What is it exactly?
“Getting residencia” is when you register as a resident in Spain with the Spanish national police (extranjería or local police station). During the process you will be assigned a NIE (número de identificación extranjero) in other words a foreigner’s ID number. You will also be given a green credit card size certificate that you will need to have on you at all times while in Spain.
If you have an A4 size green residency certificate, you have already registered as a resident. If you registered over 5 years ago, you can ask for permanent residency status. Permanent residents have more secured rights for the future, such as the right to access healthcare (please see here for information).
Do you already have a NIE, but it’s on a white piece of paper?
Sorry to say but you have not registered as a resident. You will need to register as such with the National Police as soon as possible if you are living in Spain.
When do you need to get it?
Spanish law states that you should do it within the first three months of having moved to Spain. If you haven’t done it yet, complete the process as soon as possible.
What do you need to bring?
For EU nationals, it is quite straight forward. You will need to bring proof of healthcare cover ( such an S1 form or confirmation of the convenio especial, or a work contract) and proof of income (e.g. proof of pension). Please go to your nearest extranjería or police office for the complete list of all supporting documents. You can also find this list on the Spanish Ministry of the Interior’s website here (information in Spanish).
Why do you need it?
Apart from it being the law, you will be asked for your NIE anytime you need to carry out official transactions such as registering for healthcare (e.g. S1 form), social security, getting a bank account, or even a bus pass…
And there are even more advantages.
Having residencia secures your healthcare for the future. Did you know that when you have been registered as a resident for at least five years, you can then apply for permanent residency? Once you have that, you will always be covered for healthcare in Spain just like a Spanish resident. Please see residency-based healthcare for more information.
Is being on the padron the same or just as good as being registered as a resident?
No. Being registered as a resident means that you have secured your rights as a resident in Spain. You have registered on a national register.
Being registered on the padron means that you have registered with your local town hall and municipality. This means you have secured your rights to access local services. You have also secured funding for your council so they can provide those services.
You need to register on both.
How do I start?
Please be aware that you will probably need to make an appointment (cita previa) in order to register. In some areas there are month long waiting lists so please start the procedure as soon as possible. You can make an appointment to apply for residency, or to move onto permanent residency here.
Does it seem complicated?
If you are worried about the process you can hire a translator, a gestor or get a Spanish speaker to go along with you. If you live in an area where there are many foreigners or other British nationals the town hall can help you out too.