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. 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.

  2. Author

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

  3. 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).

  4. 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

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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?

  8. 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.


  10. 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).

  11. We have a property here in Puerto de la Cruz and visit it frequently. We never stay here for more than 45 days in any one trip but some years spend more than 183 days in total on the island. Some years less than 183 days. We have NIEs but nothing else. Are we just treated as holiday makers or should we be registered as resident? Thanks for your help you provide a brilliant service.

  12. Author

    You cannot register as resident if you come for a max of a 6 weeks or so a time and aren’t living here! After Brexit, you will be, as you are now, non-resident visitors but then will be subject to the rules imposed on third-country nationals after the UK has left the EU. This will mean you won’t be able to come for more than 183 days a year in future because you will be restricted to 90 days in any 180 day period.

  13. Author

    I’ve closed this post to comments because the Registro is an EU document that is replaced by the TIE – the third-country nationals’ ID card – after the UK leaves the EU, see HERE.

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