Unmarried Partner Visa, Spain’s Secret Long-Term Residence Permit (2021)

QUICK SUMMARY- UNMARRIED PARTNER VISA FOR SPAINA 5-year visa for non-EU citizens to live in Spain long-term <jump visa requirements>.Need evidence of a stable lasting relationship, domestic partnership, civil union,  (Pareja de Hecho)Available to same sex or opposite sex couplesFinancial requirement of $1,077.39 / 914.33 Euro per month. Typically Nomadic FIRE focuses on retirement visas, digital nomad minutes

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Published On: July 23, 2021

Latest Update: April 10, 2024

unmarried couple visa spain flag madrid

About the author

Hi, I'm Marco Sison. I worked in finance for Fortune 50 companies before retiring early at 41 years old. I have been an expat for over 10 years, living in over 50 countries to show you the best ways to save, invest, and live in amazing countries outside the USA. I am a trusted resource on personal finance and overseas retirement for US News & World Reports, HuffPost, MSN Money, USA Today, ABC Network, Yahoo Finance, Association of MBAs, the iTunes documentary Seeking FIRE, and the Amazon Best-Seller- Abroad: Expats That Thrive.

QUICK SUMMARY- UNMARRIED PARTNER VISA FOR SPAIN

  • A 5-year visa for non-EU citizens to live in Spain long-term <jump visa requirements>.
  • Need evidence of a stable lasting relationship, domestic partnership, civil union,  (Pareja de Hecho)
  • Available to same sex or opposite sex couples
  • Financial requirement of $1,077.39 / 914.33 Euro per month.

Typically Nomadic FIRE focuses on retirement visas, digital nomad visas, golden visas, or investment visas. For American expats looking to retire in Europe, these visa categories and residency permits are the most accessible and relevant to people looking to live abroad. However, when the 2020 pandemic triggered me to pause my Spanish Non-Lucrative Visa application and European countries shut down all non-essential travel, my EU partner (Austrian citizen) and I looked at alternative visas. We needed a way to stay in Europe longer than the Schengen visa-exempt 90-days usually allowed for US Citizens.

Aside from my newfound love of sweat pants as daily wear, not many good things came out of the pandemic. However, the border closures and lockdowns allowed me to uncover a little-known way for US citizens to live in Europe long-term. Full disclosure, this visa will not be accessible to 90% of my readers. This article focuses on the partner visa requirements and process for an unmarried couple; where one partner is from the European Union and the other partner is from a non-EU or EEA country. In this scenario, a Spain unmarried partner visa is ideal for legally staying in Europe long-term.

What is a Spain Unmarried Partner Visa?

This residence permit is an option for foreign couples where one partner is a European citizen.

Sometimes the term Domestic Partner Visa or Civil Union Visa gets used, but the truth is these are not actual visas. Instead, you are applying for a family reunification and a EU citizen family residence card (Certificado de residencia permanente de ciudadano de la UE). In Spain, this residency visa card is more commonly referred to as a Community Card (Tarjeta Comunitaria).

The European Union allows a non-European citizen "Family Member" the right to live and work in the same country as their EU family. This right means an EU country like Spain allows families to stay together, as long as one member of the immediate family is an EU citizen (see list below), registered and living in Spain.

List of Eligible European Countries  <click to expand>

  • Austria
  • Belgium
  • Bulgaria
  • Cyprus
  • Croatia
  • Denmark
  • Estonia
  • Finland
  • France
  • Germany
  • Greece
  • Hungary
  • Ireland *
  • Iceland *
  • Italy
  • Latvia
  • Liechtenstein *
  • Lithuania
  • Luxembourg
  • Malta
  • Norway *
  • Netherlands
  • Poland
  • Portugal
  • Czech Republic
  • Romania
  • Sweden
  • Switzerland **

*  European Economic Area

**  Based on a separate agreement with the EU and the Swiss Confederation

This residency privilege applies to immediate family (spouse, child, etc.). But as Spain legally recognizes a stable couple in a long-term relationship as a civil union, this residence permit also applies to unmarried couples.

