Do I Need A Residence Card in Spain?

Published on 29/08/2011 in Living in Spain

For many people arriving in Spain for the first time there is a considerable degree of confusion regarding whether or not they need a residence card. This is more so the case for EU member state citizens. The following is a brief guide to some of the more important points to be borne in mind.

According to Royal Decree 178/2003, which came into effect March 1 2003, the following groups are not required to hold a residence card in Spain as long as they are in possession of an up-to-date I.D. or passport from their own country:

1. Nationals of a) EU member states b) states that form part of the European Economic Area (Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway) or c) the Swiss Confederation, who are contract or self-employed workers, students or beneficiaries of the right to reside permanently in Spain.

2. Family members of those outlined above as well as family members of Spanish citizens assuming they live under the same roof.

3. Nationals of a) EU member states b) states that are a party to the European Economic Area or c) the Swiss Confederation who work in Spain but maintain their residence in any of these states and to which they return every day or at least once a week.

Residence card SpainHowever, in any of these cases, if the interested party still wishes to apply for one, the authorities are obliged to issue him or her with a residence certificate. Indeed, on a practical level, irrespective of any actual obligation to hold a card or not, the experience of living in Spain on a day-to-day basis shows that it is generally more convenient to do so. In any case, for all practical purposes, even if you do not apply for the residence certificate, you should definitely apply for the NIE which is a number which is essential for practically any undertaking in Spain.

For those who do not come under 1.above and who plan to reside in Spain for a period of 3 to 12 months, a residence card is required and will be issued for that period on application. For periods longer than 12 months, a 5 year renewable residence card will be issued.

The application for a residence card (necessarily within one month of arriving in Spain in the case of those who are obliged to do so) must be filed with the Foreigners' Office of the particular province you live in or, in the absence of such, the provincial police station. Along with a completed application form you will also be required to present 3 passport sized colour photos and the original and photocopy of an up-to-date I.D. or passport.

Written by: Thomas Leacy

About the author:

The author provides a service helping foreign nationals to set-up businesses in Spain and to get the appropriate legal, business and accounting assistance they require. To find out more click on the link - Lawyers Madrid;Accountants Madrid

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09 December 2013 @ 10:25

My residencia card expired in 2009 i never had it renewed by the useless green paper that no one recognises, i have been a resident for 27 years, now aged 88 do i still reqire a replacement for the expired card to be legal? having to queqe for hours to receive one would cause a great deal of distress not being in the best of health. i would have thought the aged of us might have had a consession and no card required after the age of 85

Suman said:
05 April 2012 @ 19:05

My daughter has a Spanish resident card. We are Indians. i want to know what are the advantages of the card while travelling outside Europe. Can she travel to other continents with this card ?

HarrytheSpida said:
05 February 2012 @ 00:03

There is plenty of advice on applying for and obtaining reidencia but what about when you wish to give it up and go back to the UK. Does anyone know what forms one should complete in those circumstances rather than just "leave" ?

rob madrid said:
12 September 2011 @ 07:37

@We are all immigrants - the point isn't that you have to registrar but that you need id for everything here and carry around a passport is a pain, that's all

yuk chee wong said:
09 September 2011 @ 21:16

"We are all immigrants" -bokdoos, I think the point that escapes you is that people prefer a small credit card size id as opposed to carrying a book with them at all times.

We are all immigrants said:
08 September 2011 @ 09:47

Get a grip all you lot. You all complain about the green certificate not being accepted, yes that is because it is not photo ID. But I bet you all HAVE photo ID, so just use that. God. Anything to have a moan eh? If you don't like the way things are here go back to your own country.

moonbeam said:
01 September 2011 @ 19:31

Remember that somebody saw a Polish lady collecting her Residencia Card (after they were
abolished) because she demanded one on the grounds that it was necessary for her work.
Has anybody else tried to insist on being able to apply for a proper Residencia Card - which is so useful for identification purposes - instead of that stupid piece of paper ie the Certificate of Residence which is totally useless. Would be
useful to know if anybody has been successful with their demand to be issued with the Residencia Card even though it is deemed not a requirement for EU citizens now.

Johncar said:
01 September 2011 @ 14:45

I sent you an email as I don't think my reply will be of interest to most here.

31 August 2011 @ 20:20

The residence card was abolished in 2007 as it was in contravention of EU law.
it was replaced by the Certificado de Residencia
AKA silly bit of green paper

Karen said:
31 August 2011 @ 18:16

To Chris, Campoverde.
Thanks for the response. Nice of you to take the time.

I'll may try to pursue this, but honestly don't know if it will be worth it. I received my card to access health system shortly after arrival (honestly, I'm not sure I even had my NIE in hand at that point). Over 3 years living here, no one has ever asked for a residency form or card--not in banks, dealings in gov offices, buying or renting anything.
I am amazed that others are asked for this on some sort of regular basis. Maybe Barcelona is different!

Chris, Campoverde said:
31 August 2011 @ 10:23

Another misconception! As a non-resident I've got Spanish plates on my car but cannot get (free) healthcare until the residencia certificate is issued (cards went out a while ago). Another advantage of residencia is banking - residents (at our bank anyway) get higher interest/less charges.

