Five red tape essentials for new arrivals in Spain

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Five red tape essentials for new arrivals in Spain
Photo: Caitlin Childs / Flickr

The process of settling in Spain and getting all your paperwork in order can be tedious and frustrating but Marianne Calvin, a relocation expert at Moving2Madrid has come up with this definitive guide to ease newcomers through the process.


Whatever the bureaucratic mission, we highly recommend that you have photocopies of all your documentation ready to hand over when the need arises.

Social Security Number:  

To get a social security number, you must take your identification (passport and any other relevant visa documents), as well as a copy of your employment contract to the nearest social security office.  You will need to fill out an application and show all documentation. 

Bank Account:  

Photo: AFP

When you arrive in Spain one of the first things you will have to do is set up a bank account.  If you want to set up internet, phone, and utilities for your apartment, you will need a Spanish bank account to do so. Although you can shop around for banks, Moving2Madrid recommends an account with Sabadell, because an account can be opened there ahead of your arrival. They also provide a dedicated reliable customer service person who makes it all easy.

NIE (ID Card):

If you plan to spend more than three months in Spain, want to buy a property or start a company, you are legally required to get a NIE, "Número de Identificación Fiscal de Extranjeros", or "Foreigners Registration Number".  

It is important to understand that this is not the same as a Visa or Residency (A visa means you have the right to stay more than 3 months). The NIE is the fiscal number that allows the Spanish government to identify you as well as declare you as a resident.

Register on the Padrón

Photo: Shaun Curry / Flickr

Registering on the padrón is a way of letting your local council know your new place of residence. You must do this if you are paying taxes and getting a medical card. Likewise, when you renew your residency they will ask you for the updated padron. The process for this is fairly easy and can be done in the same day. Make an appointment at your nearest office or online. You will need a completed application form (available at local registration office), your passport (and a photocopy) and proof of address such as a rental contract or utility bill.

Click here for more info on how to register

Medical Card


If you are planning on using the social medical care system instead of private insurance, you will need to sign up with your local medical centre and get a Medical card (tarjeta sanitaria). The process is easy once you have completed all the other bureaucratic steps above.

You will need to take along your passport and NIE, your padrón, and your social security number to your local centro de salud to register. 

Marianne Calvin, a relocation expert at Moving2Madrid, has written a more detailed guide on the bureaucratic challenges. If you are relocating to Madrid and want help with these steps or advice on renting or buying contact Moving2Madrid or make an appointment for a free consultation.

Have you had a bad experience with bureaucracy in Spain? Please tell us about your red tape nightmare in Spain either in comment below, on our facebook page or send an email to [email protected]


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