Certificados de Registro (green certificates) are permanent and do not need to be renewed

Update 29 May: I understand that thanks to the work by Karl McLaughlin (referred to below), the situation is now regularized and corrected in the Playa de las Américas comisaría. As of yesterday, police officers dealing with the public have been informed personally by the comisario that Certificados de Registro do not need to be renewed. Enquirers should now no longer find that they are told renewal is required, and indeed, will be correctly advised that they can be renewed upon request, but that this is entirely optional since the original certificates are permanent in their own right.

Original post 17 May:  As I’ve said previously, whilst it appeared that the southern comisaría in Playa de Las Américas was informing resident expats that their permanent Certificados de Registro had to be renewed every five years, they were not actually within their legal rights in doing this. I was only aware of one particular case, but reports were widespread that the police were telling people that they must renew certificates even if those certificates bore no expiry date. Now, it is clear: they have either been doing something they are not allowed to do, or their stance has been misunderstood by the public.

Regardless of where the confusion arose, the situation is now perfectly clear and simple: no-one has to renew their Certificado de Registro. The only legislative change in the last year or so has been for new applicants who, since March last year, have to prove they can afford to live in Spain and have cover for healthcare. Existing Certificados de Registro, however, are permanent once an EU-national holder has been in Spain for five years. Certificates bearing an expiry date will have been issued to applicants who had not been in Spain for five years at the point of application: these may be exchanged for ones that state they are permanent if the holder wishes, hence the police being prepared to issue renewals, but no-one is required to do so because EU nationals are automatically allowed permanent residence in another member state once they have legally resided there for five years.

I have been discussing the matter with investigative journalist Karl McLaughlin, who has recently been seeking formal clarification from the department of the Interior Ministry responsible for every extranjeria in Spain. Madrid confirms not only that there is no requirement to renew, but also that no instruction or communication in this respect has been sent to any comisaría in the country. Karl has now written an article for Island Connections (see pp2-3 of THIS edn), and tells me that the queries were addressed to the Ministry of the Interior, with the reply from the Comisaría General de Extranjería y Fronteras, i.e. the highest authority of the police stations that have Extranjería sections for issuing residence cards, registration certificates etc.

He has given me the original of the official response he has translated for the Island Connections article. It is HERE so if you would like Madrid’s confirmation in writing that you do not need to renew your Registro, please click to download and print it off to carry with your Registro. The only document that needs to be renewed every five years is a resident card of a non-EU national spouse of an EU-national resident, a status that very few British expats need to be concerned about. For the rest, whether your Registro says it is permanent or not, it does not need to be renewed.



  1. Hi, I have never given up, my old resident card, as I found it invaluable and did not have to carry my passport around. My question is, can I continue with this, or do I have to surrender it, for a residence Certificate ??

  2. Author

    No, I’m afraid you have to register and get a Certificado de Registro. The old residencia system was abolished some years ago, and I would think the card you have has now expired.

  3. Thank you, shall hang on to the old one, and take a photo copy and join the long line in Puerto, as have been informed I cannot make an appointment :(((

  4. Author

    They’ll want the original to be handed in, I’m afraid …

  5. Yes, i know, But I have lost it !!

  6. Author

    They will probably require you to fill out a denuncia to the effect …

  7. Janet,
    Thank you for your comments. A lot of behind the scenes work went into this investigation, which you have been kind enough to report on here. I am glad that, as seems, it has been sorted, but fingers crossed they don’t revert to their old ways. These things take time and, as we all know, ranting and raving often gets you nowhere, whereas discretion -backed by the power of the pen, or the threat thereof!- often does. The problem is we tend to believe what front-line officials tell us, full stop. Going above their heads with a discreet but formal request for policy clarification from a much higher authority looks to have helped. However, credit where credit is due and allow me to say that, as part of the investigation, the Comisario (the most senior police officer in Las Américas) in question was contacted ‘diplomatically’ very recently and that contact appears to have persuaded him to check the situation personally and push things along. I leave it up to you and your readers to work out what I mean.

  8. Author

    Thanks Karl … and once again, thank you for all the work you’ve put into this.

