Renewing the Residencia in Tenerife, Certificado de Registro de Ciudadano de la Unión

This isn’t normally the type of post that we’d publish on The Real Tenerife but after some discussions on facebook yesterday we felt it might be useful to anyone living in Tenerife, the Canary Islands or even mainland Spain.

Up until two months ago we thought our residencia, the green A4 sized version, was permanent.

Purely by chance we discovered that the law had changed and it wasn’t. Basically there was an error on Andy’s Certificado de Viaje and when she went to the Ayuntamiento (Town Hall) in Puerto de la Cruz to correct it, they pointed out that her residencia was about to expire.

Apparently, so they informed us, the changes in the law meant that the green A4 sized document titled  Certificado de Registro de Ciudadano de la Unión is only valid for five years from the date of issue. Note: Another Tenerife resident has told us that they were advised by an official clerk that as the wording on their green paper residencia included the phrase ‘COMO RESIDENTE COMUNITARIO CON CHARACTER PERNANENTE EN ESPANA’ (only added after 5 years) they didn’t have to renew.

Confirming what is and what is accurate information in Spain isn’t easy. A check of official government websites, expat forums and speciality ‘living in Spain’ sites confirmed one thing – there was a lot of conflicting evidence regarding whether the document was permanent or not. Opinions varied wildly and processes to renew even more. But the more reputable sites seemed to back up the need for renewal advice.

How to renew the residencia
Depending on where people live in Spain, what you have to do changes not only from region to region but within municipalities in the same province. So the process we had to follow in Puerto de la Cruz is peculiar (and I use the word deliberately) to us. But I’m outlining it to illustrate how odd bureaucracy can be in Spain.

At 9.30am on a Tuesday morning we turned up at the National Police station where applications for NIE/residencias etc. are administered – other documents like empadronamientos are dealt with by the town hall. Again, in other locations this can be different.

9.30 turned out to be too late. They had reached their daily quota of ‘customers’ by that time. The policeman advised us to return early the next day. Early meant before 7.30am.

So the following morning we dragged ourselves out of bed at 6 to ensure we’d get there early enough to be seen.

After that there was a whole bizarre little ritual of waiting with other ‘applicants’ in the street about 25 metres away from the entrance to the police station, being led up the street and into a dingy room at 7.30, led back out a few minutes later to write names on a blank piece of paper and then, about 8am, having more details taken by a woman who darted in and out of a concealed office issuing instructions to us all.

After this point it all became logical and the process took on a shape that should apply (more or less) across the board.

Certificado de Registro

The process
In the end the actual process was straightforward. All that was needed was a photocopy of our passports (1st page and the page with photo), a modelo 790 (issued at the office) and one other document which basically seemed to confirm we’d lived in Spain for five years (also issued at the office). We took our modelo 790 to the bank, paid €10.50 each, had it stamped and returned to the police station where we were seen within a few minutes.

Ten minutes later we emerged with the new, green, credit card sized certificado de registro.

This isn’t meant as a step by step guide on how to renew residencia as even with the final process there can be regional variations. The modelo 790 and €10.50 fee seem set, but friends on a neighbouring island had to produce photos where we didn’t.

It’s more about making people aware that the green paper residencia (certificado de registro) might only be valid for 5 years. Other sources still suggest that it isn’t legally required. But we travel a lot and aren’t taken any chances of being hit with full fares at a check in desk because our residencia is ‘invalid’.

As for the new one, the lady at the police station informed us that it was permanent… unless the law changes.

UPDATE: This is what the British Consulate has to say about the situation regarding renewal of certificados: “My colleagues at the British Embassy in Madrid have been discussing this issue with the Ministry who verbally confirmed that none of the green residency certificates or cards expire. A person holding a temporary residency certificate can choose to (not obligatory) apply for permanent residency after 5 years, and must meet the criteria.”

If the certificates don’t expire then, in theory, they should always be valid for the resident’s travel discount. Looks like we forked out €21 for nothing.

Jack is co-owner, writer and photographer for BuzzTrips and the Real Tenerife series of travel websites as well as a contributor to online travel sites and travel magazines. Follow Jack on Google+

About Jack 503 Articles
Jack is co-editor, writer and photographer for BuzzTrips and the Real Tenerife series of travel websites as well as a contributor to online travel sites and travel magazines. Follow Jack on Google+


  1. Jack, I’m sorry (and please do delete this if you’d prefer) but this is wrong. The change of an A4 certificado de Registro for the paper-card version is entirely option. This is confirmed at the highest level of the police in Spain. It’s also not “residencia”, but the Certificado de Registro issued when we comply with the requirement to register with the police, the system that replaced the “residencia” system.
    What is true is that Ayuntamientos require residents in municipalities to re-register on the padron periodically (different time limits in different areas), but this is clearly very different to Spain’s national policy of requiring foreign residents to register as living in Spain.

    • Thanks Janet, any advice about this is very welcome.

      Like I said, it’s not the sort of post we’d normally publish but it is what we were advised, rightly or wrongly, to do by an official source.
      There were residents from other European countries renewing at the same time and, as mentioned in the blog, friends on another island were told the same – after a phone call to Tenerife – when they inquired about it. So the information given to you hasn’t filtered down through Tenerife’s municipalities. No surprise there.