Eligibility Requirements a Spain Community Card (Tarjeta Comunitaria)

You can apply for a five-year residence card or Community Family Card if you are a "Third Country National," AND your EU partner has a legally registered address in Spain.

 EDITOR'S NOTE : Third-Country National-  a foreign national who is neither a Spanish citizen, citizen of the European Union (EU), nor a citizen of the European Economic Area (EEA). Americans, British (post Brexit), Canadians, etc. fall under this category.

In addition, your EU Partner must either:

  • A) Be employed in Spain
  • B) Is self-employed in Spain
  • C) Is a student with sufficient financial resources
  • D) for my Financially Independent (FIRE) expats, Be Financially Capable of Supporting Yourself. You need to prove you have enough savings or passive income not to be a burden to Spain or need any public assistance. Unlike a Spain Golden Visa, this residency visa does not require a 500,000 euro real estate investment. 

In addition, you will need public or private health insurance either with a health insurance company in Spain or another medical insurance equivalent to Spain's National Health System that explicitly covers you while you are a Spanish resident.

Will My Home Country Health Insurance Cover Me?

Most likely no. Most health insurance will not cover you for any injuries sustained outside your home country. You will either need to get Spanish medical insurance or Expat Medical Insurance.

If you retire abroad, expat health insurance is a more complete option. Expat Medical Insurance is the "normal" insurance you are familiar with to from home. Coverage is built for expats outside the US and insurance premiums are much cheaper than in the US. 

Potential Tax Advantages (and Pitfalls) of Spanish Residency

Documentation For Your Unmarried Partner Visa Spain Application:

Regardless of your situation, all applications must contain:

  • A completed application Form EX-19 and one photocopy
  • Passport
  • EU citizen residence certificate (Certificado de Registro del Ciudadano de la Unión) or DNIif your partner is a Spanish citizen
  • Proof of relationship to the EU/EEA national partner
  • Proof of sufficient financial means
  • From of Spanish or International Health Insurance (public or private)
  • Spain Foreigner Identity Card (TIE), if applicable
  • Three colored passport photos 3.5 cm x 4.5 cm (EU passport size) with a white background

Required documentation, proof required, and registration criteria may change depending on the personal situation and the location of the local municipality Registro Civil, where they are registered to live. 

unmarried partner visa spain  madrid plaza coffee

Even for live-in couples, visa requirement can vary based on the civil registry (Registro Civil)  of the municipality in which both live.

Proof Of Relationship

  1. Proof of a stable and lasting relationship with EU national
  2. Pareja de Hecho (domestic partnership) certificate, if unmarried
  3. Marriage certificate, if married
  4. Birth certificates for any children 

Proof of sufficient financial resources

  • If your partner is employed, an employment certificate. Otherwise, you can show any other proof of your employment: employment contract, etc.
  • If your partner is self-employed, you will need to show your registration with the Census of Economic Activities. Otherwise, you can show any other proof: vendor contracts, customer contracts, commercial register, etc.
  • If your partner is financially independent, you will need proof of sufficient monthly income (bank statements, rental contacts, government pension, etc.)
  • If your partner is a student, you will need to show proof of enrollment in a public or private school in Spain

 EDITOR'S NOTE : Sufficient Financial Means- Testing for the financial requirement is on a case by case basis, but the general guidance given was applicants need passive income (rental income, annuity payments, etc.) or sufficient savings (stocks, cash, brokerage accounts, etc.) equal to the Spanish indicator IPREM ( Public Indicator of Multiple Effects Income) PLUS 70% for each family member. As of this post date, the minimum amount for an unmarried couple is $1,077.39 / 914.33 Euro per month or $12,928.67 / 10,971.94 EUR per year. 

Add another $443.63 / 376.49 Euro per month or $5,323.57 USD / 4,517.86 EUR per year for each child or additional family member. 

Is there a Spanish language requirement?

