A residence card (residencia) was required by anyone wishing to live in Spain more than six months out of the year.
Contrary to what some people believe, irrespective of whether you have a residence card or not, if you remain in Spain for more than 182 days in a calendar year you will be regarded as a resident for tax purposes, thus liable to pay income tax on your world-wide income.
A residence card is useful to have as it is often requested as an identification when purchasing goods with credit card or setting up a contract with a utility company. The card however is no longer obligatory for EU nationals and others.
According to the ROYAL DECREE 178/2003 14/02/03 as published in the B.O.E. No 46 of 22/02/03 the following persons may reside in Spain without a Residence Card:
Citizens of Members States of the EU (Germany, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Spain, Finland, France, Greece, Holland, Ireland, Italy, Luxemburg, Portugal, United Kingdom and Sweden) or countries, which are part of the eurosspean Economic Area Agreement (EEA)(Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Switzerland) who are employed or self employed or who are entitled to the right to reside permanently.
Relatives of those mentioned in above paragraph, as well as family members of citizens. Family members of citizens of EU countries (Husbands/wives, and the descendant and ancestors of either) providing they are citizens of a Member State of the EU.
The citizens of Members States of the EU or of countries, which are part of the E.E.A. Agreement who work in Spain but reside in another EU country and return, every day or, at least, once a week.
To reside in Spain the following persons must apply for a Residence Card:
Citizens of Members States of the EU or of countries included in the EEA Agreement who are retired and entitled to a pension, but who have not resided in Spain for more than three years.
The citizens of Members States of the EU or of countries included in the EEA Agreement who are not engaged in remunerated activities.
Family members of citizens of Member States of the EU (Husbands/Wives and the descendants and ancestors of either).
Relatives of Spain nationals, of third countries, will be provided with a 5-year residence card.
Residence cards are applied for at the national police station (comisaria de polica nacional) with a foreigner's department (departamento de extranjeros). This must be done with one month of entering Spain.
Non EU citizens will also need to produce:
If you don't have the required documents, you will be sent away to obtain them, including photocopies. If you have forgotten to take photocopies or your photo, don't worry, there are usually plenty of places to take care of these requirements close to the comisaria - but you will have to queue again!
When your application is accepted , you are issued with a receipt as proof of your application. The cards are actually issued by the Governments provincial sub-delegation and collected from the office where the application was made. The offices do not usually contact you when they are ready so be prepared to go back every few weeks to check.
Your residence card bears a fiscal number (NIE) (Numero Identificación Extranjero) which must be quoted when opening a bank account or paying Spanish taxes. All residents and non-resident homeowners must have a NIE. Spaniards have a NIF (Numero Identificación Fiscal)
It is useful to apply for a NIE which takes a few days before applying for a Residence Card which takes a few months so that it is easier to open bank accounts and set up contracts.
Some banks still operate two types of account. Non Resident Accounts and Residents account. This stems from the old days when non residents were not subject to the same currency exchange controls as Spaniards. Nowadays a non resident account is more inconvenient and attracts higher charges.
The Residence card is often called a Residence Permit which is not correct. It is not a permit nor is it a national identification card which can be used to pass international borders.
The application for the renewal of a residencia must be made at least a month before its expiry date. The procedure is the same as for the initial application, although the documents required include proof of Spanish income tax payment and social security, if applicable.