Anyone from an EU country has freedom of movement but nationals of non-EU member states (known as “third countries”) coming to Spain for up to three months may do so without a visa but beyond that they will need a visa that has to be applied for before arrival. There’s a range of visas, to permit stays longer than 90 days, to allow entry in order to register as a foreigner living in Spain, or to work: please see HERE for further information. If you’re coming to register as a resident, see the section below headed Resident Registration; if you’re a longer-stay visitor, please see the section below headed Swallows.

Whether staying or coming just for a short visit, however, any foreign national needs one particular document in order to conduct any official business here, whether opening a bank account, buying a property, etc.: the NIE.


The basic document anyone needs here for any dealings is a NIE. This stands for Numero de Identidad de Extranjeros, and it is required because Spain operates an Identity Card system. As such, a NIE is the ID number for foreigners (“extranjeros”) conducting official procedures in the country. The equivalent for Spanish nationals is a DNI – a documento nacional de identidad (national identity document).

Resident Registration 

In addition to the NIE anyone coming to live in Tenerife must register with the National Police as a resident foreigner within three months of arrival. If they are EU nationals, they are given a green registration certificate, a “Certificado de Registro”, but as a result of the UK leaving the EU, British citizens must now register as third-country nationals. Instead of the Registro they are given a third-country nationals’ card, the TIE – Tarjeta de Identidad de Extranjeros (Foreigners’ ID card).

The system and criteria for EU nationals registering their residence in Spain are HERE, but the legislation setting the rules which now apply to British nationals is HERE and I’ve outlined the detail below. Decision-making power over registrations is explicitly granted to the chief of an extranjería, so there will be some variance throughout Spain. This means it is vital for someone to check information in the area in which they are going to live because whatever is reported to be happening in Barcelona, for example, or even Gran Canaria which is in a different province, may not be in line with what is happening in the province of Santa Cruz de Tenerife, comprising Tenerife, La Gomera, La Palma and El Hierro. Extranjería decisions can be appealed to whichever is the relevant Government/sub delegation.   

The first TIE issued will be valid for five years, and will have to be renewed at the end of that period. Subsequent TIEs, or those issued to replace permanent Registros, will be valid for ten years. All TIEs will have to be renewed at the end of their period of validity but this is effectively an automatic process that is standard for all photo-bearing documents; it applies equally, for example, to driving licences. Those who have already registered and have green Registros do not have to transfer to the new TIE, and their existing certificates will remain valid indefinitely, but those who do wish to exchange their green paper for a plastic card which can, moreover, be used for ID purposes, can do so at any time.

Registrations for the TIE require an appointment which is made online HERE. The application procedure varies depending on whether the registration is new, or a transfer of a Registro of under 5 years (called temporary), or one of over 5 years (called permanent). New applications are made first at the main extranjería in Santa Cruz, with the card being collected from an issuing police station – new applicants need a visa for purposes of residence before coming here to make their application. Those who are exchanging a Registro will just be able to apply to and collect from an issuing police station local to them. In all cases a modelo will need to be prepaid at the bank. These are the procedures:

Those with Registros which are temporary/under 5 years:

  • EX 23 (see below)
  • valid and current passport (or proof of reapplication for expired passports)
  • modelo 790 (code 012) (see below)
  • 2 photos (ID card size – ie smaller than passport size).
  • up-to-date empadronamiento even if address is unchanged since former registration
  • The TIE will be a temporary one valid for 5 years and will say Temporal; it will be automatically renewed for a permanent one at the end of this period.

Those with Registros over 5 years but not bearing the word permanente:

  • confirmation of the duration of residence (this is not defined but should be a simple confirmation of the date of issue of the Registro),
  • EX23
  • valid and current passport (or proof of reapplication for expired passports)
  • modelo 790 (code 012)
  • 2 photos (ID card size – ie smaller than passport size).
  • up-to-date empadronamiento even if address is unchanged since former registration
  • The TIE issued will be a permanent one valid for 10 years and will say Permanente. It will be automatically renewed at the end of this period.

Those with Registros bearing the word permanente:

  • EX23
  • valid and current passport (or proof of reapplication for expired passports)
  • modelo 790 (code 012)
  • 2 photos (small size).
  • up-to-date empadronamiento even if address is unchanged since former registration
  • The TIE issued will be a permanent one valid for 10 years and will say ‘Permanente’. It will be automatically renewed at the end of this period.

Those applying for the TIE with no Registro (please note that you need a visa to be here to apply for a TIE to live here) :

