The Path to Spain Permanent Residence

spain permanent residence

Spain remains an attractive destination for expatriates from around the globe, drawn not only to its vibrant culture and stunning landscapes but also to the prospect of establishing a long-term residence. The quest for Spain permanent residence is a journey many embark on, seeking the myriad benefits it offers, from minimizing bureaucratic renewals to securing an indefinite right to live and work in the country.

Key takeaways about the Spain Permanent Residence

  • Understanding the Basics: In Spain, if you’re from outside the EU, you can get permission to live and work there after you’ve lived in the country legally for 5 years.
  • Different Rules for EU vs. Non-EU citizens: There are two main types of permanent living permissions. One is for people from EU countries and their families, and another is for those from outside the EU. The rules about how long you can be away from Spain without losing your permission are different for each group. EU citizens and their families can be away from Spain for up to two years without affecting their residency status, while non-EU citizens are limited to a 12-month absence.
  • What You Need to Qualify: To be eligible, you need to have lived in Spain with the right paperwork for five years. This means time spent there on a student visa counts as half the required time, or as a tourist doesn’t count at all. You also can’t be away from Spain too much during those five years.
  • How to Apply: When it’s time to ask for permanent residency, you’ll need a few things: a valid passport, a special form filled out (EX-1D), your current residency card that’s about to expire, a fee, and a clean criminal record.
  • Keeping It Updated: Although your authorization to reside in Spain is perpetual, your residency card has a 5-year validity period and must be renewed upon expiration. To secure a new card, you’ll need to present your passport, the expired residency card, complete form EX-7, and provide proof of a new address, should you have relocated.

Understanding Spain Permanent Residence

At its core, Spain permanent residence is a 5-year residence and work permit granted to non-EU citizens who have legally resided in Spain for a continuous period of at least five years. Unlike temporary residency, permanent residence allows the holder to live and work in Spain indefinitely, whether employed or as a freelancer.

In Spain, several types of residence permits can serve as pathways to obtaining permanent residence, provided you have legally resided in the country for a continuous period of at least five years. These permits include:

  • Work Permit: Granted for employment purposes, allowing you to work for a Spanish employer.
  • Self-Employment Permit: For those who start a business or work as freelancers in Spain.
  • Non-Lucrative Residence Permit (A.k.a. Spanish non-lucrative visa): Aimed at individuals who can support themselves financially without working in Spain.
  • Teleworkers’ Residence Permit (A.k.a. Spanish Digital Nomad visa): Aimed at individuals who plan to work remotely from Spain with customers outside the country
  • Student Visa: Time spent in Spain on a student visa does count towards permanent residency, but it’s calculated differently. Specifically, the period lived under a student visa is considered at a 50% rate towards the residency requirement. For example, two years on a student visa count as one year towards the five-year requirement for permanent residency eligibility.
  • Family Reunification Permit: Allows family members of current Spanish residents to live in Spain.
  • Golden Visa: Offered to investors who make significant financial investments in Spain, such as real estate or government bonds.

The EU Family Clause

It’s important to differentiate between the two primary types of permanent residency: one under the European Union regime for EU citizens and their relatives (“EU family”) and the other under the general immigration regime for non-EU citizens. While both are colloquially referred to as permanent residency, the latter is officially known as long-term residency in Spain.

The distinction is very important, especially when considering the allowed period of absence from Spain without affecting residency status—12 consecutive months for non-EU citizens and two years for EU citizens and their EU family members.

Eligibility for Permanent Residency

Eligibility hinges on legal and continuous residence in Spain for five years. “Legal” means having resided with a valid residence permit, excluding periods on a student or tourist visa. “Continuous” implies not being absent from Spain for more than 10 months during the five-year period, though work-related absences can extend this to 12 months. Uncertainties about the duration of stay can be clarified with a residency certificate from the nearest police station.

