their unique features and requirements. The aim of these visas is to regulate non-EU citizens’ stays in the country, depending on whether they are coming to Spain to study, start a business, or work.

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Student visa

If you’re going to study for a university degree, master’s degree, or doctorate, or you’re going to participate in a research project, you can apply for a student visa. However, bear in mind that you’ll have to be studying at an official and regulated institution or center.

The validity of the visa will depend on the duration of your studies: Once your academic education has ended, you’ll have to leave the country. However, you can renew the visa if you decide to continue with a higher level of studies, for example, a master’s degree after a bachelor’s degree.

These are the requirements and documents you need to request a student visa:

  • Certificate of criminal record check
  • Bank statement that shows you have at least €10,000 in your account
  • Proof of enrollment in a course with at least 20 hours a week of teaching for one year

There are two ways of applying for this type of visa: in the Spanish consulate in your country of origin or within the 60 days after you enter the country as a tourist.

Entrepreneur visa

If you want to develop or launch a professional project in Spain as an expat, you have to apply for an entrepreneur visa. This is the quickest way of getting authorization to live legally in Spain if you want to be an entrepreneur and launch a business idea, but this doesn’t stop it from also being the most complicated.

To apply for this type of residence permit, the Ministry of Economic Affairs and the UGE (Union of Large Companies) must approve your business plan first. These are two very strict and selective institutions, so make sure you prepare your business plan in detail!

Highly qualified professional visa

If you receive a job offer for a highly skilled position, you have the right to apply for a highly qualified professional visa.

To be eligible for this type of visa, you need to prove that you’ll be employed in a management position and earn more than €40,000 per year.

EU card

If you’re a relative of a European Union citizen, you can get an EU card as well as a Spanish work permit very easily.

To get an EU card, you simply have to prove that you are related to a Spanish citizen.

Or, if your partner is Spanish, being married or in a civil partnership will be enough to get one.

Family reunification

If you’ve been living in Spain for at least one year, you can benefit from the family reunification visa. With this visa, you have the option of bringing your partner, children, and/or parents to the country. 

You can also bring other relatives, as long as they meet certain requirements.

Family ties

You’re eligible for a family ties visa if your parent or child is an EU citizen.

Requirements and document required to apply for a Spanish residence permit

The application process and the requirements vary significantly depending on your country of origin. For EU citizens, it’s a quick and easy process, while for non-EU citizens the procedure is more complicated and can take months to complete.

Residence for non-Spanish EU citizens

To apply for legal residence in Spain, non-Spanish EU citizens or citizens of countries in the European Economic Area or of Switzerland must present their ID card (TIE) and the European Union registration certificate to obtain residence in Spain. 

This is a permanent permit that doesn’t expire and can be obtained in just 24 hours if you meet the following requirements:

  • Salary or a minimum of €6,000 in a bank account
  • Private medical insurance

Spanish residence for non-EU citizens

Non-EU citizens need a residence card to get a residence permit in Spain.

However, it’s also possible to get an EU card by proving a family relationship with an EU citizen, as we mentioned above.

Generally speaking, the requirements for non-EU citizens are:

  • Passport and a photocopy
  • Certificate of criminal record check that is clean for at least the last five years
  • Three passport photos
  • Private medical insurance if you’re not working
  • Completed application form for the permit you want 

How to extend your residence permit in Spain

If you already live in Spain and you want to stay indefinitely, then it’s time to renew your residence.

The renewal process is the same as the initial application: You have to demonstrate that you still meet the same requirements.

The simplest way is to renew your residence permit online. If you prefer to do it in person, though, you can also go to the immigration office (oficina de extranjería) closest to your home. 

To renew your residence permit in Spain, you must:

  • Have a clean criminal record.
  • Not be a citizen of the European Union, the European Economic Area (EEA), or Switzerland.
  • Be legally allowed to enter the country
  • Not have spent repeated, prolonged periods of time out of the country.
  • Have the right to health care in Spain or private health insurance.
  • Have minor children in school.

And these are the documents you have to present:

  • Valid passport
  • Current residence permit
  • Completed application form

To renew your permit, you also need to pay a fee, which varies depending on the type of permit:

  • Temporary residence: €15.76
  • Long term residence: €21.02

Now that you know how to get a residence permit in Spain, your next steps will be to register as a resident in your municipalityand to register with Social Security. But don’t worry, we can help you through those processes, too.


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