Author: María-José M.
Profession: Lawyer
Completed cases: 156
María José is an experienced attorney with over 15 years of practice, specialising in criminal and civil law. She founded the Murcia Independent Lawyers Association. Bilingual in Spanish and English, she provides personalised legal services to both local and international clients.

1. What is a Criminal Record Certificate?

A Criminal Record Certificate in Spain - also referred to as a Police Clearance Certificate - is known as the “Certificado de Antecedentes Penales,” in Spanish, and is an official document issued by the Spanish authorities, specifically the Ministry of Justice. It provides a record of any criminal convictions a person may have in Spain. The certificate can be obtained from the Criminal Records Office.


The certificate is a Spanish criminal record file that details the nature of the crime, the date of the sentence, and the penal sanction imposed.


This document is often required for various administrative processes, including job applications, public office positions, and management of certain businesses. It serves to officially certify whether a person has a clean record or documented criminal history in Spain.

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2. What is the difference between Criminal Records certificate and Police clearance certificates?

The difference between a Criminal Records Certificate and a Police Clearance Certificate in Spain lies in their purpose and scope.

A Criminal Records Certificate, issued by the Ministry of Justice, specifically details an individual’s criminal convictions within Spain. It includes information about the nature and date of any crimes committed and the resulting penalties. As a result, and with the objective to prove the absence of a criminal record, it is sometimes referred to as Good Conduct Certificate.

On the other hand, a Police Clearance Certificate is often broader, may include not just conviction data but also any police interactions or reports, regardless of whether they led to a conviction. This certificate includes police records and is more comprehensive, making it suitable for international purposes, such as visas or foreign employment.

Nonetheless, many people consider the criminal record certificate to be equivalent to a Police Clearance certificate and often use each term interchangeably.

3. Who needs a criminal background check in Spain?

In Spain, a criminal background check is typically required for individuals in various situations, such as when applying for certain types of employment, especially in fields involving trust and safety.

This includes roles in education, healthcare, and positions that involve working with vulnerable populations like children or the elderly.

Additionally, people seeking to obtain or renew specific licences, such as firearm licences, or those looking to immigrate or travel abroad, might also need to present a clean criminal record.

Furthermore, individuals involved in legal proceedings or applying for public office may be required to provide this documentation.

Therefore, anyone who finds themselves in any of the situations mentioned above and who has spent time in Spain - usually during the previous 5 years - will need to obtain a Spanish criminal record certificate.

This will therefore potentially include Spanish nationals, UK citizens, Irish citizens - and basically any foreign nationals who have spent time living in Spain.

4. How long does a criminal record last in Spain?

In Spain, the duration of a criminal record varies depending on the severity of the offence and other circumstances.

The record can be cancelled from the Certificate of Criminal Records after a period without committing any crime following the completion of the sentence. This period ranges from 6 months (for less serious offences) to 10 years (more grave offences).

The cancellation period starts when the sentence is fully served. However, delays in execution of the sentence or other procedural aspects can extend this period. Cancellation often isn't automatic and requires specific actions.

5. Who can ask for a criminal record certificate in Spain?

In Spain, the person who can request a criminal record certificate is primarily the individual to whom the record pertains, often referred to as the "interested party."

This means that individuals can apply for their own criminal record certificate. The process is designed to ensure that personal information is accessed and used appropriately.

In certain cases, authorized representatives may also request a certificate on behalf of someone else, given that they have legal permission to do so.

This authorized representative can request a criminal record certificate on behalf of someone else under specific conditions. This typically requires a formal authorization or power of attorney, demonstrating that the representative is legally permitted to make such a request.

The process ensures that personal information is accessed and managed securely and in accordance with privacy laws.

6. How do I get a criminal record certificate in Spain?

To obtain a criminal record certificate in Spain, you can apply online, by post or in person.

Most prefer to apply online, given that it is the easiest and quickest option.

The process involves using a digital certificate for identity verification, filling out an online application form, and possibly sending additional documentation via email or postal mail. You’ll need to provide a copy of your ID card. The online form simplifies the process, making it accessible and convenient.

For applicants in Spain who do not speak Spanish or lack a digital certificate, obtaining a criminal record certificate involves alternative methods. They may need to visit the Central Office of Citizen Services in Madrid or the Territorial Management Offices of the Ministry of Justice to request the certificate in person. Assistance from a translator or legal representative might be necessary.

The application process will involve completing a form, likely in paper format, and providing identification, such as a passport. Sending the application via postal mail is also an option.

7. Is it possible for third parties holding a proxy to submit the application?

Yes, it is possible for third parties holding a proxy to submit the application for a criminal record certificate in Spain. This requires the third party to have legal authorization or a power of attorney, allowing them to act on behalf of the individual for whom the record is requested.

8. How long does it take to get the Spanish criminal record check?

The time it takes to obtain a Spanish criminal record check varies. If the application is made online with a digital certificate, the certificate can be obtained instantly. However, manual applications or those requiring additional verification may take longer.

9. What is the procedure

To obtain a Spanish criminal record certificate, one typically needs to complete an application form, provide identification documents, and submit the application either online or through a government office.