  • EX20 (see below)
  • passport
  • legally admissible documentation accrediting start of residence in Spain under qualifying criteria as per Article 3 of Order PRE/1490/2012. This means:
    • employment contract or autonomo alta
    • health insurance for non-workers – any policy must cover pre-existing conditions or it won’t be acceptable for registration, the FCDO has confirmed
    • up-to-date empadronamiento
    • pensioners’ document from own country showing entitlement to cover – this was the S1 prior to 31 December 2020
    • proof of sufficient resources – this is defined as 400% minimum wage for main applicant plus 100% minimum wage per dependant. This works out very roughly at €30,000 for first applicant, €7,500 per dependant.
    • in some circumstances (undefined) extranjerías may request a criminal record check (although not applied previously to British citizens registering as EU member country nationals, it is accepted in the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement signed off by the UK and EU that these can be demanded).
  • Once the application is received, a receipt will be issued immediately to prove its submission and this document will be sufficient to grant legal stay status until the TIE is issued, which will be within three months. It will be collected from an issuing police station. Any applicants failing to meet the criteria will be advised and have ten working days to correct; if they fail to do so they will be deemed to have withdrawn their application. It is important to note that although registration is compulsory, it is not an automatic entitlement – in other words, someone can be refused permission to live in Spain if they cannot fulfil the criteria applied to them. On collection of the TIE from the issuing police station, applicants will need
    • EX23
    • passport
    • proof of payment of the modelo 790
    • 2 photos
  • The TIE issued will be a temporary one valid for 5 years and will say Temporal; it will be automatically renewed for a permanent one at the end of this period.

 **EX23 and EX20 application forms are HERE, modelo 790 HERE**


Those who consider themselves part-time residents are often called swallows. These are frequently British nationals, and following Brexit, as non-EU/third-country nationals, any Brits coming to live here for more than three months must register with the police as living in Spain. They must also deregister (request a “baja” of their registration) when they leave Spain though their registration will lapse anyway if they don’t: Spanish law (articulo 162.2e of Real Decreto 557/2011) means temporary residents lose their residence status after six months in a year while those with permanencia can leave Spain for up to five years before losing theirs (this is because of rights guaranteed in Article 15.3 of the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement)

In a nutshell:

  • all non-EU/third-country non-residents are restricted by Schengen Area rules to 90 days visa-free travel in any 180 day period. For more details on the 90/180 limit, please see the Schengen Calculator HERE;
  • swallows have always wanted to keep their visits to under six months for tax reasons – over six months they automatically become tax resident in Spain (HERE and HERE are fuller explanations from tax specialists). Most only wanted to visit for four or five months at a time anyway, and post-Brexit will need to register and deregister with the police or get a visa to do this, see HERE.
  • anyone who is caught staying longer than 90 days without either registering with the police or having a valid visa could be removed from Spain or even be banned from returning    

Certificado no-residente (Non-resident certificate)

As part of what are now standard tax and other rules throughout the EU, banks require proof that their clients with resident accounts are actually resident, and equally that their clients with non-resident accounts are actually not resident in Spain. For residents, as explained above, this proof comes in the form of a Certificado de Registro: for non-residents, the proof comes in the form of a Certificado No-Residente.

Those with non-resident bank accounts must supply a Certificado No-Residente to avoid embargoes being placed on their account. The certificates need to be submitted every year or so, and many banks do this automatically from an authorization given to them when the account is first opened. They charge around €25 per certificate (on joint accounts this is therefore doubled). Those with non-resident bank accounts need to check with their bank that this is being done automatically, and if not, they should get a certificate themselves and hand it in to the bank.

The Certificado No-Residente serves other purposes, however, and one of the most important ones is proof of non-residence in Spain for driving purposes. Anyone can own a car here, but fines can be issued in some circumstances for residents who have not exchanged their UK licences for Spanish ones (this depends on the type of UK licence held, and there is an explanation in the Roads & Driving section of the Resources page HERE); the police are as capable as anyone else, too, of making mistakes, and fines can be issued in error by an officer who misunderstands the rule. Non-residents, however, do not have to exchange their driving licences under any circumstances, and a Certificado No-Residente is proof for the police that an official declaration of non-residence has been made – and so no fine will be issued for what the police might otherwise consider a licence that should have been exchanged.


Another document that you will need from time to time is a Certificado de Empadronamiento. This is issued by a local ayuntamiento (Canarian local authority, so a council/Town Hall) and verifies that you are resident at a particular address. As such, when you first get one, you will need to provide proof of where you live, and this is usually an Escritura or rental contract, but councils can sometimes be more flexible where neither document can be produced. Certificates are valid for three months.

When the certificate is first issued the applicant is registered on the “padrón”, which is a council register of residents. The more names an ayuntamiento has on its padrón, the greater its funding, so it is in everyone’s interests for residents to be registered. Once on the padrón, too, you can apply to be added to the census, which is the electoral register, and then be able to vote in local elections.

Spanish law requires all residents to register at the ayuntamiento in the municipality in which they spend most time each calendar year. This means that anyone who lives here for more than six months a year is legally obliged to register on their council’s padrón. This registration must also be renewed – there are different periods in the different municipalities for EU and non-EU residents so it is important to check locally which will be applicable in any given case. Just to be clear, although some councils charge a small amount for the actual certificate, registration on the padrón is free in every case.

Those who do not live here for more than six months of the year are not obligated to register but most councils will inscribe them upon request should they need an empadronamiento for any purpose. Please also see HERE.

Empadronamiento para viajar: this is a version of the Certificado de Empadronamiento supplied by councils to provide legal residents with the Government-subsidized travel discount. It is called various names, but most commonly “a viaje”. To enjoy the discount one needs to have a Certificado de Registro in addition to this “viaje” … because it is only legal residents who are entitled to the discount, and as said above, the only document that proves legal residence is the Certificado de Registro. Following the end of the Brexit Transition Period, this is currently something of a postcode lottery for British nationals: please see HERE.