One of the most important documents for foreigners in Spain is the NIE (número de identificación de extranjeros), your personal identity number.
You need this number for many procedures including buying a property in Spain and opening a bank account.
This article details why you need a NIE and how to apply for it.
What is a NIE?
A NIE is a number that identifies you in Spain. It consists of seven digits preceded by an X (for foreigners) and ending with a letter of the alphabet.
Who needs a NIE?
All foreigners carrying any of the transactions below including getting a residence permit or registering as resident.
Why do I need a NIE?
You need a NIE for a number of transactions in Spain, including the following:
- Buying a property.
- Buying a car.
- Opening a bank account.
- Registering with the social security system.
- Registering with the Spanish tax authorities for any tax transaction (e.g. paying transfer taxes when you buy a property, processing an inheritance, paying taxes, etc).
- Registering as resident (read more Link to resident permit piece).
- Contracting utilities.
- Signing up for a mobile phone contract.
Do I have to be resident to get a NIE?
No, a NIE has nothing to do with residency.
How long is my NIE valid for?
Your NIE is valid for life.
When you apply for your number (see below), you will receive a certificate with your NIE printed on it.
This paper certificate is valid for three months from the date it is printed – if you need proof of a NIE, you will have to ask for another certificate.
Where do I apply for a NIE?
You have three options:
- In person at a police station with a Foreigners’ Department (see the list here – click on the region and then on province).
- Through a representative (e.g. your lawyer).
- At a Spanish consulate in your country of residence.
Can I get an appointment in advance?
If you’re applying in person in Spain, you have the possibility of getting an appointment at some Foreigners’ Departments. Click on this link, choose your province and then click on the drop menu of options ‘Trámites disponibles para la province seleccionada’.
If the option ‘Asignación de NIE’ is available, click and book your appointment.
If the option isn’t available, you have no choice but to go to the Foreigners’ Department and queue for your turn.
Note that this option isn’t widely available – for example, in May 2017, you could book an appointment to get a NIE in Alicante province but not Malaga.
What do I need to get a NIE?
To obtain your NIE in Spain, you need the following documentation:
- Completed form EX-15. Note that you must state on this form why you need the NIE (e.g. because you’re buying a property in Spain).
- Original and photocopy of your passport.
If someone else is applying for your NIE on your behalf, they need to show proof that they have authorisation from you (e.g. with a power of attorney).
How much does the NIE cost?
Applying for a NIE costs €9.45. This must be paid at a bank before you apply for the NIE.
Download and fill in the appropriate form (click here). Take it to a bank, pay and take the stamped document as proof of payment.
How long does it take to get a NIE?
The timescale for getting a NIE depends very much on where you apply. In theory, it should take very little time and in some departments, your NIE will be issued on the same day you apply. In others, however, it can take up to two weeks.
If you apply for your NIE at a Spanish consulate, expect the process to take up to four weeks.
Is the NIE proof of identification?
Your NIE identifies you to the appropriate authorities. However, it cannot be used instead of a passport nor does it prove you’re legally resident in Spain.
Do I need a residence permit as well as a NIE?
If you decide to move to Spain to live there for more than 90 days, you need to register as a resident or obtain a residence permit.
Read more on this process here.