On Becoming Pareja de Hecho in Spain

“What’s taking so long at table three?” I asked Kike. “Is there even a man working there?”

It was 3:42, twelve minutes past my appointment at Extranjería. Nervously tapping my toe, I looked over to my starved boyfriend whose unamused face had turned into extreme impatience. I was ok missing twelve more minutes of school but was concerned my pareja wasn’t thrilled to be waiting a few more for his puchero.

When a man with a large nose and equally big smile beckoned me (Kahhfuree-nay May-ree Haaaaa was what came out as my name), Kike pushed past the small group waiting outside the glass-encased funcionario land at the Foreign Residents office and asked permission to sit down.

I had remarked that the newly-renovated space was friendly, with deep blue and green walls, new chairs and an appointment system. The man’s “So, you’re a student and now you’re married” was the only thing that seemed foreign to me. Married, um, no.

Ok, so technically I am married, according to the Spanish government at least. Kike and I opted to do a pareja de hecho, most similar to a civil union in the US, to start the process of me getting permanent resident status. While I can’t ever be fully Spanish or even have a Spanish passport without renouncing my American one, this seemed like the easiest way to eventually live here legally and without a student status. It would only take three years of leaving the EU every 90 days.

Well, times changed at the homosexuals this law was meant to protect wanted full marriage rights. Spain said no, but amplified pareja de hecho laws, taking me on the fast track to free livin’ in Iberia. So, my lawyer says, Oh yeah, you can do this.

And it’s done. My school let me take off the afternoon, smiley face man gave me no frills, and I may just be starting to get REALLL Spanish.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
About Cat Gaa

As a beef-loving Chicago girl living amongst pigs, bullfighters, and a whole lotta canis, Cat Gaa writes about expat life in Seville, Spain. When not cavorting with adorable Spanish grandpas or struggling with Spanish prepositions, she works in higher education at an American university in Madrid and freelances with other publications, like Rough Guides and The Spain Scoop.


  1. when did you go through the pareja de hecho process? i’ve seen that changes went through at the end of 2010 making the process really simple (no convivencia previa in andalucia por lo menos and the ability to get the tarjeta comunitaria immediately). i’m hoping to do this, but it seems almost too good to be true! were you able to get the tarjeta and start working shortly after registering? thanks for any insight :)

    • Hi Breezy, I did it in 2010 when the laws began to change and had zero problems (my boyfriend is in the military and they didn’t do any sort of checking up on his finances, and I was also legally residing here with a student visa). I didn’t go for the tarjeta comunitaria right away because I was still on a student visa, even 10 months after we were approved, but I’ve understood that you can get the social security number and work immediately. Email me if you have more questions!

      • I just completed the process and it was easy, followed the instructions provided with all the correct paperwork. Took about 15 minutes in total to complete the process from submitting the paperwork and one month later signing the paperwork. My true question that I am trying to really define what is the true status of Pareja de Hecho. Legally married or a legal couple but not legally married. Can you expand on that.

      • Hey Ric, congratulations! You must be in an area with less immigrants – I hear wait times in some places are close to a year! In the eyes of the government, you’re legally married. Pareja de hecho was originally intended for homosexual couples, but a change in the law in 2010 makes it an easy avenue for non-EU citizens. I consider myself NOT married, but for some people, it’s as close to a marriage as they’ll get. In terms of taxes and accounts, you would file separately and have ‘separación de bienes’ unless you choose otherwise. We only share one bank account, which is for our house. Good luck!

  2. I was wondering if you have a ‘pareja de hecho’ and you break up, what will happen? Would you have to return to the states or is there an alternative you can apply for if you have been in Spain for 3 years?

    • Cat Gaa says:

      Hi Stacey. Very good question, and I don’t have the exact answer. I’d imagine you could stay on until your five years on the TIE run out (a friend of mine is risking this), and then renew through arraigo. If you find anything out, please let me know!

  3. Senorita_Fie says:


    Can i know what are the documents they need. As i am from Singapore and my boyfriend is a Spanish. So we decide to have this Pareja de Hecho, which i wasn’t sure what is it about. My boyfriend have a little hard to explain to me in detail as he speak a little ingles.
    Probably you could explain to me more. If this is same as married? Is it Legal?

    • Hi Señorita,

      I did pareja de hecho many years ago, so things have changed, and your region will make a difference, too. Why don’t you send me an email to hola@comoconsultingspain, and we can talk about it?

      Yes, it’s definitely legal and an easy option for residency, so long as you turn in the paperwork. That said, it can be a bt lengthy because paperwork moves slowly in Spain!

  4. Thank you for the follow up. I processed my request in Madrid. The actual process time was quick, when I went to make an appointment, yes there is a long wait to get your date, but I asked true million dollar question, “Does this appointment authorize me to stay past my three months on a tourist visa?” I was on a student visa that ended in July. The lady said no and changed my scheduled appointment from December to September. I went there mid June 2014 to make my initial appointment.

