The Spanish NIE Number - why do you need it and how to get one

Lawyer Alvaro G. discussed: The Spanish NIE Number - why do you need it and how to get one.
Article Last Updated: 07 Jul, 2024 under NIE Application
Author: Alvaro G.
Profession: Lawyer
Completed cases: 532
Álvaro has assisted countless clients to obtain NIE numbers across Spain over the last 10 years. As a result he keeps up to date with the frequent changes to immigration department procedures.

If you have dealings with Spain, whether it is during the application process for a non-lucrative visa in Spain or buying Spanish property for vacational use, it will be necessary to obtain a Spanish NIE number.

When dealing with Spanish authorities, you may need your NIE for various purposes like obtaining a driver's license, setting up health insurance, or applying for a loan or mortgage. The NIE serves as your Tax Reference Number for the Spanish Tax Authority.

First things first. NIE stands for Número de Identidad de Extranjero, which literally translates as an Identity number for Foreign nationals. It is a unique identification number assigned to non-Spanish individuals for various administrative and fiscal purposes.

While it is also a requirement for a Spanish citizen to have an identity number, used for the same purposes, this is known as a DNI (Documento Nacional de Identidad). Below we shall explain who should obtain an NIE number, and when, and also how you can get one. However, it may be useful to first clarify what an NIE number is not.

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1. What an NIE number should not be confused with

It would be reasonable to say that even in the case of a foreign resident who has been living in Spain for quite some time, there is much confusion regarding what an NIE number actually is.

Many believe it to be some form of identity document. It is not. That is to say, while it is a number associated with you - like a National Insurance number in the UK, it is not a valid method of proving your identity, like a passport or driving licence.

It should be pointed out that an NIE number is not the same thing as a Spanish social security number. The latter is similar to a National Insurance number in the UK and is used by those who have worked in Spain to interact with the Social Security system in Spain, for the purpose of pensions and also, unemployment benefits.

It should also not be confused with the European Union Residency Certificate - commonly referred to as the Green Residency Card or NIE Certificate, which is a document that European Union citizens should obtain if they are spending more than 3 months in Spain. This document is often confused with an NIE number because an NIE number is often issued at the same time as the residency certificate and appears on it, together with your name, place of birth and address when you applied for the Certificate.

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2. Spanish TIE Cards

An NIE number should also not be confused with a Spanish TIE card. The TIE card in Spain is an ID card, and is the identity document that is issued to anyone who requires a visa to live in Spain (i.e. non-EU citizens), bearing the photo and finger-print of the holder. Once again, an NIE number is normally issued together at the same time as the TIE card, leading to some confusion.

The process for getting the TIE card in Spain is as follows: once you've obtained your visa to live in Spain, you'll need to apply for a Foreigner’s Identity Card (TIE) within a month of your arrival. You'll make an appointment at a local police station, where you'll submit the necessary paperwork, including passport, visa, and proof of address. Fingerprints are also collected. 

An EU citizen is not required to obtain a TIE card, however some find it convenient as it does operate as a form of proof of identity. Without a TIE card, the EU citizen is meant to carry their passport and Residency Certificate (if they have been issued one), in order to prove their identity, which is a legal requirement in Spain.

So, the NIE number really is a number, not a document or a form of proof of identity. Therefore, it is not valid for use when travelling by plane, for example. But who needs to get one?

3. Who needs an NIE number in Spain and when?

An NIE number is required in a great deal of common activities that most of us need to do at some time when dealing with institutions and, especially, the Spanish government.

This applies to all foreign nationals, whether they are resident or non-resident - it is simply the case that a foreign resident is more likely to find themselves in more situations that require an NIE number.

An NIE is crucial for various financial and legal transactions. For instance, if you're seeking a loan or mortgage from a Spanish bank, you'll need to provide your NIE. It's also required when obtaining a Spanish driver's license or setting up health insurance.

One of the first things that foreigners living in Spain need to get arranged - opening a bank account - requires an NIE number. While it is true that a Passport is often sufficient for the opening of the bank account, at some point, the bank will need an NIE number to replace it.

Should you plan to buy property in Spain, you will need to have an NIE number. A passport can also be required for the purposes of identity during the property purchase process. However, the NIE number in Spain is used by the Spanish authorities to track ownership and taxes relating to property ownership in Spain.

Somehow related to property ownership in Spain is the matter of inheritance. Should you find yourself among the beneficiaries in the inheritance of Spanish assets, you or your lawyer will need to arrange a Spanish NIE number so that the assets can be transferred into your name.