To qualify for long-term residency in Spain, applicants must meet one of the following conditions:

  • Legal and Continuous Residence: Have legally and continuously resided in Spain for five years. Absences up to six months won’t disrupt continuity, provided they don’t exceed ten months within five years. For work reasons, absences can extend to one year within the required five.
  • Blue Card Holders: Have resided for five continuous years as an EU Blue Card holder in the EU, with the last two years immediately before applying spent in Spain. Absences from the EU up to twelve months are allowed, as long as they don’t exceed eighteen months within the five-year period.
  • Pension Recipients:
    • Beneficiaries of a contributory retirement pension under the Spanish Social Security system.
    • Beneficiaries of a pension due to absolute permanent disability or severe disability, in its contributory form, under the Spanish Social Security system, or similar lifelong, non-capitalizable benefits sufficient for sustenance obtained in Spain.
  • Residents Born in Spain: Have been born in Spain and legally and continuously resided in Spain for at least three years immediately before reaching legal adulthood.
  • Former Spanish Nationals: Individuals who were originally Spanish citizens and have lost Spanish nationality.
  • Public Guardianship: Individuals who, upon reaching legal adulthood, have been under the guardianship of a Spanish public entity for five consecutive years immediately preceding the application.
  • Stateless Persons, Refugees, or Subsidiary Protection Beneficiaries: Residing in Spain and having been granted the respective status in Spain.
  • Notable Contributions: Individuals who have notably contributed to Spain’s economic, scientific, or cultural advancement, or to Spain’s international projection. In these cases, the Ministry of Employment and Social Security, upon a report from the Ministry of the Interior, grants long-term residency authorization.
spain permanent residence

Applying for Long-Term Residency as a Resident in Spain

For individuals already residing in Spain, the process for applying for long-term residency involves several key steps:

  • Application Submission: Residents can apply personally or through a legal representative. The application must be submitted to any public registry, directed to the Provincial Immigration Office where the applicant resides.
  • Required Documentation: Applicants need to provide:
    • A completed application form.
    • Valid identification, such as a passport.
    • Proof of payment for the application fee, detailed in Form 790 code 052 section 2.6.
  • Application Fee: The fee must be paid within ten business days following the application’s acceptance.
  • Decision Period: The authorities have up to three months from the application date to make a decision. If there is no communication within this period, the application is considered approved by default, except in specific scenarios where explicit denial is issued.
  • Following Authorization: Upon receiving residency authorization, the individual must:
    • Personally request the Foreigner Identity Card (TIE) at the Immigration Office or Police Station of the province where the application was processed.
    • Present their passport, the filled EX-17 form, payment receipt for the card fee, and a recent color photo against a white background.
  • Card Renewal: The TIE must be renewed every five years, with renewal applications submitted within 60 days before expiration to avoid penalties.

Renewing Spain Permanent Residence

A distinctive advantage of Spain permanent residence is its indefinite nature, requiring only the physical card’s renewal rather than the legal status. The renewal process is straightforward but must be timed precisely; the application can only commence post-expiration of the current card.

Essential documents for renewal include the passport, the expired residency card, the EX-7 form, and proof of address if changed. It’s advisable to schedule the renewal appointment for the day following the card’s expiration to ensure continuity of legal residence status.

The path to Spanish Nationality via long term residence

After obtaining permanent residence by legally living in Spain for five continuous years, non-EU citizens can begin considering applying for Spanish nationality. This process generally requires a residence period of 10 years in Spain, although there are exceptions that require shorter periods, such as for refugees or nationals from Latin American countries, Andorra, Portugal, the Philippines, Equatorial Guinea, or those of Sephardic origin, for whom the requirement is reduced to two years.

Marrying a Spanish citizen or being born in Spain also affects the residency requirements for nationality. Successfully transitioning from permanent residence to Spanish nationality involves not only meeting legal residency requirements but also passing integration exams that demonstrate knowledge of the Spanish language (DELE Exam) and culture (CCSE Exam), further solidifying one’s commitment to Spain’s vibrant society and rich heritage.


Spain permanent residence offers a secure foothold for non-EU citizens wishing to make Spain their long-term home, free from the perennial cycle of renewals and reapplications. Whether you’re an EU citizen’s family member or a non-EU national, understanding the nuances of Spain’s residency requirements is the first step toward securing your place in this vibrant country.

Armed with this knowledge, prospective residents can navigate the application process with confidence, drawing ever closer to the dream of calling Spain home.