      I read your article about it being confirmed by the Comisaría General de Extranjería y Fronteras that registration is optional, and it made perfect sense. But the confusion still reigns around much of Spain if the conflicting information published online is anything to go by. It would be good to see a definitive, official source that confirms this (by that I mean on an official website) but I know that’s probably a pipe dream 🙂

      Did anyone check what the implications of not having what might be considered an ‘up to date’ Certificado de Registro de Ciudadano might be in relation to discounted travel from and within the Canary Islands? From a personal viewpoint, my biggest concern was turning up at a check-in desk to get hit with elevated fares because my certificado was considered out of date.

  2. well, of course, the main document for the resident discount is the empadronamiento, and that is what is going to be automated (by November). So providing one can get through to the Ayuntamientos that a Registro is valid even if it might be issued for a five year period (or even an expired five year period!), one would get the empadronamiento and thus the discount. It is the empadronamiento that SARA is concerned with.
    For what it’s worth, even though it’s anecdotal you have my hand on heart, it took an investigative journalist (Karl McLoughlin)to speak to the Minsterio del Interior and the Chief of Extranjerias, and then go in person to PdlA comisaria and confront the comisario himself. It took 24 hours to filter through to the desk officers that Registros did not need to be renewed, and that any replacement of an A4 for the new card registro was “optional”.
    The important thing, though, is that Karl achieved a document which is downloadable from my website from Madrid confirming this. Spain could do nothing else, indeed, because EU directives ensure the right of any EU nationals to reside in an EU country once there for five years. So even a Registro with an expiry date (rather than saying “permanente”) doesn’t need to be renewed.

    • The reality is that there are two documents which ‘guarantee’ extranjero travellers a resident’s discount Janet – the Certificado de Viaje and the Certificado de Registro (what people commonly refer to as the residencia). The bog standard empadronamiemto doesn’t qualify people for the discount.

      What happens when you turn up at the check-in desk is that you are asked to produce both (original documents). Annoyingly, you are often asked to produce the residencia again when boarding.

      We travel inter island usually once a month and to mainland Spain on a regular basis and this is the reality of what it involves. I know that there has been a change in the law but how that actually translates to what happens procedurally on the ground is anyone’s guess (I’m sure we’ll find out first hand very soon). This is Spain. You’re probably aware of the utter confusion when electronic certificados de viaje were introduced – people were still charged full fares when they turned up at the airport in some cases… and that was Canarios.

      And therein lies the problem between what legislation dictates and what actually happens – which is why there is such confusion regarding renewal where there are different practices being operated (not only within Tenerife). We know what EU directives say, but EU directives don’t really help when people are faced with a funcionario or stubborn counter clerk who ‘knows differently’.

      Call me Mr Sceptical but having dealt with funcionarios and ayuntamientos across the Canary Islands, I suspect I know exactly where waving an A4 printed piece of paper without any official stamp on it will get me 🙂

      Incidentally, did you know that the National Police Departamento de Extranjeros in Tenerife South are suggesting that there wasn’t an issue regarding people ‘having to renew’ that it was mainly people who wanted the new credit sized card because it was more practical?

      When the wind changes, so do the tales 🙂

  3. Went through a similar experience in the South in early 2013—
    Diana McGlone publiched May 2013 Expiry date of Green Resident Certificate A4 and wallet sized formats? – May 2013

    If you still have a plastic residence card with your picture and finger print on, or worse still an old burgundy red folded document, I am very much afraid your ship has sailed these documents show an expiry date and you will be treated as a new applicant (see above).

    After very specific questioning officers in the Tenerife Southern Police station were telling applicants in April and May of this year (2013) that their green A4 certificate of residence would need to be renewed 5 years from the issue date CONTRARY to what was told to applicants at the time of issue and CONTRARY to information provided to the English press in Tenerife by the central authorities in Madrid, in a letter which states there is no obligation to renew at all as the green documents do not have an expiry date.

    In an about turn, those same officers are now (29 May 2013) saying there IS NO obligation to renew the European citizen certificate of residence “hasta nuevo aviso” – “until further notice”.

    For those that have A4 sized green paper certificates they may wish to change to the most recent style, wallet sized green lightweight card-board residence certificate, the date of issue is in words at the bottom of both documents, just above the signature (use Google translate if you don’t know your Spanish numbers).

    My personal opinion is while it has now been confirmed there may be no obligation to renew, it may well be very convenient to do so

    • Thanks Diana, that’s pretty much how I see it. The problem is that whilst Tenerife south officials have come in line, other municipalities still haven’t – not only here on Tenerife as far as I can see – and that’s where EU residents (and Canarian locals) are faced with an almost impossible task of determining who is right. And, as I’m sure you know only too well, being right doesn’t automatically guarantee the outcome is as it should be 🙂

      We were also more or less advised “hasta nuevo avisos” – the funcionarios have been round this block many times and know exactly how fluid laws and practices can be.

      Your advice seems pragmatic to me.

  4. Be careful of the island of Tenerife, especially where a lot of tourists are concentrated groups.Etc. 2016.02.15-2016.02.25 we vacationed Tenerif?je.Ir Masca village was stolen wallet with documents and bank cards, and of course money, how much trouble back when no doc. and money.Ten this is happening systematically and continuously, as you can see on the roadsides of discarded empty wallets,money bags. GPS: 28 ° 18’18.5 “N16 ° 50’24.6” W

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