  9. thankyou so much for all your efforts into clearing this up as i nearly paid again a fee to the bank to get my green residencia renewed .but after the messages on here stopped me waisting money i could ill afford to loose. only question i have now is do i need any back up document to say i dont have to renew as i dont trust officials here as they change their minds like the wind

  10. Author

    Hi Julie and thank you. There is still the communiqué from Madrid that you could print off if you felt more secure with it, but I feel sure now that the Las Américas desk officers have got the right information. What is most important is that it comes from the chief of the police station itself, so there would be no issue about needing to check anything with Madrid anyway. They can’t change their minds because this is EU law, and confirmed at every level from the comisaría itself to the Spanish Ministerio de Interior. Even if there were a local change of mind, it would just be a case of reaffirming the same thing again, because this is EU law, which Spain has adopted by means of a royal decree.

  11. Hi Janet,
    I recently registered then lost my green registration de certificado. Reported to police and handed in report but have to start all over again with registering. Is this usual?

    Regards, Keirh

  12. Author

    yes, that’s the system, I’m afraid. Essentially you’re getting a replacement copy, but it requires a new “application”.

  13. It is true that they do not need to be renewed, but that does not in itself mean the residence is “permanent”.

    Is there any way to protect our residence should the UK decide to leave the EU? Something which is looking increasingly less unlikely.

  14. Author

    Legal residence in Spain is permanent in the sense that it is a continued entitlement for any national of an EU member state. If the UK were to leave the EU, that entitlement would lapse and any rights under an independent agreement between Spain and the UK would need to be negotiated. A further and likelier problem relates to rights to health care for pensioners.
    At present, pensioner healthcare is provided via the S1 through the Spanish state system with funds reclaimsed from the UK under EU regulations. If the UK were to leave the EU, that reciprocal arrangement would necessarily lapse and any pensioners currently getting free healthcare would need to make provision privately. The only residents for whom this would not be a problem would be those who first registered as legal residents in Spain before 24 April 2012, and who have remained legally resident since, and who have an annual income of under €100,000 and no other healthcare cover (see HERE).

  15. Janet. When you say “legally resident” do you mean resident with the legal right to be so, or do you mean that the authorities could try to unearth some legal reason (traffic fines or mistakes in old tax returns etc.) to terminate the residency?

  16. Author

    No, I mean resident in a fully compliant sense, with Certificado de Registro – the legal requirement to register with the police. You would perhaps be surprised as to quite how many people think that they’re “legally resident” because they have a NIE. The odd mistake here or there with a tax return wouldn’t undermine the legal right to reside of someone who’s complied with Spain’s requirement for foreigners living here to register with the police. Those who have done so are legally resident. I don’t claim knowledge for those with criminal records – that might alter the picture, but occasional administrative mistakes aren’t crimes.

  17. I lost my old NIE paper and have been told I have to apply for a new one – the thing is I’ve actually been here for 8 years and should be entitled to permanent residence, but I’ve been unable to clarify how to go about it as several different sources say you need the EX 11 or EX 18 form. Do I need to get a new NIE if I get permanent residence? Also very confused about the paperwork in getting a new NIE, why do I have to prove my finances and health insurance if I already pay social security and have a health card?

  18. Author

    This isn’t a matter of choice or entitlement, I’m afraid: it’s a legal requirement. The simple fact is that if you live here you are required by law to register with the police as resident in Spain. When you do so, you are given a green Certificado de Registro which proves you’re compliant. This will bear your NIE. Please read HERE for the details on registering with the police – a little while ago they introduced conditions. You might also find THIS Q&A page helpful. Either way, yes, you will need to fill in an application form and pay the tasa in the bank beforehand. You will need to collect the modelo to do this from the police, and they will give you the correct application form there, together with the list of things needed for your registration. Be reassured, though, that since you are already registered for social security purposes and paying contributions, you will have no problem. They will just require proof of this to allow you to register as a legal resident without being a burden on the state.

  19. We, my husband and myself have misplaced our white paper nie plus the green certificado de registro, what do we do to get them replaced. Thank you

  20. Author

    Return to the police for copies, it’s a repeat procedure of the original.

  21. Is a passport sized photo required to renew residentia? We are replacing lost copies of the old green A4, but do the new certificate have photo ID?

  22. Author

    If you’re replacing lost copies then I would question whether they’d need a photo at all. The card is not a photo card, and the original application with the original photo you supplied will still be in their files. But no, the photos for the Certificado de Registro are supposed to be the smaller size, though I’ve known passport sized ones be accepted. They’re not used, after all, just stapled to the application for the file.

