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Residency for Non EU Citizens in Spain:

For Non-EU citizens, the application procedure for getting Spanish residency is complex, and since the system is structured to limit the amount of successful applicants only genuine applications with the right supporting paperwork are accepted.  You are strongly advised to contact an English speaking lawyer, your country’s consulate in Barcelona or the Spanish consulate in your country of residence for more details.  Due to the complexity of the issue and space available, what we aim to provide here is simply a guideline to the procedure.

The first distinction to make is between a Residency Only permit and a Residency and Work permit. 

Residency Only Permits
This applies in the case of those who receive an income without working.  The most usual cases are as follows:
1) Receiving an income from property owned, eg renting accommodation
2) Pensioners
3) Investors with business interests in Spain.

These permits should be applied for in the person’s country of origin.

Residency and Work Permits
  The application procedure for applying for Residency and Work permits depends on whether you are going to be setting up your own business and self employed or (as in most cases) working for another company.  In the former case, all applications must be made to the Spanish Embassy in your country of origin. 

  If you are going to work for someone else’s company and are already in Spain you must hide that, since residency must be applied for from your country of origin.  It is your prospective employer who has to apply for the work permit on your behalf.  They must first contact the Department for   Foreigners for an appointment to present the application, which will usually be about 2 months later.  The employer will have to prove that they have difficulty finding a suitable candidate for the job in Spain, although if they want you to work for them this shouldn’t be a problem. Once the interview and application is done the results take about 2 – 3 months to process.  If the outcome is favourable, the next step is to go back to your country of origin to request a visa for entry into Spain to work.  With the offer of a job contract in hand this will almost certainly be approved. Once you have returned to Spain, you must register with Social Security and present this along with your signed work contract to apply for a Residency Card.

There are some exceptional circumstances under which one can apply for residency from Spain, despite being here “illegally” at the moment of application:

 1) “Arraigo”, or “having established roots here”.  You must be able to prove that you have been living in Spain for 3 years, that you have received a job offer, and that either a family member (parent or offspring) has been a legal resident in Spain for at least a year, or you receive a letter from the City Council stating that you are “adapted to Spanish culture”

2) Another circumstance is in the case of severe illness, and that if you were to return to your home country the medical care available would not give you the chance to survive the illness.

3) Applications from victims of domestic violence, and discrimination are also considered.

4) Also, after having lived in Barcelona with a valid residency permit for 1 year, you can apply for residency for a close family member: spouse, child under 18 or dependant parent. 

The first residence permit that will be issued is for 1 year, to carry out a specific job (eg, commercial assistant in a specific company).  At the end of this year, if you have been working and paying Social Security for at least half this time you will be issued with a temporary 2 year residence permit which also allows you to apply for work in another sector.  When these 2 years are up, the same criteria apply.  At the end of 5 years, you will then receive a permanent 5 year residence permit.  To renew this, you just need to request renewal without providing supporting social security documentation. 

Student Residency Permits
Non-EU students must have a Spanish Student Visa issued in their home country that allows them to enter Spain for the duration of their course, as well as a student card that is valid for the duration of their course.  This is arranged through the educational establishment.  Since visas cannot be issued in Spain, if you come to Spain with a tourist visa and decide to enrol in a course here, you must return to your home country to get another visa.

For more information
Oficina de Extranjero: (934 820 544, Av Marqués de la Argentera, 4)
This article was written in collaboration with the English speaking lawyer Javier Gutiérrez
(93 459 2752) For more info contact him directly.

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