Permanent and long-term residency options in Spain

As many of us have come to understand over the years, bureaucracy in Spain can be both confusing and overwhelming, with lots of unreliable information floating around. 

This is never more true than with the many options available for obtaining long-term residency. When setting out, it’s important to be clear which one you will be receiving.

The three long-term residency options

There are currently three different options:

What’s the difference?

The most important difference among these three options are the legal regulations that these residency permits fall under. Both the Long-Term Card (Tarjeta de Larga Duración) and the Long-Term EU Card (Tarjeta de Larga Duración-UE) are under the general legal regulations governed by the Organic Law 4/2000, of January 11, on the rights and freedoms of foreigners in Spain and social integration (la Ley Orgánica 4/2000, de 11 de enero, sobre derechos y libertades de los extranjeros en España y su integración social.)

Both authorizations/permits grant the holder the right to reside and work in Spain indefinitely under the same conditions that Spaniards do. These are valid for five years, and have to be renewed after the time is up.

The Long-Term EU residency permit (Tarjeta de Larga Duración-UE) has certain advantages with respect to the “normal” long-term residency permit. It is the only one out of the three options listed above that would allow you to obtain residency in another EU country, provided you comply with the requirements for that specific EU country’s residency permit. 

Having the Tarjeta de Larga Duración-UE permit from Spain would allow your residency process in another EU country to be easier than if you were to move to another country within the European Union without it. 

The Tarjeta de Larga Duración and the Tarjeta de Comunitaria Permanente only authorize you to work and reside in Spain.

A closer look at each long-term residency permit

Now let’s break down these three permits in more detail as you may not be able to apply for all of them.

The Tarjeta de Larga Duración :

This permit allows its holder to reside and work in Spain indefinitely under the same conditions as a Spanish citizen.


Foreigners who have resided in Spain for five years on an ongoing basis and who also meet the legally required conditions are entitled to a long-term residency permit. The regulation regarding continued residence allows you to go abroad for a maximum of six consecutive months, whether for vacations or for other reasons. But this cannot exceed one year overall in your total five years of residence.

Another possibility to obtain a long-term residence permit is to have a special relationship with Spain:

  • Have resided for five consecutive years as the holder of the EU Blue Card in the European Union. This is provided that the two years immediately prior to the application date, you have resided in Spanish territory. You also must not have been absent from the European Union for more than a total of eighteen months within the five years of residency.
  • Be a beneficiary of a retirement pension in Spain.
  • Be a beneficiary of a permanent disability pension or similar benefits in Spain.
  • Were born in Spain and can prove legal and continued residence for at least the last three years as an adult.
  • Being originally Spanish, having lost your nationality.
  • Have been under the protection of a Spanish government-run institution during the immediate five years prior to reaching legal age.
  • Officially recognized as stateless or a refugee by Spain.
  • To have contributed notably to the economic, scientific or cultural progress of Spain, or to the projection of Spain abroad. In these cases, the holder of the Ministry of Employment and Social Security will be responsible for granting the long-term residence permit, following a report from the head of the Ministry of the Interior.


Your long-term residency permit can be canceled if:

  • The authorization/permit has been obtained fraudulently.
  • An expulsion order is issued by the courts against you.
  • You have been absent from EU territory for 12 consecutive months.
  • You have acquired long-term residence in another EU Member State.

For more information on how to apply for the Tarjeta de Larga Duración, check out this Spanish police web page.

The Tarjeta de Larga Duración-UE:

This is currently the only long-term/residency permit option in Spain that allows you to apply for and/or obtain residency in another EU country. This can also be referred to as the Tarjeta de Larga Duración – CE (Comunitaria Europea). Check out Meagan Gardner’s first hand account obtaining this type of residency in 2021.

There is still some debate among lawyers and law firms as to whether it is better to first apply for this card over the more usual Tarjeta de Larga Duración. While there are extra benefits in having it, there is an increased risk you’ll get denied.

Some lawyers recommend not applying for the Tarjeta de Larga Duración-UE permit after five years of legal residence. Many immigrants in Spain apply for the EU Long-Term Card so they can work in another EU country and leave Spain more quickly. So, many lawyers recommend requesting the normal Tarjeta de Larga Duración, and once granted you can request the Tarjeta de Larga Duración-UE. 

