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The Law in Spain - How to apply for Residency in Spain and why it's a good idea

If you are planning on living in Spain permanently, then it makes sense to apply for residency. Not only will your presence in the country be nice and above board (many expats fly under the radar, whether through conscious choice or by simply not knowing the procedure), but you will also be benefiting your local council, and you’ll be entitled to pretty much the same rights as a nationalised Spaniard.

How to Apply for Residency in Spain  | Residencia Costa del Sol hero image

"If you are planning on living in Spain permanently, it makes sense to apply for residency"

Applying for your Residencia

If your intention is to live in Spain for more than three months in the year, then you are – by law – required to apply for a Residence Certificate if you are an EU citizen.

To do this, you must register yourself at the Central Register for Foreign Nationals (known as the Registro Central de Extranjeros), which is usually done at the local police station. They will issue you with a Registration Certificate, which not only certifies your residence, but also holds important personal information, so you will need to provide the authorities with:

  • Your full name
  • Proof of identity (such as a passport)
  • NIE number if you have one (if not, registering as a resident will also generate an NIE number, so you can effectively kill two birds with one stone by doing this)
  • A signed EX18 application form, which can be downloaded here –  (in Spanish)

You are advised to register within three months of your arrival in Spain.


Evidence of financial means and healthcare

In light of Spain’s recent economic woes, the government has sought to plug the hole that has seen millions of EU citizens move to Spain to take advantage of the country’s excellent healthcare, while plenty others have foregone personal responsibility and travelled to Spain without viable financial means to support themselves.

Previously, they were entitled to do so without any problems, but new legislation brought in in July 2012 has been drawn up to tackle this persistent problem. It will hopefully not be a concern of most people looking to buy a property in Spain or work in Spain, but the guidelines are worth bearing in mind:
  • All EU citizens who wish to live or remain in Spain for more than three months MAY be asked to provide evidence that they have sufficient financial means to support themselves for an initial three-month period.
  • They may also be asked to provide evidence of their public or private health insurance, or clarify/declare any longstanding health issues that require regular treatment.
  • If you are concerned by this new jurisdiction, the British Embassy in Madrid has posted an English-language translation of the original decree on its website – Please note, however, that this is an unofficial document, so if there are any changes to this ruling, you will have to check the original Spanish Ministerial Order.

Family members

Your residential rights in Spain extend to your most immediate family, which includes your spouse by marriage, a partner by a civil partnership, children under 21, any grown children, and your parents.

* You can register for a Residency Card for EU Citizen Family Members at your local police station, where you will need valid passports for each family member, proof of the family membership, three recent colour passport photos, and have them sign the EX19 Form, downloadable here –

Why register?

Spain’s decentralised system of government means that each Autonomous Community (such as Andalucía) manages its own budgets, and calls upon each province (Málaga covers all of the Costa del Sol) to closely monitor who, and how many people, live there. With the Costa del Sol being the transient place that it is, officials find it incredibly hard to keep track of their population, so by registering, you are making yourself visible to them, which works in your favour in a number of ways – chiefly, Málaga can apply for more government funding when it can prove that more people live there. This means more money for road and infrastructure improvements, which are a welcome boon we’ll sure you’ll agree.

See our page about tax advantages for resident property owners.

By journalist, editor and former Costa del Sol resident, Ian Clover.

Please note: Every effort was made to check the accuracy of the information contained within our 'legal stuff' articles at the time of writing, but may well have been superseded over time. VIVA cannot accept responsibility for any errors or omissions, nor for the authenticity of any claims or statements made by third parties. We therefore strongly recommend that readers of these articles make their own thorough checks before entering into any kind of transaction. Prices were correct at the time of publication but may now vary due to circumstances beyond our control. The views and opinions of editorial contributors do not necessarily reflect those of VIVA .

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