In this article, I’m going to explain everything I know about the Spanish NIE number, but just several questions before we start:
- Are you from the United Kingdom? Please read my 2021 guide all about moving to Spain from the UK
- Are you from the USA? Please read my 2021 guide all about moving to Spain from the USA
- Are you from Canada? Please read my 2021 guide all about moving to Spain from Canada
- Are you from South Africa? Please read my 2021 guide all about moving to Spain from South Africa
- Are you from Australia? Please read my 2021 guide all about moving to Spain from Australia
Or perhaps you would like to know more about:
The 2021 definitive Spain visa guide and types of Spanish visas for non-European Union citizens
Non-lucrative Spanish visa for Non-EU citizens
Spanish residency for non-EU citizens married/family members of EU citizens
Are you ready to become a citizen of Spain? Please read my article Spanish citizenship
NOTE: Article updated on 25 May 2021
What is a Spanish 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 an NIE Number?
There are two places where you can obtain a Spanish 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 Spanish 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 centralised 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 😉 )
In some stations you will need some extras that you won’t in other places (ask first, that’s the key, I can’t stop repeating)
So, in this article I will be honest with you and I will not give you misleading information.
For sure, you 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 Spanish 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 (it changes almost every year) 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 in Spain.
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. I have not been able to do so, even though I’ve been in business with Torrevieja Translation since 2010.
(Requirements are different for EU and non-EU citizens)
How can I use my Spanish NIE number?
Obtaining a NIE number in Spain is a must for the following legal procedures / activities in Spain:
- Pay tax non-resident 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 Spanish 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 yours has an expiry date, you should get a new one for many procedures).
- The Spanish NIE number on its own is not valid to identify yourself. Use it alongside your passport which has a photo of you.
- NIE number and Spanish residency are different procedures, different 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.
- If you apply for your Spanish residency, you will get a Spanish 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. It could change a bit in other regions of Spain, but I don’t think it would vary much.
- Having the NIE number beforehand will not help (nor harm) if you are applying for a visa.
There are a number of “official” things that can be done using your passport only (making police reports for instance).
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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