Tips For Getting Settled In Spain – Resident Card, Bank, School, Phone

So you’ve successfully navigated your way through the paperwork of obtaining a Spanish Resident Visa.  You’ve got your brand-spanking new visa affixed to your passport.  Now what?  You have 90 days to officially register in Spain and obtain your resident card (NIE – Numero de Identidad de Extranjeros), so the clock starts the moment you get your visa. I hate to break it to you, but once you’ve arrived in Spain, there’s more paperwork and legwork required.  It’s not hard, but I’ll lay out the steps you need to follow in order to make sure you’re all legal.  We have a getting settled checklist which we followed, but there is more in-depth information provided on a few of the steps below.

Tips for obtaining your Address, Resident Card, Bank, School, Phone

1.  Address
Gotta have one!  Finding a great place to live could be it’s own post.  Hell…it could be it’s own book!  The thing to remember is that you must have a contract.  This contract will be proof to the powers that be that you have a place to live.  If you have kids, and if you’ve scouted out a preferred school, you’ll probably want to pick a place that’s close to the school.  More about this in Step 3.

2.  Bank Account
If you are moving to Spain from a non-EU country, you’ll want to get a local bank account, as most recurring payments are set up as direct debits to your bank account.  If you’re coming from the U.S. or Canada, you will most likely not find your bank in Spain.  From what we’ve gathered, Spanish banking is a bit non-standard.  We banked with Bank of America in the U.S., but they have no presence in Spain, so you’ll probably need to start from scratch.

When setting up a bank account, you’ll need to provide your address, and your NIE/Passport number, as well as a nominal amount of Euro-denominated currency.  (Your NIE number will be on your official paperwork received with your visa, you will go through the process of obtaining your resident care later).  Our understanding is that there is no free checking account unless you’re automatically depositing a certain amount of money each month (like what a retiree would do).  This amount varies per bank, and by what type of account you set up, but our monthly minimum was 700€.  If you do not set up an “auto” account, make sure you’re comfortable with the monthly fees.

Centro Commercial Sexitano Almuñécar, Spain
Centro Commercial Sexitano Almuñécar, Spain

The other thing to think about, there are different ATM networks in Spain.  If you draw money from an ATM network, that you do not belong to, you’ll be charged a fee.  Do some checking around, and ascertain that your bank has plenty of ATM presence.  Our bank Sabadell belongs to the ServiRed network which is popular throughout Spain.

I would recommend against opening a bank account at a local Caja type of bank.  These are typically very local and don’t necessarily have a broad presence throughout Spain or Europe.

3. Phone
With all of the places where you will be registering, you will need a phone, and for your phone, you will need your ID number (NIE/Passport).  There are several providers, and here’s a handy reference on our Almuñécar Info site to point you in the right direction for cell phones, SIM cards and the internet..

4. Register with the Town Hall (Ayuntamiento)
In our case, registering with the Ayuntamiento was very simple.  It seems to be used as a way to update census records vs. keeping track of people.  You will specify your address, and all parties who will be living there (this includes kids).  You will probably want to specify your passport number (so have it handy), as you don’t have an official NIE card yet.  When you leave the town hall, they will give you a paper called “Padron Municipal de Habitantes” and you may need this handy for your NIE/resident card and we needed it for School registration.
Almunecar Town Hall - one check list item

The other thing you’ll do here is to find out which school for which you are “zoned”.  We liked the school which we were zoned for, so it was easy in our case.  I don’t know how you handle requesting a specific school for which you are not zoned.  I imagine there’s some approval process, but the people at the Town Hall should be able to get you squared away.  If you’ve opted for a private school, you are probably all set, but it wouldn’t hurt to ask, just to make sure.

5. Resident Card (NIE)
Apply for your Resident Card (Tarjeta de Residencia) within 30 days of arriving in the country. The application must be made at the Foreigner’s Office (Oficina de Extranjeros) or local Police Station (Comision de Policia or Brigada de Policia) in the province of intended residence.  This can be the most time-consuming and scary part of the process.

What if they don’t like us?  What if they don’t accept our application?

