Today we will answer one of the main questions our clients ask us after a couple of months of living in Spain.
Most of them intend to stay in the country for the long term, and not just for one or two years. That requires renewing their card. But for renewal to be possible, it is essential that the foreigner does not leave Spain any longer than what the law allows.
But how long are we talking about? What is the maximum time outside Spain before losing the residency? In this article, we will answer this question according to the different possible cases.
As a foreigner who has started living in Spain, it is very likely that you will want to return to your home country after some time.
Whether it’s to visit your family for Christmas or to go on your holidays during summertime, many people decide to leave the Spanish territory for an extended period of time.
However, this can lead to certain problems.
The Spanish law establishes a maximum time outside Spain when you have a residence permit.
And the reason behind this is really simple.
Possession of a residence permit means that you are “resident” in the country. If you are outside the country for a long period of time, this condition would not be met.
That’s why if you exceed the time established by law, your residence card will be extinguished for being outside Spain for more than you have to.
The question now is: how long should be outside the country to lose your residence? Let’s see, as it depends on your particular case.
Maximum time outside Spain allowed to avoid losing your card
In order to answer this question, we must differentiate between the two types of cards under the time criterion: the temporary cards (the initial ones for 1 year, and the first 2 renewals); and the permanent ones.
With a temporary card
Article 162.2 of Royal Decree 557/2011 establishes the maximum period of absence allowed with those cards.
In order to know the maximum time you can be out of the country with a temporary residence, you must take into account two different conditions
- Firstly, you must not be outside Spain for more than 6 months within a period of one year.
- In the case of sporadic departures (in your first year in the country 1 month, in the second 3 months, etc.); the sum of these periods outside Spanish territory during the last 5 years may not exceed 1 year.
If you comply with these two requirements, you may keep your residence card and renew it (as long as you comply with all the other renewal requirements, which are different according to the type of residence).
With a long-term card
In the case of long-term, long-term EU or permanent EU cards, the deadlines are extended.
In this case, if you want to prevent your card from being extinguished, you cannot be outside Spain for more than 12 months continuously, neither more than 30 months (adding up all the departures of shorter time spans), during the past 5 years.
Maximum amount of time allowed for the Family member of an EU citizen card
We should make a special mention to what happens with the Community card because of its peculiarities.
In general terms, the card as a family member of an EU citizen, even though it is for five years, is still a temporary residence.
Therefore, in order not to lose that residence card and to be able to renew it, you can be away for a maximum of six consecutive months during one year.
Once these 5 years have passed and once you have renewed it, the subsequent permanent card under the Community regime (for 10 years) the immigration law allows absences in Spain for 2 consecutive years.
Since when and how is time computed?
This is certainly a very important point to bear in mind.
In the case of long-term cards or permanent Community cards, the period starts to count from the moment you leave the European Union; and it ends until you re-enter its borders. It is as simple as that.
For temporary cards, which allow a maximum of 6 months outside the country, the calculation is different but very easy.
You simply need to go exactly one year back in time (same day and same month of the previous year), and count if from then until the current day you have been abroad for more than 6 months.
How to recover a card that has expired due to an excess of time abroad or absence
So far we have seen the requirements to avoid losing your papers due to excessive time outside Spain.
But what happens if you exceed that time? What can you do if you have been outside the country for a very long period of time?
As we have mentioned, in those cases the card is extinguished, so it would no longer be valid (although for a period of time it is still in force).
However, this may have a solution: requesting a recovery.
And as we will see now, the word MAY has special relevance.
However, for any of the following solutions, it will be absolutely essential that the card remains valid according to its time frame even if it has expired. In other words, if your card is valid until November and you intend to carry out this procedure in December, you will not be able to do so.
Thus, your residence recovery depends on the type of card:
Recover an extinguished long-run residency card
We’re talking about the 5 or 10-year cards.
In the case of having been away for more than 1 consecutive year, this long-run card can be recovered.
There is a specific procedure for foreigners who are in this situation.
Your card has been extinguished, but not your right to reside in Spain, so you can get it back.
In these cases, the foreigner must apply for a specific visa to recover his or her residence at the Spanish consulate in her country of origin (or wherever she is at the moment).
That application will be used by the consulate to contact the corresponding immigration office in Spain.
The foreigner’s office, jointly with the Spanish police, will verify whether the foreigner has no criminal or police records.
If this is not the case, the application for recovery is approved; therefore, the consulate issues a visa to enter Spain, and the foreigner re-registers his fingerprints again, hence recovering his card.
On the other hand, if you were not aware of this possibility and you have traveled to Spain without carrying out this procedure, you could request the recovery once you enter Spanish territory; although just in very specific cases.
Recover a temporary residency card
On the other hand, we find the temporary card case. Unfortunately, there are no good news here.
If you leave for a prolonged period of time and do not renew your temporary residency, your card will be lost definitively.
If you wish to re-enter Spain again, you’ll need to start from scratch the application process of a visa or residence permit.
The only temporary ones that can be recovered are the ones from people who made a voluntary return and who have a job offer in Spain.
So our recommendation is that you take into account the time periods discussed in this article and follow them in detail.
Request assistance to know what's best according to your situation
Finally, as with most procedures, there is no one-size-fits-all solution.
Depending on your particular case, we will need to study whether it is better to apply for the recovery at the consulate, to do it later in Spain, or to try to correct the penalty.
That is why we recommend that you contact our lawyers so that we can give you a solution according to your particular case: