One of the most important things you will need to start a new life or carry out any type of economic or bureaucratic activity in Spain is the NIE number. As a foreigner in Spain, this number is what will be used to identify you.

There are advantages to obtaining this identification number, as it will allow to do things such as buy property or open a bank account, but it doesn’t allow you to legally reside in the country.

In this article, we will help you understand what exactly the NIE is, what you can do with it, how to apply for it, and, even a complete list of requirements. Let’s not waste any time!

What is a NIE in Spain?

The NIE is basically an identification number assigned to foreigners, so they can be identified once they enter into Spain. If we translate it, it literally means Identity Number of the Foreigner (Numero de Identidad de Extranjero in Spanish).

We are talking about a number that will never change and that will accompany you throughout your entire life (or until you get Spanish nationality).

It is unique and personal.

A NIE example (this isn’t real, we’re just giving an example) would look like this: Y9125834A

But there is something really important you should bear in mind.The NIE number does not allow you to legally reside in Spain.


Can I live and work in Spain without a NIE?


Many people confuse the NIE with the residency, and those are two different concepts.

A foreigner can be in possession of this number but not of the legal residency in Spain.

Hence, we are talking about a mere identification number.

If you would like to spend more than 3 months in the country, you must then apply for a residence (and work) authorization. Nevertheless, if you are planning to be less than 90 days in the country in order to realize any procedure, the NIE will be enough.

Which are the reasons in which you actually need this basic identification number? To sum it up, to conduct any kind of economic or bureaucratic procedure in Spain. Here you will find a list of some examples that would require you to get a NIE in Spain:


Do you have any questions so far? Ask our immigration lawyers anything:

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What are the types of NIE?


Technically, it is incorrect to say “types of NIE” because the NIE is just the identification number given to you in Spain. This number is given to you whether you are an EU or Non-EU citizen, and it is for life.

What differs, then, is not the number, but rather whether or not you receive a card that holds the said NIE.

If you receive a card, which is the TIE (Tarjeta de Identidad de Extranjero) it would also differ depending on on if you are from the EU (Green Card) or not.


For those who want to live in Spain


The Green Card, which has the NIE on it, is the type of card designed for EU citizens residing in Spain. Even though these individuals can already work and live legally in the country for more than 3 months, they also need the NIE in order to carry the aforementioned activities.

In this case, the NIE comes in a document called certificado de registro como residente comunitario” (Registration certificate).

On the other hand, if you are a Non-European citizen applying for a residence permit in Spain, the NIE is automatically assigned to you when you receive the TIE.

Thus, when people ask, “How long can I stay in Spain with a NIE number?” They are more specifically asking how long they can stay in Spain with a TIE or certain residence permit. Remember in all cases that you would like to stay in Spain for over 90 days, you need to apply for a residence permit and TIE.

Non-resident NIE


Then, we have the Non-resident NIE, which is mainly for non-EU citizens who enter Spain. It is also for individuals from inside the European Union that plan to live in Spain for less than 3 months per year.

For this situation, you need to apply for the NIE (as it won’t be granted to you automatically, and you won’t receive a card. Instead, you will receive a document that states your identification number.

For example, in our office, we have many clients from countries such as China, the United States, Russia, Mexico… They all come to our country because they simply want to buy a property or set up their company.

The previous step to do so will be to obtain the NIE as a non-resident. In these cases in which people need to do some paperwork in Spain but not stay for the long term, it is necessary to prove the reason for traveling to the country. And the only two reasons accepted in this case are to purchase a property or to constitute a company.

And, for this, you must go to a notary in Spain and make a notarized letter or letter of manifestations proving that reason. If you do not make such a letter or are not under either of the two previous assumptions, the NIE cannot be obtained.

Important note: it is not necessary to go in person to manage the process. A power of attorney can be appointed to do so for you. 

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What is the difference between the TIE and the NIE?


Just to emphasise this difference as it is a crucial distinction that many tend to ignore or simply do not understand.

