You and the Law in Spain - identification papers, what must you have?
Since the introduction of the Schegen treaty, Spain's borders have been open to an influx of foreigners from many nations. Today more than half a million foreigners hold residents permits, meaning that Spain is their permanent place of residence, with an estimated two million foreigners owning property. If you are an EU citizen, you are free to reside and work in whichever country within the EU that you choose although no country is required to accept the indigent of another. If you do not intend to work in your adoptive country, you may be asked to produce proof of income when you apply for your residence permit.
Once you arrive in Spain, your first task must be to register with the local police station to obtain an NIE certificate (Numero Identificación de Extranjero) which identifies you to the Spanish tax authorities. Without this form you will not be able to open a bank account, purchase any property, enrol your children in school, in fact do anything which involves filling in a form. If you intend to work in Spain and therefore pay in to the Spanish Social Security system, you do not now need to apply for residency, although there is still some confusion over this and it would not hurt to make the application nevertheless.
If you do not intend to work here, then, apart from your proof of income, you will also need to supply proof of medical insurance cover as your E-111 form acquired in the UK will only cover you for medical treatment for 6 months, although retired persons moving to Spain can use their E-121 form which entitles them to the same permanent medical treatment cover as in the UK.
If you are not an EU citizen and are requesting a unified work permit/residence permit, you will need a number of other documents as well - it is best to consult the relevant Spanish consulate in your country of origin before you leave.
All this sounds complicated but if you speak a little Spanish, possess more than a little patience and want to gain some experience first hand of your new country's official procedures, you can handle your request for residencia yourself. Otherwise you can enrol the services of a Gestoria who is licensed by the government as an official middleman between you and the State and provides, for a reasonable fee, many useful services.
Once settled in your place of residency, whether you have chosen to buy a property straight away, or decide to rent for a while, you will need to obtain a Certificado de Empadronamiento or confirmation of address for each member of your family living at that address. This you can obtain from your local Town Hall or Ayuntamiento by taking along a copy of your rental agreement of escritura (house title deeds) and your passport. You will need this certificate when you apply for your residence permit.
Many people find it advisable to rent a property on a short - medium term basis (6 - 11 months) in an area you are thinking of buying, before actually taking the plunge and investing in something which might turn out to be unsuitable.