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


unmarried couple visa spain flag madrid


  • 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. 

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 five years to over 40 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, Huffington Post, MSN Money, USA Today, ABC Network, Yahoo Finance, Best Life, CW Network, Dr. Wealth, and others. [view press...]

  • 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?

    • Marco Sison says:

      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.



  • 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?

    • Marco Sison says:

      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,


  • 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.


    • Marco Sison says:

      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 Sison says:

          You’re welcome, Colin. Glad you found it useful.

  • 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!

    • Marco Sison says:

      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.



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