I am a USA citizen wanting to live in Spain for more than three months. I looked at several websites about it. The process as described by each is fairly consistent except for one detail: some sites say I have to do it at a consulate before going to Spain, and others say I must go to a comisaria or oficina de extranjería in Spain.

Which is it? I am retired with more than enough income and do not plan to work, except for intermittent unpaid (volunteer) tasks.

I re-read all the websites, and I think the answer is that I need an other-than-average-tourist visa before I arrive, but I have to go to the authorities in Spain after arrival for the rest of the paperwork. But it still isn't 100% clear. If my interpretation is correct, why do all these websites omit half of the process?

  • 1
    What is your nationality? One reason for the discrepancies you've found is probably that requirements are different for people with different nationalities. Nationals of countries that require Schengen visas will certainly have to do it at a consulate. EU/EEA citizens will certainly be able to do it in Spain. I'm not sure about Annex II nationals (those who don't require a visa for short stays in the Schengen area).
    – phoog
    Commented Jun 20, 2016 at 23:04

1 Answer 1


The process is different if you apply for temporary or permanent residence. For temporary residence you have to apply at a consular office. For permanent residence, you do it in Spain as you are supposed to have been resident for five years (or other EU country, I don't know the exact rules).

The authoritative source in this case should be the Spanish government :



(In Spanish)

  • Thanks for those links. They confirm my interpretation. I still wonder why so many websites get one part of the process correct and completely ignore the other part.
    – WGroleau
    Commented Jun 21, 2016 at 21:08
  • Although the second link (long term residence) does allow for application at a Spanish consulate in my case, since I am eligible under the third bullet: "Ser residente beneficiario de una pensión de jubilación contributiva, incluida dentro de la acción protectora del sistema español de la Seguridad Social." Unless I am misinterpreting that. But it doesn't matter, as I am not looking for permanent residence (though I might change my mind).
    – WGroleau
    Commented Jun 21, 2016 at 21:19
  • I don't think so, you would need to be a resident in Spain and get a pension from the Spanish government. Commented Jun 21, 2016 at 21:27

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