How to become an official resident in Spain
Even if you don't need a visa to stay in Spain, you might want to consider getting a NIE (Número de Identificación de Extranjero - Foreigner Identification Number) and a Tarjeta de Residencia. These make you a legal resident in Spain and are necessary for employment and other matters.
A NIE is a number the immigration service issues you once you become a resident, you will find it on your Residency Card. This is your identification number in Spain. It is needed in order to file taxes, establish a business, open a bank account, buy a car, and for almost all other forms you fill out. Both EU citizens and non-EU citizens get issued a NIE.
The tarjeta de residencia (residency card) is a card incorporating your NIE, your personal details and, for non-EU citizens, a photograph and fingerprint. It is necessary for transactions where someone wants to see a proof of your current physical address in Spain (e.g. banks, phone companies, electricity companies, etc.). Non-EU applicants are granted an initial residencia for one year, which is usually extended to five years on renewal. EU nationals have to apply for a residency card after three months, which will never expire.
How to apply for residencia
In order to obtain your residency and NIE, you have to apply at the nearest Oficina de Extranjería or Comisaría de Policía. You then receive your tarjeta de residencia after three months, although you should be given your NIE then and there. Since each oficina de extranjeros processes candidates locally, the time spent both waiting in line at the office and waiting for your tarjeta can vary tremendously, even within the same city. It is therefore worth asking people who have recently applied for a residency about their experiences.
Documents needed for application
Below are some documents you'll need to bring in order to apply for your residency. However, you might be asked for different things in different locations (or even on different days). The best thing is to check with the local oficina what they require exactly.
Documents needed by all applicants (EU and non-EU-citizens):
Current passport and one photocopy
2 recent passport style photos with your name clearly written on the back
A completed EX18 form, plus 3 photocopies of it
Form 790 which is filled in and signed by your bank. It confirms your Spanish bank account and the money you have in there. You can get this form at your local Comisaria de Policia (police station) and costs 10.60€ (as of 2016).
Further documents that might be requested can include:
A medical certificate, depending on country of origin and recent residency
If a member of the family is Spanish (or has residency):
Your Libro de Familia and DNI (or residency card) of that family member
For specific circumstances, the following may apply:
If employed: a Vida laboral (working records), both the original and a photocopy
If self-employed: the Vida laboral (again with a copy), all the documents you got when you registered for self-employment and a bank statement where your pension is mentioned
If not seeking employment: proof of adequate finances and medical insurance.
If studying in Spain: proof of matriculation in an accredited school, plus documents that prove you have enough money to live during your time in Spain, plus medical insurance.
Renewing your residency
Non-EU citizens will not be reminded when their residencia needs renewing, so it is up to you to check and make sure you get this done. In order to renew your residencia, you will need the following documents:
2 passport photos
Original tarjeta de residencia and one photocopy
Passport and one photocopy
Relevant completed application form and three photocopies
Show that your personal circumstances have not changed, e.g. changed address or job
Be aware that the exact documentation may vary according to your legal status in Spain. Further documents might include:
Residency visa or its extension
A medical certificate
Since rules and regulations can vary per city and governmental institution it is always best to simply ask your local oficina de extranjería or comisaría de policía what they expect you to do.
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