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Updated 8 Oct 2010

By Olga Khobotko

Expats moving to Spain will need to obtain a town hall registration, known as an Empadronamiento, upon arrival.

This documentation is required in the legal procedures used by most formal Spanish institutions. Specifically, the Empadronamiento entitles expats to apply for free social security medical assistance for themselves and their family; it is useful if planning to import household goods and you'd like to apply for a duty-free customs clearance; it is needed if sending expat children to schools in Spain; and of, course it is a necessity when applying for a residence permit.

It is particularly important for expats to get an Empadronamiento if you don’t have a legal residence permit in Spain. Every several years the Spanish government launches a regularisation process, and normally expats can obtain their residence permit if they simply have the Empadronamiento stating you’ve lived here for at least two years and a valid passport.

Furthermore, aside from the sporadic regularisation processes, if you can prove you’ve lived in Spain for three years (by means of the same Empadronamiento certificate), you can apply for a formal residence permit.

Documents needed to obtain an Empadronamiento

Specific documents you must present at the Town hall (Padron de Habitantes Department) vary from one town hall to another, but generally they are:

  • Your valid passport or NIE (Numero de Identificación del Extranjero)

  • Property Title copy, or

  • Leasing contract to your name, or

  • One of the persons already registered at this address must come with you in person and fill in a request to include you in the list of people registered there. Or you can download this form (from your town hall’s website, (search for Tramites Municipales/Empadronamiento), have this person (already registered one) sign it, and bring a copy if his/her ID to the town hall. This works as well.

The process takes around 10 minutes and the certificate is issued on spot. Expats must remember that although for Spanish citizens this registration lasts until they ask for a deregistration or until they get inscribed into some other city’s town hall, for foreign citizens it is obligatory to renew/reconfirm this inscription every so often - usually every two years, although this regulation can sometimes change.