Getting a NIE number can quickly be complicated, annoying and nerve-wracking, at least it was in my experience. There isn’t enough information about how to obtain one online, and I know I really needed it when I wanted to get mine. The process can be a bit lengthy and complicated (or not, it really depends on your circumstances and luck), but I’m sure it’ll be worth it, at least it was for me.
What’s a NIE number?
N.I.E. is an abbreviation for Número de Identidad de Extranjero (Foreigners’ Identification Number). This number (that you get as a foreigner) is essentially what Spaniards have on their IDs. The same number also works as a tax number (with ES written in front).
Why do you need a NIE number?
You basically need a NIE number for all official processes in Spain: to get employed, to open a bank account, to rent a house or an apartment long-term, to open your own company, to buy property, to buy a car, and to pay your taxes. Even if you just want to buy property (and not actually live in Spain), you need a NIE number.
Temporary vs. permanent NIE number
If you’re planning on staying in Spain for more than three months, you should apply for a permanent NIE number. You can also first apply for a temporary one and then for a permanent one (but avoid doing that if you can, it’ll just take more of your time). If you want to get a permanent NIE, you have to provide proof that you’re staying in Spain for longer than three months (for example a contract of employment).
While a temporary NIE number is just a number (usually given to you on an A4 sheet of paper), a permanent NIE number is a small green card (made of paper too) with your NIE number, address, issue date, date and place of birth and nationality written on it. It doesn’t expire. It’s also cold Certificado de Registro de Ciudadano de la Union Europea or tarjeta verde (green card). The permanent NIE should not be mixed with the TIE. Only non-EU nationals (who need a visa to stay in Spain) have to apply for a TIE number.
Getting a NIE number: EU. vs. non-EU
To my best knowledge, both EU and non-EU nationals have to apply for a temporary NIE number, but only EU nationals can apply for a permanent one (while non-EU nationals can apply for a TIE number). I haven’t been through the TIE process myself because I’m from Slovenia, so I won’t try to describe it. You can get some useful information here. Keep reading to find out what you need to obtain a temporary NIE (as an EU national vs. a non-EU national).
What documents do you need?
For a temporary NIE number:
- two copies of the EX-15 application form (filled in, of course)
- an original document that states your reason for applying (contract of employment, a private purchase contract for a property, deposit contract, a mortgage approval, etc.)
- proof that you’ve paid the fee of about 10 euros for the Tasa modelo 790 Codigo 12: fill in this form and pay at a bank or at an ATM (in both cases make sure you can prove that you paid)
- your passport and a photocopy of the main page of your passport (I don’t think you can use your ID)
- your passport and a photocopy of your entire passport (all pages)
- proof of your legal entry into Spain (a landing card (declaración de entrada or título de viaje or cédula de inscripción); sometimes a valid entry stamp in your passport is enough
- two small photos of yourself
For a permanent NIE number (just for EU nationals):
- two copies of form EX-18
- again, proof that you’ve paid the fee of about 10 euros for the Tasa modelo 790 Codigo 12: fill in this form and pay at a bank or at an ATM (in both cases make sure you can prove it)
- your passport and a photocopy of the main page
- a document justifying your request: this really depends on what you’re doing in Spain for more than three months. It could be your info vida laboral (you get it from the social security) if you’re employed in Spain, a certificate from the Spanish Study Centre if you’re a student, a Spanish Internship Agreement if you’re a trainee, a marriage certificate if you’re married to a Spaniard or proof that you have at least 5125 euros in your bank account if you’re not any of the above.
- maybe: proof of residence (empadronamiento). Not all offices ask for this, but some might.
How to make an appointment?
This website is your friend. Don’t bother going to the police/extranjería (office for foreigners) without making an online appointment first, they won’t accept you. I’m not sure if the following is true for all the communities, but it’s true for Comunidad Valenciana: new time slots appear every Friday at 9:30. This is when you should be online, booking your slot. Give yourself enough time to prepare the documentation and pay the fee (don’t forget about the proof). Sometimes slots become available because someone cancels, so it doesn’t hurt to check at other times if you’re in a hurry.
What if you don’t speak Spanish well enough?
I came to Spain with a B1/B2 level, and I wasn’t able to do this on my own. My (Spanish) boyfriend helped me fill in all the documents and went to the office with me (a few times). This is totally legal, and you can bring anyone there: a friend, a translator that you paid; whoever you want to, basically. Don’t expect the officials to speak English because they most probably won’t (which is a bit funny since they literally work at a foreigners’ office; welcome to Spain).
