This is the third article of my series Living in Spain. Today I’m going to explain everything I know about the Spanish NIE number.
As a summary, remember that my series Living in Spain consists of 6 articles:
If you are a non-EU citizen married to an EU citizen then click on Spanish residency for non-EU citizens
- Are you from the USA? Please read my 2020 guide all about moving to Spain from the USA
- Are you from Canada? Please read my 2020 guide all about moving to Spain from Canada
- Are you from South Africa? Please read my 2020 guide all about moving to Spain from South Africa
- Are you from Australia? Please read my 2020 guide all about moving to Spain from Australia
If you’re from a non-EU country and would like to apply for your permanent Spanish residency card click here as you should start with a visa.
NOTE: Article updated on 31 December 2019
WHAT IS A NIE NUMBER?
The NIE number is an identification number for foreigners (Número de Identificación de Extranjero in Spanish) who do not have the status of Spanish citizens.
The official website of the Spanish Ministry of the Interior describes the NIE number as follows:
Foreigners that, for their economic, social or professional interests, become associated to Spain, will be given, for identification purposes, a personal exclusive number unique to the individual.
Including the following meaningful paragraph:
The NIE number will be the identifier of foreign people, which must appear on all documents issued or processed on them, as well as the measures which are affixed in their passport or identity card.
In my own words, it is just an identification number that will be assigned to you for legal purposes; of course, only in case you are not a Spanish citizen.
Spanish citizens use a number called “Documento Nacional de Identidad – DNI” (National Identity Document).
(Spanish DNI looks like this)
WHERE DO I GET A NIE NUMBER?
There are two places where you can obtain a NIE number:
- Spanish National Police stations properly assigned to issue NIE numbers. This clearly means that not every single National Police station will offer this service (check out your nearest one).
- Spanish embassy located in your country.
The NIE number must be requested:
- In person.
- Through a legal authorised person (power of attorney).
If you are going to request your NIE number in Spain make sure first you find out how they do it. Call or go in person to that particular National Police office, they may have queue system, appointment on the phone, or in-person book in.
(Immigration documents is managed by the Spanish National Police)
Did you read my article about the Spanish Padron? I did try to emphasise that Spain is not the most centralized country on the planet. That’s why you should ask first what you need at your corresponding National Police station, or get in touch with a specialist (me, for instance, of course ;-), although I can only help you out in person within my coverage area)
In some stations you will need some extras that you won’t in other places (ask first, that’s the key, I won’t stop repeating!)
So, in this article I will be honest with you and I will not give you misleading information.
For sure your will need a EX-15 form.
Original passport + 1 photocopy.
2 small photos taken in Spain.
Depending on the police station you may need to proof where you live legally (Padrón). Or you may have to provide documents to support why you need a NIE number (this is usually for non-EU citizens of certain countries, other counties non-EU countries cannot apply for the NIE, as they have to go through the residency process).
There is a fee (€9.64 in 2019, but this will be increase periodically) that must be paid at the bank through an official document called 790 form.
Again, I would like to remind you that Spain varies a lot from one town to another. Requirements can change even if it’s a national document, as the NIE number.
Ignore those websites that say you need this and that. They might be good for an initial research, but not as the final reliable information towards applying for a NIE number.
Solution: ask first.
Go to the nearest National Police station dealing with immigration documentation and find out.
How can anybody know how they do it in every single office all over Spain? That is literally impossible, unless they’ve already done NIE’s for people located in every single point of Spain.
I really doubt there is a company in Spain that has helped people in a third of Spanish cities anyway.
(Requirements are different for EU and non-EU citizens)
HOW CAN I USE A NIE NUMBER?
Obtaining a NIE number is a must for the following legal procedures / activities in Spain:
- Pay tax
- Get employed
- Register a business
- Buy / sell a car
- Buy / sell properties
- Other legal economic activities
I’m sure I’m missing lots more. You will find out as you spend more time in Spain.
(Your NIE number will look similar to this example)
Note: you cannot exchange your EU and British driving licence for a Spanish driving licence on an NIE number. You must have Spanish residency instead.
- The NIE number expires in 3 months in theory (it says so at the bottom of the certificate, see picture above. UPDATE 1/9/2016: At least in Alicante region the NIE number certificate does not have an expiry date anymore). Find out whether it’s this way in your region.
- Many places will request an in-force NIE number (if you’re has an expiry date, you should get a new one for many procedures).
- The NIE number on its own is not valid to identify yourself. Use it alongside your passport which has a photo of you.
- The NIE number and the Spanish residency are different procedures, diferent documents and have different natures. Don’t confuse them.
- You do not have to follow this sequence (unless you need to do any legal process): NIE first, Spanish residency second. You can become a resident automatically as long as you meet all the requirements… at least in Alicante and Murcia.
- If you apply for your Spanish residency, you will get an NIE number automatically which will appear on the residency car, either if you had it before or not. It will be the same one in case of yes.
- You can’t exchange your driving licence and get a Spanish driving licence with an NIE number only. You’ll need your Spanish residency.
- If you are looking for a job you will have to register at your nearest Social Security office to obtain a social security number after you get your NIE. That will be what will grant health benefits (and pensions) once you get employed.
- The NIE number certificate is generally printed out straight away and given to you, on the application day, in Alicante and Murcia. It could change a bit in other regions of Spain, but I don’t think it would vary much.
There are a number of “official” things that can be done using your passport only (making police reports for instance… I’m the author of that article too).
Nevertheless, an NIE number will be required for most official / legal procedures in Spain.
As I always recommend my clients: “get peace of mind and do everything according to the law”. Most times, it does not take that much, just a little money and several hours of your time at the most.
One way or another we are all trapped societies full of laws and regulations, no matter what country you live in.
But in Spain there are benefits we obtain in return if we do things properly.
So it’s worth proceeding the right way, although sometimes it may look the opposite
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