Spanish Residency: How to get your Residence Permit in Spain

how to get Spanish residency

Year after year, thousands of foreigners from all around the world move to Spain. A varied landscape combined with nice people, plus delicious food and good weather 365 days per year make it the perfect place to start a new life.

But just before that can become a reality, one faces the same obstacle that seems to generate many doubts: the need to obtain a residence permit.

Which is the easiest way to do so? How can you get a Spanish residency card?

In this article we will go through all the different residency options you have in the country and we will analyze all the requirements for each permit so you can finally understand what is the best path for you.

Even though the country couldn’t be perfect for expats worldwide, it is true that when it comes to the legal part itself there are certain issues worth considering and balancing.

That is why it is worth considering the main upsides and downsides of getting residency in Spain before analyzing all your different options:


  • You can jointly make your residency application with your relatives, and they would obtain a residency card directly if your application gets accepted.
  • Each year in Spain under residency counts for Spanish nationality.
  • Once you obtain your card, you will be able to freely travel throughout the whole European Union.
  • As long as you have obtained your initial card, the subsequent renewals are easier, so you can stay in the country for the long run.
  • Certain residencies, like the student visa, can be granted just after 20 days of submitting your application.


  • The regular application process can be quite long sometimes, taking from 3 to 6 months.
  • You will have to renew at the end of the first year, which involves extra paperwork.
  • Depending on the residency you have obtained, you may not get the right to work in the country.
spanish residence permit

Types of residence permits in Spain

Before analyzing a complete list, you must first understand that there are two different ways to classify all the different Spanish residence permits

Depending on which group your chosen residency visa is in, the path to obtain it will drastically change.

That is why you should fully understand that difference.

And here you can find a video that clearly explains it:

As you have seen, this classification depends basically on two things: 

  • Your country of origin (whether if you are from the EU or not)
  • And the amount of time you are willing to spend in the country

With those two factors in mind, you can start defining the requirements that you will have to meet.

Let’s explore the main differences:

Types of permits according to how long you stay in the country

In this sense, two main groups appear:

  • On the one hand, you have short-stay visas, allowing you to stay from 90 to 180 days in the country, but without the legal capacity to work. That visa is called the Schengen or tourist visa.
  • On the other hand, you can apply for a long-term residency. If you are considering living in Spain for longer than 6 months, and even planning to work in the country, then you must apply for a regular residence permit.

Let’s suppose then, that doing tourism in Spain is not enough for you.

You would like to start your new life in this beautiful nation, therefore spending more than 180 days.

Then, in order to define how exactly should you get the residency card that best matches your interests, you need to include into the equation the country from where you are coming from.

Residence permits depending on your country of origin

As we have briefly mentioned before, the path to obtaining a permit is completely different whether you are an EU national or not. 

Unfortunately for the non-Europeans, they have it a bit more complicated.

But don’t worry, in this article you will find all the requirements and useful advice so your application ends up being successful. 

Diving deeper into this topic, let’s first define what EU citizens must do in order to start living legally in Spain for more than 3 months.

And the answer is to apply for what is called “certificado de registro de la Unión Europea“, a permanent residence permit that does not expire.

In order to obtain this permit, you, as an EU citizen, must demonstrate the possession of 6.000€ in a bank account; and having a private medical insurance. Alternatively, you could also get a job in Spain and the salary would work as proof of possessing sufficient economic means too.

Is that simple. This are the main requirements for European Union citizens.

They can even get their permit in just 24 hours. A permanent residence permit that allows them to live and work in the Spanish territory.

If you want to learn more, you can access a step-by-step guide to request the EU certificate here.

But let’s say that, unfortunately, you are from outside Europe and cannot enjoy the easiness of application that Europeans do. 

Then you should keep on reading!

Do you have any doubt? Ask anything to our immigration lawyers and get an instant answer:

How to get Spanish residency as a non-EU citizen

Let’s now analyze all the different paths available for non-European citizens to obtain legal residency in the country.

But first, a tiny caveat.

Apply for residency is not complicated. In fact, it is rather a mechanic and straightforward process.

You just need to understand which are all the available options, the requirements for each of them, and then understand which of those is the best option for you and your family.

If you meet all the requirements, the residency card will be yours.

So which are your options?

1. Student visa

This type of residency was created for those who are interested in studying or conducting research in Spain.

In that sense, you can apply for the student visa for an undergraduate course, Master’s, Ph.D., and other short-term courses (as long as they are held in valid institutions).

The first thing to consider when applying for this permit is where to start the application procedure. Currently, there are two different options available:

  • You can do it in the Spanish consulate located in your country of origin (obtaining your visa and then being able to travel to Spain).
  • But it is also an option to do it during the first 60 days after you have entered the country as a tourist.

During this application procedure, you will mainly need to provide your criminal records, a bank statement with a minimum of 10.000€, and proof that you have enrolled in a course that takes, minimum, 20 hours per week for one year.

