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Register for free health care in Spain and get your Health Card

If you need to go use any medical services in Spain, you will be asked to show them your health card. Do not make my mistake and wait until you have been rolled into the emergency room without a health card, to face the wrath of over worked medics. Its not fun, trust me. 

The doctors and nurses are all dedicated and hardworking professionals who are feeling the strain of budget cuts. Unregistered patients skew the medical workload while not being accounted for during budgeting, and medical staff resent this.

Don't be afraid, take it step by step and you will get there. A good rule of thumb while chasing the paper in Spain is to always carry your passport, NIE and social security document along with photocopies of all (I even carry a passport photograph but have not needed to use it yet). In order to register you will first need a 'numero de Social Seguridad', which is a social security number.

Step 1 Getting a numero de Social Seguridad

Why you need it: This number details all you tax contributions through your work. If you are working, you should already have this number.

You will need:

1. The document on which your NIE number was printed

2. An identity document such as a passport

3. Photocopies

If you documents are in order, you will receive a print out of your assigned social security number immediately. Find you nearest office here: http://www.seg-social.es/Internet_1/Oficinas/index.htm

Step 2 Registering as a resident and getting an Empadronamiento

Why you need it: This document is proof of you residence in a certain neighbourhood. This enables the council or local governing body to accurately calculate the number of people it needs to provide civic services for and claim a proportional budget from the government.

You will need:

1. A lease agreement with your name on it. If you do not have a lease agreement with your name on it you can ask a person who already has an empadronamiento to sign a document vouching that you live with them. Ask for this document at the office.

2. An identity document such as a passport

Ask at your local council office or medical centre to find out where to apply for your neighbourhood empadronmiento. If you provide the above listed documents you will receive a print out of your empadronamiento immediately.

Step 3: Now you are ready to register for the ‘Tarjeta Sanitaria’, Health Card
Visit you nearest medical centre to apply for your health card.

You will need:

1. Empadronamiento

2. Numero de Social Seguridad

3. Identity document

The medic will fill in a form with your details, get you to sign a copy and then the health card will be posted to the address on your empadronamiento. You will then be assigned a doctor as well.

Congratulations! You are now ready to take on the world of germs and accidents with a carefree toss of the head. Forget about washing your hands or walking on the pavement. Safety is for sissys without a health card!

Last update on 08 November 2011 13:15:09


  • romperstomper1
    romperstomper1 24 January 2014 22:31:15

    Sorry to burst everyones balloon BUT unless you are working in Spain and ARE paying Contributions into the Tax System then I am almost positive you will HAVE to obtain the S1 Form from the UK in order to be covered for HealthCare within Spain, under what is/was the reciprocal Health Agreement between Member States of the EU. This NOW involves the production of documents such as Marriage Certicates which have to be in the form of an 'Apostile Seal' or 'Certificate' as proof of its' authenticity which is attached to the document and is obtained normally from the UK - the Apostile/Seal originates from The Hague,Netherlands which you may have guessed already. Whoever dreamed-up this expensive little money-making idea - it cost me 86 UK Pounds - 105? - you knew would be connected somehow to the EU didn't you?

  • rosbentley
    rosbentley 05 August 2013 08:57:42

    A very helpful article nut ojo - my empadronamiento took me lots of visits and 200 km in total. The4y asked for my escritura (I had to go home for it), then the mayor failed to sign it so I had to go home again and wait another few days. In the end it took a couple of weeks and four visits. You then take the empadronamiento to Social Security, which probably requires you to make an appointment online or by phone , I had to wait as week for my appointment. Use your EHIC card meanwhile but certainly , as it says above, don\'t wait till you need it to get this card!!

  • campogirl
    campogirl 22 March 2013 14:43:56


    I am a UK pensioner and have put a string on the forum about problems with getting an Empadronamiento from my village adjuntament, which is preventing me getting a health card. I live out of the village on what is classed as the campo. When we bought the mayor assured us we would be able to get a padron, but we were only coming out for holidays at that time. We got a new mayor a couple of years ago and when I came out to live permanently he refused to give me a padron. (A neighboring village mayor does not differentiate between in or out of the village).

    Do you know if I would be allowed to go to the nearest town to apply for a padron or does it have to be in the village I live. I have my S1 from the UK health department.

    Thanks for your helo


  • kdon89
    kdon89 06 March 2013 13:58:55

    Hi there. I have just been told that the law has changed. I used to live in barcelona for 3 years. I had an nie, empadrodamiento and a health card. when I got pregnant me and my partner moved home from ireland. I dont know if i still have my nie papers or medical card. would they still be valid now as me and partner and little boy are moving to the costa blanca in may. (it is 3 years since we moved here)
    I am also worried as my partner will be the only one working. I would be at home with my little man. we are not married. Does this mean that he will be the only one covered for health care. What about me and my child, would we be covered under the same household and if not what happens if we get sick? Sorry for all the questions, I only just got told this and just panicking a bit now! thank you so much, i will appreciate any feedback or information :)

  • raquelmoli
    raquelmoli 27 November 2012 14:46:44

    Hi thanks for the info. My husband lives and works in Barcelona. Our daughter and I just moved to Barcelona and I need to have the NIE to be covered by the health system. We are both EU citizens. The problem is that I have the faintest idea from there to start from. the police asks my livro de familia, my husbands vida laboral and our wedding certificate as well as the our daughters birth certificate (which is ridiculous because the livro de familia informs that). Then I hear I have to register as a EU citizen in Spain. then I hear I don\'t need to go to the police, but to the social security since we can be included in my husbands documentation.

    I would be very much appreciated if you could explain where to go and with which papers. I am so confused!


  • loca_perro
    loca_perro 05 October 2012 19:54:44

    Thanks for your comments. Yes, sadly due to drastic budget cuts health care is no longer universal and free in Spain.

    Around 850 doctors, nurses and other health care workers have registered as conscientious objectors to the new law which requires them to deny medical services to illegal immigrants. They claim their Hippocratic oath takes precedents over the government\'s laws. Read more here:


    And watch this fantastic video about the objectors. It\'s heartening stuff:


  • Spainrico
    Spainrico 20 March 2012 17:43:02

    This is a bit misleading as not everyone qualifies for free health care.

  • birdsong
    birdsong 04 October 2012 20:41:43

    I am living but not yet working in Catalunya and I read somewhere a message from you saying that if one family member has a social security number then the whole household is entitled to a health card (CAP card) Did I understand this correctly? And as my partner(of 3 years) and I are not married would it be enough do you think if we got the document of partnership that here in Catalunya makes you legally equivalalent to a married couple?

    Sorry to ask you more questions but I see you are well informed and I have been looking everywhere for this information.


  • Spainrico
    Spainrico 07 January 2013 19:17:32

    Ironically, given \'el crisis\' but due to EU law changes more free health care is now available to those holding residencia prior to April 24th 2012, NIE, padron, and letter from home EU country confirming no health care rights.

  • orlenakerek
    orlenakerek 09 February 2012 21:27:27

    You have to be working in order to get a health card. You are right, you can get a social security number first but in order to get the health card you need to be making contributions. (Believe me, I have tried! and I live in Catalonia too.)

  • Spainrico
    Spainrico 07 January 2013 19:18:07

    No longer true! See above.

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