There are a variety of reasons why people choose to relocate to Spain, from studying at a Spanish university to opening a business to simply enjoying the local lifestyle during retirement. For each case, the process of how to get residency in Spain is slightly different. On top of that, there are also different requirements depending on your home country, how long you plan to live in Spain, and whether you have any family members who are already living here.
In this post, we’ll go over the main steps for how to get residency in Spain for citizens of EU countries, residence in Spain for non-EU citizens, and the different types of residence permit in Spain that exist.
How to get residency in Spain for EU nationals
People wishing to move to Spain from another EU member state (or a country in the European Economic Area) have things easy. First of all, EU citizens do not need a visa to enter the country, and they do not need to get special permission to study or work in Spain. The only thing that you will have to do if you are an EU national in order to get residence in Spain is apply for a national ID number (which is called NIE for foreigners).
However, if you want to open a bank account or take advantage of Spain’s public healthcare system, you may also need to file for a certificate of “empadronamiento”, which is an official record that verifies that you live at a specific address in Spain.
Residence in Spain for non-EU citizens
Getting residence in Spain for non-EU citizens has a few more hoops to jump through. For example, while citizens of Australia, Canada, the United States and New Zealand do not need a visa to enter Spain for a short visit (less than 90 days), they will have to have a special visa if they want to get a residence permit in Spain and stay in the country for more than 90 days.
The type of visa will depend on the reason you are coming to Spain. In general, there are student visas, work visas, residence visas, and more recently, special investor visas that offer a fast-track route to long-term residence in Spain for non-EU citizens.
In almost all cases, these must be applied for at the embassy or consulate in your home country. In other words, you can’t enter Spain as a short-stay visitor and then convert that to a student or work visa.
Types of residence permit in Spain
Each type of visa or residence permit in Spain has its own requirements for citizens of non-EU countries. For example, students and workers will need to have their courses/employment arranged before even applying. Furthermore, in the case of workers, the prospective employer usually has to file the application on your behalf. A residence visa for the purposes of family reunification usually requires the first family member to have been in Spain for one year before they can be joined by their spouse, minor children or elderly parents. Residence visa for retiring expats may only require proof of sufficient financial means.
One very interesting option for how to get residency in Spain for investors and business owners is the so-called “golden visa”. This offers affluent expats a fast-track path to residence in Spain for non-EU citizens who have at least €500,000 to invest in the purchase of Spanish property.
While it is not impossible to take care of all the necessary paperwork on your own, having a lawyer specialized in immigration in Spain can greatly facilitate the process, particularly if you plan on opening up international business operations or buying real estate in Spain.