Getting Spanish residency via Pareja Estable instead of marriage 

It is very common that a Spanish citizen has been living abroad with his or her partner for a long time. Perhaps they have not yet married or have done so but have not registered the marriage or civil union in Spain, so they cannot apply for residency for the non-EU citizen. However, the immigration law does allow them to do so as long as they can prove the existence of the relationship. In this post we will explain all you need to know about residence by Pareja Estable, including the main requirements and necessary documents to apply.

How to get the residency via Pareja Estable no registrada (unregistered established couple)

One of the ways that many foreigners use to get residence in Spain is the permit as a family member of EU-member. We are talking about the residence and work permit for 5 years that a citizen from outside the EU can obtain simply because he is a relative of a citizen of the European Union.

However, there are different possible assumptions, since this process is not valid for any family member. Uncles or grandchildren, for example, are not permitted cases.

But one of the most common family relationship that can apply for this card are couples.

That is, if you are married (you have become married) or have registered a Pareja de Hecho with a European citizen, you can get your residence permit.

And that is the most important requirement: that the marriage or civil union is correctly registered. That is, you must effectively prove that this effective relationship is legally valid, and to do so it must be registered in Spain.

This is an inconvenience for many foreigners who either have not registered their union in any country, or have done so outside of Spain.

However, there is a third possible way. The Spanish Aliens law also contemplates, through the twenty-third additional provision of RD, 557/2011, the possibility that an unregistered Pareja Estable can obtain residency in Spain.

And it would do so through a residence for exceptional circumstances.

What is the Pareja Estable no registrada (unregistered established couple)?

The unregistered Pareja Estable is the type of union (similar to marriage or Pareja de Hecho) in which there is no document, registration or legal proof that proves that there is indeed a relationship (the union has not been officially registered), but there is evidence that allows to prove the existence of it.

That is, although there is no official record that supports it, these are cases in which the two people really have a solid and lasting relationship, sharing their vital projects together.

This type of relationship or couple has important advantages.

The most important advantage is that you can benefit from the communitary regime in an exceptional way, being able to obtain residence in Spain as a family member of a citizen of the European Union.

Who can apply for this residence due to exceptional circumstances?

There are many foreign citizens who really have a relationship with a European citizen who would like to apply for a visa as a family member to start living in Spain, but they cannot.

We are talking about the following cases:

  • Couples who have married abroad but for certain reasons have not been able to register the union in Spain (remember that it is important that the marriage or concubinage is registered in the Spanish registry to be able to apply for residence). 
  • Couples who have formalized their marriage, but registration is long delayed; and they need to apply for residency as soon as possible. 
  • Finally, couples who have not registered or formalized their affective relationship in any way, but who are a couple and can prove it. 

For all these cases, the Spanish Aliens law allows them to obtain their residence permit anyway, granting a permit for exceptional circumstances for being a stable partner of the citizen of the European Union (process also known as residence by unregistered Pareja de Hecho).

Unlike the residence permit obtained under the general Community scheme (Régimen Comunitario), in this case we are talking about a temporary residence of 1 year (renewable) instead of 5. It also allows you to work in the country.

How to prove that a relationship does indeed exist

One of the most important requirements in this process is to prove that the foreign citizen is really a partner of the Spanish (or European) citizen.

There are different ways to do it, and although below we give you a series of tips or guides that you can use, in the end it is something totally subjective. In fact, the official in charge of evaluating your situation and issuing his verdict has discretion to determine if the evidence you provide is sufficient or not.

So we recommend that the more you can contribute, the better.

However, below we leave you a list with the tests that will be most useful to demonstrate the stable relationship:

  • The relationship must be, at least, one year old. 
  • You have been living together for many years and are able to prove it with a certificate of coexistence. 
  • Provide any type of document in which the couple’s link is demonstrated. For example, a joint will, being beneficiaries of the same life insurance, common empadronamiento registration, etc. 
  • Shared bank accounts. 
  • The fact of having children in common. 
  • Statements from family or close witnesses who testify before a notary that it is really an established couple and can testify from when the relationship exists. 
  • Other tests, such as photographs on social networks together, lodgings in other countries if you have traveled, hotel reservations, communications through emails or Whatsapp, etc. 

As you can see, there is no proof that is definitive. Each case is particular, and you must see how to prove it in your case (according to the evidence you can provide).

Requirements and legal process

Keep in mind that, in the case of requiring a Schengen visa to enter Spain,, the procedure must be initiated at the Spanish consulate located in the country of origin. If you do not need this visa, you can do it directly in Spain.

The documents and requirements that you must provide are the following:

  • Passport of the foreign citizen who wants to start living in Spain 
  • Certified photocopy of the DNI or passport of the Spanish citizen 
  • Statement by the European citizen that he or she wants to regroup and start living with the non-EU citizen in Spain. 
  • Certificate of Empadronamiento
  • Birth certificate of the Spanish citizen 
  • Proof of sufficient economic means by the Spanish citizen. 
  • Clean criminal record. 
  • Document that explains the history of the couple, with a brief summary of the evidence provided and specifying how the requirements of a Pareja Estable are met. 


It will be essential that during the first year of residence of the non-EU citizen both members formalize the relationship, either by celebrating marriage or by registering the Pareja de Hecho (de facto couple) officially.

Otherwise, the foreigner will not be able to renew his or her residence permit.

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