Moving to Barcelona. Part 2.

Hi guys, we are back with the series of posts about moving to Barcelona. If you haven´t read our previous post, then I will explain a little bit about it.

We have been expats in Barcelona, for almost 10 years. During this time, we helped a lot of people with information, procedures and how they can get to live in Barcelona smoothly and pleasantly. This series of posts will be like a practical guide to settle down in this beautiful Mediterraneans city.

In the previous post, check it here, I talked about practical information, and very general details about Barcelona. Today I will write about procedures.

Moving to another city or even country involves having to carry out numerous administrative procedures. Some of these are mandatory or very necessary and can also be fairly complicated.

I will try to explain in detail all the procedures, but many times the procedures will vary according to a person’s characteristics. For example, immigration procedures for European Union citizens are different from those for non-European Union citizens. There are also different procedures depending on whether a person has arrived alone or accompanied by family members, whether they are bringing a pet with them or a car.

As well, I will write the legal information that is due today, but during the last few years, many legislative things changed in matter of months. So, if you will read this post in a few years, then you will have to check this information with a professional who can guide you.

Planning is important when you are moving to a new destination. Remember to make your arrangements, including any procedures, before you go. 

The best way to find out more informations is looking to your Spanish Consulate in your area at:

Ok, let’s begin with the overall process you will need to have.

*You are in your country of origin.

*If you are outside of European Union, then you will need a visa residence permit. The type of permit will depend on your profile and the reason for your moving.

*Social Security Number – the number which will identify your payment contributions to Spanish Social Security System.Previously this number you could get in only 1 day, without asking a previous appointment. Lately, you need a pre-contract from the company you will work for, as well you need to ask for an appointment and they can do it either in 1 day or in several days.

*Identifying documents – you just are under a legal obligation to have a national identity document at hand. The type of document will vary depending on your nationality and the period of your stay in the country. In many cases it is about your international passport.

*Municipal registration – It is essential for you to register with the “padró”, which is the register of residents normally living in a town or city.

*Health care card – the healthcare card can be done, only if you have your Social Security number. You can have the card that gives you access to the Catalan public healthcare system (CatSalut) and to the co-payment for pharmaceutical cover 

Till now, I specified the main few documents you really need for your daily life here in Barcelona. But till you get this done, somebody of you will have an easier or more difficult path. Of course, it is much easier to come within a company you already work for, and if you come and look for a new job, the task will be somehow more difficult. Not impossible :).

Some procedures for coming to Barcelona require public documents that have been issued in your country (such as a birth or marriage certificate) and these will need to be accepted by the local authorities.

Even so, it is often hard to be certain about the status and validity of official documents from other countries. To avoid such difficulties, a legalisation process will confirm that a document was issued by someone with the requisite authority, that the document is correct and that the signatures it bears are genuine.

The procedure to follow will also depend on where the person comes from and the reason for their move to Spanish territory. In particular, these procedures referring to immigration policy differ considerably depending on whether or not you are an EU citizen.

Before you start with the various types of procedures, you will need to identify the main requirements you have to satisfy for moving here:

• Not being on Spanish territory illegally.

• Having no criminal record in Spain and in the countries you have resided in over the last five years.

• Not having been banned from entering Spain or listed as a persona non grata in the territorial space of countries that Spain has signed a treaty with such effect.

• Having sufficient financial resources for yourself and the members of your family during your stay of residence in Spain.

• Having an insurance policy against illness taken out with an insurer that is duly authorised to operate in Spain.

• Paying the corresponding fees for processing your documents.

Now, I will split the information that is different to EU citizens and Non-EU citizens. Let´s see.

The EU system applies to citizens (and their family members) of the European Union’s member States, the European Economic Space (Iceland, Norway and Liechtenstein) and Switzerland.

All EU citizens residing in Spain will enjoy equal treatment with Spanish citizens. This right extends to family members who are not citizens of a member state of the European Union or the European Economic Space. As a result, they will be able to benefit from the right of temporary and permanent residence.

• If you plan to be in Spain for no more than three months, you do not need to carry out any immigration procedure. You only need to have a valid passport or identity document (ID).

