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Tax information for americans in europe
Tax information for americans in europe

Visas and Paperwork in Spain

The process of applying for visas and paperwork in Spain will vary by an expat’s nationality and individual circumstances. Although the bureaucratic system in Spain may seem complicated, the process is relatively smooth and straightforward with the correct documents and paperwork.


Spain Visa Requirements

Citizens of EU and EEA countries do not require a visa or permit of any kind to live and work in Spain. The impact that Brexit has had on Spanish employment and living laws for Uk citizens living in Spain remains unclear. Within three months of arriving in Spain, all foreign residents must apply for a tax identification code known as the Número Identificación de Extranjeros, or NIE (see below). 

All citizens of non EU/EEA nations will require a long term national visa (visado nacionale) in order to stay in Spain for longer than 90 days. Non-EU Citizens should begin the process of applying for a visa at their nearest Spanish embassy or consulate.  In terms of visas and paperwork in Spain, there are many different categories of visa corresponding to different purposes of stay, including the most popular visado de trabajo y residencia (a combined work and residency visa). There are specific visas for students (visado de estudios), retirees and those joining relatives in Spain (visado de residencia). See the full list of options here.


Spain Visa Application for Expats

Spain also currently offers an attractive ‘golden visa’ program for property owners. Those investing more than €500,000 in Spanish real estate automatically become eligible for a residency visa, enabling them to remain in the country indefinitely and access EU countries without requiring a tourist or “Schengen” visa. 

Within 30 days of their arrival in Spain, non-EU/EEA and Swiss citizens must apply for a renewable residency card (Tarjeta de Residencia, or TIE). This can be obtained at their local police station or Foreigner’s Office (Oficina de Extranjeros) and is initially valid for 1 year (and is usually extended to 5 years upon renewal). For more information on long term visas, visit the Spanish Ministry for Foreign Affairs website.


Certificado de Empadronamiento

If you have an address in Spain, or are planning to live in the country for over 6 months, you must register with your local town hall to obtain a Certificado de Empadronamiento. The Certificado de Empadronamiento is separate process from any visa applications, but is usually required in order to proceed with a TIE or NIE application or applying for a local health card. Usually, registration for the Certificado de Empadronmiento should be done in person at your local Town Hall or an administrative office (Junta Municipal). You should take the filled in application form (available at the office where you are registering), your passport (and a photocopy) as well as proof of your new Spanish address such as a bill or rental contract. For those who have purchased property, you should take the title deeds (Escritura). Find your local Empadronamiento here.


Número Identificación de Extranjeros

As mentioned above, all EU (or equivalent) citizens who plan to live in Spain will need to apply for a tax identification code known as the Número Identificación de Extranjeros (NIE number), within three months of their arrival. Non-EU nationals receive a tax identification code automatically within their long-term visa application and do not need to apply for an NIE. An NIE is required in Spain to be able to do almost anything bureaucratic, from paying taxes and opening a Spanish bank account, to obtaining a Spanish driving license, being paid by an employer and more. The equivalent of a NIE number for Spanish nationals is called the Número de Identificación Fiscal (NIF) and the equivalent for businesses is called the Certificado de Identificación Fiscal (CIF).


The application is a fairly straightforward process, albeit with quite a long list of documents to complete and bring. The Spanish government have put together instructions on how to complete a NIE application in English on their website. Applicants should make an appointment to attend their closest Oficina de Extranjeros (find your nearest location here). Before attending their appointment, applicants should fill in this form (Modelo – 790) and take it to any bank to pay a small registration fee (usually €9-10). This can be done following your appointment but is much more efficient to do beforehand and take a copy of proof of payment. 


 Be sure to take all of the correct paperwork, including:

-Proof of the appointment confirmation (be sure to print the confirmation page when booking the appointment online). 

-TWO copies of the filled-in application form (Modelo EX-15 )

-Passport (and TWO additional photocopies of this too)

-TWO passport-sized photographs (if you are a non-EU citizen, EU citizens may or may not need these depending on the area).

-Proof of address in Spain.

-A copy of your Certificado de Empadronamiento

-Modelo 790 form stamped by the bank to prove that you have paid the fee.

-European Health Insurance Card or equivalent and a photocopy.

-Copies of any documents such as a work contract, university acceptance letter, rental agreement etc which might be relevant. 


Providing all of the necessary documents have been supplied, it usually takes around 3 weeks for a NIE to arrive. It is worth noting that any foreign documents supplied in the application process should be translated into Spanish by a translator certified by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.


Tarjeta de Identidad de Extranjero (TIE) 

All non-EU and EEA Citizens who require a visa to stay in Spain will also need to apply for a Tarjeta de Identidad de Extranjero, or Foreigner’s Identity Card within 30 days of their arrival in Spain. This is similar to a NIE but comes in the form of an ID card (which also contains your NIE and personal information). New residents must book an appointment to apply for their TIE within 30 days of your arrival in Spain, but the waiting time is usually longer than this. As long as the appointment is booked within this initial period, there is no problem. 


Make an appointment with your local administration office here. As with a NIE application, applicants should pay a small registration fee (around €15) in person, directly to any bank before attending their appointment. Fill in this form and be sure to take a copy stamped by the bank to your TIE appointment. The necessary documents vary, but is usually similar to those required for an NIE application, with a different application form, the EX-17 . For more information, please see the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ website.


There are many exceptions to the above depending on an individual’s nationality and personal situation. Always refer to the latest information from your own government or embassy regarding visas and your local town hall website regarding any relevant paperwork.


For more useful information on Moving to Spain, including finding somewhere to live, the cost of living, healthcare and more, visit our step-by-step guide at 

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