Residency permits For Members

Do foreigners in Spain have to carry their residency documents?

The Local Spain
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Do foreigners in Spain have to carry their residency documents?
A policeman asking for residency docs in Spain. Photo: CESAR MANSO / AFP

If you’re a foreigner living in Spain, you will have some type of residency document to prove that you live here and you’re not just on holiday, but is it necessary to carry it around with you all the time?


For those from non-EU countries, your residency document will be your Tarjeta de Identidad de Extranjero (better known as the TIE), while for EU citizens and Brits who haven't exchanged, it will be the EU green residency card or sheet, the Certficado de Registro de Ciudadano UE.

Both of them state your NIE number, your date of birth and your address, but unlike TIE cards and Spanish nationals’ DNI cards, the green residency certificates do not have a photo.

Several English-language sources state that in Spain you must carry ID with you at all times and while that’s not strictly true – what about residency documents?

READ ALSO: Do you always have to carry ID with you in Spain?

If you have a TIE card, then essentially, it is the same as an ID card, because it can identify you.

According to Spain's Organic Law for the Protection of Citizen Security, better known as the Gag Law, approved on March 31st, 2015, article 9.2, states that "it is not mandatory to carry this identification but it is mandatory to identify yourself when authorities require it". 

It goes on to add that authorities "may require those who cannot be identified to accompany them to the nearest police station where there are means available to identify them”.

Therefore it’s not necessary to carry your TIE around with you in your wallet when you leave the house, but you may want to just in case and save you going through any hassle. 


The EU green residency card, which is used by EU citizens and Brits who arrived before Brexit and haven’t yet changed over to a TIE, cannot be considered an ID card because doesn’t have a photo. The older A4 sized certificates are made of paper and are therefore very flimsy and inconvenient to carry with you.

The green residency document can be used to prove residency, however, but should be used in conjunction with another form of ID, such as a passport to prove identity.

With regards to residency documents, Article 205 on rights and duties states that “Foreigners who are in Spanish territory have the right and obligation to keep, in force, the documentation with which they entered Spain, which proves their identity, issued by the competent authorities of their country of origin, as well as the one that proves your situation in Spain”.

This means they are referring to both ID documents from your country, such as your passport, as well as your residency document – as it proves your situation in Spain.


It goes on to say that “foreigners are required to show the documents referred to in the previous section when required by the authorities or their agents, in the exercise of their functions”.

This means that like above, while it is not mandatory to carry your residency document with you at all times, when asked by the police or authorities you should be able to produce it.

None of these laws state that it is punishable, so you cannot be fined for not carrying your TIE or green residency card.

Nevertheless, you may have to go home and take it into your nearest police station if asked so that they can go through the system and verify your status here.


Having said that, there are certain times you will need to show your residency documents and take them to appointments for some bureaucratic processes. 

These include when you're applying for a job to prove that your residency permit also allows you to work or if you want to set up your own business and register as self-employed. 

You will also need it if you plan on getting married or entering into a civil partnership (pareja de hecho) in Spain, when you need to register with the tax agency or make an appointment at a local foreigners' office. 

It's also a good idea to show your residency document along with your passport when you're leaving and entering the country at the airport, so that officials know that you're living here and not just here on a 90-day tourist stay. 


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