If you are planning to move to Spain long term or short term or buy a property here, then you will need to obtain a NIE Number (Numero de Identidad de Extranjero). You will need this NIE number to pay taxes, obtain utilities such as electric, gas and water, open a bank account, get a mobile phone contract etc
If you are buying a property then you will need the original NIE certificate to take with you to the Notary however for most other purposes, you can use a photocopy or simply quote the number.
You must apply for your NIE number at the foreigner’s office in the National Police Station. Unfortunately the process for applying varies from office to office and this is why there is often such confusion and you will hear conflicting stories of people’s different experiences. Quite often the staff will only speak Spanish and no translator is available.
Download Application Form For N.I.E. Number
In some offices the process is to apply for an appointment, in others it is the case that you must queue from early morning to obtain a ticket. Some offices require that you present two application forms, one for them and one to be stamped for you to use when you return to collect your certificate. Certain offices require one photograph, some two, some will allow payment of taxes before handing in your paperwork, some will not and so on. In most offices, certificates are ready for collection up to two weeks after your initial application.
Up until July 2011 it was possible for a third party to obtain your NIE number on your behalf using a Power of Attorney. Unfortunately the National Police have now stopped this and require that everyone presents themselves in person to have their identity checked.
Once you receive your NIE certificate, you will notice that it states on the bottom of the certificate that it is valid for three months. Your actual number is valid for life (or until the Spanish Government decide to change the system!!) however if you intend to remain in Spain after three months, then you should consider applying for your Certificado de Residencia.
The Certificado de Residencia replaced the old style residency cards in 2007 and up until recently was a green sheet of paper stating your NIE number and personal details. However this has also recently changed and is now a small green paper card. This is not acceptable as ID so you should continue to carry something else for this purpose.
Why does my NIE Certificate say it is only valid for three months?
There have been some changes to the NIE Number certificate in the last year, which coincide with the changes to Spanish Residency regulations. One of these is that Spanish NIE Certificates no longer show an address and another is that at the bottom of your NIE certificate it now says that your certificate is only valid for three months. This may be a worry for you if you are still searching for a property or know that you will need to use your NIE certificate after the expiry date.
The reason your NIE certificate states it will expire after three months is that the Spanish Government is now trying to encourage everyone to apply for their Residency after the initial three month period of living here. The NIE number you have been allocated (which will begin with an X or, for newer numbers, a Y) actually stays with you for life and does not expire.
Once you have had your NIE for 3 months, if you are still living here, you may wish to apply for your Residency which is a credit card sized green card. This shows your name and address and the NIE number you have already been issued with. It is now a more complicated procedure to do this and you are required to show that you can support yourself financially as well as any dependents and if applicable, also have medical insurance. Each application is looked at on an individual basis and the requirements seem to vary depending at which National Police Station Extranjeria you make your application.
If you decide to apply for your Residency, you will need to be sure you are going to stay here long term as it is also a requirement that should you leave Spain to live elsewhere that you de-register your residency.
However if you are not planning on living in Spain and only have a property here for holidays then what do you do when your NIE certificate is older than three months? It may be that certain Notaries will refuse to accept it. If you have not managed to do everything that you needed to with your NIE within the three months and you have further business whereby you need to go the Notary, eg making a will, buying or selling a property, then you can register your NIE as a non resident. This means that you can continue to use your NIE certificate without worries and do not need to apply for your Spanish Residency.
For further information on how to register your NIE number or for advice on any other matter to do with your NIE number in Spain or your Spanish Residency, please