Legal Requirements to Move to Spain for EU and Non-EU Citizens

15 March 2019

If you are planning on relocating to Spain, you will need to be familiar with the legal requirements that you need to fulfill in order to do so.

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If you are planning on relocating to Spain, you will need to be familiar with the legal requirements that you need to fulfill in order to do so. In addition, if you are a business owner and want to hire workers from your home country to work at your office in Spain, it will help to understand the process of getting them into the country and legally residing and working.

The legal requirements to move to Spain depend on your country of citizenship, namely, whether your nationality is a member of the European Union or not. We recommend speaking with a legal professional to help you understand what you need to do.

Legal requirements to move to Spain for EU nationals

Citizens of other EU countries have complete freedom to enter and leave Spain provided they have their valid passport or other official identification document. Also, EU citizens are allowed to live in Spain without applying for a long-stay visa or any other special permission. What’s more, EU citizens are allowed to work in Spain without a work permit.

It is recommended, however, to register as a resident after you move to Spain. You will need to apply for a NIE identification number anyway, and being registered as a resident can have tax and other benefits. Do keep in mind that, whether or not you are registered as a Spanish resident, if you are living here 183 days out of the year or more, you are considered to be resident for tax purposes and all of your income earned worldwide will be subject to Spain’s income tax.

Legal requirements for moving to Spain for non-EU citizens

The legal requirements to move to Spain are much more complicated for citizens of non-EU countries. First, you will need a long-stay or residency visa to enter the country. This must be applied for at the Spanish consulate or embassy in your home country. It’s very important to understand that you cannot enter Spain on a tourist visa and then change it to a long-stay or residence visa – you have to go back home to apply.

The type of visa you apply for depends on your personal situation. There are student and work visas, for example, which require proof of enrollment in an approved study program or an official job offer. Another type of visa is the so-called “golden” visa, which is popular among affluent expats and requires an investment of at least €500,000 in Spanish property. Once you get yourself established as a legal resident, you can also apply for family reunification visas so that your spouse and minor children can join you in Spain.

Legal requirements to live in Spain

After your visa application has been approved and you enter Spain, there are now a series of steps you need to take to continue living in Spain. First, you will need to apply for a foreigner’s identification number or NIE at the nearest national police station or foreigners’ office. Non-EU citizens will also need to apply for an ID card that bears this number, a photo, and their fingerprints.

It is highly recommended and, in some cases, required that you register your residence with your town hall on the empadronamiento. This helps the town keep tabs on how many people live there so they can better offer public services, and your empadronamiento can also be used as proof of residency and is necessary in certain legal procedures, such as getting married in Spain.

People who are citizens of countries outside the EU also need a work permit in order to legally work (in some cases, work is tightly restricted, such as with student visas). The employer is the one who must apply for the permit on behalf of the prospective employee.