These were some of my thoughts as we were waiting in line.  It’s OK.  If you’ve got the proper paperwork and everything organized properly, you’ll be a big surprise.  I’m sure these people see all sorts of disorganized applicants, so don’t be one of them.  If you make their lives easier, they’ll make your lives easier.  Hopefully…

Go early!  You will be making multiple trips to the police station, so don’t wait until they’re about to close, as it means you’ll have to come back the next business day.  Also, remember that they will most likely close at 2 PM.  So go early!  Let me also set the expectation right up front that you are not going to be walking out with your final NIE Resident card today.  I’ll get to the why in a bit.

When you originally obtained your Spanish Visa, you should have been provided with a bunch of other papers, to be provided to the local Spanish authorities.  Not only will you need that paperwork, but you will also need:

  1. Passport pictures – These are a different size than the passport pictures you get in the U.S., so don’t be surprised if they tell you that you don’t have the correct type. These are usually very easy to get.  A local photo store will be able to take them for you and they often have them near the police station/ foreigner’s office.  Get at least two per adult, and four per child (the school and local library will need them).
  2. Depending on the paperwork you provided with your initial visa application, you may need to supply a complete copy of your passport, from the first page to the last for each person.
  3. Bring along your rental contract;
  4. In addition, you’ll need the paper you received from the Town Hall “Padron Municipal de Habitantes”.

Once you’ve provided them with your paperwork, they will provide you with a piece of paper, and there will be a fee you need to pay to make it official.  Unfortunately, you can’t pay at the police station.  You’ll have to go to a nearby bank and pay the fee for each person, not just the primary.  If you have a bank branch that’s close to the police station, go there. Not all banks will take the payment, but if you bank with them, they most certainly will or you can go to a caja type bank.

Once you’ve got the stamped documents that prove you paid the fee, head back to the police station/foreigner’s office.  They will then take your fingerprints, complete the paperwork, and then you’ll get your temporary NIE resident card, which is on a small slip of paper.  If you’re an adult, you’ll want to carry this with you at all times.  In approximately four weeks, you should receive a letter that your card(s) are ready to pick up.  Make sure you bring your passport and temporary NIE.  In our case, we had to have the kids with us in order to pick theirs up.   Here’s a little more on our story, Registering with the Authorities.
I am officially a legal resident! Temp Resident Card

An NIE number is needed to:

      • Open a bank account
      • Register for school
      • Buy, sell or insure property
      • Arrange credit terms or a mortgage
      • Pay taxes
      • Be paid for employment
      • Use short-term employment agencies
      • Apply for a business permit and start a business
      • Register with social services and arrange receipt of social security benefits
      • Apply for a driver’s licence

6. Registering at School
It’s time to head over to the school indicated by the Town Hall.  You’ll need to bring the photos, temporary NIE resident card, and passports to the School.  Here we explain the process of registering for school along with all of the paperwork.  Note that the school may have certain days and/or hours when such administrative tasks are done, so don’t be surprised if they tell you to come back. Our school year begins mid-September and the offices open as of September 1st.

Once registered at the school, your kids will probably need school supplies.  Luckily the teacher/school will provide a supply list.  Typically the books are free, but there may be the odd workbook that may need to be purchased.  They can also tell you where to purchase the supplies.

It’s quite a list, but it’s definitely manageable.  One other recommendation I would make, and that would be to dress nice if you can.  Depending on where you are applying, it may make a difference as to how you’re processed or perceived.  Pants and a shirt with a collar with some nice shoes (not tennis shoes) is an appropriate way to dress.

Your resident card should be good for 1 year.  At that time you may apply to renew your resident card for an additional 2 years.  Here we share with you our process on our resident card renewal process.


Taxes in Spain

If you are in Spain for 183 days or more in a given calendar year, you are considered to be a tax resident.  We don’t get into taxes in Spain, as it varies depending on your situation.  I’m sure you have questions regarding taxes.  Here is a tax agency that specializes in US Citizens Abroad and they can likely assist you with your questions and taxes.

I wanted to let you know we don’t write about our situation or advise anyone on this topic, as each scenario is different and we aren’t tax experts.  We do however know a website with good information to help you with self-research.  Alternatively, we recommend you reach out to a tax consultant for questions. 

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