Since 2007, there has been a requirement that all EU citizens coming to live in Spain for more than 3 months, should register in person at the Oficina de Extranjeros in their province of residence, or at designated Police stations. On registering, a credit card size residency certificate is issued. The full name for this is, certificado de registro de ciudadano de la unión, however it is commonly referred to as certificado de residencia‘, or simply ‘residencia‘. It has name, address, nationality, NIE number (Número de Identificación Extranjero) on it, and the date of registration as a Spanish resident.
UK and EU nationals intending to take up residency in Spain, can get their ‘certificado de residencia‘ at anytime after they arrive in Spain. Any UK or EU national coming to live in Spain is according to Spanish law, required to register within 3 months of arriving.
Apart from the legal obligation to register, either because you’ve moved to live in Spain or intend to, if you spend 183 days or more per year in the country, then you are also deemed to have Spanish residency for tax purposes. You therefore don’t ‘become resident’ by obtaining your residency certificate, in most cases you will by definition and law, be deemed resident in Spain due to the amount of the time you spend here, i.e. Spain is where you ‘habitually reside’.
Nationals of member states of the European Union and Switzerland, as well as other countries party to the agreement on the European Economic Area, have an unconditional right to reside in Spain. Nationals of countries aside from these, are able to gain residency based on achieving other qualifying conditions.
The right to Spanish residency can be extended to a spouse or civil partner, and to direct descendants or dependents who are part of your household, and under 21 years of age.
For someone planning to live long term in Spain, Spanish residency is the first step towards getting permanent residency status, which can be applied for after 5 years. Thereafter if someone so wishes, they can apply for Spanish citizenship after 10 years of permanent residency.
What is the process for getting a Spanish Residency Certificate?
If you are a UK or EU national, the first step is to exercise your right to reside and move to Spain. You can then apply for your residency certificate. For this you’ll need a residential address and to be able to prove that you have sufficient financial means to support yourself (and any dependents living with you), and that all applicants have access to healthcare, either through a private insurance policy, or entitlement through social security contributions.
Until relatively recently, the proof of means rules weren’t always rigidly followed, they are now however. This means that the process of applying for a Spanish residency certificate is no longer as simple as it used to be, and it is also no longer a given that you’ll get a Spanish residency certificate, even if you have right of Spanish residency as an EU citizen.
To apply for a Spanish residency certificate, you present your application along with supporting documents at the National Police station in your area. The process for arranging an appointment to do this varies from town to town. Along with your completed EX18 form you need your identification, plus copies of it, and your evidence that you can support yourself and any one else included in your application – e.g. proof of income or bank certificate confirming sufficient funds in your account and proof of of adequate medical insurance policy, or that you are paying social security.
Requirements once you’ve taken up Spanish Residency
You are generally liable to pay taxes in the country in which you reside. This means that once you have Spanish residency, you will be subject to Spanish taxation. The liability to pay taxes in Spain arises when you meet the residency measure based on the 183 day rule, and this obligation actually applies regardless of whether you have registered as a resident of not.
Tax for Spanish Residents
As a resident in Spain you pay tax on:
- General income
- Interest on savings and investments
- Capital gains on sale of assets
- Wealth (if your total wealth is euros 700k or more)
- Gifts and inheritance
Overseas Assets Declaration
Spanish residents must declare certain assets they own outside of Spain such as:
Planning before taking up Spanish Residency
The requirement to have a residency certificate, is not the same as the need to have a passport in order to travel, or a driving licence to be able to drive a car. Therefore there is no need to rush to complete the residency formalities when you move to Spain. Taking up Spanish residency for most, is not or should not just be viewed as a paperwork exercise.
There are lots of things to consider when taking up Spanish residency, so it is important to fully understand all the differences your new residency status will bring with it, how they might affect you in your situation and to plan accordingly.
Some examples of things you might want to think about are:
- Learning about the system and knowing what needs to be done and when
- How the Spanish tax regime differs from the UK and what tax you will have to pay
- Changes that may occur to the status or tax treatment of assets you have
- Entitlements such as benefits or tax breaks that you currently enjoy which you may lose
- Access to healthcare for you and if applicable family members
- Getting advice on financial or tax matters in both the UK and Spain
- What rights you have as an EU citizen changing your residency to Spain
Will I be able to take up Spanish Residency after Brexit?
As a Brexit deal is yet to be agreed, it is impossible to answer this question. We can assume that any deal will secure UK nationals a right to reside in Spain, however on what terms will remain to be seen. One of the biggest concerns for UK nationals in Spain, is what might happen to existing reciprocal arrangements, such as that which gives UK pensioners access to state healthcare in Spain. Apart from this, some other key areas where Brexit could bring changes to Spanish residency as we know it are:
- Working, pension and welfare rights
- Rates of taxation, e.g. inheritance and capital gains tax
- Ease and cost of travel to or from the UK
- Bringing, driving and registering of UK vehicles
- Use of and or exchange of UK driving licences
Until Brexit actually happens, rights and requirements relating to Spanish residency, remain unchanged and are quite clear. Given the sharp increase since the referendum in UK nationals taking up Spanish residency, it would seem that many have decided not to risk the unknown, as people moving to Spain and those who’ve already been living here, but who haven’t yet registered, move to do everything they can to secure their resident status in Spain.
If you are a UK national considering taking up Spanish residency, you should consider that the clock is ticking, and there isn’t actually much time left before Brexit. Therefore you if you want to take advantage of your existing rights as an EU citizen to take up Spanish residency, you need to do so now.
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