Last update : November 2023

The situation for unaccompanied minors (Spanish: MENA ⇒ch. Glossary) differs significantly from the situation of adult migrants in terms of access to residency, health care and education. The region (“comunidad autónoma”) where a minor is intercepted by authorities for the first time is automatically responsible for them, until their 18th birthday. During this period you will have legal residence in Spain and you can’t be deported to another country.

Attention: The situation of underaged migrants is different in Ceuta and Melilla. See ⇒ch. Situation at the Border / Ceuta and Melilla.

Determining your age

When you declare to be underage it is possible that the authorities have doubts about the truthfulness of your age. They can demand an x-ray to determine the age of your bones. The result of this test will count as your official age in the future, even if it’s wrong.

Remember: If you are able to prove your age with documents such as a passport or a birth certificate, you might not have to do the bone test.

Health and welfare services

When you declare to be an unaccompanied minor, or when your age is determined by the test, you will be sent to a reception centre for minors. The state has to look after you until you turn 18, including full health care. After coming of age, there are possibilities to stay in centres or flats for minors who have previously been under state care, especially if you have a positive report about your behaviour from the centre of minors or if you are undergoing training (academic or vocational).


All under 16 year olds in Spain have the right to free education within the state education system. If you or your underage child is not given this possibility, you can legally enforce this right. Young people between 16 and 18 years old have the same right to grants and financial assistance for studying as their Spanish peers. At these stages, Spanish social and youth workers can help you to access further education (⇒ ch. Living undocumented / Access to Education).

Remember: Studying in the official education system (academic or vocational training) is one of the main reasons that can help you to renew your residence permit after your 18th birthday.

Documents for minors

As a minor in Spain you have the right to a renewable residence permit of two years. This residence permit also allows you to work from the age of 16. As an unaccompanied minor living in a centre you can apply for Spanish Nationality after 2 years (you need to be 16 or younger when you enter the centre to do this). However, this is difficult in Ceuta and Melilla. Ask the social workers/lawyers around you if this is an option for you.

Attention: To renew your residency after you turn 18, you will have to prove sufficient income (either from work or social assistance).

Attention: The region (Comunidad Autonoma) where you were first hosted in a reception centre for minors, is the one responsible for you. If you change location in Spain on your own account and present yourself to the authorities there, they might send you back to the centre you first lived in.