• If you intend to stay for more than three months or establish your residence in Spain, you will have to apply for a Certificate of registration as a EU national (Certificat de registre de ciutadà de la Unió). As for non-EU family members, the document they need to obtain is the Residence Card for family members of EU nationals (Tarjeta de residència de familiar de ciutadà de la Unió).

If you do not come from a member state of the European Union, the European Economic Space (Iceland, Norway and Liechtenstein) or Switzerland, you then have to bear in mind two Statutes that apply to non-EU citizens. There is a general statute and a later one that was enacted to simplify procedures for skilled immigration. The scope of the two Acts is described below, as well as the main types of visa and permits for each one:

• Framework Act 4/2000, also known as the “Foreign Nationals Act”. This is the general system intended for all foreign nationals. It takes account of the situation of the internal labour market for authorising work permits. So a foreign national will be granted a work permit if the post they are to take has no candidates resident in Spain (whether they are Spanish citizens or legal residents irrespective of their nationality). Residence permits depend on the purpose of the foreign national’s intended stay in Spain. It is important you obtain one of the following types of permit, as that will be indispensable for proving the right you acquired for residing and working in Spanish territory.

The types of visa and permits provided for under this Act are as follows:

• Residence and employment

• Residence and self-employment

• Non-working residence (residing without carrying out any working or remunerative activity)

• Stay for studies

The municipal residents’ register (Padró municipal de habitants) is a list that citizens regularly living in a town or city (municipality) are registered with. This form of registering is referred to in Barcelona as “empadronar-se”. It is a mandatory procedure for everyone living in Spanish territory and is essential for gaining access to certain rights such as public health-care assistance and basic schooling. It also entitles citizens from countries with EU membership or under a reciprocity agreement with Spain to vote in municipal elections. It is a crucial procedure as well because it is an indispensable requirement for carrying out many other mandatory procedures.

You can consult online at, by telephone by calling 010 or in person by arranging an appointment at at any of the city’s thirteen Citizen Help and Information Offices (OAC). The OAC in Plaça de Sant Miquel may be useful as it offers consultations in several foreign languages. On the day of the appointment, you will have to provide the necessary documents and data of the person or persons who wish to register. The process is generally fairly simple and free of charge. When you carry out a procedure you will receive a Volant de residència (which is the document providing that you have been registered).

Finally, it is important you know that registration with the residents’ register has no expiry date, except for non-EU foreign nationals without permanent residence. The latter must renew their registration with the residents’ register every two years.

The main supporting documents you need to obtain when you arrive in Barcelona are listed below:

• NIE (Identity Number for foreign nationals) The NIE is an identification code that is assigned to all foreign nationals residing in Spain or who are active for various economic, professional or social interests. For example, even though you do not regularly reside in Spain, it may be necessary for you to acquire a property, open a bank account, etc. This is a personal, unique and exclusive code made up of nine digits (numbers and letters). It  normally appears in all issued or processed documents.

It is important you know that the NIE is the only code that allows administrative identification with Spanish State bodies.

You must not confuse it with the Certificate of registration as a EU national (Certificat de registre de ciutadà de la Unió) or with the Identity Card for foreign nationals (Targeta d’identitat d’estrangers, TIE), which are the main physical documents that contain the NIE.

Bear in mind that the NIE is not an ID card either, as they do not contain a photograph of the person in question. That is why foreign nationals are advised to carry a passport and other identity documents when they travel and reside in Spain.

• Certificate of registration as a EU national Individuals who are subject to the European Union community rules must process this document if they wish to reside in Spain for longer than 3 months. This document confirms that the holder is legally resident in Spain and includes their personal details, nationality, personal address and the NIE (Foreign Identity Number) and the date of issue.

Note that the Certificate of registration as a EU national does not identify the holder or  display their nationality. The bearer’s identity and nationality can only be attested by the identity document issued by the country of origin (national ID or valid passport).

• TIE (Identity card for foreign nationals) The Identity Card for foreign nationals (Targeta d’identitat d’estrangers, TIE) is a physical document that contains the identification details of the foreign national in question, mainly their NIE and type of stay or residence permit. The TIE must be applied for by all foreign nationals who are not from the European Union, European Economic Space or Switzerland and who have received authorisation to stay in Spain for longer than 6 months or a long-term-stay permit. This document must be kept up to date. Even if you have a visa, a TIE is mandatory and you may incur a fine if you do not have one.

