Empadronamiento: Town Hall Registration in Spain

16 May 2021

How to empadronarse, your key to joining the Spanish community

The padrón is the single most important evidence of residency – you might even need it before you get a visa or residency. Brits just learned this the hard way with Brexit in 2020. Learn how to empadronarse, the benefits of the padrón, the pitfalls and the documents you'll need to present to complete and renew the empadronamiento in your town or city.

Whether you are here in Spain legally or not, you should register with your local padrón

Quickly jump to the following sections:


What is the empadronamiento?

Empadronamiento refers to the process of registering with your community’s padrón (city roll), also called the Padrón Municipal de Habitantes. The municipal padrón is the official record of all the people who live in a particular community and is the official way to verify or accredit your stay in Spain. By law, everyone who resides in Spain should be registered in the community where they live.

In practice, city registration is your key to becoming a member of your Spanish community and you can apply as an individual or as a family. Whether you are here in Spain legally or not, you should register with your local padrón, as it provides innumerable benefits if you intend to live in Spain for any extended period of time.


What benefits do you receive from getting empadronado?

First, registration means that you’re an official resident of your community. Consider this your first step to integration into Spanish life. Second, the empadronamiento is the way that your stay or residence in Spain is verified or accredited – a necessity for a variety of administrative procedures.

For example, you will generally need to prove your city registration to do the following things in your Spanish community:

  • Enroll your children in local schools.
  • Get married.
  • Apply for a local health card (carnét para la asistencia sanitaria).
  • Vote.
  • Apply for certain visas.
  • Apply for residency by way of a general amnesty or arraigo.


What benefits does the city receive when you’re empadronado?

Based on the number of inhabitants, a city or town receives money from the government to provide services to those who live within its jurisdiction, which means that if you’re registered or empadronado, then the city receives money to provide services on your behalf. It’s therefore in the city’s best interest (and yours too, for optimum service levels) to have an accurate count of who is really living in the community and using (or potentially using) the public services in question.


This video from She Saves - He Invests - They Travel focuses on the padrón step (registering your lease with the local authorities) and is Madrid centric. Although this video uses the Non-Lucrative visa as an example and is intended for immigrants, everyone who lives in Spain for more than 6 months needs to padron and can therefore benefit from viewing this video.


How and where to get empadronado in Spain

Registering with your city is a question of filling out a form and gathering together the required documents. Considering the amount of bureaucracy required for other official procedures in Spain, the empadronamiento is pretty painless (unless you goof up the address, see story below).

Once I had the form filled out and the documents in hand, it took me only a half hour to: 1) wait in line at my local junta in Madrid, 2) have the application processed, and 3) receive confirmation. 

These days everything runs via the municipal cita previa (prior appointment) system (not to be confused with the cita previa system for extranjeria) to book an appointment and to submit your papers with the ayuntamiento (city or town hall). To be honest, this might be the most challenging part of the whole process for two reasons: 1. you will have to decipher everything from Spanish (there are no English options for municipal websites) and there are often multiple similar options for "padrón", and 2. the cita previa / appointment system doesn't always have bookings available so you'll have to keep trying repeatedly. Even I get frustrated and confused by these confounding factors, despite knowing Spanish. In some cases you can call or email the ayuntamiento, the latter being probably much easier. 

Once you have your cita previa / prior appointment, collect your documents (see next section) and attend your appointment. The ayuntamiento (city or town hall) will either email you to notify you when it's ready to be printed and picked up, or they'll mail it to you. 

Another option is to hire a gestor or asesoria! Indeed, if the above headache ever feels like too much to bear, just hire some help (it's usually pretty reasonable, like 50€ or less). 

The Ajuntament/Ayuntamiento de Valencia's website is particularly confusing once you get past this point in the cita previa system. Oh, and it defaults to Catalan so it can be a bit tricky.


Required documents for getting empadronado

Since you will be dealing with a bureaucracy, you will need to furnish both the original and a photocopy of each required document (though you won’t need to photocopy the application form itself). Requirements may vary from municipality to municipality, so it’s best to check with your local ayuntamiento (city or town hall), but the most common required documents are:

The application form (hoja de empadromiento): The office that processes the applications will be able to provide you with one.

Documentation that accredits your identity (and those of your children if you are applying as a family): Passport, DNI or national identity card, residency card, etc.

Proof that you live where you say you live. This is, at a minimum, a lease or contract for your room or apartment, or deed to your property. It can also be a person you live with who must attend the appointment along with you, presenting their padrón and ID card (TIE or DNI).

