David vs. Spanish residency (Final Round)

spanish residency article

A while ago I started a series of articles to research whether you need to renew your Spanish residency or not (read Round 1 and Round 2 if you haven’t already).

I would have loved closing up this series of articles sooner rather than later, but it wasn’t easy finding the appropriate information.

Fortunately, I met Lucy Rodriguez, a professional self-employed expert who has been dealing with NIE numbers and Spanish residencies for ten years.

I interviewed her to try to bring some more clarity on this issue.

But before…

Let you me tell you something else :-)



The mistake I made here was to try to find out about the renewal of Spanish residency after five years without considering the small letters.

Therefore, those policemen I mentioned in Round 2 were right, as my questions were not broken down into categories (an important lesson in Spain).

Do foreigners have to renew their Spanish residency after five years? Yes. And No.

In order to answer this question properly we need to know which type of “foreigner” we are talking about first, as there are two groups:

1. European citizens

2. Non-European citizens

Of course, the two groups have different rules, procedures and paperwork.

(At least they picked up the best musical composition ever for the European Anthem)



If you’ve lived here for a while, you’ll be familiar with the Spanish system already. Even though it can be slow and confusing it works fine, in my opinion.

Perhaps you will end up like me, asking questions here and there with no clear direction.

doing paperwork in Spain

(Sometimes too much preparation does not make any difference in Spain)

I strongly recommend you not to get frustrated or upset. Nothing is perfect. Your country is not perfect, and neither is Spain!

You know that Spain has a lot of good things… just stick with that 😉



This is just an example. Let’s say you do not know how to cancel your Spanish residency.

You have two options:

1. Go in person to the National Police station that you have to do the paperwork in. Talk to them in person and take notes of the information they provide you. If you don’t speak Spanish, don’t assume they’ll speak English! (Well, you can contact me for details of my translation service, of course).

2. Get the information from an expert. For instance, don’t ask at the town hall something that needs to be done at the National Police, or vice-versa. They will probably confuse you at the town hall. They will try to help you in good faith, but won’t probably have the knowledge. Either go to the National Police or ask / hire an expert (as I’ve done with Lucy to clarify the five-year issue).

I must have done more than 5000 jobs at official Spanish institutions over the last four years (I’ve done an approximate calculation for that), and I never stop learning about new “small letters”!

flamenco dancing

(Nothing to do with the topic, and you may know I don’t like “flamenco”… but I love this painting)



Here’s the short interview with Lucy:

1. Do you have to renew your Spanish residency after 5 years?

No, it is not necessary to renew your Spanish residency every five years if you are a citizen of the European Union, although the physical card might not state that. Unless the government passes a new law, Spanish residency does not need to be renewed for European Union citizens.

2. If yes, what happens if you don’t renew it? Any legal problems involved?

Obviously, the previous answer clarifies this question. However, I would like to put special emphasis on those people who still have the old-style Spanish residency card (obtained before March 2007), which contains a photo. These cards must be renewed, as they do show an expiry date and run out five years after the date of issue.

3. Does it work the same way for citizens of the European Union as for those from other nationalities?

No, it does not. Those from countries outside the European Union have to follow different procedures. European citizens have to provide only proof of health coverage and financial means. Citizens from non-EU countries go through different procedures and paperwork.

I would like to emphasise that couples legally married, where one member is European and the other is not, also have to follow a different procedure, in order to obtain residency for the non-European one. In this case, this Spanish residence would have to be renewed after five years.

The main condition to have Spanish residency in this special situation is to continue being married. For this reason every five years the authorities request an up-to-date marriage certificate, so that they can make sure that the matrimony is still in force.

4. Why some Spanish residencies say “permanente” (permanent) and others don’t?

The condition of “permanent residency” is given after living in Spain for five years in a row. Many people complain that after living here for ten years they are not still considered as “permanent”. This is because they did not renew their old residency card/s.

5. Is it true you have to renew your Spanish residency each time you move from one home to another?

I would say it is highly recommended, especially if you move to a different Spanish region. In many official procedures and offices they will request an updated Spanish residency.

6. If yes, what happens if you fail to renew it? Any potential legal problems or penalties?

After ten years doing Spanish NIE numbers and residencies, none of my clients have had any legal problems or had to pay fines. I do not have any information of fines or legal processes if you fail to renew your Spanish residency after you move to another location.

However, it is obligatory to cancel your Spanish residency when you move back for good to your country. In this case, it’s the holder’s responsibility doing the appropriate paperwork at the nearest Spanish National Police office thatissues foreign documents.

Cancelling Spanish residencies from deceased people is also obligatory.

Lucy Rodriguez – lucyhelp@hotmail.com



In a sense, I feel disappointed as I could not find the right answers straight away. At least, I’ve finally been able to solve the doubt thanks to my interview with Lucy.

If you renewed your Spanish residency after reading my second article, it should say now “permanente”, although it will make no difference, according to Lucy.


As I always say to my clients: all this may change overnight. Many things change overnight in Spain. That’s why I recommend you to investigate first… just in case.


Credit Image: Mo Riza, Marco Crupi, Patrick McDonald


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  1. Jess says

    Hi David,

    Another very interesting article to solve all our problems, now how about my suggestion on Spanish Surnames.
    Regards Jess

    • David Ruiz says

      Hi Jess,

      Thanks a lot for the suggestion. It can definitely be a nice topic for a good article!

      Best Regards,


  2. Margaret says

    Thank you so much for these clear and concise articles. My concern about renewal after 5 years was raised after helping friends with their residency applications. I noticed that the EX-16 we used in 2011 had been replaced with the EX-18. Whilst reading through the form and comparing it to the old EX-16, I noticed that one applied for residency up to five years. But now, having read your articles and your expert’s opinion, I feel a little easier.

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