Residency In Spain - A Comprehensive Overview

Residency in Spain for US Citizens: A Comprehensive Overview

Published:   |  Updated:   |  Posted in: Residency
Residency in Spain for US Citizens: A Comprehensive Overview

Where do you see yourself as a US citizen in the next ten years? If your answer is Spain, this is the right article for you. Spain has become a popular “expat haven” for Americans in the 21st century. Hosting a little less than 40,000 expats, Spain is the second-most popular country for US citizens looking to retire.

Spain is much more than the world’s biggest olive oil producer and home to the oldest restaurant in human history; this southern European country also has an exhilarating past, diverse culture, delicious cuisine, breathtaking landscapes, and nightlife that never disappoints.

But seeking Spanish citizenship is a long, drawn-out process requiring you to take baby steps and progress patiently. It all starts with showing your loyalty to the country and seeking residency in Spain. Let’s see how to become a resident in Spain as a US national.

Why Seek Residency in Spain? 5 Benefits of Living in Spain

Many US citizens are seeking permanent and even temporary residency in Spain nowadays. In fact, the number of American expats in la Piel de Toro grew by 13% between 2019 and 2021. “What’s the charm,” you may ask. Here are some reasons immigration to Spain from the US has risen recently:

  • Affordability: Living in Spanish cities is generally 123% cheaper than living in America. You can rent a house very cheaply and enjoy easily affordable groceries.
  • Access: Getting Spanish residency paves your way to becoming a citizen one day, boosting your chances to travel to all Schengen countries without a visa.
  • Contentment: After relocating to Spain, you’ll enjoy a high quality of life thanks to the country’s amazing healthcare system, healthy environment, and low crime rate.
  • Culture: The Iberian Peninsula is teeming with exploration-ready tourist attractions. Hopefully, the siesta culture will give you a 37½-hour workday in 2025.

Next, we’ll look into the conditions for seeking residency in Spain from America and the different ways you can apply for Spanish residency.

How do you apply for permanent residency in Spain?

Let’s move to the question that comes to every US citizen’s mind: What are the requirements for US citizens to obtain Spanish residency? It’s pretty simple, actually; you have to fulfill the following conditions, and then you can easily enjoy a lot of the benefits enjoyed by Spanish citizens:

  • Duration: It’s mandatory to live in Spain for five years before you can become eligible for residency (make it ten years for naturalization). You will find similar residency requirements in other EU nations as well.
  • Finance: All prospective residents must have a reliable income stream, such as a salary from an employee or some other means to support themselves.
  • Insurance: You need health insurance to apply for residency in Spain; it can be public or private, but it’s mandatory.

Just make sure you have documentary evidence of all the conditions mentioned above. Don’t forget to obtain a registration certificate from a local estación de policía after arriving in Spain.

Documents Required for Spanish Residency

Now, let’s dive deep into the documents you must submit when seeking permanent residency in Spain. The following section will explore the documentary requirements for specific residency types. In general, you must submit the following documents:

  • Personal: It includes at least three photos and a valid passport.
  • Criminal: Submit your criminal record going back to five years.
  • Financial: It can be paychecks or bank statements proving you have a steady income.
  • Residential: Show your rental contract, utility bills, and other docs to prove that you’ve been living in Spain for many years.

It would help if you got your US-issued English-language documents translated into el lenguaje español to get the residency process moving. Hire a sworn translator to rewrite the paperwork in the native lingo.

9 Ways for Americans to Get Residency in Spain

All you have to do is submit the right paperwork, and that’s when you’ll get a permanent residency card issued by the External Affairs Ministry to live in the beautiful country of Spain. There are actually nine different ways for US citizens to obtain Spanish residency. We will provide some details for each of these methods so you can make an informed decision about your immigration plans:

PR Visa

Let’s start with the most normal way for US citizens to get Spanish residency. Living in Spain for five uninterrupted years makes you eligible for permanent residency. Even though this visa will expire in another five years, it can serve as the gateway to getting a Spanish passport, as you would’ve then spent a decade living in Spain. It requires these extra documents:

  • Form EX11 (implying long-term residence)
  • A modest fee of 80 euros

Non-Lucrative Visa

If you don’t want to work but live in Spain, a non-lucrative visa would be perfect. It’s simply the go-to visa for US expats looking to retire in Spain and possess the means to support themselves. While valid for just one year in the beginning, it lets foreign retirees stay in Spain for two years after renewal. It means you have to keep renewing it every two years. Requirements include:

  • Enough money to afford the necessities of life (29,000 euros annually, in general)
  • Immaculate medical certificates showing that you are of sound mind
  • Private health insurance (the public one isn’t allowed)

Golden (Investor) Visa

If you are a US entrepreneur who wants to invest in Spain, the government shows its gratitude by letting you apply for residency. Here’s how it works: You invest a significant amount in Spain and get a simple 1-year visa, called the golden/investor visa, that allows you to get a residence permit (valid for two years). You can get this golden visa by investing:

  • €500,000 in real estate
  • €1 million in company shares
  • €2 million in treasury bonds

Work Visa

Many US citizens work in Spain, and you could join them soon. If a company based in Spain pays you a monthly salary of €1,260, you can legally get a work visa to live there. Don’t fret; your employer will apply for this visa on your behalf. First issued for just one year, this visa can later be renewed for a 2-year period. That’s how you can pave the way to eventually get residency in Spain.

