When you move to Spain, there are certain papers that you are going to need in the Spanish bureaucratic jungle to work, study or buy a house. It can get quite overwhelming trying to figure it all out, but we are here to help you with the most important thing you are going to need as an expat: the NIE number (Número de Identificación de Extranjero, or Foreigner’s Identification Number).
Yes, you must have heard about it. This tax identification number is mandatory for all foreigners living in the country and it is necessary for dealing with any legal, financial, professional or social affairs in Spain, regardless of whether you are a resident or non-resident. If you want to work, pay taxes or buy property in Spain, you need a NIE number.
As a citizen of the European Union you will need this number within 3 months of arriving in Spain, while non-EU citizens will normally receive their NIE along with their Spanish residency. It’s best to start the NIE application process as soon as you can because Spanish bureaucracy can sometimes be a little dense and daunting, so here we explain how to get a NIE in Spain.
1. Make the NIE number appointment
It is pretty much necessary to make a NIE appointment online. Trust us, you really want to do this instead of waiting in line for hours at the office early in the morning. You can make an appointment for a NIE on the official Spanish-language website by choosing the province, choosing Certificados UE (if you are from the European Union) or Expedición de tarjeta de identidad de extranjero (if you are from outside the European Union) and then filling in your information.
Normally you need to wait at least a month for your appointment, so it is best to do this as soon as possible after you arrive in Spain. If you are not in Spain yet and are applying for the NIE number via a Spanish consulate in a different country, the process will take longer, often up to two months.
2. Get all the paperwork together
Before you make a Spanish NIE number appointment at your closest police station that deals with NIE numbers, you must make sure you have filled in all the NIW application forms and collected together all the necessary paperwork:
- You must print out this NIE number Spain form (EX-18), complete it and take two copies with you to the appointment. It must be written in Spanish, but you can get the same NIE form in English just as a guide. Do not bring the English form with you to the appointment because only the Spanish one is valid!
- All applicants for the Spanish NIE must also have an original and a photocopy of a document that explains their reason for wanting a NIE. This can be a property purchase agreement, mortgage contract, employment contract or any other official document that certifies you have financial or professional interests in Spain.
- Take along your passport, both the original and photocopies, and some passport-size colour photos. Non-EU citizens would also be advised to take their landing card, visa or other proof of legal entry into Spain.
- You will also have to pay about 10.71 euro in taxes for your NIE number. You need to fill in a second form online, the 790, print it, bring it to a bank (they’ll know what to do) and pay. Some banks even provide the possibility to pay this tax on an ATM, so it couldn’t be easier. Be very careful when filling in the form, however, not to mix instructions for EU citizens with those for non-EU citizens, because the boxes you have to tick are different.
3. Take all your documents to the appointment
For the appointment, you must bring all the forms filled out correctly and preferably copies of them, your original passport and a copy of it, proof of why you need the NIE number (e.g. a job contract, a contract that shows your intentions to buy a house in Spain, an acceptance letter from a school...) and proof that you paid the taxes of the NIE number. As for citizens from non-EU member states, you must bring all of the above, plus your visa with copies. The Spanish officials at the police station or Oficina de Extranjeros Immigration Office will take care of the rest for you.
Your NIE number may either be ready immediately or you might have to come back in a few days to collect it, depending on the city and region where you make the application.
A word of advice
Things don’t always go very smoothly when it comes to navigating Spanish red tape, unless you are very lucky, so try to remain calm. The level of professionalism and knowledge among officials and civil servants varies radically from province to province, as do the processing times and procedures. It’s advisable to research carefully how to obtain a NIE in your local municipality. It’s better to have too many papers with you than have to wait for another month for an appointment if you don’t meet all the requirements.
Once you understand how to get a NIE number in Spain, it’s best to start the process straight away as it’s the most important document you will need as an expat in Spain. NIE numbers in Spain last forever, being valid indefinitely, so whether you have a green paper version or a red plastic card, make sure you don’t lose it and always keep photocopies of it.