Rob Madrid said:
30 August 2011 @ 22:58

Really you don't need to register here to live as long as you "look" European. It took me 18 months to get my NIE ( Canadian married to a German) and that didn't affect my ability to get work. I have a friend who has been working here for 5 years and still isn't legal.

For employment you need a SS number, issued on your passport. To get a pardon, and public healthcare you will need a NIE.

Thebonly negative to being a nonresident is you can't get credit or have a vehicle on Spanish plates

Pablo said:
30 August 2011 @ 22:16

answer to Janice
your residencia card is valid even though the date has expired. You can use it for identification anywhere mine ran out in August 2007 and has a previous address on it. Used it at Guardia a few weeks ago and because I have new green form they had my up to date details but used my card for identification purposes.

janice. said:
30 August 2011 @ 20:34

Hello, I have my Resident Card but it expires in Nov 20011 and I really want to renew it, but I am told I will be unable to do so.
I am asked for my card on a regular basis, Banks, Supermarkets, Tax Office etc and to me it is really necessary. Why do I not have the right to renew it if I want to ? Can anyone shed any more light on the situation.

Chris, Campoverde said:
30 August 2011 @ 18:38

I am British and I need one! So rather confusing eh?

Johncar said:
30 August 2011 @ 16:45


It makes it clear that Residencia DO STILL EXIST for those who ARE NOT citizens of the EU and a couple of other countries, so Americans for example, need one.

Please ask questions, which are NOT answered by the article

Chris, Campoverde said:
30 August 2011 @ 13:16

Karen, forms available usually from your Town Hall. Form required:- solicitud de certifificado de registro como residente comunitario o tarjeta de residencia de familiar de iudadano de la union
You need:
Application form and 2 copies
Passport and 2 copies
NIE and 1 copy
Recent Padron and 1 copy
Bank receipt for €10.20
Once submitted, can collect certificate in about 3 weeks.
Hassle but worth it! (In our case, for healthcare)

peterc said:
30 August 2011 @ 12:53

As usual, we have a Spanish system which is bureaucratic and little understood. It would be so useful to have a source of information which gives you clear, concise and accurate details of the requirements, benefits and possible disadvantages of applying for residency, not to mention taxation issues, padron registration, vehicle use, etc, etc. Having read dozens of 'guides' and 'advice sheets' I despair of ever finding good advice from an unbiased source. I and many of my neighbours, who are all educated and sensible people, are confused and would welcome some enlightenment!

Karen said:
30 August 2011 @ 11:27

Could someone be kind enough to write in with the name of the residency card or certification in Spanish? And info in which of the many Gov offices one applies for one of these?
I have a NIE, and all sorts of other documents; have been here legally for over 3 years, but I don't think I have this piece of paper. (I am US citizen)
I am a bit obsessive about complying with every requirement and doing everything I am supposed to according to the laws of the country I am in.
Many thanks to anyone who can help.

Chris, Campoverde said:
30 August 2011 @ 11:02

Just applied for residencia - certificate required for permanent sip card (Spanish healthcare). A must if retired and living here!

peter of Burjulu said:
30 August 2011 @ 10:54

sure i am correct in thinking you need residentia to get onto the spanish health service?
for emergency service recently needed
(and didnot get) i am told would have been very different if i had been on spanish health service!

Ken Aston said:
30 August 2011 @ 10:40

Ken Aston · 68 years old
The Cert is Green bit of paper which is a wast of time, try showing that at Lidl or The Bank and the ( Guardia) forget IT.

shytalk said:
30 August 2011 @ 10:21

Also there has been no implications of tax problems.
will I have to start paying income tax in Spain ?

Tom Hodgson said:
30 August 2011 @ 09:46

Why confuse people with the mention of residencia cards when there is no such thing. Just a silly A4 GREEN FORM which is of little or no use. I wish they would bring back the residencia card. Shops and banks just view the green form as worthless.

Bob Trott said:
30 August 2011 @ 09:23

I completely agree with Joan & Alan. The article was so brief, and bearing in mind the overview is that there is a great del of confusion, it tends to suggest that the subject is complicated.

I have a holiday home, rarely spend more than ten days at a time in Spain, and to my knowledge have no need for one - nor have I come across any reason to apply for one.

Please tell me more.

Johncar said:
30 August 2011 @ 08:52

Interesting point.
" Family members of those outlined above as well as family members of Spanish citizens assuming they live under the same roof."

My wife is Filipino, she has permanent residencia (she is on her second Residencia Card) but I understand that she must apply for renewal when the current card expires.

Maybe the editor/moderator could ask Thomas Leacy to clarify this further.

PS Lennox, Time for an eye check up. the Cert is Green (I thinks !!!)

Lenox said:
30 August 2011 @ 07:22

I was a resident for 40 years. Then Rubalcaba changed the rules making me just another displaced European with a passport and a silly blue A4 document. He is running for president now with the PSOE (not that we can vote in national or regional elections).

Irene&Alan said:
30 August 2011 @ 05:18

Although this article explains which groups must have a residencia and for who it is not obligatory. However, I´d like to see an explanation as to WHY we should take up a residencia if we don´t have to ... what are the advantages/disadvantages?

Skye said:
30 August 2011 @ 03:24

Uhm...... Ive been living here for 4 years now, and Ive never had a card - its just a piece of paper.

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