The reason for this is because if you request the Tarjeta de Larga Duración-UE permit and they deny you, you will not be able to request the regular Tarjeta de Larga Duración. In short, this will leave you without papers.

However, if you already have the Tarjeta de Larga Duración in your possession and then request the Tarjeta de Larga Duración-UE it’s a different story. Even if they deny you for whatever reason, you will still be considered legal with the Tarjeta de Larga Duración that you already have.

Obviously each case is different and if you are in doubt, please seek out legal advice.

While some from the SpainGuru team have not had this issue in obtaining their Tarjeta de Larga Duración-UE, there is still risk involved. 


Foreigners with temporary residence authorization in Spain and apply for long-term residence for the first time- Tarjeta de Larga Duración-UE (also known as CE) must meet the following requirements:

  • Legal, continuous residence in Spain for five years. However, be aware that your time as a student, exchange student or non-work practices/internships is counted as 50% of the total time accrued. Furthermore, you can only leave Spain for a maximum of 6 consecutive months—and 10 months in total—within the last five years. (Note, the total can be up to 12 months if it were for work reasons).
  • Confirm fixed and regular income that is sufficient to cover cost-of-living expenses. If applicable, this should also cover you family, without having to resort to the Spanish social security system.
  • Have public or private health insurance that covers normal/basic risks. If you need a private health insurance, Spainguru recommends this on: link to our health insurance page

Top tip: If you’re regularly transferring money from one jurisdiction to another, Wise is generally much cheaper than going through banks.

Some of you may already have the more regular Tarjeta de Larga Duración and would like to switch to the Tarjeta de Larga Duración-UE or EC version. You can apply for this at any time while it’s currently valid, or when it expires. The same requirements apply as for the holders of a temporary residence authorization in Spain.

If you have a Tarjeta de Larga Duración-UE or EC from another EU country and want to move to Spain, you can choose between:

  • Applying for a temporary residence permit 
  • Requesting a Long-Term Residence Authorization. In this case, this will imply waiving the right to your long-term residence in your current EU country.


The Tarjeta de Larga Duración-UE or EC will be permanent. But if it were lost for some reason (such as being outside the European Union for a year), it can be recovered by an expedited procedure. In Spain, this residence permit is valid for five years, after which a new identity card must be issued.

Related card titles

Other residency permit types geared towards those coming from other EU countries (alone or with their families) include:

  • Residencia de larga duración en España del residente de larga duración-UE en otro Estado miembro de la Unión Europea.
  • Residencia de larga duración en España del familiar del residente de larga duración-UE en otro Estado miembro de la Unión Europea.

You can find more information on applying for the Tarjeta de Larga Duración-UE or EC via this government web page.

The Tarjeta Comunitaria Permanente

For the Tarjeta Comunitaria Permanente, this type of permit is under the general legal regulations governed by the Royal Decree 240/2007, of February 16. (Real Decreto 240/2007, de 16 de febrero, sobre entrada, libre circulación y residencia en España de ciudadanos de los Estados miembros de la Unión Europea y de otros Estados parte en el Acuerdo sobre el Espacio Económico Europeo). This outlines regulations regarding entry and exit, free movement, residence and work for EU citizens, as well as their family members who accompany them or meet up with them.

The Tarjeta Comunitaria Permanente differs from the previous two Larga Duración permits, and has different legal regulations. 


  • You must be married or related to a Spaniard, an EU member, or a member of the European Economic Area (EEA). You also need to have legal residency in Spain for five years.

Although all three are considered permanent cards, the Tarjeta de Larga Duración and the Tarjeta de Larga Duración-UE or EC have to be renewed every five years. The Tarjeta Comunitaria Permanente is valid for ten years.

Here, you can find more information on how to apply for the Tarjeta Comunitaria Permanente

Depending on your specific situation, the title of Tarjeta Permanente can mean several different things in the Spanish legal system.

If you have any doubts, please make sure to speak with our SpainGuru legal experts.

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