Why and how to obtain an NIE in Spain?

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Upon getting settled in Spainstarting an economic activity or making a real estate purchase, a number of documents and administrative procedures are required. The first step is obtaining the NIE, which is the document discussed in this article.


What is an NIE?


In Spanish, this mysterious abbreviation means “Numero de Identidad de Extranjero“, or, in English, “Foreigners’ Identity Number”. This is a personal number, assigned by the General Directorate of the Spanish Police to any foreigner who requests it. It consists of a letter, a series of 7 digits and then another letter. Once obtained, it will be valid for the duration of your life. However, it is not a valid identification document, so you will also have to present the identification documentation of your country of origin (passport or identification card).


We often hear about the “provisional” and “resident” NIE. In fact, the small green paper called the “resident” NIE (on which the NIE number actually appears) is entitled “Certificado de Registro de Ciudadano de la Unión“. 

While the “provisional” NIE is normally intended for non-residents who do not wish to settle permanently in Spain but who have economic, professional or social interests in the country, the Certificate is indispensable for those who wish to settle in Spain for a period of more than three months. 

The NIE is necessary to request the Certificado. For more information, we invite you to consult this article on the topic at the Delaguia & Luzon blog.


It is worth remembering that the NIE is personal, unique and exclusive, but can be requested by a representative of the applicant. The NIE can be certified either permanently (in the case of a stay of more than three months) or temporarily (less than three months).


What is it for?


Here is a non-exhaustive list of actions that are only possible with a NIE:


  • Purchase or sale of real estate
  • Payment of taxes
  • Employment and payslips
  • Social security registration
  • Opening a bank account
  • Registering minors for school
  • Vehicle acquisition or transfer
  • Drivers’ licence registration

Whether you want to settle down full-time on the other side of the Pyrenees, or simply spend a little more time there than a holiday, the NIE is an indispensable document, as you can see.


If you wish to reside in Spain for a period of less than 3 months, you only need to be in possession of a valid identity card or passport.


However, if your stay is more than 3 months, you must declare your registration. You can apply for your NIE at any time within the first 90 days of arrival in Spain, either in person or through an authorised representative.


How to get it?


If you have already inquired about this document, you have probably heard about the difficulty of obtaining this door-opener. This is due to the high demand, which is especially high in large cities. So, plan ahead if you are in a hurry!


The good news is that its cost is very low: you will receive one for the modest price of €9.74. 

If you are in Spain


The NIE will have to be requested from a police station, via the following link: administracionespublicas.gob.es. The problem is that there are usually very few appointment slots available, especially within large cities such as Madrid or Barcelona. That’s why the lead time varies from one week and… three months!


Small tip, try to get your appointment every day at 9:00 to have the best chance 😉


Documents that you will need to bring to the appointment:


  • Original and photocopied identity document
  • Proof of the economic, professional or social interests that justify your request. Copy of a document justifying your NIE request (employment contract, letter of acceptance to the university, real estate purchase contract, etc.)
  • The form EX-18, to be completed in Spanish
  • The form modelo 790 codigo 12 (This is a document that allows you to pay the fee of € 9.74 either by direct debit or in cash at any collaborating bank.)

After the procedure is complete, the NIE will be sent to the email address indicated by the applicant. It is not currently possible to have access to information on the processing status or to expedite the process.


If the request is made through a representative, the original and a copy of the identity documents of the holder and the representative, as well as their accreditation will also be requested.


 Warning: plan your day, the wait may be long, even when you have an appointment!


 If you are in a hurry, an alternative is available to expedite the NIE process by appealing to the services of an lawyer specialised in the field. You can contact us now!


What are the consequences of Brexit on obtaining and holding the NIE?


If a British citizen was already resident in Spain before 1 January 2021, their rights in terms of residence, work, study and social security will be maintained. Therefore, if this applies to you and you obtained the NIE before that date, it will remain valid for the rest of your stay.


In addition, the registration certificates (= green card also called NIE) and family member cards issued to EU citizens and held by Britons living in Spain are valid to prove their legal residence and to enable them to benefit from the provisions of the withdrawal agreement.


The beneficiary cards under the agreement have been issued since 6 July 2020 (it is not mandatory, but obtaining one is recommended, as they represent a uniform model across the European Union). If you want to apply for one, simply go to the immigration office in the province where you reside or to the police station in your area.


People who did not obtain the registration certificate before 1 January 2021 can still apply for it provided, they can prove that they actually resided in Spain before that date. To do this, all means of evidence are good, for example, lease agreement, municipal padrón or other, etc.




Applying for the NIE is a complex process, which increases the risk of errors. In addition, the terms and conditions may vary from one autonomous community to another. To avoid wasting time, do not hesitate to call upon our legal assistance services. At Delaguía & Luzón our team of experts is very specialised in the field of immigration and will accompany you during your expatriation process. Contact us today to discuss your project.


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