  • Online Application: If you have a digital certificate, you can apply online.
  • Physical Application: Fill out the model 790 form, either with or without a digital certificate.
    • For certain positions or roles working with minors, a Sexual Offences Certificate is required. To obtain this, you need to complete an application form, provide identification documents, and submit the application either online or through a government office. If you are living outside Spain, additional steps for legalizing the certificate for international use may be necessary.
  • Apply in person at the Central Citizen’s Service Office in Madrid or at the Territorial Management offices of the Ministry of Justice. An appointment is required.
  • Submit identity documents: A certified copy of your DNI if you are Spanish or your residence card/passport if you are foreign.
  • If a third party is applying on your behalf, they need to provide personal identification and a document signed before a notary confirming their legal representation.
  • Pay the required fees and provide payment proof. This can be done online with a digital certificate, through electronic banking, at an ATM, or by bank transfer if abroad.


If using a lawyer as a proxy, the process is as follows:

  • Authorise the lawyer to act as your proxy, often requiring a Power of Attorney
  • The lawyer submits the application on your behalf.
  • Required documents are provided by the lawyer.
  • The lawyer follows up with the relevant authorities.
  • Once processed, the lawyer receives the criminal record certificate.
  • The lawyer can arrange legalisation via The Hague Apostille stamp, as required

10. Where shall the application be submitted?

The application for a criminal record certificate in Spain should be submitted to the Ministry of Justice. This can be done either online, through their electronic services, or in person.

Foreign nationals may not request this certificate via the Spanish consulates, though a power of attorney can be arranged in these locations in order to empower another person - such as a lawyer - to obtain the certificate on your behalf.

11. Is there an emergency procedure?

There is no emergency procedure per se, however, a lawyer can obtain a certificate quickly once a power of attorney is received empowering them to act on the applicant's behalf.

12. May applicants apply from abroad? What are the modalities?

The specific modality will depend on the method by which the certificate is being requested.

If the applicant has an electronic-DNI or digital certificate, then they can apply for the certificate directly themselves via the online portal established for this purpose.

However, it is often the case that the applicant does not possess an electronic-DNI or digital certificate. In this case, either the applicant must:

  • Visit spain to obtain an electronic-DNI or digital certificate, or
  • Visit spain and request the certificate personally by visiting the appropriate office of the Ministry of Justice, or
  • Empower a local lawyer to make the application on their behalf.

Given the time, effort and cost comparisons, applicants typically will choose the third option.

They will normally be asked to arrange a notary in their local area, who can arrange legalisation of the power of attorney (drafted in Spanish and English). 

The lawyer will typically email the power of attorney for the notary to print and prepare for the applicant to sign and the notary to stamp. The notary then sends the power of attorney to the lawyer in Spain, where it is used to obtain the criminal record certificate.

13. European criminal records information system (ECRIS)

Criminal Record Check in Spain or in any other European Union member country: the European Union Criminal Records System is a computerised system established in 2012 to create an efficient exchange of information on criminal convictions between member States.

The system provides judges, prosecutors and police information on the criminal convictions/history of persons concerned, no matter which Member State that the person has been convicted in the past.

So when citizens ask for an extract from their criminal record in Spain, it will include also criminal records in case of conviction in any of the member States.

If you are a not an EU-citizen, it is currently not possible to determine whether they were previously convicted in other Member States without consulting them all.

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14. Frequently Asked Questions

How do I get a criminal background check in Spain?

To get a criminal background check in Spain, you can use one of the following methods:

  1. Online through the Ministry of Justice website: You can apply for the Criminal Record Certificate online by accessing the Ministry of Justice's official website.
  2. By mail: Send your application directly to the Ministry of Justice via mail.
  3. Through the Consular Office: Apply through the Consular Office of the Embassy of Spain and pick up the certificate in Spain.

Are background checks illegal in Spain?

Background checks are legal in Spain. However, accessing and disclosing criminal record information must comply with strict data protection regulations. Employers cannot discriminate based on criminal history during hiring or employment, ensuring fairness and privacy for all individuals involved.

What is the equivalent of dbs in Spain?

Spain's equivalent of a UK DBS check is the Certificado de Antecedentes Penales. This certificate, also known as a criminal record certificate, serves to verify an individual's criminal history in Spain.

Our Lawyers

María-José, Lawyer in Murcia ...
Maria-Jose read Law at the University of Alicante, and in 2004 became a member of The Law Society of Murcia. In 2005 she established her own law firm with offices in the centre of Murcia and maintains offices both there and in Valencia. Maria-Jose acts as Secretary of the Civil Section in the Law Society of Murcia and is a leading member of the legal community. She assists clients with property acquisitions and disposals as well as a full range of civil law matters such as inheritances and family law matters. She speaks English fluently.
I recently used Maria-José to act as my lawyer re selling my house in Spain. Based in another country, I granted Maria power of attorney to complete what turned out to be a more complicated sale than expected. Maria went above and beyond to complete the sale, always keeping me informed, explaining everything in English. Very respectful and patient at all times. I will be instructing Maria again when I need her. Highly recommend!
David Johnson
David Johnson
16 Jul 2024
G o o g l e Review
156 completed cases
Speaks languages
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