Social Security Number

You will need to have a Social Security number if you wish to pay your contributions to Spain’s Social Security system and gain access to the public health-care system.

Contributions to Social Security ensure access to medical care and cover sickness and maternity benefits, retirement pensions, indemnification and compensation for work related accidents or disability and death.

This is a mandatory procedure for everyone wanting to carry out a professional activity in Spanish territory, whether through employment or self-employment. It is normally companies that deal with Social Security procedures on behalf of their salaried workers. By contrast, self-employed people have to apply for their Social Security number in person, by visiting their nearest office.

For further information on Spain’s Social Security system, including a list of all the Social Security offices in Catalonia, visit:

Driving licence.

If you wish to drive in Spanish territory, you must have a valid driver’s licence. The conditions for a valid driver’s licence will vary depending on country of origin. There are three separate categories:

• Citizens from the EU, European Economic Space and Switzerland do not have to change their driver’s licence; however, if their stay is very long (more than 6 months), they are recommended to do so.

• Citizens from countries having a treaty with Spain are legally obliged to carry out the procedure for having their licence exchanged.

• Citizens from countries without any treaty with Spain will have to obtain a Spanish driver’s licence, although they can use an international driver’s licence during their first year of arrival in Spain. They will have to attend classes and take both theory and practice tests to obtain their driver’s licence. Some driving schools allow you to study and take your tests in English.

Note that driver’s licences in Spain have an expiry date and have to be periodically renewed.

And that is it for the information for today. Bear in mind, that many of the information related below are taken from the official sites and are updated to this month and this year, when this post appears. And of course, the information can change on each case.

Wish you all good luck with your procedures. 



  1. February 5, 2020 / 1:15 pm

    I’m so excited for you and enjoy reading your journey so much! A couple years ago we made a move we had dreamt of making for YEARS. It was so hard because we had six kids and the baby was just 8 weeks, but it was worth it! We love being where we are now.

    • Travel Family Blog
      February 6, 2020 / 7:52 am

      Wow, your story is amazing, not sure I would do the move only with our two kids, but with 6, you are amazing!
      When we moved we were only 2 of us, and kids were born here in Barcelona.

  2. February 5, 2020 / 4:37 pm

    This sounds a little stressful but I guess if you have everything together paperwork wise then you should be good. Alot of good info

    • Travel Family Blog
      February 6, 2020 / 7:51 am

      I think you have just be prepared that there are a lot of papers to do once moving to another city or country to live

  3. February 5, 2020 / 5:43 pm

    Wow! That is quite a lot that you have to go through to move to another country!

    • Travel Family Blog
      February 6, 2020 / 7:57 am

      yes, there are a lot of things to do, but once you settle down, you enjoy it a lot.

  4. February 6, 2020 / 4:37 am

    This would be a really helpful post for someone moving to Barcelona, good overview! I have to admit, while I often fantasize about moving to a different country and doing something completely different (even if just for a few years, for the experience) it is the paperwork that makes it seem so intimidating to me!

    PS – just some feedback – I noticed some weird paragraph spacing in parts of this blog post. Maybe you can edit that so it’s a little easier to read.

    • Travel Family Blog
      February 6, 2020 / 7:56 am

      Yeah, I know, paperworks is what stops us to make another move, But changes in our lives make this life much more interesting.
      P.S. Will update the post now.

  5. February 7, 2020 / 1:08 am

    We have never had a big move, and I am sure this is a huge undertaking. This is a great resource to have!

    • Travel Family Blog
      February 17, 2020 / 1:58 pm

      I would say you need a huge wish to move, and then all the rest comes up.

  6. February 7, 2020 / 1:40 am

    Wow, I figured moving to another country would be pretty involved, but seeing it all laid out like this really shows how extensive the process is! I’m sure it’ll be worth it in the end!


    • Travel Family Blog
      February 17, 2020 / 1:58 pm

      Always it is worth at the end, we are very happy that we did this move long time ago.

  7. February 7, 2020 / 2:20 am

    A lot of people do not know the work that’s comes with moving internationally but the paperwork is the hardest. Once you’re settled in, everything will be fine. Glad things are moving along

    • Travel Family Blog
      February 17, 2020 / 1:57 pm

      So agree with you, paperwork is the hardest to do for sure.

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