Applying for a NIE (Número de Identificación de Extranjero)
To buy a property in Spain or to open a bank account in Spain, you’ll need to apply for a foreigners’ identity number which is known as a NIE (Número de Identificación de Extranjero). This is basically a government-assigned number for foreign owners and residents. Spanish residents have a DNI (Documento Nacional de Identidad) which serves the same purpose, it’s a plastic card with a photo on it that can also be used as proof of identity.
To live in Spain European citizens will need to apply for a NIE within three months of arriving and non-European citizens will apply for a TIE which they will be awarded along with their residency (up to this they will hold a NIE). EU/EEA residents can rent long term and stay in Spain without having a NIE but it is recommended to apply for a NIE as it makes life easier - and it will be required for example if you want to buy a car or to open a bank account.
When you apply for a NIE, you will receive a piece of white paper with your name, address, and identification number. This is your NIE document that can be used to open a bank account, get a mobile phone contract, file taxes, put bills in your name, buy and rent a property and so on. To purchase a property you need a recent issued NIE document, the initial one you get is only valid for three months for property purchases. To become a resident you will apply for the green paper NIE card/document which can then be replaced by an ID card.
As a resident you will sometimes be required to document your address, this is done by a padrón, a document issued by the local townhall. These are normally valid for 3 months. Some townhalls will issue the padrón online, but often you will have to go in person to obtain this.
To apply for your NIE, follow these steps:
Locate the nearest Foreigner's Office (Oficina de Extranjeros) or police station: Determine the specific office or station responsible for handling immigration matters in your area. You can usually find this information online or by contacting the local police station.
There is usually a fee to pay, which is about €11. To pay the fee, you will first need to complete a payment form called a modelo 790 which can be printed from a computer and filled in, or you can pick up a copy at a local police station. You will be given a proof of payment that you will need to show during the next step. Note that you rarely can pay this by card or online, you need to visit a bank branch.
You can choose to make an appointment to apply for your NIE or just arrive at the police station early in the morning and get in line. If you want to book your appointment, go to the official website and select your province from the drop down menu. If you’re an EU citizen, choose Certificados UE or Expedición de tarjeta de identidad de extranjero for non-EU citizens and select your date and time.
Once you have paid the fee in the bank, head to the nearest police station with the following documents:
- Your proof of payment from the bank (modelo 790)
- Two copies of a filled-in NIE EX18 application form (You can pick one of these up at the police station or foreign office (referred to as ‘Oficina de Extranjeros’ or ‘extranjeria’) or print them off from the official website. - While there is an English option that you can use as a guide, you will need to submit the form in Spanish
- Your passport (it should have at least a year of validity)
- A translated letter outlining the reason for applying for the NIE (for example, a property purchase agreement, mortgage agreement, or other documentation that shows you have financial interests in Spain)
- Two photocopies of your passport
- Two small passport photos
- Visa or landing card (non-EU citizens)
It’s a good idea to bring any extra documentation you have just in case. If you have proof of address such as a bill, and a second form of photographic identification (e.g. driver’s licence), this might come in handy.
Things To Remember
If you haven’t booked an appointment, there can often be long queues in the police stations and many stations will stop letting people in around 13:30/14:00. Before you go, double-check that you have all the necessary paperwork and check the timetable at your local police station. Get there early to beat the queues. Not all staff in the police stations will speak English, so it’s worth jotting down the main words you’ll need in Spanish to get by.
If you are unsure about what documentation you will need, there are plenty of third-party companies that will help you obtain your NIE for a small fee. You can also apply in the Spanish embassy in your home country before your move or appoint a lawyer to apply on your behalf. Requirements vary across the different regions of Spain, so do some research on what you’ll need in your municipality in advance.