  23. When I got mine last November I took photos but they didn’t ask for them. Of course a different officer may ask for photos.

  24. We took photos to Las Americas in January 2016 and they didn’t ask us for them either

  25. HI THERE. I have been resident in spain since 1999. I did not renew my residence card as i did not know i had to. since the bretex i need to know where i stand legally. I am a Scottish person with British passport. I went to the police station for extranqueros and was told there that as the law changed in 2005 the residency card was scrapped and now replaced with a green paper. the man there said he did not care if i had lived in spain since 1999 and said since the change in law i had the apply for again for a fresh application for a new residency permit being the green paper. I argued my case that i had lived in Spain all these years but he said it made no different and i had to go through a fresh process, and i had to either have a work contract or 10,000 euros in the bank. I also explained i had lost my origional residency card and he said made no difference. He also said there was no proof i was who i was and i could be making it up that i had my residency card. I said all he had to do was contact the police station where it was issued and check my fingerprint from my residence card and i even showed him my old passport. HE WAS NOT INTERESTED AND SAID IT MADE NO DIFFERENT. Please advise. I even have all my old medical papers and ss number .

  26. Author

    It has been very widely reported so it’s a shame it was something you missed. The old residencia system was indeed abolished years ago and replaced with a compulsory registration system. When you register, you are given a green certificate called a Certificado de Registro. Most people seem to continue to call them residencias, which leads to confusion. Please see HERE for an explanation. Please also see HERE for the position of Brits in Spain after the Brexit vote.

  27. Hi Janet
    What does it mean for us English people with the green Residencia card now that the UK has opted out of Europe.
    I am a homeowner that has lived here since Jan 2015, I have a husband and 2 children we got Residencia in August 2015 apart from my 5 month old, I am going to get this done next week. I am thinking that our Residencia is not going to be valid as permanent now, is this right? Do you know what we need to do if anything in order to protect ourselves as we live here full time.
    Many thanks

  28. Author

    Well, it’s a Registro of a national of an EU country, so it’s unclear. As I say HERE, everything will have to be negotiated.

  29. I have a permanent green residents certificate, it has no expiry date.
    I owned a property in Spain until Dec 2015
    If I returned to the UK for a while would my certificate still be still be valid?
    I didn’t hand it in as I don’t know how long I would be out of the country for and intend to return.

  30. Author

    You can leave Spain for visits and still be resident here, so yes, it would remain valid.

  31. I am just wondering what, once Article 50 is triggered with the EU, the procedure to apply for a non-EU citizen residence permit (the pink photo card) will be. Presumably Britons will have the same rights as other non-EU nationals who have been legally resident in Spain for over five years.

  32. Yes Richard, I guess that is right. Personally, I will look forward to getting my Residency Card back. Best most useful document I ever had, bar none.

  33. Author

    we cannot know yet, and in fact nothing will change once article 50 is triggered because it is only at the end of the 2-year negotiation period that the UK will actually have left the EU. As to the rights of 5-year or more residents, provided they can show legal registration and continuous residence, that should be a yes but this is all to be agreed between Spain and the UK.

  34. Thanks for the replies. Article 50 is now triggered which means we know the date we will start to be citizens if a non-EU country resident in Spain. Surely there has to be a mechanism for us to have our documentation in order in advance of that date.

  35. Author

    Please see HERE and HERE: we must wait for the outcome of the negotiations. As to having documentation in order, exactly the same regulations apply now as they have up to this date, and they will continue to apply until the end of the two year negotiation period. What they will be replaced with is currently not known, and cannot be known until the negotiations result in agreements regarding our status.

  36. I will be moving back to the UK but my daughter is staying to finish her studies here in Spain do I have to renounce my residency card ( been here for 19 years) if so how or does it get cancelled automatically once I register up in the UK ?

  37. Author

    Have a look at the question “I’m returning to live in the UK. Do I have to do anything here before I go?” in the RESIDENTS & NON-RESIDENTS section of THIS page where I’ve outlined what departing residents need to do.

  38. Hello Janet
    Just browsing through this section and came across the following, posted by yourself on 25 March 2015:

    “At present, pensioner healthcare is provided via the S1 through the Spanish state system with funds reclaimsed from the UK under EU regulations. If the UK were to leave the EU, that reciprocal arrangement would necessarily lapse and any pensioners currently getting free healthcare would need to make provision privately. The only residents for whom this would not be a problem would be those who first registered as legal residents in Spain before 24 April 2012, and who have remained legally resident since, and who have an annual income of under €100,000 and no other healthcare cover (see HERE).”

