Your Guide to the Spanish NIE


For example, in Barcelona you would be expected to book an appointment to request an NIE number in advance, and once you show up for your appointment, you’d likely have to wait in a queue for quite a while.

In other places, you can simply show up and be processed within the hour—granted you have the proper documents with you.

Of course, this makes sense when you compare locations in terms of popularity. However, this can make putting together a definitive guide for obtaining an NIE number a bit more complicated.

So, bearing all of this in mind, you can consider this article more of a general guide explaining the official requirements as well as how the process should work.

Now let’s get into the nitty gritty of getting your NIE number. Here’s everything you need to know:

What Exactly Is a Spanish NIE?

NIE refers to the Spanish Número de Identificación de Extranjero, or in English, the Foreigner’s Identification number.

In other words, it’s the legal tax number assigned to both foreign residents and non-residents who haven’t yet obtained Spanish citizenship by the Spanish National Police. The purpose of this number, aside from giving foreigners a legal identity in the country, is so that they can go about certain legal activities.

In a nutshell, those activities would include any financial transactions that involve the Spanish Tax Office. For example, you’d need an NIE number if you want to buy a car, a property, open utility accounts, and of course, pay your taxes.

The physical format of an NIE card in Spain is presented as an A4 white sheet containing information such as your first and last name, date of birth, city and country of birth, and your unique identification number.

Without this number, the Spanish tax authorities won’t be able to assess or process your annual tax payments, which you’d have to declare as a resident or non-resident property owner.

Who Does a Spanish NIE Apply to?

A Spanish NIE number is required for any foreigners taking up financial, professional, and even social affairs within the country—regardless of residency status. This also applies to individuals studying long-term (as in longer than three months) in Spain on a student visa.

Spanish NIE numbers also apply to children, which enables them access to things like social security or insurance, among other things.

Essentially, if you plan on:

  • Spending more than three months’ time in the country
  • Becoming a resident
  • Buying property or a business
  • Working, studying, or starting a business

Then you’ll need to acquire a Spanish NIE card, and that includes other European citizens as well.

How to Get an NIE in Spain?

Keeping in mind that the process of obtaining an NIE number will vary slightly depending on where in Spain you’re applying, the first thing you need to know is that there are three ways in which you can apply.

Your three options are:

  • Applying in-person (in Spain)
  • Applying through a Spanish Consulate abroad
  • Applying through a representative in Spain

Here’s a closer look at the above options:

Applying in-Person

The process of applying for a Spanish NIE number in person is pretty straightforward. However, it does require time and patience, so be prepared.

To apply in person, you’ll need to submit your application at a Spanish police station—but you’ll probably have to wait in time for several hours first. Hence needing to have time and patience on your side.

With any luck, the process will only take about an hour and a half, but you’ll need to bring the following documentation:

  • Two copies (per applicant) of the completed Solicitud de Número de Identidad de Extranjero (NIE) y Certificados (EX-15) form
  • Documentation that describes your reasoning for applying for an NIE number, such as a purchase contract, mortgage approval, etc. Make sure you have several photocopies as well.
  • For EU nationals: Your passport as well as a photocopy of your passport’s main page
  • For non-EU nationals: Your passport plus photocopies of your entire passport (each individual page) as well as proof of your legal entry, such as: an entry stamp on your passport, a declaración de entrada or a título de viaje

Again, and we cannot stress this enough, bring multiple photocopies of all your documentation. For passport photos, make sure the photocopies are colored as well.

All of the immigration offices (Oficinas de Extranjería) for processing NIE numbers are typically found in police stations (Las comisarías de policía). However, not all police stations will have one, so you’ll need to find the closest one to your area.

In some instances, you may even be able to submit your application through your local police station. If not, they’ll be able to direct you to the next best place for an NIE number nearby.

Lastly, as we mentioned earlier, in certain cities you may have to request an appointment ahead of time online using the electronic office of the Spanish Public Administration. In these instances, you may not get an appointment right away and could end up waiting an entire month.

Once your NIE application has been submitted, you’ll be given your official receipt and the set time and date for when you can come and collect your NIE number. Depending on the location, they will give it to you the same day or this could take a few days or a few weeks.

If you can’t physically return to the police station to get your NIE number, you can send someone else on your behalf as long as they bring the receipt to present to the authorities and an authorization.

Applying Through a Spanish Consulate

Applying through a Spanish consulate is nearly identical to applying in-person in Spain. Of course, there are several significant differences or rules you’ll need to adhere to.

Here’s what you’ll need to apply through a Spanish consulate:

  • If you’re an EU national: You’ll need your passport and photocopies of the main page
  • For non-EU nationals: You’ll need your passport and photocopies of your entire passport
  • Two copies of the NIE application form completed but NOT signed. You’ll need to sign the application and its copies in the presence of a consular official
  • Documentation and copies of your reasoning for needing an NIE number

Depending on which consulate you’re applying with, certain procedures may differ. For example, in some cities such as Manchester and London, the Spanish consulates don’t require documentation justifying your reasons for applying for an NIE number. The fees vary as well.

Additionally, the consulates are not responsible for providing you with the NIE application, so you’ll have to obtain it on your own.

If you’re applying through a Spanish consulate, it’s a good idea to call ahead of time to verify their latest procedures and requirements regarding the application process.

It’s also important to remember that the Spanish consulate does not “give out” NIE numbers. They simply act as an intermediary post office, so to speak. That means they also don’t have the resources to provide you with information regarding your application status.

Once your application has been processed by the Comisaría General de Extranjería y Documentación, they’ll notify the consulate who will notify you. From there, you’ll receive your NIE number by email in PDF format.

Applying Through a Representative

Now you can apply for a Spanish NIE number through someone else, as in a legal representative in Spain.

All you have to do is authorize your legal representative by granting them power of attorney—signed in front of a notary.

You’ll also need to provide them with all the documentation listed above, i.e., passport copies, documentation of your reasoning for needing an NIE number, etc.

However, it’s important that all the documentation has been notarized by a Spanish notary. There are quite a few oficinas de extranjerías that will not accept documentation that has been notarized outside of the country.

If you cannot get your documents notarized in Spain, you’ll need to include the Hague Apostille. You’ll also need to bring your original passport to present to the notary.

From there, your representative will take care of everything, including checking on your application status.

More About the Spanish NIE Card

It’s important to remember that your NIE card is not the same as being granted residency in Spain. However, the number is permanent, meaning you won’t have to renew it and it doesn’t expire.

Here’s a general list of what you can do with your Spanish NIE card:

  • Open a bank account
  • Register a business
  • Pay taxes
  • Buy or sell property
  • Buy or sell motor vehicles
  • Study
  • Obtain a Spanish driver’s license*
  • Open and arrange utility accounts

*You won’t be able to obtain a driver’s license in Spain with an NIE number alone. You’ll also need to have established a residency within the country to provide a legitimate address and so on.

You’ll also need to have your NIE card handy, along with your passport, should you need to file a police report.

Need Help with Your Spanish NIE Number?

If you plan to live, work, or study in Spain, then a Spanish NIE number is mandatory. Just remember, it doesn’t grant residency.

We know the process of obtaining your Spanish NIE number can be cumbersome, which is what we’re here for. Contact us today to learn more about how our team of relocation specialists, lawyers, real estate professionals, economists, and accountants in Spain can help.

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