Student Visa

Many students go to Spain to get a better education; right before the pandemic hit, 19,700+ US students were enrolled in different Spanish universities. You, too, can head to Spain on a student visa by showing 10,000 euros in your bank account. You are allowed to work 20 hours a week, which means that you will only be eligible for a PR visa after five years (only half of it will count). You must have an offer letter from an accredited Spanish university to apply for the different types of student visas.

Job Search Visa

After completing your degree, you can still stay in Spain and look for work by using a job search visa. The government will give you a 12-month, non-renewable visa to search for a suitable job in the country. Here’s what they require of you:

  • You have completed your degree (apply for this visa no less than 90 days after finishing the said degree)
  • You can support yourself financially for a year

Family Reunification

If you have relatives living in Spain, then you can apply for residency to reunite with them. It applies to US citizens living in a Spanish city with spouses, underage kids, or parents aged 65+. Then, you’ll apply for a family reunion visa and eventually become a citizen in Spain if everything goes smoothly. Here are the extra documents you must provide:

  • Proof that your relative who’s already living in Spain is financially dependent on you
  • Share translated, legalized copies of relevant birth certificates, marriage certificates, adoption papers, or other forms of paperwork

Arraigo Procedure

If nothing else works and you keep living in Spain for three years as an irregular, try the Arraigo (“Roots”) process to get residency. Just make sure you are registered in the city hall for that duration and get a file called Empadronado to avoid deportation. This procedure paves the way for foreigners to gain proper residency one day. There are three types of Arraigo to consider:

  • Labor: If you’ve been working illegally for six months
  • Social: If you registered yourself in the city hall
  • Familiar: If you have family living in Spain


Check out these alternatives to obtain Spanish residency and see if they apply to you:

  • Research Residency: If you’re engaged in research activities, then this type of residency lets you stay in Spain for three years along with your relatives. It’s a great option for US academics.
  • Digital Nomad Visa: Many countries offer this visa type for remote workers who wish to relocate from their homelands. Freelancers from the US can live in Spain for three years on this visa.

Making Sense of the Proposed ETIAS

Americans planning a trip to Spain next year should know about the proposed ETIAS that will take into effect in spring 2025. Simply put, the “European Travel Information and Authorization System” – similar to America’s very own ESTA – is a security check for visitors to Europe from visa-exempt states, such as the US. Proposed in 2016, this system seeks to avert the spread of epidemics in Europe.

So, people moving to Spain from the US will go through this system before getting the go-ahead to enter the country. Check out the ETIAS application.

No need to worry; ETIAS isn’t effective in 2024. However, 30 European countries (including all Schengen states) will implement this system next year. Here are some nitty-gritty details about ETIAS:

  • Your passport needs to be valid for the next three months for ETIAS
  • Once authorized, you won’t have to reapply for ETIAS for three years
  • ETIAS approval means you can then travel to that country for up to 90 days

Final Thoughts

Here is a very brief overview of moving to Spain from the US and seeking permanent residency there. In short, stay in the country for five years, generate a steady income stream, and get health insurance. It is essential to have documents proving you live in Spain and have the means to support yourself. Getting residency in Spain is way easier than you imagine, especially if you have translated the paperwork.

Accurate translation is the bedrock of global communication, so hire sworn translators to remove all linguistic barriers from them. Just contact TranslateSwift experts for top-notch document translation services.

Before booking the next flight to Barcelona, turn your documents from English to Spanish to speed up the residency process. Legally accurate and culturally appropriate – order translations now!

FAQs – Spanish Residency for US Citizens

Where can I find work after moving to Spain?

The booming economy of Spain gives you ample work opportunities in these sectors: healthcare, digital content creation, renewable energy, education & language instruction, and other niches.

Can US citizens retire in Spain one day?

Good news for you – Spain, like many other EU nations, is a great place for American expats to retire. An annual income of €29,000 means you’re eligible to retire in Spain.

Where do most US immigrants reside in Spain?

Madrid has a vibrant community of US expatriates –over 11,500 – who sought residency in Spain just like you would one day. The city of Malaga comes in a close second.

How long can Americans stay in Spain without a visa?

Lucky for you, Spain is a party to the Schengen Agreement, which means US citizens can visit Spain for 90 days without a visa for business purposes and tourism.

Can I move to Spain with my pet animal?

Spain is a pet-friendly country, and your adopted animals will find it a loving home. You have to microchip your pets, obtain the necessary health certificates, and stay current on all vaccines.