Spain Immigration Explained – What documents do you need to study, work or live legally in Spain?

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Moving to Spain is one of the most rewarding experiences you can sign up for, but understanding Spain immigration procedures can be a real hassle. So before you dream of living the Spanish life, you need to make sure you understand all immigration and legal paperwork that you’ll have to complete to make your move to Spain smooth and official.

The documents that you will need to apply for depend on many things. Mostly where you are from, how long you’ll be staying and what you will be doing during your time in Spain. Spain Immigration requirements are complex and in many cases are not easy to understand. Over the years we have witnessed many complications faced by applicants, so we know exactly what frustration and stress it tends to create and what it means to you personally. To help you understand and navigate Spanish immigration rules and procedures, we created this guideline.

In this guide we will break down all the basics of Spain Immigration. We’ll cover all the documents that you need to live, work and study in Spain legally and we will also outline how to apply for each. We will not only cover typically required legal documents like the NIE / TIE, the Empadronamiento and the Social Security Number, but also other legal procedures like the Autorización de Regreso, Resident Permits for highly skilled workers, and Obtaining Spanish citizenship.

So make sure to use the content overview to find exactly what you’re looking for.

Table Of Contents

If you are still at the very beginning of your journey and need more information on how to apply for a visa to Spain, please take a look at our guide to applying for a Spanish visa. If you found this page and already know exactly which legal document(s) you need, then feel free to jump right into one of our many step-by-step guides by clicking each button below. If you are a citizen of the United Kingdom, skip ahead to our section dedicated to documents required for UK citizens.

If you are unsure what legal documents you really need to apply for then continue reading our “Spain Immigration Explained” guideline below. You will also find links to the step-by-step guides for each topic which will make it easier for you to get everything done on time.

It can be difficult to navigate through Spanish Immigration procedures on your own. So we definitely recommend hiring some help from an experienced relocation service! We work closely with MTS (Moving to Spain) to help you get the advice you deserve and if you want, they can even help you apply for each document!

They are offering up to 50% off for international students, so make sure to complete our Spain Immigration – Free Legal Support form at the bottom of this guide to get your free advice & a free quote!


1. Spain Immigration – What Documents do you Need to Apply for


The Citylife team has collected the information below via intense research in collaboration with MTS Relocation & Consulting Services and Proyecto Océano, two very known legal & relocation companies in Spain. Please keep in mind that we are not directly related to any legal or government departments. We have tried to break down the most common situations and requirements for internationals, students and expats, coming to live in Spain. We cannot speak for everyone’s specific case nor can we speak on the specifics of every autonomous region in Spain. Please remember to use this article as a compliment to your research on official government sites.


There are several different documents that are required to live, work and/or study legally in Spain. As a first step, if you are not a citizen of the European Union, you need to figure out whether you need a visa to come to Spain or not. The exact visa requirements are dictated by the Spanish consulates located in each major city around the world and your first step should be to consult with them. Also check out our guide to applying for a Spanish visa for more details.

If you are a citizen of the United Kingdom and need to know about what documents you need to apply for, skip right ahead to our special chapter concerning UK Citizens.

Aside from a visa there are 3 main documents that EU and Non-EU citizens possibly need to apply for when moving to Spain. Those documents are the NIE / TIE, the Empadronamiento and the Social Security Number. To figure out which documents you need, follow the steps of our chart below:

1.1 Spain Immigration Requirements for EU and Non-EU Citizens

Now that you know which documents you need, it’s time to follow our step-by-step guides to applying for them! Follow our links below to learn everything you have to do and prepare:

1.2 Spain Immigration Requirements for UK Citizens

As of June 2020 the rules and regulations brought on by Brexit regarding UK citizens moving to Spain were put into action. Putting UK citizens in a sort of “limbo” between EU citizen and NON-EU citizen status. Due to the continuously evolving situation it is difficult to completely breakdown the exact requirements for UK citizens. That being said, we have provided some information for you in this chapter.

If you are a UK citizen who wants to live, work and/or study in Spain, we recommend filling out our legal request form below so we can put you in touch with professional immigration lawyers who can guide you through the process. If you wish to give it a try yourself, continue reading.