    • It will, Ric, as your paperwork being in process allows you to have a free pass. I’ve had a target comunitaria for nearly four years, and it has allowed me to work, take out social security, buy a house, etc. I have every legal right a Spaniard does, save voting in elections and referendums. When you’re able, ask for a social security number, as well, and you can start working!

  5. Yes, after I signed the documents on 1 Sept. I have to wait 1 month to get the certificate or official documents to use to get my SSN and work permit. But before that as I stated, getting the initial appointment to start the process takes time and if you have a date, it does not allow you to legally stay here before you sign the documents.

    • I find that hard to believe, to be honest. The law states that any paperwork in process allows the candidate to be legally in Spain and in the system. When I did pareja de hecho, I was on a student visa and legally here anyway, and was allowed to get my social security number before I have my tarjeta comunitaria.

      Do keep in mind that my experience was in Seville and four years ago. I have no updated any information on pareja de hecho since then (the law changed shortly after we were inscribed) because, as the option is getting more and more popular, the laws are getting tighter. I’m not as clear on requirements in other places because it’s based on comunidad and not a federal law. Thanks for weighing in – people ask me about these things often.

  6. Cat, you are correct about the statement when the paperwork is in process. But when a person makes the initial appointment they have to make sure they have enough time on there legal status in Spain because in Madrid, there is a 6 to 8 month wait before they get their official appointment date to sign the paperwork. After they sign then they will be in a legal status if their visas expire. I was lucky because the worker took the extra effort and found me an appointment earlier. But overall the process is simple and quick,

  7. Hi Cat,

    Thanks for your post.
    I am Austrian, hence no problem for me to stay and work in Spain. My girlfriend is from South Korea and we are thinking about applying for the pareja de hecho here in Barcelona.

    Do you know the requirements for pareja de hecho? I guess you applied for it in Seville. Do you know if there are differences between Seville and Barcelona?

    Many thanks,

    • Hi Manfred, you can certainly apply for it, though I’ve heard that Cataluña is more difficult as far as requirements go. Probably best to speak by email – I’ll send you one now!

  8. I did pareja de hecho last year. Is it possible to apply spanish nationality after one year. I was told by someone that after been married for one year can apply for spanish nationality. I was going through different sites and saw this statement “Yes, the “pareja de hecho”(common law couple) is comparable with the marriage thanks to a sentence of the supreme court.”.
    Do you have any information regarding this?

    • Hi Ayya, congrats! Since I don’t have much interest in getting the nationality, I haven’t looked into it. When I asked several years ago, I was told one could petition nationality after five years, though this could depend on your nationality, too. Your best bet is to ask at your nearest office, though you have nearly all of the same benefits of being married, apart from voting in national elections and referendums, and your finances are considered separate. Interested to hear any news you may have!

  9. Hi Cat

    Regarding the pareja de hecho, my Spanish girlfriend and I have been in a long-distance relationship for almost 2 years now (with evidence such as trips together etc to prove it) but have never lived together for 12 continuous months. Nonetheless I still want to be with her. Is there a way I can obtain the pareja de hecho even with this glaring shortcoming? Is there a way we could sign a private document stating our intention to live together?

    • Jessica says:

      I am in the same boat! In my region (Asturias) it doesn’t state a minimum amount of time required to be empadronado together but when we went to apply (after having lived together for 3 months) the gentleman at the PdH office said we needed to be living together for longer and that plane tickets/my year-long work contract/statements from witnesses (proving our relationship is long-term) wouldn’t be enough….

      • Cat Gaa says:

        Ugh, I would print out the legislation and take it back to him! I am a big proponent of funcionarios who work in these sorts of environments taking an exam every other year!! Go back and ask to speak to someone else, and good luck!

  10. Analisa says:

    Hello, roughly what official paperwork did you need to complete the pareja de hecho process? Like original birth certificate, any financial records….? Thank you!

  11. Hello,
    My partner and I applied for Pareja de Hecho in September of last year. It is now March, and we have been calling the office each week to ask about the process, but the woman on the other end is very impolite and says she doesn’t know and that we just have to wait for our letter/date to arrive in the mail. We recently filed a complaint about this excessive wait time. I have received a scholarship to fly out to India in June for a yoga training program. I would really like to participate and book my flight, but I am nervous about not receiving my tarjeta comunitaria in time. My question is:
    Can I leave the country if I only have the signed paper work for our official date, or do I have to wait for the physical tarjeta? As in, can I bring along the signed document to the airport and return to Spain sin problema?

    Thanks much! I know this message chain is old, but would appreciate any advice.


  12. I am pareja de hecho with my American partner since September 2018 . He is in Chicago and would like to come back to Spain – is there any problems with this ?

Speak Your Mind


CommentLuv badge

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.