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Visas For Members

How long do Spain's main visas and residency processes take?

The Local Spain
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How long do Spain's main visas and residency processes take?
Waiting for a Spanish visa or residency document can sometimes feel like being trapped in limbo, but at least most processes end up in a favourable outcome. (Photo by OSCAR DEL POZO / AFP)

Whether it's applying for the NLV, family reunification or golden visa, or getting residency and padrón documents once you're in Spain, processing times for non-EU nationals tend to involve a lot of waiting. Here's how long each official process usually takes.

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Spain is well known for its complicated bureaucratic processes and long waiting times for official documents, but how long do the visas and residency documents actually take to be processed?

The first skill that you'll need is patience. Processing times for visas can take a while, but on top of that, once you are granted a visa and arrive in the country, there will be further waiting times to apply for all your official documents such as a residency card or padrón town hall registration.

This applies to non-EU nationals in particular, as getting a visa and then a residency card are two different processes.

Here's how long processing times are on average for these visas and residency documents in Spain. 

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Non-lucrative visa

The non-lucrative visa, or NLV as it is often referred to, is an authorisation that allows non-EU foreigners to live in Spain without working or carrying out economic activities, by demonstrating that they have sufficient financial means for themselves and, if applicable, their families.

In theory, it takes one month for your non-lucrative visa to processed. According to article 48.4 of the Immigration Regulations,the Government Delegation or Subdelegation must decide within a maximum period of 1 month from receipt of the request”.

In reality, however, it can take between six and 11 weeks to get your visa from the US and around two months if you’re applying from the UK. The waiting time is being increased not just due to processing but also because of the difficulty in getting appointments, adding a further few weeks onto the process. You’ll find this to be a recurring theme on your journey of moving to Spain.

READ ALSO: How long does it take to get a non-lucrative visa for Spain?

Golden visa

Spain’s golden visa, sometimes referred to as an investor visa, allows non-EU citizens the right to live in Spain if they meet several requirements. These include buying a property worth over €500,000, investing €1 million in a Spanish company or having €1 million in a Spanish bank account.

If you’re going down the property route, then it can take at least two to three months in order to sort out buying the property and the processes involved with that. Afterward, it will take a further 20 days for your Golden Visa to be processed.

READ ALSO - Pros and cons: What foreigners should be aware of before applying for Spain’s golden visa

Family reunification visa

If you’re a non-EU citizen living in Spain and have a residency permit, such as a TIE card, then you can bring family members to live with you via the Family Reunification Visa. However, you must remember that you can only do this after one year of legally living in Spain and have authorisation to stay for another year.

This allows for your spouse, unmarried children under 18 or any dependent children over 18 years old to come and live with you. 

As a general guideline, the process takes around six months to complete. But keep in mind it could take longer, depending on when appointments are available and your individual circumstances.

You should get a response approving or denying your application within three months. After that, you will need to wait a few more months for the visa to be processed.

READ ALSO: How can non-EU nationals bring family members to live in Spain?

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Residence card for a family member of an EU citizen

Known as the tarjeta de residencia de familiar comunitario (considered another type of TIE card), this is a residence card for a non-EU family member of an EU citizen and allows them to go and live with their relative in the EU. It's for spouses, unmarried partners who have been together a while (you need to prove this), dependent children, dependent parents, other relatives who are financially dependent on you.

The card must be applied for during the first three months of your relative arriving in Spain for them to able to continue living here. The Spanish authorities should make their decision to issue your family member with a residency card within three months, but as so often happens holdups caused by a lack of staff and the volume of applications at certain migration offices can result in longer waiting times.

READ ALSO - Q&A: Can EU nationals bring non-EU family members over to Spain?

Expect it to take six months or in some cases longer to get all your Spanish visa and residency paperwork sorted. Photo: Steve DiMatteo / Pixabay

 

Once you arrive in Spain there are more official processes to do

You typically have 90 days from the issue of your visa to travel to Spain.

Once you arrive in Spain though, it doesn’t mean that all those bureaucratic processes and waiting times are over. In fact, they’re only just getting started. As soon as you arrive in the country you will need to think about getting your residency card, as your visa won’t be much use on its own, without one.

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Residency card

If you’re from outside the EU, this will be known as the TIE card (tarjeta de identidad de extranjero) or foreign identity card in English. You will need to apply for this within 30 days of arriving in the country.

Officially it takes around 20-40 days after your application to process it, but the main problem is getting an appointment (cita previa) to apply for it in the first place. This means that you should really start trying to get your appointment as soon as possible.

The length of time trying will depend on what times of day you go online and your location within Spain. It’s typically more difficult in big cities such as Madrid and Barcelona, where they are more foreigners trying to apply.

Once your card is ready, you will need to apply for another appointment to go and pick it up, this could take a further month, depending on appointment availability.

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Register on the padrón

Before you even apply for your TIE card though you will need to register on the padrón. This is essentially a document that proves your address and adds you to the census of the area where you live. Once processed you will receive a padrón certificate, which you’ll need for many different official processes, including applying for your TIE.

READ ALSO: 16 things you should know about Spain's 'padrón' town hall registration

Again, you’ll need a cita previa or prior appointment to go to the town hall and apply for your certificate. You could be waiting weeks or in severe circumstances even months to get your appointment to apply, so make sure to apply straight away when you arrive, providing you have your permanent accommodation already, as you’ll need your rental contract or deeds of the property in order to get it. 

Typically, most town halls state on their websites that the maximum amount of time it takes to receive your certificate is three months from the date you apply for it.

And you’re beginning to see just what a headache Spanish bureaucracy can be. You need your padrón to be able to get your TIE and you need to do that within 30 days of arrival, but you may not even be able to get that in time. 

READ ALSO - Empadronamiento in Spain: What is it and how do I apply?

Our advice to start applying for appointments as soon as you arrive in Spain and make sure you have all your documents with you the first time you apply for anything. Be as organised as possible and take evidence that you've applied for appointments with you.

If you're really stuck, there are several official agencies in the big cities that can help you with these processes for a fee. They are also usually able to appointments sooner, as they have blocks booked out. 

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