Special Visa and TIE for UK Citizens

Now that the UK is no longer a member of the European Union, UK citizens have to apply for both a visa and a TIE to live in Spain for longer than 3 months. You must first apply for the visa and then once the visa is approved you may apply for the TIE. As a start, we always recommend that you speak with the closest Spanish consulate before you come to Spain. They will be able to inform you of steps that you can accomplish from home. If not, you can apply for the new visa for UK citizens from Spain.

Information for how to apply for this visa can be found on this official announcement from the Spanish government. The document outlines different scenarios, so just find yours and check the list of required documents and how to apply. Once your visa application has been approved you can then apply for the UK specific TIE, the instructions for this are also listed on the official announcement that we mentioned earlier.

After looking at the government announcement you might find that the process is quite complex. That’s why we recommend filling out our Legal Request Form to get help from experienced professionals! Just fill the form with your exact situation and what you need help with and we will forward it directly to our partners.

Get support from others looking to apply for these documents too by joining our Legal Support Facebook Forum. You can also join our WhatsApp group that is specifically catered to people looking for appointments for their applications! Simply send a message to our official mobile number (+34 656 19 07 45) and ask to join the Fingerprint Alert chat!

2. Complications to be Aware of when Applying and How to Get Help


Due to Spain’s infamous bureaucratic system, language barriers, incomplete information online and constant lack of appointments, applying for many of the legal documents can be complex, confusing and very frustrating. At Citylife we witness these complications constantly first hand and we understand the frustration and stress that applicants face.

Which is why we collaborate closely with MTS (Moving to Spain), a relocation & consulting company based in Madrid that specializes in helping international students and expats with their immigration to Spain. Their expert team works hard to assist their clients to make their appointments, complete the right forms and collect all the documents required for their applications.

So if you would like to avoid a bumpy start, get in touch with MTS to organize a free email consultation and get a free quote for their services! As mentioned before, they offer discounted rates of up to 50% off to international students! Simply fill out our free Spain Immigration – Legal Support Form below for more information and assistance.


Do you need to open a bank account quickly and without a NIE/TIE? Take a look at our list of best banks in Spain for expats and International students to see how you can open an account without your NIE/TIE.


Aside from the standard documents that we we’ve covered earlier in this article, there are several other more advanced procedures that you might end up needing to apply for in the future! Take a look at our list below to read our step-by-step guides and start your applications smoothly!

Autorización de Regreso


A document that gives you permission to leave and return Spain while your papers are renewing.

Applying for a Autorización de Regreso.

Resident Status for Skilled Workers


A work permit that allows holder to obtain work in management positions at Spanish companies.

Applying for a Residence Permit.

Spanish Citizenship


Different routes that you can take to apply for Spanish citizenship and how to start the process.

Applying for Spanish citizenship.


You still have questions or need more specific advice? If would like us to connect you to our professional partners to get a free email consultation and a non-binding quote at discount, then simply fill out the form below! Use the comment section of the form to indicate your specific question(s) and we will either answer it with our best advice or we will forward it directly to our expert partners. As mentioned in or guide above we closely work with MTS as well as the immigration lawyers at Proyecto Oceano to provide you with the best information & support possible.

Please note: By sending the form below, you automatically agree that we can forward your data to MTS – Relocation & Consulting Services as well as Proyecto Océano so that they can review your case and provide you with further advice if needed!

Complete our free “Spain Immigration Legal Support” form (Click to open)

    First name / Nombre

    Last name / Apellido

    Your email / Correo electrónico

    Your phone number / Número de teléfono

    Your country of origin (nationality) / País de origen

    You are currently In possession of / Actualmente tienes

    Are you already in Spain? / Ya estás en España?

    How long have you been in Spain? Cúanto tiempo llevas en España?

    Planned duration of your stay in Spain (in months) / Duración estimada de tu estancia en España (en meses)

    What city in Spain will you move to or do you live? / A qué ciudad en España te vas a mudar o vives de momento?

    Preferred language to communicate? / En qué idioma prefieres comunicar?

    Which topics are you interested in?*

    Your comments & questions / Comentarios y preguntas

    He leído y acepto la Política de Privacidad / I have read and accept the the Privacy Statement!

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    5. FAQ



    Leah has been living in and exploring Madrid since 2013 when she moved to the city for a simple summer abroad. After falling in love with Madrid, she started the Citylife Blog in 2014 with the goal to share everything there is to know about her favourite place on earth! In her spare time you will find Leah at some of Madrid's many museums and cultural exhibitions.

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