There is no specific requirement to have A1 or any Spanish language fluency. However, learning Spanish will make the residency process and your expat life in Spain easier.

What is a domestic partnership

A civil partner (also called a registered partnership, civil union, civil partnership, or Pareja de Hecho in Spanish) is legal recognition of a formalized partnership between an unmarried couple. This partnership referred to in Spain as Pareja de Hecho, is not only for same-sex couples. Opposite-sex couples or Heterosexual couples in a secure and stable who are not related, unmarried, and of legal age can register as a Pareja de Hecho.

 INSIDER TIP : The unmarried partnership visa process varies from different EU countries and even differs by jurisdictions in the same country. In our case, my partner and I gathered bank statements, rental contracts, and pictures proving we financially supported each other, lived together (in Spain, you can use an Empadronamiento Colectivo), and were in a long-term committed relationship.

Pareja de Hecho is a legal relationship or stable partnership between either Same-Sex partners and Opposite-Sex couples who choose to live together without getting married. It is worth noting that the civil union registration process differs from one EU country to another and even differs depending on the jurisdiction in the same country.

What are the individual prerequisites to qualify for a civil partnership?

In Spain, couples, regardless of sexual orientation, can register as domestic partners if at least one of the couple is a European Union citizen and both partners are:

  • Over 18 years old, or 16 years old if you are an emancipated minor.
  • Unmarried and not in another legal relationship.
  • Living at the same address in the autonomous community where they will register the union.
  • Cohabitation Minimum Duration- The local government where the union is registered sets the minimum period a couple needs to live together.
  • The minimum time varies by region. For instance, Catalonia has no minimum cohabitation requirements. Other regions use between 6 to 24 months. Madrid, for example, requires the couple to live together for a minimum of 12-months.
  • Having a child together exempts the couple from any minimum cohabitation times

 EDITOR'S NOTE : Civil Unions cannot be upgraded- You cannot be in two committed partnerships at the same time. If you are already married, the application is revoked. In addition, if you decide to marry your domestic partner later, you will need to get the civil union dissolved before getting married, even if it is to the same person.

civil union visa spain granada wall

This residency visa is one way a foreign partner who is a citizen of a non-EU country can become a permanent resident. 

How To Apply For domestic partnership in Spain

If you meet the above requirements, the first step is to start gathering documents. Several documents will need to come from your home country. If you are already in Spain, it is still possible but more complicated, as several documents will require an apostille from your country of origin.

Like Spain's retirement visa, registering for a Pareja de Hecho is a paperwork beast. To help organize your paperwork, I pulled together a FREE CIVIL UNION CHECKLIST XXX. Don't miss a single form.

 EDITOR'S NOTE : What are government apostilles- A government apostille is a stamp or signature that certifies the authenticity of an original document produced in a country. Governments use an apostille for birth certificates, certificates of civil status, naturalization certificates, and diplomas.

What documents do I need to submit when applying for a Civil Union in Spain?

The Spanish regional governments register civil partnerships. To start the process to register your civil union, first get an appointment with a public notary from in the city where you live. As the specific documents required changes based on where the partnership is registered, speak with the notarial about the specific documents you will need to bring to your appointment.

Standard Documents Include:

  1. Government Issued Identification (Passport, NIE, DNI, etc.)
  2. Proof of marital status showing both partners are legally single
  3. If one of the partners has been previously married, it will be necessary to provide a final divorce judgment, marriage annulment, or dissolution of a prior civil partnership document.
  4. A recent Certificado de Empadronamiento (the Spanish Certificate of Joint Census Registration)
  5. Birth Certificates of both partners
  6. Authenticated, apostilled, and certified translations of any foreign birth certifications
  7. Completed application form

 INSIDER TIP As with every visa application in Spain, the person processing your application has the power to request additional documentation. In the case of a Civil Union, to ensure you are in a "real" relationship and not a "visa scam," you may be scheduled for face-to-face interviews and even a potential surprise visit by the local police at your registered address.

How long does it take to register a civil partnership?

