Who Am I ... Where Am I Going?
Harry King retired from corporate life in Britain to live in Spain. He would do so all over again if faced with the same decision, and now lives in Alicante. He is the author of a number of books including Going to Live in Spain, Buying a Property in Spain and Buy to Let in Spain.
Unsurprisingly, documents required for an EU citizen staying in Spain are different from those for a non-EU citizen. Then there is the length of stay – tourist or permanent. Some people live permanently in Spain but never take out a Residencia. They are illegally living in a country where there are clear benefits in obeying rules to become a legal resident. Domiciliation, a UK law, and citizenship are separate issues which are also explored in this chapter.
EUROPEAN UNION CITIZENS
The EU allows free movement in its member states for all its citizens, provided they have a national identity card or a passport. The UK is one of the few countries in Europe which does not issue an ID card but this is proposed to change. Until then a valid passport is required for UK citizens to enter Spain and for internal identification purposes thereafter.
A person on a short-term stay is classed as a tourist and can enter Spain for a period of up to 90 days with:
- a passport (the only legal requirement);
- form El 11 for temporary reciprocal medical cover;
- a driving licence;
- some Euros;
- a credit card; since the introduction of the Euro virtually all Bureaux de Change have disappeared, but ATMs (cash dispenser machines) take all international cards with instructions in English.
A further 90-day extension, called a permanencia, can be obtained once per calendar year, so with this extension it is possible to stay as a ‘tourist’ for a total of six months. To apply for a permanencia, which is stamped in the passport, go to the foreigners’ department of the nearest police station with a passport, two photos, and some evidence of your ability to finance a stay in Spain for a further 90 days. The permanencia is a little used procedure, but it technically bridges the gap between a 90-day short-term stay and permanent residence over 180 days. A tourist is a person who spends less than six months in Spain in one calendar year. A tourist may own a home and many do! Anyone who stays more than six months must apply for a Residencia.
Fiscal identification number
All residents or non-residents with financial dealings in Spain must have an identification number. It is called Numero Identification de Extranjero (NIE), the significant word Extranjero meaning foreigner. Numero de Identification Fiscal (NIF) is the equivalent for Spaniards, which in their case also serves as an identity and passport number.
To get an NIE go to the foreigners’ department of a police station with a passport and one copy, two photographs and complete the relevant form provided. Foreigners will quickly become accustomed to a way of life dependent on personal identification by an NIE number. An NIE is required for:
- purchase of a property, a car and other expensive items;
- dealing with the tax authorities;
- identification on other documents such as insurance policies or bank records.
Intending to live permanently or to spend more than six months each year in Spain? Then no later than 90 days after arriving, begin the process of applying for a Residencia (this is effectively an identity card). To do this, again visit the foreigners’ department at the police station with the following documents:
- copy of a valid passport and NIE number;
- three passport-sized colour photographs;
- the completed form.
At the police station finger prints are taken and in about six months a plastic Residencia card is issued. It’s your new identity in Spain and renewable every five years. The passport goes into the file at home to be used for international travelling. Obtaining a Residencia also necessitates a visit to the bank to change personal details and account numbers. It also means paying income tax to Spain rather than to a ‘home’ country.
Someone entering Spain as a student or as a tourist, and then taking up employment or self-employment, should read Chapter 13 Working in Spain, where details of a combined work permit/residencia application are outlined. A person entering Spain as a potential employer should still obtain a residencia.
Who does not require a residencia?
EU dependants of an EU or Spanish national, or pensioners who have worked in Spain and receive their pension from the Spanish social security system, do not need to hold a residence card, and can also live in Spain with a valid passport.
When moving to Spain permanently it is wise to have the following documents available.
- Birth and marriage certificates.
- Credit facilities to open a new bank account if seeking a business account.
- CVs translated into Spanish, if seeking employment. Pre-approved work permits are no longer required for EU nationals.
- Vehicle documents, if temporarily driving a car registered outside Spain.
- If a UK pensioner, form E121 obtained from The Pension Service, Newcastle upon Tyne, which shows the pensioner has been in the UK National Health system and is entitled to entry into the Spanish health system. An E form means European, demonstrating a uniformity of approach within the EU.
The Hague Apostille
Some documents need to be certified as true. A Certificate of Apostille is an internationally recognised form on which an authority in one country validates a document to another country. A stamp is attached called an apostille (a Spanish word meaning note) certifying the document is legal. This is done in the UK. In Spain it is then translated into Spanish by a ‘legal translator’. Documents issued in the UK which need to have the apostille attached for use in Spain are covered by the 1961 Hague Convention. Spain became a signatory in 1978. Examples would be birth and marriage certificates, but educational documents no longer need an apostille. Any Consular office in Spain can arrange British documents which need an apostille. Alternatively sent directly to: Legislation Office, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Old Admiralty Building, The Mall, London SW1A 2LG.