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Updated 19 Oct 2012
An NIE number is a “Número de Identificación de Exrenajeros” i.e. a “foreigner’s identification number” in Spain. Expats moving to Spain need an NIE number to work in Spain, take out private Spanish health insurance and apply for Spanish state health cover.  You’ll also need it if you wish to open a bank account, buy a car or set up a mobile phone contract in Spain.
Spanish flag - Moving to Spain and getting an NIE numberThe Decree (Real Decreto 338-1990) March 9th, establishes that anyone, of whatever nationality, resident or non-resident, who has any "official business" in Spain, must have a fiscal number (NIF/NIE).
To avoid confusion, if you apply for an NIE only, you will be issued with a white certificate that will assign you your unique foreigner’s ID number that is in the format of: A-1234567-Z  (i.e. letter-seven digits-letter).
Previously, foreigners arriving in Spain had to first apply for an NIE and then later apply for residency. However, rules are often changing, and applying for an NIE may now not be the right decision for you.

Should I apply for NIE or residency?

There is one simple question to ask yourself, which will provide you with the correct answer to this question, and that is: “How long do I intend to stay in Spain?”
If you intend to stay in Spain for more than three months then you should apply directly for residency, using the EX18 application form.
If you plan to stay in Spain for less than three months, then you should apply for an NIE number, using the EX15 application form.
The “NIE or Residencia?” question is no more complicated than that.

How to apply for an NIE for Spain

As the application process may differ slightly in different areas of Spain, it is always a good idea to  check out the procedure with your local police station (Comisaría de Policía) or foreigners department (Departamento de Extranjería).
The general steps are:
1. Complete the EX15 form. (NOTE: Ensure you print out the form once you have completed it. You cannot save the data.)
2. Take the completed EX15 form with a good, clear copy of your passport and the original. (NOTE: British passport holders must take an additional copy of the front of the passport)
3. Follow the procedures indicated at your local police station.
Since 2012, the NIE certificates are only valid for three months, for administrative purposes. Please note, however, that your personal NIE will never change.

How to apply for residency in Spain

Since July 2012, the regulations for residency application in Spain have changed. The change in procedures means that people who apply for residency need to be able to prove that they will not “become a burden on Spain’s social assistance during their period of residence”.
Consequently, the ability to prove financial stability and healthcare cover are very important for a successful residency application.

As before, expats should check the procedures in their area.
The general steps are:
1. Complete the EX18: Spanish Residency Application form.
2. Original and copy of applicants valid (i.e. not expired) passport or national identity card. In the event that this document has expired, a copy of the expired document and proof of renewal will be required.
3. Bank receipt to declare Spanish Residency Application taxes paid, Modelo 790 (currently 10.30 euro).
The following documents will also be required, subject to the applicant´s personal situation:
If the applicant is employed by a third party (i.e. with a Spanish work contract), they must submit at least one of the following:
1. A letter from the employer that includes the name, address and CIF number of the company and the company´s Social Security number (Código Cuenta Cotización en la Seguridad Social).
2. A certificate of employment (including the details stated above).
3. A work contract that has already been presented at the INSS (Instituto Nacional de la Seguridad Social).
4. Proof of registration in the Social Security (alta en seguridad social).
If the applicant is self-employed, they must submit at least one of the following:
1. Proof of inscription in the “Censo de Actividades Económicas”  (Modelo 036 or 037).
2. Proof of inscription in the “Registro Mercantil” for a company.
3. Proof of inscription (Alta) in Social Security.
Permission for your details to be checked at the TGSS (Tesorería General de la Seguridad Social) can also be given.
If the applicant is not working, all of the following must be submitted:
1. Proof of health insurance for the period of intended stay in Spain (this does not apply to pensioners who can provide a copy of their registered E-121 or S-1 forms).
2. Proof of sufficient funds (Pensioners must prove they are in receipt of regular pension payments).
If the applicant is a student, there are two possibilities:
1. A course registration document, proof of private health insurance or the EHIC that covers the intended period of residence and a declaration of sufficient funds.
2. Proof of participation in an inter EU educational exchange programme.
Upon completing a successful application, you will be issued with a green residency card/certificate that will include your NIE number. At present, this new certificate does not expire. However, procedures and requirements are changed on a regular basis, so it is very important to keep updated with changes in regulations.
*This information was accurate at the time of publication (October 2012). Expats should note, however, that the requirements for visas, and work and residency permits are subject to change at short notice and they should contact their respective embassy or consulate for the latest details if planning a move abroad.

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