After all those documents are submitted, you will receive your student residence permit.

Validity and renewal of the student visa

You should take into consideration that duration of this residency visa depends on the length of your studies, which can range from 3 to 9 months, or even 2 to 4 years, depending on the concrete degree and University.

This type of visa can be renewed, but only if you keep studying at the same university after the initial permit expires, or if you are applying for a superior degree (for example, transitioning from a bachelor to a master’s).

This visa will allow you to get the TIE – (tarjeta de entidad del extranjero) foreign identity card, only if your studies last over 9 months. Otherwise, you would not get any physical card.

The renewal of the student visa can be done in Spain.

2. Business visa

If you are willing to start a business in the country and obtain the Spanish residency while doing so, you have two different options:
  • In the case that your business idea is innovative and involves a high technological component in its operations, you can apply for the entrepreneur visa. Bear in mind that, to get the permit under this visa, you will need a pre-approval from the ministry of economy, and they are really strict and selective with the selected projects. That is why carefully working on your business plan will be essential.
  • If your project is not that innovative, you could also apply for a regular self-employed work permit, this time in your country of origin (at the Spanish Embassy). Although under this option submitting a business plan is also required, the institution in charge of approving it is not as rigid as in the prior case.
Nevertheless, bear in mind that generally speaking a business visa actually refers to a type of tourist visa granted to those foreigners who plan to visit Spain (for a period not longer than 90 days) in order to have meetings with prospective clients or to attend a business fair. Any card that lasts longer than that will be a work permit.

3. Non-lucrative residency visa

But what happens if you are not planning to work? 

Then, If you want to start living in Spain without conducting any kind of economic or professional activity, this card is for you.

The non-lucrative visa will allow you to live in Spain for a period longer than 90 days, lasting 1 year from the moment it is granted.

This type of residence permit can be renewed only if you have lived in Spain for at least a period of 183 days (hence becoming a resident). Once you have spent this time in the country, you will be eligible to apply for the renewal.

The second concession of this residence card will allow you to stay for 2 more years.

To apply for this visa, you will have to do it at the Diplomatic Consulate of Spain in your origin country. This means that you cannot be inside Spain for the application to be successful.

Once you get your visa, you will get it stamped on your passport, and then have 1 month to enter Spain and receive your physical residence card.

Main requirements for the non-lucrative visa

It is really important to take a step back and carefully understand the main requirements for the non-lucrative visa. Because, even though there are just 2 main requirements, those are what will allow for a successful application.
  • First of all, you will need to prove that you have more than 28,800€ in a bank account. This represents a 400% of the IPREM, the measurement used in this situations. You can have the money split into different accounts.
You must take into consideration that the specific requirements we have just seen may change depending on the consulate or embassy your are formalizing your application at. For example, the minimum monetary amount to be demonstrated may be higher, and you may even be required to have a rental contract in Spain.

4. Work permit as an employee of a Spanish company

What would be the case if you prefer to effectively conduct an economic activity in the country, but starting your own company is not your thing?

That is, you want to find a job and work for a Spanish company.

Then, the work permit as an employee (“por cuenta ajena” in Spanish), will be the right option. But you can do it under two different paths:

  • The 14/2013 law states that those receiving a job offer in a highly qualified position can get a highly qualified worker visa. What does it mean to hold a job offer as a highly qualified professional? Mainly that the position is a managerial or similar one, and that the salary is higher than 40.000€ per year. In this case you can start the application procedure while in Spain.
  • Those who receive a regular job offer must apply in their home country for a regular work permit. But an important caveat must be made here. This option is really difficult to complete, as the specific job position you are applying to must be inside a shortage list that respects the national situation of unemployment in the country. So not all jobs will be valid!

As you can see, the main requirement is to first find a company willing to hire you, and a valid job obber. In fact, it will be your new employer the one starting all the paperwork.

5. Golden visa

Due to the low requirements that characterize this permit, the Golden Visa is one of the most demanded residency cards available.

We are talking about a permanent residency visa, issued to individuals who invest in the country. That investment is usually undertaken through the purchasing of a property.

In that case, the permit will be given to those non-EU citizens who invest at least 500.000€ in Spanish real estate.

Nevertheless, there are other ways in which to get this permit. The immigrant planning to move to Spain can also receive the visa by possessing 1M€ in shares of a Spanish company, or public debt worth at least 2M€.

In addition to that, you will need to prove that you have enough financial means to support yourself and your family. That is, the possession of at least 30.000€ as the investor.

If you also want to include your relatives in the application, then an extra 10.000€ for every member will be needed.

These different amounts can be demonstrated through a bank statement from any country.

Each applicant must also include health insurance with full coverage in Spain. In the case of applicants that are over the legal age, they can’t have any criminal records.

