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What is a “Certificado de Empadronamiento”?

Many bureaucratic processes in Spain require you to present a “Certificado de Empadronamiento.” If you are wondering what the heck that is, it is basically just an official register of where you live. It is similar to the Census in the U.S., except that it is done on an ongoing basis, not once every 10 years. They use the data they collect to keep track of demographic information and to decide how to allocate resources across regions and municipalities. Getting your certificate is quite an easy process, which we lay out for you in this post.

The Empadronamiento, also known as the Padrón Municipal de Habitantes, is a municipal register or census record, similar to an electoral roll. To register on the Padrón is to “empadronarse“. Registering on the empadronamiento places a resident of a town on the list of local inhabitants.

Registration with the Padrón Municipal de Habitantes is obligatory for anyone planning to reside in Spain for more than six months per year. Residents may register individually or as a family. To be registered is to be “empadronado“.

The Benefits of Registering

For each person registered in a municipality, the Ayuntamiento (town hall) receives funding for services such as policing, health centres, cleaning and maintenance. The register is used to serve as an official tally of how many people (legal or not) live in a community.

Registering on the Padrón Municipal ensures that the registrant is considered an official member of the community, and verifies their presence in Spain which is useful in a number of situations.

Foreigners without up to date documents (expired visa, or no passport) are also required to register; no penalties issued, neither are legal residency documents made available. The Certificado de Empadronamiento is entirely separate administrative process from residency applications.

When a Certificado de Empadronamiento is needed

The use of the Certificado de Empadronamiento varies greatly from one administrative region to another. In Madrid, Andalucia, Valencia (among others) it is needed in order to complete numerous actions. However, this is not consistent across all regions of Spain.

The Certificado de Empadronamiento may be required to achieve the following:

  • Buy or sell a car
  • Register a child in school
  • Apply for the NIE (Numero de Identification de Extranjeros)
  • Apply for residency (Residencia)
  • Get married
  • Vote
  • Apply for a local health insurance card

How to Register

In most towns, registration for the Empadronmiento must be made in person at the town hall or neighbourhood administrative office (Junta Municipal). In some areas registration can be made online.In Madrid, they are done at the Oficinas de Atención al Ciudadano. You can make an appointment/cita previa for Madrid here 

The documents required to register include:

  • A completed application form (available at the office where registration is being made)
  • Identification such as a passport, and a photocopy; if registering as a family, ID is needed for each individual
  • Proof of address, such as a utility bill, rental contract agreement or copies of the property title deeds (escritura)

If the tenant of rented accommodation is not named on the rental contract, they must also provide:

  • A completed Autorización de Empadronamiento (available from the town hall) which requires that the person who holds the rental agreement also be registered on the Padrón Municipal
  • A photocopy of the leaseholder’s identification
  • Note that if your flatmate is ALREADY empadronado, they can SIGN the application form to vouch for you that you are living with them, and you will need to bring a photocopy of their government ID that they used to register to be empadronado (such as DNI, NIE or Passport)

In some areas, the local police will visit the home to confirm the address.

Normally a Volante de Empadronamiento is issued on the day of application. This is a temporary version of the Certificado de Empadronamiento, and is suitable for official purposes. Some regions charge a small fee for issuing the Volante de Empadronamiento.

Note: In most cases, the Certificado de Empadronamiento needs to have been issued within the previous 3 months to be considered a valid proof of address (and is generally only required for national or foreign bureaucracy). A current dated Certificado de Empadronamiento can be requested from theAyuntamiento at any time it might be needed (for example to buy a car or apply for the NIE).

Renewal of the Empadronamiento

Non-EU nationals who do not hold a permanent residence visa must renew their registration on the Empadronamiento every two years. EU citizens living as permanent residents of Spain should renew registration every five years (as must Spanish nationals who are resident in Spain). Some regions issue a renewal reminder, although this is not common; it is the responsibility of the individual to renew their registration on time.

Births, deaths and change of address

A change in status (birth, marriage, move to a new location) must be reported to the Padrón Municipal.

  • When moving house within the same community details must be updated by notifying the Padrón Municipal
  • When moving to a different municipality, repeat the registration process in the new community. Once registered, the current community should notify the previous community of the change
  • When moving away from Spain, the town hall or Junta Municipal should be notified so the Padrón can be updated.