Note that, if you're planning to earn rental income from Spanish property, you'll need an NIE to declare this income to the Spanish Tax Authority. For complex legal matters like Spanish probate or creating Spanish wills, it's advisable to consult with bilingual Spanish lawyers who can guide you through the process

Anyone who is planning to work in Spain will need an NIE number. Even if you are not planning to become resident in Spain and wish merely to set up a limited company in the country, you will need to obtain an NIE number

In any number of situations that a foreigner in Spain could find themselves in, the NIE number could be asked for. Commonly, for example, when a shopper forgets their loyalty card, supplying the store with their NIE/DNI number will suffice.

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4. How do I get an NIE number in Spain?

The application process for obtaining an NIE number will depend on where you are making the application and also the reason for applying for a NIE. In general, the process is as follows:

5. How to apply for NIE numbers in Spain

Application Process: To initiate the application process for your Spanish NIE number, you must personally visit the 'Oficina de Extranjeros' (immigration office) or the local police station designated for foreign affairs. The procedure typically involves the following steps:

  1. Complete the application form: Obtain the EX-15 form, which is specifically designed for NIE number applications. Fill out the form accurately, providing your personal details, address in Spain, and the purpose of your residency (e.g., work, study, investment, or retirement).
  2. Scheduling an appointment: Depending on the office, you may need to schedule an appointment in advance. This step ensures that you have a designated time slot for submitting your application and avoids potential delays.
  3. Submission of necessary documentation: Ensure you have the required documentation ready for submission. The following section will outline the essential paperwork needed to support your NIE number application.

The successful acquisition of a Spanish NIE number depends on the submission of specific documentation. While requirements may vary slightly depending on your situation, the following list provides a general overview of the following documents:

Necessary Documentation

  • Valid passport: Present your original passport, ensuring that it is valid for the duration of your stay in Spain. Copies of the passport's main page and any relevant visas or residence permits should also be provided.
  • Completed NIE form (EX-15): Fill out the EX-15 form accurately and legibly, providing all the required information.
  • Proof of purpose: Include documentation supporting the purpose of your residency in Spain, such as an employment contract, acceptance letter from an educational institution, proof of investment, or evidence of retirement funds.

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6. Applying for an NIE number via a Spanish Consulate

It can be a convenient option to arrange an NIE number before you arrive in Spain, though bear in mind that the process can take rather longer due to time taken by the relevant Spanish embassy or consulate to respond to your application.

Application Process: If you are a foreign resident who wishes to obtain a Spanish NIE number before arriving in Spain, the application process can be initiated through the Spanish consulates or embassy in your home country. The procedure typically involves the following steps:

Contact the Spanish consulate: Get in touch with the Spanish embassy or consulates in your home country to make an appointment to obtain the NIE number.

Obtain the NIE application form: Request the NIE application form from the Spanish consulates. This form, often known as the EX-15 form, is specifically designed for NIE number applications and will require you to provide personal details, your address in Spain, and the purpose of your residency. You can also obtain the form online.

Gather the required documentation: Collect all the necessary documentation needed to support your NIE number application. The following section will outline the essential paperwork required for this purpose.

Necessary Documentation: To ensure a successful application for a Spanish NIE number, you will need to provide specific documentation to the Spanish embassy or consulates in your home country. Although the requirements may vary slightly depending on your circumstances, the following list provides a general overview of the necessary documents:

Valid passport: Submit your original passport, ensuring that it is valid for the duration of your intended stay in Spain. Make copies of the main page of your passport and any relevant visas or residence permits.

Completed NIE application form (EX-15): Fill out the EX-15 form accurately and legibly, providing all the required information as indicated in the form. You will also need to complete form 790/012 which enables payment of the application fee.

Proof of purpose: You may need to include documentation supporting the purpose of obtaining an NIE number in Spain, such as an employment contract, acceptance letter from an educational institution, proof of investment, or evidence of retirement funds.

Depending on your situation, you may need to provide additional documents such as proof of health insurance, a Spanish address, or financial means. If any documents are not in Spanish, you may need to provide certified bilingual translations.

The application process typically involves the Spanish National Police, who handle foreigner documentation. If you can't apply in person, you may be able to authorize a proxy or attorney to act on your behalf. Many expats find it helpful to work with a lawyer in Spain who can offer consultations and legal advice throughout the process.

