illustration of residency.

Your guide to the certificate of residence in Spain

Asking yourself what the certificate of residence in Spain is—and whether you need one? This article explains what it’s for and how to get one.

4 min read

Of all the bureaucratic procedures that exist in Spain, registering as a resident is one of the most essential. Below, we’ll tell you what you have to do to get your name on your municipality’s register—step by step.

If you’ve moved to a different town or city in the past, you already know about how complicated it can be to transport your life from one place to another: packing your belongings, canceling and setting up services, and, of course, bureaucracy galore.

One of the most important things to do when you move to any new city is getting a certificate of residence. To clarify what’s involved in this procedure in Spain—and to save you some headaches—this guide will explain what the certificate of residence (empadronamiento) is, why it’s so important, and how you can get one quickly and easily. Let’s dive in!

What is the certificate of residence in Spain and what is it used for?

Each municipality has an administrative register of all the people who live in their jurisdiction. The certificate of residence is the document used in this register to record who lives in every home in the town or city.

The council of the municipality you live in is responsible for the management, maintenance, and review of the register of residents. Meanwhile, the Spanish National Institute of Statistics (INE) coordinates all of these registers throughout Spain.

Being on the municipal register of residents enables you to:

  • Prove that you live in the area and have the same rights as your neighbors.
  • Prove how long you have been living in Spain for, if you’re an immigrant.
  • Access return benefits if you move back to Spain after a long time abroad.
  • Access other social benefits.
  • Access municipal services and programs.
  • Get a new national ID document (DNI) or passport, or renew an existing one.
  • Renew your driving license.
  • Register a vehicle.

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What happens if you don’t register as a resident of Spain?

Registering on the municipal register of residents is more of an obligation than anything else. This is set out in article 15.1 of Law 7/1985, which states that every Spaniard and foreigner must register as a resident of the municipality where they live.

If you decide not to register or falsify the documents needed to register, you could face a fine of between €3 and €150 or even a prison sentence, as set out in Royal Decree 1690/1986—depending on how many people live in your municipality.

One more thing: If you live in more than one municipality during the year, you must be registered in the one you spend the most time living in.

How and where do you apply for a certificate of residence in Spain?

It’s a very straightforward process to apply to the local council and be added to the municipal register of residents. Here’s what you need to do:

  • Go to the council office or the designated district offices.
  • Complete the residency registration form.
  • Submit the completed form and the rest of the requested documentation.

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When do you need to show a certificate of residence in Spain? What documentation is needed to apply for one?

To be added to the municipal register of residents, you’ll have to submit supporting documentation in addition to the registration form. You need the following documents:

  • DNI (Documento nacional de identidad), NIE (Número de Identidad de Extranjero, or “Foreigner Identity Number”), or your passport.
  • Photocopy of your family register (Libro de Familia), if you have children.
  • Photocopy of a bill for a service provided to your address that’s in your name.
  • Rental contract or deed of your property.
  • Authorization from any people already registered at the same address where you want to register.

Once you’ve been registered, you might be asked for your certificate of residence in situations such as:

  • Legal proceedings (courts and tribunals).
  • Military proceedings.
  • Civil registrations (marriage, nationality, adoptions, etc.).
  • Declaration of inheritances.
  • Residency based on roots.
  • Other official registers.

How can you find out if you’re already registered?

You might already be registered on the municipal register and have forgotten about it. If so, follow these steps to check whether you are registered—and, if so, where:

  • Go to the Spanish National Institute of Statistics’ (INE) website.
  • Go to Electronic Office > Paperwork > Register of resident in Spain > Querying of registration data in the register database.
  • Once there, you can check your residence status, as long as you have an electronic certificate.
  • If your name doesn’t appear, then it’s very important that you register. If you’re already registered, check that the information is correct. If it’s not, go to your municipal council office in person to update your information.

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