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How do I get an NIE number in Spain?

When you move to Spain, you will need certain papers in the Spanish bureaucratic jungle to work, study or buy a house. It can be quite difficult to try and figure it all out, but we're here to help you with the most important thing you'll need as an expat: the NIE number ('Número de Identificación de Extranjero', or 'foreigner identification number').

Yes, you must have heard of it. This tax identification number is compulsory for all foreigners residing in the country and is essential for dealing with legal, financial, professional or social matters in Spain, whether you are a resident or non-resident. If you want to work, pay taxes or buy property in Spain, you need an NIE number.

As an EU citizen, you will need this number within 3 months of arriving in Spain, while non-EU citizens will normally receive their NIE with their Spanish residency. It is best to start the NIE application process as soon as possible, as the Spanish bureaucracy can sometimes be a bit dense. Here we explain how to obtain an NIE in Spain.

1. Make an NIE appointment with the Spanish administration

It is necessary to make an NIE appointment online. Trust us, it is absolutely necessary to do so to avoid queuing for hours in the office early in the morning. You can make an appointment for an NIE on the official Spanish website by choosing the province, selecting "Certificados UE" (if you are from the European Union) or "Expedición de tarjeta de identidad de extranjero" (for non-EU citizens) and then filling in your information.

Normally you have to wait at least a month for your appointment, so it is best to do it as soon as possible after your arrival in Spain. If you are not yet in Spain and you apply for the NIE number via a Spanish consulate in another country, the process will take longer, often up to two months.

2. Gather all documents

Before making an appointment for a Spanish NIE at the nearest police station that deals with NIEs, you should ensure that you have filled in all the necessary forms and collected all the necessary documents:

  • You must print this NIE Spain form (EX-18)You must print this form, fill it in and bring two copies with you to the appointment. It must be in Spanish, but you can get the same NIE form in English just as a guide. Do not bring the English form with you to the appointment as only the Spanish form is valid!
  • All applicants for the Spanish NIE must also have an original and a photocopy of a document explaining why they want an NIE. This could be a property purchase contract, a mortgage contract, an employment contract or any other official document showing that you have financial or business interests in Spain.
  • Take your passport, original and photocopies, and passport size colour photographs with you. Non-EU citizens are also advised to bring their boarding pass, visa or other proof of legal entry to Spain.
  • You will also have to pay about EUR 10.71 in taxes for your NIE number. You have to fill in a second form online, the 790, print it out, take it to a bank (they will know what to do) and pay this amount. Some banks even offer the possibility to pay this tax with an ATM, so it's very easy. Be very careful when filling in the form, however, do not mix up the instructions for EU citizens with those for non-EU citizens, as the boxes to be ticked are different.

3. Bring all your documents to the meeting

For the appointment, you must bring all the correctly completed forms and preferably copies of them, your original passport and a copy of it, proof of the reason why you need the NIE number (for example a work contract, a contract showing your intentions to buy a house in Spain, a letter of acceptance from a school...) and proof that you have paid the NIE number fee. For non-EU citizens, you must bring all of the above, as well as your visa with copies. The Spanish officials at the police station or immigration office of "Oficina de Extranjeros" will take care of the rest for you.

Your NIE number may be ready immediately or you may have to return a few days later to collect it, depending on the city and region where you apply.

A tip

Things don't always go smoothly when it comes to Spanish paperwork, unless you are very lucky, so try to stay calm. The level of professionalism and knowledge of officials varies radically from province to province, as do the processing times and procedures. It is advisable to research carefully how to obtain an EIN in your local municipality. It is better to have too many papers with you than to wait another month for an appointment if you do not meet all the requirements.

Once you have understood how to obtain an NIE number in Spain, it is best to start the process immediately as this is the most important document you will need as an expatriate in Spain. NIE numbers in Spain last forever and are valid indefinitely. So whether you have a green paper version or a red plastic card, make sure you don't lose it and always keep photocopies.

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