Lately, there have been many queries about Residencia so as a follow up from last year’s article, “Residencia 101” that outlined various changes in law, this time around we are going to differentiate N.I.E., Residencia certificate and Residencia card.

In Spain there are two documents that foreigners can apply for upon arrival. One is an N.I.E. certificate (a white A4 document) and the other is Residencia (a green, credit card sized document). Normally N.I.E. is used for those who do not actually reside more than 3 months a year on the island and perhaps wish to purchase a house or car and in this way they are able to settle taxes, transfer of ownership, Stamp Duty etc. Even though the number assigned to the applicant never changes, the document itself now expires after 3 months and for certain procedures it may not be valid.

The second document is Residencia and can be applied for after the initial N.I.E. certificate expires as per law changes in 2013. If the applicant legally works in Spain or is able to prove that he provide for himself without the need of financial aid from the State, residencia can be obtained in the form of a small green card. Those of us who have lived in Spain for a while will remember the different forms this card has taken over the years. The first one I remember is a larger, burgundy card with photo ID, address and fingerprint. After that, our dreams came true and we were issued with a plastified, credit card sized document similar to Spanish D.N.I. cards, complete with photo and fingerprint. This card was fantastically sleek and fit perfectly in our wallets so nobody really understands why this was discarded and replaced with a green, A4 certificate that has not photo ID and to make matters worse, at the bottom of the document, it clearly states, “this document is not valid to certify the identity or nationality of the holder”! So why on earth are we made to cart them around much less pay for them?

Since this certificate does not include photo ID, we are forced to carry our passports about with us as we go about our day since Spanish law requires us to carry photo ID at all times even if we are not behind the wheel of a car but if you are anything like me that just isn’t an option. What with changes at the UK passport office, rising fees etc, misplacing my original passport or risking it being stolen is a big NO-NO. To get around that problem you can request certified copies of your passport and residencia at Notary; these notarized copies are valid as originals and in most cases are accepted by the authorities (maybe not a good idea to try to travel by plane on them though!) but at least this way, your originals can be stored safely at home.

After the A4 fiasco, the Spanish government downsized again; this document even though it is much handier, still does not have photo ID so the passport issue remains. We may curse the Spanish government for discarding an ideal system but in actual fact, the change came about due to British protesters in mainland Spain who refused to accept this “breach of their human rights” to be forced to carry ID when they aren’t made to do so in their country. The UK is in fact one of the only, if not the only European country that does not have a national identification document system in place and we all know how badly the idea went down when the government spoke about introducing it.

There are no immediate plans to return to wallet-sized cards with photo ID so if you still have the A4 certificate, you can apply for the smaller version, however, note that this means applying for residency again in accordance to new laws as duplicate documents are not issued. If you do not want to carry your original passport, you can obtain a legalized copy as previously mentioned.

About Sabrina L. Williams

Although I was born in the UK, I moved to the Canary Islands, Spain at a young age and I haven't looked back. The Canaries is a fantastic place to live, I mean you can do all types of outdoor activities practically all year round because of the great weather. Horses are my poison but the islands are also a superb spot for water sports so they do attract a lot of attention from people around the world. Anyway, enough about that. Back in 2011, I made one of the biggest, scariest yet best decisions I'd ever made and set-up my own business in the middle of a recession. I love what I do as no two days are the same, plus Spanish law keeps me on my toes as it is constantly changing (often without warning!) so there is always something new to learn. As I've branched out in the world of Administrative Consultancy, I decided to create a blog to discuss topics of interest to others in my industry and my clients, share tips and experiences, to see what new ideas people have for improving their businesses and the like so I hope you'll find the time to join me on this venture...

Leave a Comment