Is the TIE the same as the NIE? The answer is simple: no. The TIE (Tarjeta de Identidad de Extranjero) is the physical card that contains the NIE number. So, whereas the NIE is just an identification number, the TIE is the physical thing that carries it inside.

Furthermore, it also contains more than just the NIE. On it, you will also find a photo of the holder and the type of residence authorization that he or she has.

This implies that there are differences within TIEs. Each card entails a specific type of residence permit. Therefore, the TIE card that contains the student visa won’t be the same as the one that contains the family member of an EU citizen or the arraigo one. There are as many different TIE types as types of permits in Spain.


What do I need to bring to a NIE appointment?


Keep in mind that if you have already applied for a residence permit to legally reside in Spain, it is NOT necessary to apply for a NIE. It will be given to you automatically with the permit.

Now that you know if you actually need an NIE or not, and which type, let’s get to the specifics. Which documents do I need to bring in order to successfully obtain the basic identification number for foreigners in Spain?

We’ve made a list of requirements for you:

  • You will need to fill in and submit the model EX-15. (Here is the NIE application form in English to help you, but remember, when applying you MUST use the original Spanish version)
  • And, the second model required, the 790 NIE form. Bear in mind that this document comes with an associated tax you will need to pay.
  • Your passport and copies of all pages.
  • Empadronamiento. This basically implies getting registered in your living community.
  • If you are a non-EU citizen, you must present proof of your entry in Spain. This can be accredited through a stamp on your passport or the plane ticket to Spain.
  • Document proving why you need the NIE number. For example, if you are buying property in Spain, you will need to show the sales agreement (contrato de arras) or a notarised document expressing your desire to purchase
  • Two passport-sized photos
  • Fingerprints (this won’t be required for the initial application procedure)


Bear in mind that all foreign documents must be properly translated into Spanish.


How do I get a NIE number in Spain?


Once you exactly know which are the required documents you will need to present, the first step is to prepare them carefully. Then, once you have downloaded and filled all the forms and prepared all the papers, the next step is presenting them. Where?

That depends. If you are outside Spain, you will need to initiate the application for the NIE number in the Spanish consulate or embassy in the country you are legally living. On the other hand, if you are inside Spain, you must submit the documentation at the Directorate-General offices of the Police.

Who must bring the relevant papers? You should do it yourself. But you can also designate a duly mandated representative to do it for you.

Then, the first step if you are already in Spain, the most common situation, is to go to the “Comisaria General de Extranjería”. You can find here which is the police office closest to you.

Bear in mind that many of them require that you book your appointment in advance. You can book your appointment online via this link. Just select your location and the reason you would like to get your appointment, and that’s it. Don’t wait until there are no appointments available.

We would like to give you an important piece of advice here. Go as early as possible to the office. It gets crowded really fast, so if you don’t want to lose the whole morning, make sure to be in line the first one. Also, make sure to bring your passport (original) and photocopies, something that many tend to forget.

Once you have been attended for the first time, you will now need to go to the bank to pay the corresponding fee of the model 790. You just need to give this paper to the bank (any institution will work for you in this step), and pay. They will give you a receipt confirming that you have already paid.

Then, you will need to head again to the Police Office to bring that receipt, and your NIE number will be on the way.

Will you have your NIE instantly? That depends. In some offices and regions, they will give you the identification number straight away. Nevertheless, in some others, it can take 4 to 5 days since the application procedure took place.


How long does it take to get the NIE in Spain?


Getting the NIE is quite fast. In fact, you will get it the same day in which you have your appointment at the police station. Thus, the only thing that hinders and delays obtaining this ID number is the delay you may experience in getting that appointment.

Therefore, in order to answer this question completely, we need to make a distinction.

  • For citizens outside the European Union, the NIE number takes approximately 1 week to be obtained.
  • On the other hand, for EU citizens, obtaining this number will depend on the availability of the moment, as that varies from month to month. If you would like to know exactly how much that is right now, you can send our lawyers a message here and we will kindly tell you.


