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.

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About Cat Gaa

As a beef-loving Chicago girl living among 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 wrangles babies at an English Language Academy and freelances with other publications, like Rough Guides and The Spain Scoop.


  1. James says:
  2. neni509 says:
  3. Cat says:
  4. breezy says:

    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 :)

    • Cat Gaa says:

      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!

  5. SA says:

    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!

  6. 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?

    • Cat Gaa says:

      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!

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