Proof that the dwelling exists. This is most commonly going to be a utility bill, regardless of whose name is on the factura/bill. Note: some buildings have multiple addresses. 

Here's a real expat's story of empadronarse in Granada in 2020:

We excitedly put all of our documents together, including the application form, passports, apartment contract and utility bill into a nice folder and made our way over to the ayuntamiento for our 9am cita previa. We hadn't been able to get a cita previa for the empadronamiento in El Realejo or the central ayuntamiento (city hall) near where we lived for the same week, so we booked the soonest available cita previa for the ayuntamiento de Albaicín, about 2km away and all the way up the hill. I was worried that they were going to tell us to go home and reschedule for an appointment at the ayuntamiento nearest us in the center of Granada, but when we showed up they were happy to help us empadronarse right there.

The key piece we missed was that the electricity bill our landlord supplied to us for our empadronamiento indicated a different address from that shown on our contract. We left the ayuntamiento with our receipt, informed that we could expect to receive a notice by email when the certificado de padrón was ready. 

Instead, we waited 4 weeks without any word, which caused us to delay our cita previa registration for our TIE cards (which turned out to be unnecessary – in Granada you don't need your padrón to get your TIE for non lucrative visas). Eventually I booked another cita previa for the ayuntamiento centro for Granada and went down with all my paperwork to investigate and re-register if necessary (sidenote: I learned that they are pretty flexible with the citas – if you have a cita for that day you'll almost always be able to go in and do your business, regardless of what time it starts).

It turned out that the empadronamiento was blocked because of the address difference between the utility bill and the lease. I implored them to look on Google Maps to verify the addresses were the same, but despite much sympathy from the staff, after a call over to another department it was determined that an in-person visit would be required to confirm the address. She also informed me that the address in the utility bill is probably the right one to use, even if the mailing address appears differently, because the physical location is the key data point. 

Three more weeks later and after another cita previa to visit the ayuntamiento to find out what was taking so long, a nice gentlement rang our doorbell and came up to the apartment to verify our identities. 

Finally, after eight total weeks since we initially registered at the ayuntamiento in Albaicin, we were able to go back down to the ayuntamiento centro and request a print out our certificado de empadronamiento for our new life in Spain. For future certificados, we're able to request them online!

~Expatriated to Granada 2020

If you own your own house or apartment, you will need to provide a copy of your title deeds (escritura). If you are renting a house or apartment, you will need to provide a copy of your rental contract signed by the owner, utility bills in your name, or receipts for utility bills that you have paid in your name. If you are renting a room in a house or apartment, you will need your landlord (or a roommate who is already registered) to vouch that you are living at that address. This usually means that they have to sign your application form and furnish a photocopy of their DNI or passport, or even better is for them to accompany you to the local council to present their ID in person.

When you apply in person, your registration will be confirmed on the spot.

Renewal, moving, and other concerns

When you print out the certificado de empadronamiento it's valid for three months. It can also be printed out again from the ayuntamiento's website in some cities.

Renewal: If you are not a European Union national AND do not have a permanent residence visa (autorización de residencia permanente), you will need to renew your empadronamiento every two years. In all other cases, you will not need to renew. Your community will consider you a resident until they hear otherwise. However, if you move, have a child, or if any of the information you have provided changes, you will need to update your information with the padrón.

When moving to another community within Spain: Once you get empadronado in your new community, your old community will automatically be notified on your behalf. If you are moving outside of Spain: You will need to notify your community that you are moving outside of Spain so they can update their records accordingly. If you are moving to another address within the same community: You will need to notify your community that you have moved so they can update their records accordingly.


Essential Spanish vocabulary: Navigating through all the padrón-type words

  • (el) padrón/Padrón Municipal de Habitantes = The official municipal record of how many people live in a particular area.
  • (el) empadronamiento = The registration process with your municipality/community.
  • (el) volante de empadronamiento = A temporary or informal certificate of your registration as a member of the community. For most of your local needs, this should be sufficient.
  • (el) certificado de empadronamiento = The official certificate of your registration as a member of the community. You may need it for certain legal procedures with national or foreign bodies.
  • (la) hoja de empadronamiento = The application form you’ll need to register with your community.
  • empadronado (for men)/empadronada (for women) (it’s used as an adjective) = Registered with your community.
  • estar empadronado (for men)/estar empadronada (for women) = To be registered with your community.
  • (el) ayuntamiento = City or town hall.
  • (la) junta/Junta Municipal de Distrito = A city’s neighborhood administrative office. For example, Madrid has 21 neighborhood administrative offices, which among other duties, process empadronamiento applications from neighborhood residents.
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