Spain Explained

Understanding the padrón, empadronamiento & residencia

Many people who are emigrating to Spain wonder, which comes first, the padrón or the empadronamiento? For those who aren’t familiar with these terms, the padrón is the town hall’s register of those living in the area. Essentially, the local government uses the register to keep a headcount of how many people are resident, and thus, liable for national and regional taxes. To get your padrón you’ll need to make an initial registration when you arrive to live in Spain. 

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In contrast, the certificado de empadronamiento is a document which proves you’re registered on the padrón. In fact, padrón is an abbreviation of empadronamiento, but usually, these terms distinguish between the register and the evidence itself. Your empadronamiento will have a limited life span of three months. Generally, this validity is sufficient for whenever you need to prove your residence. For example, you’ll need to provide your empadronamiento to get your health card or to enrol your child in a local school. This document has an expiration date to ensure it’s the most up-to-date record of your residential status.

How is the empadronamiento different to a residency certificate?

Even if you’ve distinguished between the padrón and empadronamiento, some people remain a little confused about how the empadronamiento is different from the certificado de residencia or residency certificate. Despite similarities, these are in fact different documents. Although the residency certificate has changed over the years – beginning as a residency card that included your photo that was then replaced by a green A4 certificate without any visual proof of who you are – it is evidence of your legal status in Spain. If you live permanently in Spain, it is important that you have this certificate. Once more, this is because you need it for other administrative purposes. Unlike the empadronamiento, your residency certificate doesn’t have an expiry date.

Which document should I obtain first?

To apply for residency, you will need to be on the padrón beforehand, as this certificate will be required for the Spanish residency process. Therefore, the padrón must come first.

To get on the padrón, you will generally need a copy of the purchase deed or rental contract and or latest utility bills. Remember, rules change depending on the region, so check before you go. The padrón certificate is official proof to the police where you live in Spain. Many years ago, you could use your property title deeds to show the police your address in Spain. However, the padrón became the standard and official document for this purpose.

A small administrative quirk to be aware of is that you don’t need your NIE number to apply for your residencia

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A final note

If you do decide to leave Spain, you must cancel your Spanish residency. Equally, if you are moving somewhere else in Spain, you should reapply at the new area to get the new address on your card. This will avoid any later complications or confusions in regard to tax liability. The procedure is basically the same as when you applied but in reverse. You should return to the same buildings where you obtained your documents and explain that you wish to cancel them.

Remember, if you need any advice on how to secure your legal status in Spain, our team is here to help. Contact us here for a free consultation, without obligation. 

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Paul Gordon

6 March, 2020 10:01 pm

I have a residencia in April 2018, in Almuecar, but had leave Spain 5 months later. I wish to return in 2021. tobuy a property and live.. I am from the UK. While I understand with Brexit I may have to change status to an non EU residencia. Will my current residencia be valid? Thanks Paul

Oscar Paoli

26 March, 2020 10:26 pm

Hi Paul,
As the Resident document should have been cancelled you would have to re-apply when you come back to Spain to live under the new regulations as a Non EU member.
Best regards,
Ábaco Advisers


5 May, 2020 4:31 pm

Dear Sir / Madam,

I would like to do residence registration in Spain and apply for NIE, as I live here since few months. But at the same time I am still living partially in Germany, where I am already registered a resident.
So by living between 2 countries, what would be the right way to do it and which are the preconditions to be considered as a resident. Is it possible to be a resident in two countries?

Thank you,

Oscar Paoli

7 May, 2020 10:55 pm

Hi Dina,
You should only be a tax resident in one country so you must be very careful in this type of situations. The best advice is to speak about your personal situation with a tax expert that can assist you in the best solution for your case.
Kind regards,
Ábaco Advisers


11 July, 2020 4:27 am

Good day,

I am Filipina, and currently living in spain. I do not have residence yet, just empadronamiento. My question is…
Is it possible to leave the country for Holiday?
If yes, can you please advise me for the requirements before i leave so it will not be complicated for the day of my return? Also i want to know the minimum days i can spend for holiday..

Thank you very much for your help.

Oscar Paoli

12 July, 2020 10:36 pm

Hi Sarah,
In your situation we would recommend you to speak with our relocation adviser collaborator David Ruiz. He will go through everything with you, timing, financial means, healthcare, etc. If you wish to contact him directly please send him an email at
With kind regards,
Ábaco Advisers


11 August, 2020 10:26 am

Do we need a padron each or one between us? Also we were told at our town hall it lasts for two years???

Oscar Paoli

11 August, 2020 10:29 am

Hello there,
You need a padron each and many of the Town Halls have an expiration date and will vary from Town Hall to Town Hall.
With kind regards,
Ábaco Advisers

Suleman wahid

20 September, 2020 7:04 pm

Dear sir /madam I registed on the pardon for about one and half years now but last week I went to the Town Hall to get the certificate of the empadronmiento I was informed that my padrón has been cancelled for six months. I need your advice on what to do whether I can continue or start a fresh thank you

Oscar Paoli

21 September, 2020 7:53 am

Hi there,
You should be able to renew your padrón, most likely you will have to present all required documentation, but you should not have any issues renewing it.
With kind regards,
Ábaco Advisers

John Sadler

5 March, 2021 1:00 pm

I have my padron but not my empadronamiento, how do I apply for it and what paperwork do I need.
Kind regards, john Sadler.

Oscar Paoli

8 March, 2021 10:10 am

Hi John,
Each City Hall might vary their requirements, but the most commons are proof of having a property or that you are renting a property, passport copies, NIE copies, and in some cases electricity or water supply bills.
With kind regards,
Ábaco Advisers