If you come with all the correct documentation, a notary can register a legal partnership the day of your appointment.

domestic partner visa spain barcelona Sagrada

This residence permit is available to both same-sex and opposite-sex couples 

And how long does it take to get the Pareja de Hecho certificate?

The process to get a civil union recorded in the registry can take up to three weeks.

 INSIDER TIP You don't need to wait until the civil union is recorded. Once you are registered, you can start the EU citizen family residence card (Certificado de Residencia Permanente de Ciudadano de la UE) process while waiting for the certificate.

What is the Spain Residency Application Process As An Unmarried Partner of an EU citizen?

The Spain Community Card is a three-part process:

Part One: The Non-EU Citizen needs entry into Spain

If your country requires a Schengen tourist visa, you will need to start the Schengen visa application process at the Spanish Consulate in your country of origin.  You can locate the Immigrant visa requirements on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs website. 

US citizens can enter Spain visa-free. Spain is in the Schengen agreement, allowing American's visa-exempt travel to any of the 26 European Union countries in the "Schengen Area." Visa-free entry is only allowed for 90 days and there are no renewals or extensions. You will want to start the Community Card (Tarjeta Comunitaria) process immediately.

Map of Schengen Countries

Part Two: Get official recognition and approval by the Spain Immigration Office on your right to live in Spain

Collect Your Documents and Prepare Your Application

Submit Documents to Your Local Immigration Office (Oficina de Extranjería)

Make Your Appointment On the Spanish Immigration Website Here

Part Three: Once approved, pick up your Community Card (Tarjeta Comunitaria)

  1. Pay your fees using Tasa modelo 790 Código 012
  2. Go to your Police Station (Comisaría de Policía)
  3. Get your fingerprints taken
  4. Show you signed and stamped Form EX-19
  5. The Immigration Office approval granting you legal residence in Spain
  6. Your Passport (original and copy) and three passport photos
  7. Walk out with your new Community Card.

The Pink Community Family Card

With this card, you have the right to live and work in Spain for 5 years. After 5 years, you can apply for Permanent Residence in Spain, After 10 years, you are eligible for Spanish citizenship.

 INSIDER TIP : Getting approval can take between one to three months. You can check the status of your application here.

WRAP UP: Spain Unmarried Partner Visa

This civil union visa is not an ideal solution for everyone. But, for unmarried foreign couples looking live in Spain long-term, the Community Family Card (Tarjeta Comunitaria) provides a long-term path to live in Spain permanently. 

If you are not looking to formalize your domestic partnership or if you don't have a partner with European Union citizenship, you should consider Spain's Non-Lucrative Visa-  No girlfriends or boyfriends are required.   

FAQs: Domestic Partnership Visa Spain

Do we have to be dating for a minimum period before applying for the domestic partnership?

No. What is important to Spanish Immigration is how long you have been living together (cohabitation) at the same address. Different local governments will require anywhere from 6 to 24 months. For example, Madrid requires couples to live together for a minimum of 12-months.

Can gay couples also register as domestic partners in Spain?

Yes. Same-sex couples have the same rights and requirements as opposite-sex couples under civil union laws.

How long can I live in Spain with a community family residence card?

Initially, the community family card is valid for 5-years. After 5-years, under the family reunification visa, a non-EU citizen may apply for permanent residency. After 10-years, a Foreign National is eligible for Spanish Citizenship.

Will I lose my Spanish residency if we break up and dissolve the civil union?

Yes, unless the civil union has lasted longer than 36 months. If 3-years or longer, the non-EU partner can keep the community card for the original 5-year term. After the 5-year validity period, the non-EU partner can apply for permanent residency in Spain.

What is the difference between a civil partner, domestic partner, and registered partner?

In the context of a Spanish family reunification and  a legal partnership between an unmarried couple, none. They are different terms, but mean the same. 


We moved the comments to the New Expat Forums

  • Marco, 

    I was looking into visa options for my long distance boyfriend and I. We are both U.S. citizens, however, he is a student in Barcelona. Would we be able to apply for the civil partnership with his student status?

