What Happens to Your Spanish Residency Certificate If You Leave the Country

Thanks to the sun, the sea, and the sights, living in Spain is like being on a permanent holiday. But if you are lucky enough to be a permanent resident of the country, you may occasionally want to leave Spain to take a holiday elsewhere, or to return to your home country to visit your friends and family. However, many people classed as legally resident in Spain don’t realise that if they are out of the country for too long, it could result in them losing their Spanish residency status. Understanding how long you can be out of Spain for without impacting your residency status will depend largely on both the type of residency certificate you have and whether you are an EU national or not.  Here’s everything you need to know about what happens to your Spanish residency status if you leave the country:

How Long Can I Leave Spain If I am a Temporary or Permanent Resident?

You are considered to be a temporary resident in Spain if you have been a resident of the country for less than five years, even if you intend to stay in Spain for many more years. Until you have reached the five year residency milestone, you will be classed as a temporary resident and issued with a temporary residency certificate. Once you have been living in Spain for five years or more, you will then be able to apply for your permanent residency certificate. Understanding which of these categories you fall into is important because it will determine how long you can leave the country for.

  • If you are an EU national with temporary residency status, then you could lose your residency status if you spend more than six months in any twelve month period outside of Spain. This could also result in any non-EU family members who are living with you losing their residency status. There are exceptions to this rule. If you are out of the country due to compulsory military service, for one 12-month period as a result of pregnancy, childbirth or serious illness, or because you are taking part in a vocational training course or studying then this will not impact your residency status.
  • If you are an EU national with permanent residency status, then you will have more freedom to travel outside of Spain, and will only lose your residency status if you spend more than two consecutive years away from Spain.
  • If you are a Non-EU national with temporary residency status then it is particularly important that you obey the rules surrounding the time you spend in Spain as you are in the most vulnerable group. There are many ways in which you could lose your residency status including leaving Spain for more than 6 months in any 12 month period, spending time away from the country in smaller bursts that equates to 10 months in any 12 month period, failing to renew your residency certificate within the legal timescale once it has expired, changing your nationality, or the authorities discovering that you were not truthful when you made your original residency application.

How Will Brexit Impact Residency for UK Nationals?

The terms of the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement clearly stated that British nationals who are permanent residents of Spain (meaning that they have lived in the country for more than five years and have a permanent residency certificate) cannot be out of the country for more than five consecutive years or they will lose their residency status. 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 Often Will I Need to Renew My Residency Certificate?

When you first obtain your residency certificate, this will be a temporary residency certificate. It will be valid for five years, meaning that you will not need to renew it until you are ready to exchange it for a permanent residency certificate. Once you have obtained a permanent residency certificate this will need to be renewed every ten years.

What Happens If I Leave Spain for too Long and Lose my Residency Certificate?

This will depend on the type of residency certificate you hold. If you are a temporary resident, then you will lose your status and need to start the whole application process again from the beginning in order to regain your temporary status. If you have a long-term residency certificate because you have been resident in Spain for longer than 5 years and are able to demonstrate that there was a good reason why you were out of the country for longer than the legal allotted time frame, then you may be able to recover your status without starting the whole application process again.

Are you thinking of moving to Spain? Or looking for a holiday home that you can let when you’re not using it? Then why not get in touch with our locally based property experts, who are perfectly placed to help make you dream of Spanish home ownership a reality. We’re already excited to work with you !