Think Ahead

Get the ‘official resident’ card and register on the ‘padrón’ now: think ahead to the future

As a British national living in Spain you could be at risk as Britain leaves the EU if you have not already officially registered as a resident and also on the town hall census (‘padrón’). See more details below.

  1. Registering as an official resident with the Spanish authorities after 31st January 2020. 

If you are a British national already living in Spain and it is your main home, British Government advice is to make sure you are recorded as an official resident in Spain. This is the well-known credit-card-sized green EU-citizen residency certificate (or A4 sheet) issued by the Spanish government following EU law and which most British nationals resident in Spain now have.

If you have not already done this, doing so now will ensure your residency is officially recorded up to the end of the transition period, (31st December 2020), and you are in the best position to have your rights protected indefinitely afterwards under old EU rules. If you have been here more than three months and intend to stay you need to register as soon as possible. From 6th July 2020 new applicants from the UK registering their residency will not get green documentation but a photo ID card instead called a TIE and which is equally valid.

You can read more about this process by clicking here. (See also our Brexit update page for extra information).

Note: this is not the same as the town hall census record ‘padrón’. The ‘padrón’ (see below) is an internal town hall document that helps with access to some local services, especially social care, and is applied for separately at your local town hall. It is very important to be on the ‘padrón’ as well, but for the purposes of proving you have been resident in Spain in the event of Brexit, the green card or A4 sheet certificate (or TIE photo card dated as resident before 31st December 2020) is likely to be essential.

Green documentation if you already have it (A4 sheet or small card) is still valid after 31st December 2020 to prove your rights and you are not obliged to swap to a TIE at all, but you can do so if you wish.

As a UK national, having a NIE foreigner identification number alone (often presented on a white piece of paper) does not prove your legal residency rights. Only a green A4 certificate or green credit-card-sized paper (or a photo ID TIE card) do. You may be at risk of losing acquired EU rights if you just rely on having a NIE number.


2. Getting on the padrón (local census) is key to accessing social services in the future and an essential step towards voting in local elections

The padrón is the local municipal census register in each council area in Spain. It is a legal requirement if you are resident in Spain to be registered on it.

Research shows that one of the most common reasons British nationals living in Spain become vulnerable in older age is because they have not registered on the ‘padrón’ soon enough. There are many free or subsidised services that British residents are entitled to if they live in Spain but often the door is closed if they are not on this municipal census.

Being on the ‘padrón’ (local census register) is your key to accessing most publically funded social care services in Spain and a variety of other services. In some cases you need to have been registered on this municipal register for a minimum period of time so it is essential to register as soon as you become resident in Spain, keep it updated if you move and above all do not wait to register for when things start to go wrong.

Registering on the ‘padrón’ at the local town hall is easy and free, and is recommended for anyone staying over three months, even if you are not sure how long you will stay.

Data protection laws prevent this information being shared and most importantly it does not affect your tax resident status (i.e. registering on the padron is NOT the same as saying you are resident to pay tax in Spain).

You do not legally have to show you are an officially registered Spanish resident (the green certificate/card issued usually by police stations to British nationals, or the TIE card: see above) in order to register on this municipal padrón, although some towns halls may insist on it. You can normally just use your passport.

However increasingly to ask for most Spanish statutory services as a British national you are required to show both your municipal local ‘padrón’ registration and the green certificate or TIE card saying you are officially resident in Spain.

For more details on how to register for the ‘padrón’, and when to reconfirm your padrón entry if you already have one, see here

Being on the ‘padrón’ also helps your local community as it is this record of how many people live in a town that the national government uses to calculate how much money to give to local town halls for the services. Registering on the padrón (municipal census) means your local town or village gets more money. It also entitles you to vote in local municipal elections and help choose the council, (once you are on the ‘padrón’ ask for the separate form to be added to the municipal electoral roll). 

In summary, if you are not on the ‘padrón’ and are resident in Spain you are potentially at risk and the British Consulate in Spain and voluntary organisations working with British nationals in old age strongly urge people to register as soon as possible when they move to Spain, whatever their circumstances. Help in the future is much more limited if you have not registered on the local municipal ‘padrón’.

You should always inform the town hall if you change address.

Useful vocabulary when applying to be on the local council’s ‘padrón’

El padrón = The municipal census register  

Certificado de Empadronamiento = The document you receive to say you have registered

Empadronarse (verb) = To put  yourself on the register

Registro público or Departamento de Estadísticas or Atención Ciudadanía = names of three common departments in town halls where you go to ’empadronarse’