Find out about the social welfare entitlements for citizens in Spain and how to register with the authorities…

The Spanish Constitution states that all citizens have the right to receive assistance and social services when required. It is the Social Security System’s responsibility to guarantee these rights to all citizens and their relatives.

Any person legally resident in Spain can benefit from the Spanish social security system if they fall into one of the following categories:

  • Employed workers
  • Self-employed workers
  • Students
  • Workers affiliated with a work co-operatives
  • Civil servants or military personnel

There are two different schemes for Social Security:

  1. Contributory
  2. Non-contributory

The contributory scheme is for some civil servants, employed persons who are not eligible for a special scheme, five special categories of agricultural workers, mariners and coal miners. All contributory workers will fall into one of six labour categories (régimen), with contribution rates differing from category to category. It is not possible for a person to be registered in more than one scheme for the same occupation.

For employees, a set percentage of earnings is payable and contributions to the social security system will begin as soon as employment begins. Both the employee and employer pay a percentage of the contribution, with the employer paying a larger percentage than the worker. Payments are made towards social security coverage for:

  • Illness
  • Non work-related injuries
  • Retirement
  • Maternity and paternity leave
  • Work-related-injuries and occupational illness
  • Overtime
  • Unemployment
  • Wage Guarantee Fund
  • Occupational Training

Employers make contributions for social security coverage for work-related injuries and industrial accidents.

Self-employed workers receive the same types of social security coverage as employees except that they are not entitled to unemployment benefits or industrial accident cover. Those who are self-employed may choose between a minimum (at least approximately 29 percent of earnings) and maximum contribution amount, and they are responsible for payment of the full amount.

The non-contributory system is a safety net welfare system for persons with specific needs or on low incomes. Some citizens may be entitled to benefits even if they have never paid social security contributions, or have done but were not entitled to benefits under the contributory system.

Non-contributory benefits include:

  • Medical assistance
  • Retirement and disability allowances
  • Family allowances
  • Special assistance for the unemployed (subsidio por desempleo)
  • Non-contributory maternity allowance (subsidio por maternidad de naturaleza no contributiva), which is not means-tested

EU citizens without enough national insurance contributions in Spain to claim social security benefits can often make up any entitlement by declaring NI contributions made in their home country or other EU country’s of employment.

Obtaining a Social Security Affiliation Number

Registration with the social security service is compulsory for all persons working in Spain. Any resident, either salaried or self-employed, is entitled to a social security number. Once a number is obtained, it is valid for the life of the holder. Periods of employment are referred to as “altas” and periods of unemployment are called “bajos”.

Employers need to request a social security number for the person they are going to employ if that person does not already have one.

Self-employed workers may make the application themselves or hire a gestorto complete the process for them.

The application form and required documentation should be presented to a local office (local to the applicant’s workplace or home) of the Tesorería General de la Seguridad Social. Once the application has been submitted, the worker will receive a certificate of registration (documento de afiliación) and a registration number.

The following documents must be presented:

  • A form of national identification, with accompanying photocopy. A Número Identificatión de Extranjero (NIE) is sufficient
  • Residency certificate or passport, with accompanying photocopy
  • Completed form TA1 (Social Security application form)

In the event a worker is made redundant or otherwise stops working, theTesorería General de la Seguridad Social must be notified immediately. The worker is liable for contributions until the agency is notified.