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What are my responsibilities in Spain as a foreign resident?

The Local Spain
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What are my responsibilities in Spain as a foreign resident?
You have several different responsibilities as a foreign resident in Spain. Photo: Oleksandr P / Pexels

As a foreigner living in Spain, you have several different responsibilities to keep up with, from making sure you respect the conditions of your visa to renewing your residency and paying taxes.


You'll have to carry out many bureaucratic processes when you first move to Spain, but even if you've been living here for a while the responsibilities don't stop.

There are several matters that you need to keep on top of as a foreign resident here. 

Renew your residency

If you’re from a non-EU country, you’ll have to renew your residency when it expires, so you can legally continue living in Spain. Most visas will only give the right to a one-year residency such as the non-lucrative visa or a student visa (if your course lasts for one year), so you’ll have to renew your residency and TIE (foreign identity card) card after that year is up, if you still meet the conditions and want to continue living here. If this is the case you will be given what’s known as temporary residency.

READ ALSO: What happens if I don't renew my TIE residency card in Spain?

Other visas may grant you the initial possibility of living here longer, in which case you won’t have to renew your TIE card as often. To renew your card and your residency you will have to fill out the specific form that applies to your situation and make an appointment at your local foreigner’s office or police station.

Once you have lived in Spain for a total of five continuous years, you can change your residency to a permanent or long-term one. This means you won’t need to keep renewing your residency anymore and can stay here indefinitely if you live continuously in Spain without long absences.

EU citizens must get their green residency cards (Certificado de Registro de Ciudadano de la Unión) after three months of living in Spain, but do not have to keep renewing them.

Respect the conditions of your visa

If you’re a non-EU citizen and you’ve come to live in Spain on a visa, it’s up to you to make sure you maintain the conditions you entered on.

For example, if you entered on a non-lucrative visa, you’re not allowed to work in Spain, even for yourself. You can only earn passive income as per the visa rules.

If you entered on a student visa, you must make sure you maintain your private health insurance and can only work up to 20 hours per week.

And if you entered on a digital nomad visa, you’ll have to keep earning the same amount to satisfy the visa conditions and ensure that no more than 20 percent of your income is earned from Spanish clients.

READ ALSO: Spain scraps six-month absence rule for losing temporary residency


Register for the padrón

The padrón certificate is basically proof which shows where you are living. Your town hall or ayuntamiento uses it to find how many people are living in the area and what their ages are, as well as to receive the correct amount from the government. You should register for the padrón within three months of living in Spain.

If you move house, you will be responsible for registering for the padrón again for your new address. You may also need to renew your padrón for the same address if you need to prove where you live for other bureaucratic matters such as getting a Spanish driving licence, registering at your local health centre, and applying for a library card. In these cases, your padrón should not be more than three months old.

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

Pay taxes

If you live in Spain for more than 183 days a year, you will most likely have to pay taxes here. Even if you earn your money from abroad or work for a foreign employer, most of the time you will still be responsible for registering and paying taxes in Spain.

If you’re an employee for a Spanish company, they will automatically be taken out of your salary, but you must still file the yearly income tax return called the declaración de la Renta. On this, you’ll have to declare any extra worldwide income from savings and investments, renting out your property, capital gains or extra projects you’ve done.

If you’re self-employed or autónomo, even if you only have foreign clients, you will be responsible for registering in the system and filing and paying your taxes five times a year. This will be once per quarter, as well as the yearly declaración de la Renta.

READ ALSO: How does Spain know if I'm a tax resident?


Register for Social Security

In order to work in Spain, whether for yourself or an employer, you’ll need to register for social security. If you’re self-employed you’ll be responsible for doing this yourself or with the help of a gestor before you sign up to the autónomo system. You will then have to pay your social security fees every month.

If you’re offered a job in Spain you’ll have to make sure you register with social security before you start work – up to 60 days beforehand. Your fees will also be paid monthly but by your employer instead.

READ ALSO: The social security fees Spain's self-employed will pay in 2024

Respect the local laws and customs

Some of the laws in Spain may be very different from what you might be used to in other countries, so it’s important to learn what they are and respect them to avoid being fined or worse.

Some things may seem innocent and harmless to you, but could in fact be illegal here, such as such as walking around shirtless or just in a bikini on the streets or wild camping. Laws also change from region to region or city to city. For example, in Seville, it's illegal to shake out clothes or carpets onto the street.

For more serious crimes involving violence, theft or drugs, you face losing your residency rights. 



Learn Spanish or another local language

Although it's not compulsory to pass a language test to renew your residency as is the case in some countries, as a resident of Spain you have a social responsibility to learn the local language – in most cases that will be Spanish, but you could also choose to learn Catalan if you live in Catalonia or Gallego if you live in Galicia for example.

Not only is it socially responsible, but it will also help you out a lot in many different situations from going to the doctor to helping your kids out with school and getting appliances fixed in your house.


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