How To Gain Permanent Residency or Citizenship In Spain? EU Membership Helps, Or Spend Half A Million On Property

Brits of all ages, backgrounds and salary brackets flock to Spain every year; some with retirement in mind, others for work or lifestyle reasons. Many of whom, seduced by the Spanish way of life, decide to emigrate permanently to the country.

The same applies to many nationalities, in fact; most notably Europeans and South Americans, perhaps, but people from all around the world congregate either in Spain’s big cities; Barcelona, Madrid, or Valencia, beautiful coastlines; Costa Brava, Costa del Sol, or the North West; cultural hotspots; Granada, Salamanca; or business and technology centres;  from Galicia, to Santander, to Malaga.

Wherever people choose to settle in this country, there are of course administrative hurdles to jump. If you plan to stick around in Spain, you must choose the appropriate form of residency.

Since 2007, Spain has required that all EU citizens who wish to remain in the country for more than three months must register, in person, at an “Oficina de Extranjeros” in the local area, or at a police station, and obtain a Residence Certificate card.

After 5 years, it is then possible to apply for a certificate of permanent residence. Provided you can show that you are able to financially support yourself, that you have either private or public healthcare in place, no criminal record, and spend more than 6 months per year in Spain; it is possible to then remain permanently, renewing your Visa once every 5 years.

If you are working in Spain, and wish to become a permanent resident you must produce details of your employer; their address and social security details as a minimum, as well as your own tax registration details. Finally, if you are self-employed, you will need to show corresponding evidence, such as evidence of your details on the “Censo de Actividades Económicos”, or “Registro Mercantil”, or have your details checked against the ““Ficheros de la Tesorería General de la Seguridad Social o de la Agencia Tributaria”; the General Social Security Finance Office.

Don’t Forget The Padron!

It is also important, when settling in Spain, to register on a list known as the “padron” at your local “ayuntamiento”; Town Hall. Civic authorities in Spain have significant powers, and the padron is a well-kept list of all members of the local community. It is obligatory to register, although many expats are either unaware of the requirement, or reluctant to do so, feeling that it is an invasion of their privacy.

But not doing so can have negative consequences; it can be hard to register a car or for healthcare for example, and registering on the padron also gives certain advantages, such as access to healthcare, public services, and tax reductions.

More information about all of the above requirements can be found on the website.

It is also possible to apply for Spanish nationality, once you have been resident in the country for more than 10 years. You will be required to show that you are a “good citizen”, who will not become a burden on the state i.e. are financially self-supporting and participate actively in Spanish everyday life. If you marry a Spaniard, or have Spanish parents, it is possible to apply for Spanish nationality sooner.

To become a Spanish citizen means giving up your previous nationality and passport; this may be a tempting thought for many expat Brits fearing the worst with the Brexit deadline looming. There is currently not much information available concerning what might happen post-Brexit, but Spanish citizenship also makes you an EU citizen, able to travel freely around the Schengen Area, and with the right to vote in European elections.

The likeliest post-Brexit outcome for Brits is that, like other non-EU nationals, a “Blue Card” will have to be obtained; a kind of EU-wide work permit that grants high-skilled workers the right to live and work freely around the EU – although clearly, many expat British are no longer working and therefore will not have the right to apply for such a card, in which case citizenship may be the best option.

How To Obtain A “Golden Visa”

One interesting development that occurred in 2013, in response to the Spanish housing crash that followed the Global Financial Crisis of 2008, is to acquire Real Estate in the country above the value of €500,000 euros.

It is known as the “Investor’s Residency Law”, or sometimes as a “Golden Visa”, and enables non-EU nationals to attain qualified residency permits in return for investing in Spanish real estate (and other assets), leading to permanent residency in Spain if certain conditions are fulfilled.

Most of the above requirements still apply (no criminal record, access to medical insurance, financial means, not be in the country irregularly), but it is certainly a tempting option for property investors looking to emigrate.

The first type of permit, a Residency Visa, entitles an investor to reside in Spain for up to one year, whilst the second, a Residency Permit, grants 2 years, with the option to extend.

Besides investing in property, it is also possible to qualify under the “Entrepreneurs Law” by investing €2m in Spanish treasury bonds, investing €1m in publicly trading Spanish companies, or depositing €1m in a Spanish bank. The investments can be made either as a legal, or physical entity.

The scheme has so far proved successful, helping to revitalise the Spanish property market, which has recovered well from the downturn. The scheme is said to have attracted €2.3 billion of investment, with more than 2,000 “Golden Visas” granted to date. 72% has been invested into property, with 59% of scheme participants originating from Russia or China. More than 27,000 people have been granted Visas under the more wide-ranging Entrepreneurs Law, including family members of successful applicants.