    Thank you in advance!

    • Hi Abby,

      Thanks for reaching out. If I understand you correctly, you and your boyfriend would like to reside in Spain longer than 90 days. He is in Spain on a student visa. Both of you are US citizens, but neither of you is a dual citizen of any EU country. If my understanding is correct, the Unmarried partnership visa will not apply. The domestic partnership visa is only available if one of you is an EU citizen.

      Not sure about your intention with Spain, but a long-term residence visa Americans can potentially apply for is a Non-Lucrative visa, but that has specific financial requirements.

      Any questions or concerns, please drop me line.

      Cheers,

      Marco

  • Hi Marco,

    What evidence do you need to prove ‘a long and stable relationship’? I am an EU citizen and I have a job in Spain. I have lived in different places throughout the last year with my partner. She is soon going to begin a 6-month internship visa. Would a civil union increase our chances of securing the permit?

    Thanks for the great article.

    Colin

    • Hi Colin,

      Every country’s immigration agency loves formality. The more “official” documents you can show, the more comfortable they feel. My EU partner (Austrian) and I use bank statements, rental contracts, and also pictures proving we financially supported each other, lived together, and we’re in a long-term committed relationship.

      If she gets the Spanish residency visa card (Tarjeta Comunitaria), she gets the right to work in Spain.

      Good Luck,

      Marco

  • I’m from the USA, married to a Spanish citizen for 10 years and now divorced in January this year. My card expires in 2026. How will the divorce affect my residency? How will it affect my renewal of this card when the time comes?

    • Hi D.R.,

      Since you were married longer than 36 months and you lived in Spain for over a year, you can keep the community card for the original 5-year term. After the 5-year validity period, you can apply for permanent residency in Spain with no spousal requirement.

      Any questions or concerns, drop me a line,

      Marco

  • hi, thanks for this helpful information. i have a question. once the non eu partner has completed the process of getting the community card via the unmarried partner visa route what rights does he/she have to travel/visit/live in other shengen countries, please? i am danish, my partner is from the uk. we would like residency in spain but also the ability to travel to and even live (for a time) in other eu shengen countries. can we do this if my prtner gets the community card via this route? any limitions?

    • Hi Jan,

      Your partner gets the same Schengen Visa privileges they would have been allowed without their Spanish residency. The key difference is the time spent in Spain does NOT count against their Schengen visa days. However, outside of Spain, they are simply seen as a UK citizen again with no additional Schengen privileges.

      Cheers,

      Marco

  • Hi Marco,

    Thanks for all of the useful information provided in your post. I am an EU citizen and I would like to move to Spain with my non-EU partner. We have cohabited for 18 months. My company has an office in Spain, I’m curious how the process of the application would go. Can we apply from our current country and once we receive approval move to Spain? Or would I need to transfer to Spain, organise accommodation and only then we would be able to apply?

    Many Thanks

    • Hi Con,

      I suggest asking the Consular General in your country for specific requirements. In my case, my Spanish Non Lucrative Visa application was submitted outside of Spain. However, when my girlfriend and I were planning on the Partnership Visa that was an in-country process.

  • Hi Marco,

    I love your articles, they’ve been a great help to my partner and I.

    My partner is an EU citizen (Italian) and I’m a non-EU citizen (Australian). We’ve been together for 5 years but are unmarried. For the last year, we’ve been living in Vigo, Spain (I’m currently here on a Youth Mobility Visa). My partner is living and working here (she has a fulltime job in Vigo and we’re leasing an apartment together). I’m living here but working remotely from Australia. I want to be able to stay here with her long term after my current Mobility Visa expires. I was going to apply for the new Digital Nomad Visa, until I saw this article.

    We recently went to the Oficina de Extranjeros in Vigo to ask about our options as an unmarried couple, but they told us that in order to be eligible, my partner has to be a Spanish citizen. This goes against the information provided in this article – that ne partner just needs to be from any EU country and the other partner from a non-EU country. Perhaps, because Spain’s regions are so autonomous, the rules vary depending on which province you apply from.

