How to get a residence permit in Spain

If you are from a non-EU country and would like to move to Spain, you will need to get a residence permit. But, how to do it? How can you get your visa or permit exactly? There are different types of residency cards you can get. According to your specific situation one would be more suitable than the other.

It could be a lot of hassle… but we will make it easy for you. Let us be in charge!

In Spain you will find everything that you need: amazing food, perfect weather the whole year, a charming vibe, a rich culture and a landscape that will never cease to amaze you (mountain + sea). Hence the huge number of foreigners moving to the Spanish territory year after year. 

But, how to do it? Which is the exact process to get your residency card and become a legal resident? In this guide we will explain everything you need to know. We will talk about all the different alternatives and the requirements for each. 


We need to divide the answer between the two different groups of foreigners. 

If you are a citizen from a European Union country or from the European Economic Area (EEA) or from Switzerland, you just need to get your Identification Number in Spain (NIE) and your EU registry certificate. But a visa or a residence permit won’t be required in order to stay legally in the country for the long run. EU citizens don’t need a visa to live in Spain.

But what happens if you are not from the EU, EEA or Switzerland? Then, as a Non-European Union citizen you will need to get your visa in order to work and live legally in the country.

In that sense, there are three different types or residency cards in Spain. And you will get one or the other depending on how long you stay in the country: 


The short-term visa or Schengen visa allows non-EU citizens to stay in the country for 90 days. It is also called tourist visa. Bear in mind that the vast majority of permits can’t be obtained under a tourist visa. This means that, as a general rule, you can’t come to Spain with a short-term visa and get your residence permit afterwards; you need to apply from your country of origin. Nevertheless, there are some exceptions that we will explore later on. 


If you are planning to live in Spain for the long-run, this is the option you should apply to. The temporary residency encompasses all the different types of residence permits you have available. They will grant you the possibility to legally live and work in the country for 1 or 2 years. Once that period finished, and provided that you still meet the initial requirements, you can renew your temporary residence permit for an additional year or two. 


After 5 years of living uninterruptedly in Spain with your permit or visa, you won’t have to renew it anymore. And that is because then you will be eligible to apply for the permanent residency, a permit that will allow you to live and work in Spain indefinitely.

The requirements are really easy to meet. Just with your passport, current permit and the proper form filled you will get the long-run card. Nevertheless, even though we said you must have lived in the country for 5 years, you should bear in mind that all the years lived in Spain under the student visa count half. 

Furthermore, it is the gateway for Spanish citizenship.


Let’s now explore into greater detail the different residency options any non-EU citizen has

There are different types of visas and residence permits in Spain:


Let’s say that you do not want to work in Spain. You would like to retire in the country, or you just have enough means so that you do not need to embark in any economic activity. Then, the retirement or non-lucrative visa will be the best option for you. Its requirements are really straightforward:

  • You need private health insurance.
  • It is also required to demonstrate the possession of sufficient economic funds. The legal requirement is 26.000€ but depending on your consulate that amount can increase.


Can you set up a company and get the residency at the same time? With the entrepreneur visa, you can. If the project that you would like to start in Spain is of economic interest for the country, innovative and involves a high level of technology, (demonstrated through the business plan), you can easily have access to this visa. If you just want to create a regular company, the work permit as a self-employed individual will be the best alternative. Our business lawyers will assist you in all steps to set up your business in Spain and with your tax optimization.


Many of the residency permit application procedures can be tough: a lot of documents and requirements. In order to solve this situation, the Golden Visa was created. You just need to invest 500.000€ in Spanish real estate and you will easily get your residency. The investor permit may be one of the easiest ways to start living in Spain.


Do you want to do your masters or Ph.D. in Spain? Are you planning to conduct any kind of research in the country? Then the student visa is for you. This residence permit allows non-EU citizens to study or conduct research in Spain. You can also work and do an internship with this visa. Furthermore, another of its advantages it that you can transition towards a work permit afterwards, eliminating the complex work visa requirements.


Depending on your situation and the job offer you have, there are different types of work visas you can apply to. Each has its own requirements and the application differs:

  • Regular work permit, which must be applied from your country of origin. It will be your employer, from Spain, the one who has to request for you the residence permit
  • If you have a job offer as a highly qualified worker, the procedure to get the residence permit can start while in Spain. This visa is granted to those who get an offer as managers or any other technical position, and who earn over 40.000€ per year.
  • Similar to the skilled professional visa you also have the EU blue card, which allows you to work in the whole Europea Union area.


Under this immigration procedure, European Union citizens living in Spain can bring with them their relatives that are non-EU nationals. The residence permit as a family member of a Europea Union citizen is usually formalized after constituting a civil partnership with the non-EU national or a marriage. Furthermore, parents and children of the European Union citizen can also benefit from the right to get their residence and work authorization as relatives. 


Getting married with a Spanish national (or with an EU citizen) will help you get your visa in Spain easily. But not only marriage, constituting a civil partnership will also enable you to get your legal status. In that sense, you can get the residency trough marriage under two different procedures: 

  • If your spouse is from Europe, the family member of an EU citizen visa will be the go-to option.
  • Nevertheless, you can also get the residency if your spouse is from a non-EU country, but he/she has lived in Spain for year with her residence permit. Then, the procedure that will help you become a legal resident is the family reunfication process

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