I am a foreigner: what are the requirements to apply for a residence?

When we leave our country in search of a better life and work, we usually feel lost and confused at the beginning of this new stage in our lives. At the same time, we also have to deal with difficult procedures required to legalize our status in the destination country.

ICN LEGAL has many years of experience providing legal advice on procedures required to apply for a residence and work permit in Spain. Our job is to help all those who come to Spain to obtain a residence and work permit and, thus, avoid problems here.

According to the Immigration Act, once a foreigner arrives in Spain as a tourist and stays beyond the allowed three-months, he may find himself in an unlawful status. Once you stay beyond that time, you will need to obtain an extension of stay or a residence permit to remain in Spain. If you find yourself in that situation, you will surely want to know how to get your legal papers in Spain.

What is the Residence Card?

The Residence Card is an identification card that contains your Spanish NIE number (tax identification number), your personal information, your photograph, and a fingerprint. It is required as proof of current residency in Spain (for example, for banking transactions such as opening accounts, acquiring real property, etc.).

Foreign relatives of European Union (EU) community members can get an EU Family Member’s Residence Card, which is initially valid for five years and must be renewed after that.

Applicants from countries outside the EU -also known as non-member states- can apply for a Residence Card or a Residence and Work Permit, which is initially valid for one year. After this period, the non-EU foreigner must apply for renewal of the card and, in most cases, such renewal will include a two-year residence permit.

EU citizens do not need a Residence Card in Spain but they do have to apply for a Union Citizen Registration Certificate. Also, those who currently have a Residence Card do not need to reapply until the card expires.

The NIE is a number on the Residence Card issued by the Immigration Service upon obtaining your residency. This will be your identification number in Spain. You will need this number to file your tax returns, establish a business, open bank accounts, and for just about any form you have to fill out. Both EU citizens and non-EU foreigners receive a NIE number.

How can I apply?

Both your Residence Card and NIE number must be requested at the nearest Immigration Office. However, consular offices work with local applicants so both the waiting time at the office, as well as the waiting time for issuance of the Residence Card, may vary greatly from one office to another, even in the same city.

Moreover, sometimes the NIE number can be processed faster than the Residence Card, so if you are in a rush, you may want to process the NIE number and the Card separately.

As for the work permit, this is granted together with the residence, if both a Residence and Work Permit are requested. However, the effectiveness of the work and residence permit is subject to the worker registering with Social Security. The Management Entity will review residence permits before a foreign national can engage in any type of gainful work-related or professional activity in Spain.

There is also another option for foreigners who do not qualify for a residence and work permit: apply for a residence card without the right to work, called a Non-Lucrative Residence Card or Non-Profit Residence Card. This card will allow you to reside in Spain for an initial period of one year. After this period, you must apply for renewal.

In conclusion, a foreigner who has stayed illegally, may apply for a Residence and Work Permit. There are many ways to get this permit and it all depends on the personal and family situations of the foreign national in Spain. The card is only valid for a specific period of time and once it expires, the foreign national must apply for renewal to avoid being in an illegal status.

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