After six years of living abroad I am finally getting permanent residency in Spain! This week Javi and I went to the Oficina de Extranjería (immigration/foreigner office) in Cádiz to submit my paperwork. I’ve been able to live and work in Spain (legally) for the last five years thanks to our civil union, but since my residency card expires this year it’s time to apply for permanent residency or choose to become a Spanish citizen.
What’s the difference between Spanish residency vs. Spanish citizenship?
A couple of people have asked me why I’m not applying for Spanish citizenship. As far as I can tell, there isn’t a huge advantage to getting Spanish citizenship versus permanent residency. In order to become a Spanish citizen I must renounce my American citizenship, which is not something I want to do. Plus, as a legal resident in Spain I get most of the same benefits as Spanish citizens—the main difference is that I cannot vote in European elections.
How to get both a work permit and residency in Spain
Javi and I registered our civil union (pareja de hecho) in 2012 in Cádiz. It was a last resort because I needed a work permit like yesterday for a position I was supposed to start the following month. Both mine and Javi’s parents though we were crazy at the time because at that point we had been together for less than a year…but pareja de hecho was the only way I could get a work permit in time to start my new job. I guess it worked out because three years later we got married! 😉
There are a couple of ways Americans can get a work permit and temporary residency in Spain. Keep in mind the duration of your work permit and residency can vary depending on the method you use to get it—for example pareja de hecho lasts five years but a company work visa may only last for the duration of the job you’re hired for.
- You fit the bill for any jobs listed in the Catálogo de Ocupaciones de Dificil Cobertura (which basically means positions that are hard to fill)—in this case the government can help fast-track processing your work visa.
- A company requests a work visa on your behalf—while you wait at home in the U.S. for six or more months for all the paperwork to get approved and processed.
- You’re in a relationship with a Spaniard and you make it “official” by doing pareja de hecho.
- You marry a Spaniard.
NOTE: It’s important to know that once you’ve lived in Spain legally for five years you can apply for permanent residency. Personally, I think pareja de hecho is the easiest way to go about it. Since your pareja de hecho status lasts five years you can just apply for permanent residency when it expires (which is what I’m doing)!
Part 1: Applying for permanent residency in Spain
Because I’m getting citizenship through my marriage to a Spaniard I need to apply for a Tarjeta de residencia permanente de familiar de ciudadano de la Unión Europea or “permanent residency card by relations to a citizen of the European Union.” According to the website, the documents and items required for the application are:
- Valid passport – and if it’s expired a copy of the its renewal application
- Marriage certificate or pareja de hecho certificate
- 3 recent passport sized photos (color)
- Form “Modelo 790”: the “tasa” or fee form proving I paid 10.71 EUR to process my application
But when we actually showed up to submit my forms this is what I needed:
- Copy of every page of my passport
- Copy of my current NIE (familiar)—NIE means número de identidad de extranjero – i.e. foreigner ID number
- Copy of our marriage certificate
- Form “EX-19”: Solicitud de tarjeta de residencia de familiar de ciudadano de la UE
If you’ve ever dealt with Spanish bureaucracy you’ll know that getting your papers processed has a lot to do with luck. When we first went to the extranjeria office the funcionario (government official) we spoke to told us we needed one thing, and then we went back today the funcionario who “helped” us said we needed another (like a copy of every page of my passport…what?).
You may come across a funcionario who tries to make you supply documents that they can access online like “vida laboral” or proof that you’re financially stable—technically they can’t request this type of paperwork because they’re able to access it online (starting October 2016). In any case, financial stability isn’t a requirement when you’re applying for Tarjeta de residencia permanente de familiar de ciudadano de la Unión Europea. My husband studied law and is a funcionario himself so when they tried to tell me I needed some additional documents he was able to shut them down since he knew exactly what was required and what they could access online. After the encounter he told me the public administration in Spain is still adjusting to the new “electronic system” so this is why they try to request physical documents even though it’s not always necessary or required. Honestly I think we just got a tonta who didn’t actually know what documents I needed, sigh.
My advice is to bring everything they could possibly ask for, including the original documents as well (today they checked my original passport as well as the copy).
Part 2: Getting your residency card
Once the funcionario concluded we had all the correct paperwork she gave me a stamped copy of my application along with an application ID number. Apparently within the next three months we’ll get a text message from the extranjeria office confirming that my paperwork has been processed. Then I’ll need to print my approved application from the SEDE website and go to the comisario (police station in Puerto Real) with 3 passport photos. They said I don’t need to pay any fees but we’ll see about that (lol). I’ll update this post once I’ve gone through the second part of the process. Stay tuned!