This guide might help you book your appointment.
This translation might help fill you in the EX-15 form.
And this one might help you fill in the EX-18 form.
Alternative ways of getting a temporary NIE number
You can also get a NIE if you’re not physically in Spain, but just a temporary one. You can either get it through a representative, which is expensive, or through the Spanish embassy in your current country of residence. There are many websites that offer to get you a NIE number without you having to do much (except for paying, of course). As soon as you google anything about NIE, you’ll probably notice some. Be careful because some of those are scams.
Getting a NIE through an embassy is still a better option, at least in my opinion, even though it’s not the best. I considered getting mine from the Spanish embassy in Ljubljana, but then I decided that it was actually easier to just get it in Spain (it takes less time). The embassy simply acts as a post office: you bring your documents, they send them to Spain and then you come again to collect your NIE number. In Slovenia, you have to wait for about two weeks.
How to get your empadronamiento?
Empadronamineto, also called Padrón, is a town hall registration to inform the municipal register where you live. It’s mandatory to register (empadronarse) if you’re planning on living in Spain for more than six months per year. You’ll need your empadronamiento to get your health insurance (including your card), to buy a car or other vehicle, to get married or form a civil partnership and *maybe* to apply for a NIE.
You can register at your nearest town hall (ayuntamiento). Check the town hall’s website beforehand to see what procedure they have when it comes to booking a slot (In Valencia, you have to call the town hall and book one).
The documents you’ll need:
- your passport (original and copy)
- NIE number (if you already have it)
- a bill that proves that you paid the rent (unless you own the flat or aren’t required to pay bills for some reason)
- if the property is yours: original copy of the title deeds (escritura)
- if you’re renting a flat: an original copy of the rental agreement in Spanish (the contract must be for more than six months)
- if you’re renting a room: a written document from the owner of the flat stating that you reside at the address + a signed copy of their ID or a document signed by a person already registered at your address + a signed copy of their ID
The empadronamiento is free of charge and should be renewed every five years for EU nationals. It should also be renewed whenever you change your address.
Be careful: the Certificate of Empadronamiento shouldn’t be more than three months old in order to be considered valid. You can always get it quickly if you have a digital certificate (here’s how to get one). You can also always ask your local town hall for a copy.
My empadronamiento experience was pretty good: I got registered at my boyfriend’s parents’ house where I was living at the time. My only proof was his mother’s statement with a copy of her ID and her signature (she owns the flat)
Things to think about before getting your NIE number
Triple check if you have all the correct documents. Don’t forget to book a time slot. Get a Spanish speaking person to help you; they’ll be much better at looking for info online, filling in the forms and talking to the officials. Just bear in mind that they never had to get a NIE number themselves, so they won’t just automatically know things.
It’s a good idea to join some FB groups (preferably for expats in the city/area you’re moving to). Don’t be shy and ask questions, most people are usually happy to help. Luckily, there’s a lot of useful info in English online too.
Getting a temporary NIE number
I got a job before coming to Spain, but I applied for a temporary NIE because I didn’t have all the documents yet (info vida laboral, for instance). Also, I was under the impression that the empadronamiento was absolutely necessary. I only knew that I had to make an appointment online and how to do it because they told me in this FB group! This should really be written on the official websites or on the form itself.
I literally went to the extranjería right after I got to Valencia, but my boyfriend forgot the proof that he paid the fee. He somehow managed to get it and come back before the office closed (he had about twenty minutes), and I got the temporary NIE.
Getting a permanent NIE number
After that, I got the empadronamiento and the health insurance. The latter caused me some trouble because my company registered me at the social security with my passport instead of my NIE (because I didn’t have a NIE when they did it). I also had trouble obtaining a permanent NIE because of this. I think I went there about three times before I finally got it. The first time, I only brought the contract because I thought it would be enough. Of course, it wasn’t. I was alone that time, so I didn’t understand exactly what they told me to bring and brought the wrong thing next time too. The third time, I finally got the info vida laboral, but only after my company finally registered me with my NIE number (which also allowed me to get the real health insurance card, I was using a paper one before that).
When the guy at the office finally gave me the green piece of paper (the so-called permanent NIE), I thought that it still wasn’t over and that I would also have to get a TIE number. He said that the TIE was just for non-EU nationals. I was so happy that the whole thing was finally done. I know that my encounters with the Spanish bureaucracy are by no means over, but at least I don’t ever have to ask for a NIE number again.