Guide to Registering as a Local Resident in Spain


registering as a resident

As well as registering as resident in Spain or obtaining a residence permit, you might want to register as a local resident in Spain.

The process is known as ‘empadronamiento’, literally signing on the electoral register.

This gives you the right to vote in some elections as well as other benefits.

In this article, we look at why you should register and how to do it.

Advantages of registering as a local resident in Spain

Financial benefits – some councils give discounts on local taxes to registered residents. For example, 20 per cent off your annual rates (IBI) bill or a reduction in refuse taxes.

Healthcare benefits – in order to be assigned a doctor at your local healthcare centre, you may be asked to show a certificate of empadronamiento.

Social services benefits – residents who are registered in the area also qualify for certain social services.

Education benefits – when you register your children for local state schools you will asked to prove that you live in the catchment area. A certificate of empadronamiento is the easiest way to do this.

Voting benefits – if you’re registered with your local council, you automatically form part of the electoral roll and may vote in local elections. EU nationals may also vote in elections in Spain for the European Parliament.

Cheaper local services – in many areas, registered residents get cheaper deals for local amenities. These may include discounted bus passes or use of sports facilities.

Your local area also reaps rewards – councils receive public funding based on the number of local residents, i.e. those registered on the electoral register.

Your registration means your council will get more money for local education, healthcare, police and other public services.

Myths about registering as a local resident

When you move to Spain you’ll probably hear all sorts of statements about registering as a local resident, many of which are not true. They include the following:

  • “If you register with your council, you don’t have to register as resident or get a residence permit.” FALSE – empadronamiento has nothing to do with national authorities; it’s a local procedure.

When you move to Spain you must also have proper residency authorisation. Read more here.

  • “A certificado de empadronamiento is the same as a residence permit.”
    FALSE – they are two different documents, both compulsory and both for different purposes.
  • “If you register with your local council, you automatically alert the Spanish tax office to your presence in Spain.”
    FALSE – the empadronamiento has nothing to do with the Spanish tax system.

However, if you’re living in Spain, you may be liable for taxes in Spain. Take professional advice on your tax obligations.

Never assume that by not registering with your local council you can remain under the radar for the Spanish authorities.

How to register as a local resident

Go to your local council offices to the Departamento de Empadronamiento.

  • Fill out the appropriate form.
  • Show proof of identity and your foreigner’s identity number (NIE – read more here. Link to NIE post).
  • Show proof of address – if you own your home, the title deeds. If you rent, a rental contract plus a utility bill.

If you have all the correct paperwork, your council will issue your certificate immediately.

Renewing your registration

Legally you are obliged to renew your empadronamiento every two years. If you move to a different town, you should register with your new local council.

Note that the paper certificate of empadronamiento itself is valid for three months from the date of issue so if you need one after this date you must go to the council department and request a new one.