Although it is many times mistakenly thought as being the same thing, getting your NIE is not the same as being an official permanent resident. While the NIE (Número de Identificación del Extranjero) is your foreign identity number and allows you to identify yourself as a temporary resident in any transaction (acquiring property, administrative processes, etc.), official residency identifies you as a formal resident in Spain.
People who can apply for official residency in Spain must have lived in the country for five years. After five uninterrupted years in Spain, you can apply for a permanent residence. After 10 years you can apply for the Spanish nationality. If you are a citizen from an Latin-American country, Andorra, the Philippines, Equatorial Guinea, and Portugal, or of Sephardic origin, you will have to reside legally in Spain for just 2 years.
There are some cases in which you can apply for temporary residence first, which are stated here. According to the Minstry of Internal Affairs website, it is considered a situation of temporary residence when a foreigner is allowed to stay in Spain for a period longer than 90 days, but shorter than 5 years.
Citizens of the European Union, countries in the EEA Agreement, or Switzerland, have a right to reside in Spain for a period longer than three months in the cases stated here.
However, the general case is that you must apply for permanent residence after 5 years.
The applicant must prove that, during those five years, they have been working or have been self-sufficient. In the case of being self-sufficient, proof of a private insurance that sufficiently substitutes Social Security must be provided. Students can also apply for residency, as long as they can prove that they count with a sufficient health insurance, and can prove they can support themselves (and their families, if it is the case) and not become dependent to social welfare.
Other cases of people who can apply for national residency after five years of living in Spain are:
- People who have been working in Spain and have retired after reaching the age for retirement that is established in Spain.
- People who have been working in Spain and have retired early, as long as they have been active during at least the last 12 months and have resided in Spain for more than 3 years straight. This 3-year period is not necessary if the person’s spouse or registered partner is a Spanish citizen, or if the person lost his/her Spanish nationality upon marriage to the person.
- People who have been working but stopped due to a permanent disability, having lived in Spain for more than two years straight. The two-year period will not be applicable if:
- The disability is due to a work-related accident or illness which gives the person the right to a pension of which a Spanish organization is totally or partially responsible.
- The person’s spouse or registered partner is a Spanish citizen, or lost his/her Spanish nationality upon marriage with the person.
- People who have worked for at least three years in Spain, and now work in a different country within the EU, but still reside in Spain, coming back at least once a week.
- People who are a relative to the people in the previous cases and are nationals of an EU country. People considered relatives are a spouse, a registered partner, direct descendants and ascendants, the spouse or partner’s descendants and ascendants. Descendants are generally meant to be less than 21 years old, unless they are physically or economically dependent.
If you have been unemployed or had to stop for major causes, don’t worry: involuntary unemployment periods, and periods in which your professional activity had to be suspended due to illness or accident, don’t count.
Please note that there are many unique cases, and the procedure can vary depending on the specific situation. This article intends to clarify the requirements specified for the application to permanent residence as stated in the Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs website and the Ministry of Work, Migration and Social Security website.
Equally, please make sure that if you qualify either for temporary or permanent residence, you keep your documents updated and renewed when necessary. You can always double-check with an officer from your local Foreign Office the case that applies to your situation. On the Typical Non Spanish social media communities you may also be able to find someone who has been through the process in your same situation, and perhaps you will find a new friend besides some help from a fellow expat!
Do you qualify for Spanish residency? Great! Then it is time to prepare all the documents to apply. We recommend getting checking out our guide below, which explains everything that will help your application go smoothly.