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7. NIE Application Process: Step-by-step

  • Gather Required Documents:
    • Passport: Valid and copies of the main page and relevant visas.
    • Proof of Purpose: Employment contract, property purchase agreement, inheritance documents, etc.
    • Application Form (EX-15): Completed accurately.
  • Tip: Ensure all documents are translated into Spanish if required, and have multiple copies ready.
  • Scheduling an Appointment:
    • How to Book: Use the official government website to book an appointment at the nearest Oficina de Extranjeros or police station.
  • Tip: Book appointments well in advance, as slots can fill up quickly. If you can't find a slot, check neighboring cities or consulates.
  • Application Submission:
    • Where: Visit the Oficina de Extranjeros or designated police station.
    • What to Expect: You will submit your documents, have your fingerprints taken, and answer any questions from the officer.
  • Tip: Arrive early to avoid long queues, bring all required documents, and prepare to wait.
  • After Submission:
    • Follow-Up: You might need to return to pick up your NIE or it may be sent to you.
    • Common Pitfalls: Missing documents, incorrect form filling, and language barriers.
  • Tip: Double-check all documentation before submission, and consider hiring a local legal advisor to assist.

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8. Frequently Asked Questions

How do I get my NIE number for Spain?

To get your NIE number for Spain, you can apply directly in Spain or at the Spanish Consular Office in your country of residence. Applications can be made in person or through a duly accredited representative. It is mandatory for either the applicant or their representative to be physically present during the application process.

How much does it cost to get an NIE number in Spain?

How much does an NIE cost in Spain? In 2024, the cost of applying for an NIE number for the first time is €10.71. However, the fees may vary depending on where and how you apply, with costs reaching up to €15.

How long can I stay in Spain if I have an NIE number?

It is important to note that an NIE number is a personal identification number and does not confer any residency entitlement. Once you obtain an NIE number, it is valid indefinitely, but you must still comply with visa and residency regulations to legally stay in Spain for extended periods. Non-EU residents can stay for up to 90-days on their tourist visa. EU residents can stay indefinitely, but should register with the local immigration office if they are staying for longer than 90 days. An NIE number is provided upon registration.

How long does it take to get my Spanish NIE number?

The period of time it takes to obtain the NIE number varies according to where you make the application. It is usually quicker to obtain the number in Spain rather than via the Spanish consulate, however many of the immigration offices in Spain require an appointment as well, and in some, it can take several weeks/months to get an appointment.

As an alternative, you can obtain an NIE in days via the NIE Express service offered by Advocate Abroad.

Does an NIE number have an expiry date?

No, the NIE number has a lifetime validity.

Can I use a proxy or attorney to apply for my NIE?

Yes, if you cannot apply in person, you can authorize a proxy or attorney to act on your behalf. This is often done through a power of attorney document. Many Spanish lawyers and legal services offer this assistance, which can be particularly helpful if you're not fluent in Spanish or unfamiliar with Spanish bureaucracy.

What are the benefits of a Spanish NIE number?
  •  Benefits Of Having A Spanish NIE Number
    • Property: Having your NIE will allow you to buy, sell, or inherit property in Spain.
    • Vehicles: You cannot legally buy, sell, or register a car or other vehicle without your NIE.
    • Work & Tax: You need the NIE to work, pay taxes, and open a bank account in Spain.
    • Utilities: The NIE is required to set up utilities such as electricity, water, and internet.
    • Education: You may need an NIE to enroll in certain educational programs.

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Rosa, Lawyer in Mallorca ...
Rosa is an experienced and highly sought-after English-speaking lawyer who provides expert legal advice and assistance in the following legal areas: Property conveyances, Inheritance, Family law, Criminal law, Business set-up and Employment law.
I cannot say enough good things about working with Rosa. She helped me get my Spanish visa and was with me every step of the way from start to finish. I had innumerable questions about navigating the complex waters of the Spanish immigration system, and Rosa was able to give me clear, concise answers to everything I asked. I would email her in the evening with a list of questions and first thing in the morning, like clockwork, would be her detailed email response answering all of my questions. I also found that there were many fine details about the visa application process Rosa knew about that were not specified on the Spanish consulate's website. Had I not had her guidance about doing these things, I'm sure my application would not have been approved. Thanks to Rosa I now have my Spanish visa, and I am happily living in Spain. I am looking forward to working with her again next year when it comes time for my one year visa renewal.
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05 Jul 2024
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