Getting a green card for Spain is a legal process that can seem daunting to foreigners, especially if you aren’t comfortable with the local language. Furthermore, different people may not even be talking about the same thing when they say they need to get a green card in Spain. In case of doubt, you can always consult a lawyer to help you with residency matters.
Green card in Spain: residency or NIE?
First, we need to establish what is meant by “green card for Spain”, because it could reasonably be interpreted two ways depending on the cultural context of your home country. United States citizens and people with close ties to the USA will be familiar with the term green card as a colloquial reference to the proof of lawful permanent residence issued by that country to foreigners. In that sense, if someone is wondering how to get a green card in Spain, they could really be asking how to obtain permanent residency status there.
On the other hand, some foreigner identification cards used in Spain by short-term and long-term (i.e. not permanent) foreign residents are actually, physically green cards. Logically, the process of obtaining one of these green cards in Spain is quite different from getting a permanent resident card.
Green card for Spain: permanent residency
In most cases (although there are exceptions, as with all complex legal matters), foreigners living in Spain will become eligible to apply for permanent residency status after having legally resided in the country for at least five years. This is easier for European Union citizens, as they are generally permitted to work in Spain without a special visa or work permit, which makes it more feasible for them to live here for a period of five years. Non-EU citizens will have had to previously entered on some other type of visa that allowed them to reside in Spain, and maintained their legal status during those five years. Note that, even if you are eligible, you are not obligated to apply for your green card in Spain, although it does offer several benefits.
So, once you have documentation that you have been living in Spain for at least five years, you will need a few other things to submit along with your application in order to get a green card in Spain. These vary depending on your personal situation, but may include proof of financial means to support yourself, employment history, proof of studies, etc. In theory, there is no need to renew this card for EU citizens, whereas non-EU citizens may need to renew their green card for Spain every ten years (despite it being a “permanent” residency document).
Green card for Spain: NIE and temporary residence
How to get a green card in Spain—the one that is actually green (in some cases, at least). Whether you are an EU citizen or not, if you stay in Spain for more than 90 days you are expected to get a NIE, or foreigner’s identity number. Since non-EU citizens require special visas to reside in Spain for longer than 90 days, the NIE application is also the application for the residency card. In this case, it will serve as a photo identification and is often a green card. EU citizens will continue to use their passport as photo ID, and the NIE number certificate simple serves as an identification number for transactions of daily life, such as getting a mobile phone plan or renting a flat.
The exact requirements can vary by region and even by different police stations within a given region, so it’s always wise to ask before you go. Often, it will include proof of financial means, proof of medical insurance that is valid in Spain, documentation supporting your reason for applying, the application form itself and receipt of fees paid, along with your valid passport. Non-EU citizens will also need two passport-size photos.