6. Family member of an EU citizen visa

If, luckily you are the relative of a European Union citizen, then getting a residence and work authorization in Spain is easier than what you may think.
Because, then, you can get your residence permit as a family member of an EU citizen, just because of your kinship relationship.
That is why many individuals from outside the EU who have a partner who is an EU national constitute marriage or civil partnership (“pareja de hecho”); as they will become eligible to this procedure as now relatives of an EU citizen.
This is one of the most beneficial Spanish residencies, as it lasts for a total of 5 years (with no renewal in between).

7. Family regrouping visa

For all those foreigners who have obtained their residency in Spain and have stayed for a minimum of 1 year, good news. 

With the family reunion process, they can easily bring their relatives to the country.

This applies to their spouse or fiancé, children, and parents (even though the extended family reunification, which applies to other relatives, could also be an option if certain conditions are met).

You can find a complete list of requirements for the family reunion in Spain here.

8. The arraigo procedure

Then, there is also the alternative of the arraigo procedure, many used for hundreds of foreigners who can’t find an adequate path with the beforementioned options. 

Because, what happens if you have been living in Spain for 3 years under an irregular situation (which means, illegally)?

Are you doomed to go back to your country?

Good news: no. You can apply for what we call arraigo social or social roots.

And its requirements are simple: you need to be registered in the city hall for 3 years (called “empadronado” in Spanish), period of time in which you cannot have left the country for more than 120 days.

Then, doing a Catalan (if you are in Catalonia) or Spanish course lasting 45 hours plus receiving a job offer will allow you to have an interview with the social services, in order to later on successfully go through the arraigo procedure.

From there you can jump into a different residence permit.

But that is not all. There are two other types of arraigo, even though not so common due to their requirements.

9. Asylum and the red card

In case that you have moved to Spain because your country was suffering from a natural disaster or came from a region of conflict, you can ask for asylum and be granted residency.

While waiting for your asylum resolution, you will given a red card

This card allows you to stay in Spain for 6 months; and will be renewed as long as you still don’t get a response from the immigration office.

10. EU blue card

Finally, there is the case of the EU blue card, similar to the highly qualified professional in terms of requirements, but with the main difference that it allows you to work in any European Union country.

Its validity depends on the exact country in which you are going to work, but in Spain, for example, it is for 1 year.

You can learn more about this international type of work visa here.

11. Research residency

As long as you want to carry out research activities in Spain in any university or company (public or private) the residence permit for researchers will be your right choice.

It is a 3-year residency that will allow you to include your relatives too.

12. Visa for digital nomad and remote workers

Nowadays, many non-EU citizens move to Spain and start working remotely, either as freelancers who have clients all over the world, or for one specific company that allowed them to move to Spain.

In those cases, the visa for digital nomads and remote workers is the right option.

It is a 3-year permit (that can be renewed indefinitely for 2) that can be applied for directly from Spain as a tourist or at the Spanish consulate. 

Apart from allowing you to live and work remotely in the country, it also allows the applicant to benefit from a special tax regime in which they just pay a flat 24% rate on their income.

residency card Spain

General residency requirements

Up till now, we have explored all the different alternatives available, and the specific requirements for each.

Nevertheless, the are also general requirements that must be met no mater the specific residence permit you are applying for.

Which are those?

  • First of all, you will always need to submit your passport and a copy of it, which must be valid.
  • You must also include your criminal background records, which must be clear for the past 5 years.
  • 3 photos (ID format).
  • Private health insurance in case you are not working for a Spanish company.
  • Specific application form corresponding to the chosen permit. Here you can find all the different forms.

How to renew your residence permit

If your goal is to stay in Spain in the long term, it is just as important to get your initial card as it is to renew it; as most cards are just for a year. 

Usually, the first residency card you will obtain will be valid for a year.

Once that period comes to an end, you will have to renew it.


By meeting the same requirements you met on your initial application, or at least by demonstrating that those are still in force.

For example, to renew a non-lucrative visa you must demonstrate that you will have sufficient funds for the next two years (as the renewal is for 2 instead of 1).

So, here we leave you with a complete guide on how to renew your residence card or NIE step by step.

From temporary residency to permanent residency

Even though it is the dream of many to get their first residency card in Spain, the continual renewal process can become a headache. 

Keeping your legal residency in the country implies boring paperwork every 1 or two years.

But that is true until the long-term residency.

After 5 consecutive years living in Spain you will be able to get permanent residency

Basically we are talking about a card that has 5 years of validity, and that can be renewed indefinitely. 

There are two types: the EU permanent card, and the general one. 

Of course, this is the gateway to obtaining citizenship, something you get after 10 years in the country (in case of citizenship by residency). 

Start your residence permit application now

Now you know exactly how to get your residence visa or permit in order to start your new life in Spain. But it is highly probable that some questions popped up to your head.

That is why, if you have any doubt, our immigration lawyers are here to help.

Get in touch with us anything through the following form, and we will help you out with your residency application.

Get in touch with our lawyers and let us guide you step by step:

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how to get Spanish residency

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