Healthplan Spain


Is My Residency Certificate In Spain Still Valid If I Leave The Country? Expat Tips

If you are classed as legally resident in Spain, it could be that from time to time, you wish to leave the country either on a short-term basis or for a longer period of time.

However, what many people do not realise is that if they are out of the country for too long, they could lose their residency status in Spain.

So the question is, how long can you leave Spain without losing your residency status?

It is important to understand that there are different forms of residency certificates in Spain and which one you are issued with will depend on how long you have been living in the country and whether you are an EU national or not.

Let’s take a look at the different scenarios.

Temporary or Permanent Resident

Firstly, we have to clarify what we mean by temporary and permanent residents.

Temporary means that you have been resident in Spain for less than five years and are therefore the holder of a temporary residency certificate. Although you may class yourself as a permanent resident and intend to stay in Spain for many years, you are still classed as a temporary resident until you have been here for at least five years.

Permanent means that you have been a resident for more than five years. At such time, you should apply for your permanent residency certificate.

So what are the rules for the different groups?

EU Nationals With Temporary Residency Status

If you are an EU national and have temporary residency status and spend more than six months of any 12-month period outside of Spain, you or your non-EU family members who may be residing with you could lose your residency status.

However, there are some exceptions to this rule which are:-

  • You are on compulsory military service
  • One consecutive 12-month period due to pregnancy or childbirth
  • Away due to serious illness
  • Need to study or take part in vocational training

EU Nationals With Permanent Residency Status

If on the other hand, you are an EU national who has been residing in Spain for more than five years, you will lose your residency status if you spend more than two consecutive years away.

Non-EU Nationals With Temporary Residency Status

If you are a non-EU national (including from the UK) and the holder of a temporary residency certificate, the following will mean that you lose your residency status.

  • You do not renew your certificate within the legal timeframe after its expiry
  • You leave Spain for more than six months in any 12-month period
  • In the case of sporadic time away, this equates to no more than 10 months in any 12-month period. This is extended to a maximum of 12 months if for work purposes.
  • You change your nationality
  • It is established that you were not truthful when making your initial residency application.

IMPORTANT UPDATE (23/06/2023) - The Spanish government has now announced that temporary residents in Spain (residents for less than five years) may leave the country for longer than six months without losing their residency status. Please read the following article for further clarification - Spanish Government Abolishes Six Month Absence Restriction For Temporary Residency

UK Nationals Post-Brexit

Under the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement which was ratified between the UK and the EU, British nationals who are permanent residents in Spain (at least 5 years) must not be out of the country for more than five consecutive years.

The Withdrawal Agreement states, “Once acquired, the right of permanent residence shall be lost only through absence from the host State for a period exceeding 5 consecutive years”.

How long do residency certificates last before they need to be renewed?

Temporary residency certificates are issued to those who have been resident in Spain for less than five years. These must be renewed after five years at which time you can apply for permanent residency status.

Long-term residency certificates can be applied for after you have been a resident for at least five years. These have a validity of 10 years at which time they must be renewed.

Can I recover my residency status if I have been out of the country too long?

This will depend on the residency certificate you have.

If you have a temporary residency card (less than 5 years of residency) you will lose your status and will have to go through the application process again.

If on the other hand you had a long-term residency certificate (resident for longer than 5 years) and have a good reason for being away longer than the allotted time, you may be able to recover your status.

Further information can be found on the following web pages.

Royal Decree 557/2011
Spain's Official Brexit Residency Guide For British Nationals

You can learn more about applying for residency via our applying for residency in Spain page.