Why people come to Granada, the Alhambra Palace

There are many things that people get right about Spain (siesta, football/soccer, ham) but there are two things they frequently get wrong. For instance, Spain was not part of the “Seven Countries Study,” which gave rise to the infamous Mediterranean Diet, so Spain cannot claim its health benefits, and relocating to Spain — for U.S. citizens at least — can be done, there’s just a process to follow. If Spain suddenly becomes an attractive option as an escape (or just a fresh perspective), here are the requirements for how to live in Spain for a term.

What’s the Schengen Area (and what are its rules)?

Schengen Area
Schengen Area 2023, licenced by Creative Commons

Spain is a member of the border-free Schengen Area, which means it’s one of 27 European countries that have abolished its borders to give free movement to people in the Area without subjecting them to border checks. This erases a lot of the hassle when entering a fellow Schengen country, so those weekend trips to most destinations around the European Union are easy from most major cities in Spain. Citizens who are not from a Schengen Area country can stay in Spain for up to 90 days for tourism or business during any 180-day period. What this means is that — after 90 days — you must wait an additional 90 days before applying to re-enter the Schengen Area. Many visitors to Spain mistakenly think that they can hop over to Morocco for a day or two and then reenter Spain for another three months. That is not the case but there are options, starting with…

Extending your stay past 3 months

Mountain biking near Quentar, Spain

Let’s say that Spain has enchanted you (and you wouldn’t be the first to fall prey to its charms) and you’d like to stay longer than three months as a tourist. First make sure your passport is valid during the time for which you are requesting an extension plus six months beyond the final date of your requested extension.

Next up you’ll need to prove that you have the economic means to support yourself during your stay. You’ll need to show that you have 10 percent of the gross minimum interprofessional salary (SMI), or €108 multiplied by the number of days by which you are extending your stay. So, if you want to stay another 90 days, you’ll have to multiply €108×90 (€9,720) and prove that you have those funds.

The next step is a bit open to interpretation since you must supply an accredited “exceptional reason” for extending your stay. What’s an exceptional reason? One law firm’s website offered these examples:

  • humanitarian circumstances
  • you require medical treatment
  • a family situation requires you to stay.

Ultimately your application for an extension will be subject to evaluation by the authorities. If you provide all the supporting documentation up front, your chances of getting an extension may be better.

Required documentation

Two U.S. passports

The supporting documentation continues with form EX-00 (Solicitud de autorización de estancia y prórrogas) and includes payment verification of form 790 Código 012. You must pay a fee to apply to extend your stay and you must show the evaluating authority proof that you’ve paid the fee, which can be done at most banks. The fee is currently calculated at a base rate of €17.49 and increased by €1.06 for each day of the requested extension.

Proof of travel insurance that’s valid for the entire period of the extension is also required.

A return ticket to your country of origin or proof of admission to another destination within the extension period rounds out the list of required documents to apply for a short-term extension. Here they are again in list form:

  • Passport
  • Accredited exceptional reason for extending your stay
  • Proof of funds to support yourself
  • Form EX-00
  • Verification of payment for form 790 Código 012
  • Travel insurance that covers the entire time of your requested extension
  • Return ticket or proof of admission to another destination

Applying for temporary residency

Ermita Santo Cristo near Granada, SpainTemporary residency counts as residing in Spain for a period longer than 90 days but less than five years. This application is a bit more involved, and the key takeaways are to prove that you have the economic means to support yourself, that you have health insurance, and that you don’t have a criminal record. Understanding that there are more ways than one to apply for residency, available information seems at best, incomplete, at worst, inconclusive, and so, according to those who have gone through the process before you, patience is key. One current resident quipped that, “If you don’t have to go back to the governing agency multiple times to complete a single process, something’s wrong.” He added that if you think you can wrap up the tasks in four visits, budget nine.

The official government website indicates that foreigners should first apply for the alien identity card (Tarjeta de Identidad de Extranjero/TIE), which involves filling out the form EX-17 and paying the (current) fee of €16.08 through form 790 Código 012. However, based on experience, you’ll likely need the original and a copy of your entire passport; proof of funds (which currently seems to be a minimum income of €2400 per month, according to the Ministry of the Exterior); health insurance; proof of lodging; a translated and notarized copy of your police record; and two passport-sized photos.

More questions than answers

The Sierra al Límite is one of the hardest 1-day races in Spain

It’s important to note that temporary residency has a few categories (residency that’s non lucrative; residency to unite families; and residency with the exception of work authorization). Two of the most highly sought-after options are the non-lucrative residency and the one featured in this post. This article took its cues from residency that’s non-lucrative. Given the vague information regarding temporary residency, a good option would be to find a competent lawyer in Spain who specializes in foreigner affairs. Or, if you have more time than money on your hands, another option would be to make an appointment at your nearest extranjería (Foreign Agency) and get all the information all at once.

And one more piece of advice: don’t be too quick to judge the process since you probably haven’t had to go through it in your own country (I hear it’s particularly bad in the U.S.). That said, Spain offers a rich quality of life that’s blissfully distant from turmoil elsewhere. That’s not to say that Spain is without its own problems — they still exist, it’s just that here there are still relatively balmy days full of naps, matches, and tapas.

Useful links for how to live in Spain for an extended period of time

Trámites de extranjería (immigration procedures)

Immigration homepage on the National Police homepage (in Spanish)