    So I was wondering, do you know which provinces allow this type of union? Where can we submit our application?

    Thank you heaps for all your help!

    • Hi Scott,

      As with any visa in any country, individual bureaucrats have tremendous authority, and sometimes rules are inconsistently applied. However, I’m a little surprised you received that information, as the EU requisites around unmarried couples are clearly stated:

      “If you move with your de facto partner to another EU country, that country must facilitate their entry and residence there – whether your partner is an EU national or not.”

      Perhaps that specific immigration officer didn’t have a complete understanding. I would consider trying again with a different officer.

      Good luck,

      Marco

  • Hi Marco,

    My partner has been doing uni in Spain since October 2020 and I had planned on going over there and staying with her for 6 months (from 7th of Feb to 28th of July). I had planned to go on a non-lucrative visa, however something occurred to delay my application process by a month and I don’t think the visa will be approved before my departure flight.

    I was thinking as an option, that because I am in a registered relationship with my partner I could go over on the schengen visa and then when my 90 days is coming to an end move to a reunification visa and jump on her student visa. Would that be a viable option? I could skip the Schengen and go straight to the reunification but I doubt I’ll have enough time for that too.

    I am an Australian citizen, my partner is Uruguayan but is a permanent resident in Australia (I was her sponsor).

    • Hi Sam,

      Regrettably, the Domestic Partnership Visa is for EU citizens to reunite with non-EU citizens. Given neither you nor your partner are EU citizens, then the Unmarried Partner Visa doesn’t help in your case.

      Good luck. I hope you find a solution.

      Marco

  • Hi, Marco.

    Thank you for this detailed explanations. I am a non EU citizen (Southeast Asian, precisely) and my boyfriend is a Spanish citizen (born, raised and has been living in Spain). We were planning on getting married in Spain in the near future but we also have some considerations which may affect the decision;
    1. My job is at my home country, therefore I haven’t had any employment contract in Spain
    2. We have never lived together (I know it sounds strange but it’s due to my Asian family & society that don’t allow unmarried couples to live together in a same house)
    3. We’ve been dating for 3 years (met in person once due to Covid pandemic. He went to visit me for 2 weeks)

    Based on these considerations, is it possible for me to apply for the Spanish Community Card or a Civil Union before we get married in Spain, or is there any other options?

    Thank you very much in advance!

    • Hi Zee,

      The thing is you have to convince the immigration officers. My partner and I prepared a folder of “proof” of our relationship. We showed joint rental contracts, plane tickets together, and tons of pictures in different countries together. Your unique situation would probably benefit from talking with an Immigration Attorney in Spain.

      Good Luck,

      Marco

  • Hello, I am looking into getting a civil union visa with my partner that is from the Basque Country. I am wondering if you have any leads on how long do we have to be living together in this area of Spain? I am on my tourist U.S. Visa and it’s almost my first month here, therefore it’s confusing that they ask for proof of living together for x amount of months if (in my situation) I am only allowed here for 3 months at a time to be here. Thank you for reading and looking forward to hearing back from you!

    Natalie

  • Can I work in Spain if I am there on an “unmarried partner visa”

    • Hi Paul, The European Union allows a non-European citizen “Family Member” the right to live and work in the same country as their EU family.

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    About the author

    Hi, That's me. I'm Marco Sison. I am a survivor of the corporate rat race. I started Nomad FIRE to show you an alternative to the stress and grind of 70-hour weeks to pay off a mortgage, student loans, and countless bills. After getting laid off in 2015, I said screw it all and retired early at 41 years old. I have traveled the last eight years to over 50 countries to show you the best ways to save, invest, and live in amazing countries for 70% less cost than the US. I have been featured in: US News & World Reports, HuffPost, MSN Money, USA Today, ABC Network, Yahoo Finance, the iTunes documentary Seeking FIRE, and the Amazon Best-Seller, Abroad: Expats That Thrive. [view press...]

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