How long does a Spanish NIE number last?


The Spanish NIE number lasts for life.

That being said, another mistake that many tend to make is asking how to renew the NIE.

Why is that question a mistake in itself? Because, as we have said, the NIE is a number that never perishes. It will be the same from the moment you get it assigned until you die. So you cannot renew it.

Nevertheless, as many people tend to confuse the NIE with the TIE, the question can be understood. And it really should be phrased as: how to renew the TIE in Spain?

Now we can provide an answer. And it’s pretty straightforward. You will need to book another appointment and, provided that you still fulfill the requirements that made you eligible for the TIE for the first time, you will be able to easily renew it.

For additional information, here you can find a complete guide with everything you need to renew your NIE.


Temporary NIE Number in Spain


What we have just covered was the typical process to get any kind of NIE number.

Nevertheless, there is a special type of NIE, the temporary one, which special conditions. This type of number is conceded just on rare occasions. Its peculiarity is that it only lasts 3 months. Situations in which you are looking to buy a property in Spain will enable you to get the temporary one. For other situations, like individuals looking for a job in Spain, the temporary NIE number won’t be conceded.

But what happens if then, after those 3 months, you would like to transition into a regular (extended) NIE?

Once the period is coming to an end, you must book another appointment (cita previa). The extra step this time will be to register your fingerprints and provide the additional information the office requires from you. Then, you will get a receipt, proof of your NIE. And, in a month’s time, you will be able to go back and finally get your tarjeta.

As we have mentioned, the NIE number lasts for life. So, when you extend your Temporary NIE, the number itself does not change. 


What to do in case of loss or theft?


This is undoubtedly something very common.

After months and months in Spain, it is common that we lose our residence card or NIE, or that it gets stolen.

What to do then?

In case of loss or theft, we will have to request a duplicate; a process that is relatively simple to manage.

You will have to report it to the police; and with that report, make an appointment at the immigration office to submit your documentation and request the duplicate.

With your passport, the application form EX-17, 3 ID photos, the payment of the corresponding fee, and the police report, you will have enough for the duplicate to get formalized.


Useful tips for the application


Finally, we are going to give you some tips that will really help you during your NIE application process.

  1. First of all, be patient. The Spanish bureaucracy, especially when it comes to immigration issues, can be a bit slow. That is why the first step is being aware of this fact, and then deploying the required patience. You would like to get your NIE as fast as possible in order to finally start your new life in Spain or to do any legal procedure, but you must be patient and respect the timing
  2. Be assertive and don’t move to the next stage until you have a definitive answer in your current one. As with other immigration procedures in Spain, many times you need an answer or approval from the competent institution to get to the next step in the process. Wait for that response and do not try to rush the process. That will just make things worse
  3. Start early and give yourself extra time. If you know that things may work slow, do not wait until the end. We mentioned before how important it was to be early at the Police Office in order to be attended to fast. That can apply to any other step. Start things early, giving yourself the necessary time to handle the process, and that will avoid negative feelings
  4. Trust a professional team of immigration lawyers. Many times, as someone from another country, maybe you don’t completely get the nuances of the language or maybe you don’t know everything you must do in order to successfully obtain your NIE. That is why relying on immigration solicitors can be the best option. They have seen a wide range of different situations and they know exactly what to do in each of them


NIE appointment in Barcelona: How to get one fast


Would you like to get an appointment for your NIE in Barcelona as fast as possible? Because many times, on your own, getting that appointment at the Police Office can take one month (if not more).

So, if you would like to get your NIE as fast as possible… our immigration lawyer team would be glad to help! We will manage everything for you. We will prepare the required documents, submit them and get an appointment without you needing to worry about anything.

Just reach out to us and you will get your NIE without spending time or energy.


Book a consultation with one of our lawyers and solve all your doubts:


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