For Residents


Residencia y empadronamiento, NIE, NIF, DIF, DNI


(= Documento nacional de identidad) is the identity card of every Spanish citizen. Almost everyone knows their identification number by heart because this never changes and it is needed for everything. In Spain, people do not say their date or place of birth, because they use their DNI number everywhere instead. This number is also the tax number (NIF, número de identificación fiscal) for Spaniards. Spanish companies, corporations, joint owners have instead of a DNI / NIF, a CIF (código de identificación fiscal). If the number of a company starts with “A” is a stock company, if it starts with “B” is a limited liability company, if it starts with “G” is a joint ownership, and so on.

NUMBER FOR FOREIGNERS NIE (or Identification number for foreigners)

NIE (número de identificación de extranjeros). Foreigners can get a NIE- number when they want to do business in Spain. They also need it if they want to buy or inherit a property, buy a car, found a limited company, open a bank account, work, etc. Without a NIE, you will not get anywhere. The new NIE is asked by the police or by the Spanish embassies or consulates. You cannot declare taxes, or register the buy or the inheritance of a property on the land registry. In order to purchase a property, you do not have to register as a resident, but you will definitely need the NIE number and the corresponding registration as a taxpayer (
alta censal) at the Spanish tax office (Hacienda). Thus, you can have a NIE number without living in Spain or paying taxes as a resident. The NIE number is valid for the rest of your life. Since 23/04/2012, now you can apply for the NIE through an authorized notary or a lawyer through the chamber.

RESIDENCE (Certificate of a residence permit)

El certificado de registro como ciudadano de la Unión (= Certificate of the registration as an EU citizen in the aliens’ registration, or often called Residencia) is a certificate that theoretically EU citizens must apply for if they want to stay for more than three months at a time in Spain. Until 2007, it was blue and came with a picture like an identity card (my clients loved their “Spanish identity card” and were always proud of showing it!). Later, it became green and came in DINA4 format (very unpractical and unsightly!), and now it is still green and comes in the form of a credit card (but without a picture). Since the current Residencia does not have a picture, it is not considered an identity card and you cannot therefore use it to identify yourself. It only proves that you are allowed to live here and that you will not stay temporarily. Since the number is also the same tax number, it can be used as an evidence of having a Spanish tax number. The residencia is not necessary in order to purchase or own a property.

If you want to get the residencia, you must only prove that you:

work in Spain;
– are registered as self-employed person in Spain; or
– have a statutory or a private health insurance and also have enough funds (Bank accounts, pension, etc.) in case you are not working in Spain (e.g. Senior citizens); or
– are enrolled as a student and also have health insurance and enough funds
– is related to someone that complies with these requirements
After 10 years of holding the
residencia, you are allowed to apply for the citizenship (Two years later if you are married to a Spanish citizen)

EMPADRONAMIENTO (Registration in the municipality)

If you stay for more than three months in Spain or you take a job, you must register in the Spanish municipality (Ayuntamiento) of your place of residence (empadronamiento).
If you move out, you must change your registration, and if you leave Spain, you should cancel your registration. To register, it is necessary to present your passport, which is your identification and proof of your domicile in the town (e.g. agreement of lease, sale contract, power or water contract, or the authorization of someone who is already registered). With the registration, you get a
volante de empadronamiento and you can apply (subject to charge) for a certificate of registration at any time (certificado de empadronamiento, generally valid for only three months). The information of the resident civil register for third parties is not available to the public. As soon as you are registered, the following will happen:

– You can vote in the Spanish local elections und run for candidate.

– If the court or an official is looking for you, they will send you the notification to your registered address. If you do not live there and they do not find you, they will deliver it to the Government Gazette, which could be very harmful (E.g., if you cannot defend yourself, because you did not receive the notification or the penalty)

– You can only marry in Spain if you or your “love” is registered in a Spanish municipality.

A basic requirement in order to get social benefits is that you are registered in the resident’s registration office for a certain period of time. The certificado de empadronamiento works as a formal proof of residence and is required in many official applications and processes, for example, for the registration in health centers, of vehicles, in the traffic authority, in kindergartens and school, etc. The municipality can often verify whether the person really lives in the registered place of residence, and can cancel the registration when the information is not correct anymore.


If you are resident, you will eventually declare the Spanish income tax return or the new informative tax return when you have properties abroad (over € 50,000.00). If you are a non-resident, you must eventually declare the non-resident tax return (if you have a property in Spain or have an income here). Regardless of the empadronamiento or even the residencia, you will normally be a resident taxpayer if you have lived for more than 183 days here (short trips abroad will not be taken into consideration), or if your husband/wife have children in common living in Spain (except separated spouses), or if the center of your economic activities is in Spain. (In order to assess that, the tax authority can take, among other things, the registration as proof -see below-that you really live in Spain and in this case, will demand you to tax your world income. Therefore, you should really analyze if it will be right to have a residencia or empadronamiento only with the purpose of benefiting from cheaper water or flights without taking into account the serious fiscal consequences…)

However, according to article 4, that came into force on 1/1/2013, of the new double taxation agreement between the BDR and the “kingdom” of Spain (Please, have a look now at this article if you do not have much interest in the topic, before you get a terrible and persistent headache!) a resident is a person, that according to this agreement, “who, under the laws of that State, is liable to tax therein by reason of their domicile, their permanent residence, place of management or any other criterion of a similar nature (…)

If an individual is a resident of both Contracting States, then his status shall be determined as follows: He shall be deemed to be resident only of the State in which he has a permanent home available; if he has a permanent home available to him in both States, he shall be deemed to be a resident only of the State with which his personal and economic relations are closer (center of vital interests); if the State in which he has his center of vital interests cannot be determined, or if he has not a permanent home available to him in either State, he shall be deemed to be a resident only of the State in which he has an habitual abode; if he has an habitual abode in both States or in neither of them, he shall be deemed to be a resident only of the State of which he is national; if he is a national of both States or of neither of them, the competent authorities of the Contracting States shall settle the question by mutual agreement.

Where by reason of the provision of paragraph 1, a person other than an individual is a resident of both Contracting States, then it shall be deemed to be a resident only of the State in which its place of effective management is situated”. ¡Olé! Wouldn’t it be easier to write: you live where you like it the most? But maybe there is no such a beautiful world…


– The fiscal registration as taxpayer (
alta censal or alta fiscal). It is very important so the tax authority can contact you and you can also submit the tax return declaration. If you move out, you have to cancel your registration immediately.

The registration of your vehicles in the department of motor vehicles (Jefatura Provincial de Tráfico). The auto must be registered in the place where you live (the place where you are empadronado). Many move, change their registration, but forget to also change their vehicle registration… Then they wonder why they do not receive their tickets in their place and why they are posted on the government gazette, and they cannot defend themselves against it…
– The registration in the health insurance is obviously necessary if you want to work as an employee or as self-employed person. When you register, you will receive a social security number (
código de cuenta de cotización or número de la Seguridad Social).

– The registration at the consulate. This is important so you can get in contact with the court or the authorities from your country when you have canceled your registration there.

(Date: 2014)

RA – Chancellery Antonio Pérez Alonso
Señor José Antonio Pérez Alonso
Legal tips for residents: Information about residence

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