    The link doesn’t seem to be working. Have you removed it because of the uncertainties of Brexit or is it just a glitch? Very interested as I registered as resident in March 2012, just before the deadline you mentioned.

    Thanks for all the info you provide, this site is my first point of call for all manner of queries!

  39. Author

    Ah, apologies, it was internal site reorganization … that old link doesn’t work because it refers to a page that has since been renamed. It is still on the site, though, now THIS page. Have a look at the first question in the Healthcare section which is what the link was to, specifically, and there are further links in the answer.

  40. Hello Janet,
    Thanks for all the info above.
    Two weeks ago I tried to put a car in my name and went to Trafico.
    They persisted my nie (mine is from 2009) should be renewed. It should be less than five years old….
    I left empty handed and got a renewed nie. Now the car is my name.

  41. Author

    yes I’ve heard of them doing this … they cannot do it because it is illegal under Spanish and EU law to require foreigners to register more than once, and it is confirmed by the Ministerio de Interior that a Registro is permanent … but faced with an intransigent Tráfico clerk who refuses to process a request unless the applicant jumps through a hoop he does not need to and cannot be required to jump through, what is one to do?! For what it’s worth, some people have managed to do business at Tráfico without renewing Registros that are more than five years old so it does seem to be some clerks who are being obstructive, not all.

  42. Hello Janet
    I went to book a game of golf today and they asked to see my NIE even though I am on their system. When I produced it I was then told that it had expired (issued in 2004) and I needed to renew it every 5 years, I have never been told this before and even last year we had new wills made out which required us to produce our NIE and these were accepted at the Notary without question. Is it correct that we have to have them renewed? I have read your posts on this and it would appear to me that I don’t. The receptionist at the golf club said that after October 2017 everyone had to produce a valid NIE because, as a resident, I get cheaper rates and it is to prevent people not entitled to it from taking advantage. Anything I can print off to show that I don’t need to renew again?

  43. Author

    yes, I’ve heard this several times lately. Your NIE does not expire. They are simply wrong. What they seem to be confusing is, actually, not the NIE at all but the Registro, but that is permanent and does not need to be renewed, as the post above quite clearly explains. The Golf Club is completely wrong, and needs to inform its staff. Someone could perhaps print out the letter from the last link in the original post above and show it to them. it is a letter from the Spanish Interior Ministry confirming the situation.

  44. Hi Janet,

    I have been living on the Island for 10 years and have owned and worked my own business and have therefore always had the correct up-to-date paperwork.
    I had an updated NIE (green credit card sized) issued about 6 years ago when I changed my home address. Yesterday I went to Trafico to change name on the car documents I had just purchased second hand. Trafico would not register the change because they said my Residencia/NIE had expired and would need to be renewed. Seems someone has got it wrong but hey ho going to Las Americas police station today to see what I need to do.

  45. Author

    yes, Tráfico are being difficult over this. They have no right to demand it, and the Registro does not, categorically and confirmed by the national Government in Madrid, does not need to be renewed. But when faced with intransigence what can one do?

  46. Thanks Janet, UPDATE, went to Las Americas police station and explained that Trafico refused to change documents because green card had expired. The officer said yes we need to renew it after 5 years of residency to one which is permanent. We even showed her the extract which you pointed us to and she underlined the section which says that after 5 years of permanent residency then we can request a certificate that is annotated with “permanent” or words to that effect. looks like the police officer is related to the trafico clerk. even my gestor says that a green card NEVER expires.


  48. Author

    They do not have to be renewed, as explained completely clearly above, and as confirmed by letter from the Spanish Ministerior de Interior (Home Office) – the letter can be downloaded from the link in the final paragraph of the original post above.

    As I’ve said repeatedly, changing an A4 Registro for one that says permanent, or one that’s credit card sized, is entirely optional: anyone can ask for it but no-one can demand it (other than Tráfico who are on their own particular hobby horse with this one – the Santa Cruz directorate demands one no more than three years old, a requirement that is actually illegal but if anyone wants any car paperwork procedures carried out the hoops have to be jumped through).

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