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The NIE Number and Residency in Spain

Updated 23 Feb 2023

An NIE number is a "Número de Identificación de Exrenajeros", i.e. a "foreigner's tax 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 coverage. You'll also need it if you wish to open a bank account, buy a car, rent an apartment or set up a mobile phone contract in Spain.

The 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: A-1234567-Z  (i.e. letter-seven digits-letter).

Foreigners who will be in Spain for three months or longer should apply for the NIE number, as this allows them to begin getting settled in the country. 

How to apply for an NIE in Spain

As the application process may differ slightly in different areas of Spain, it is always a good idea to check out the regional procedure at your local institutions. Expats can apply for their NEI number at a Spanish embassy or consulate in their home country or upon arrival at the Foreigners Office (Departamento de Extranjería) or police station (Comisaría de Policía). 

The general steps are as follows:

1. Complete the EX15 form, which can be found online. (NOTE: Ensure you print out the form once completed. You cannot save the data.)

2. Take the completed EX15 form with a good, clear copy of your passport and the original to your local police station. (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 and pay the application fee. 

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, verifying financial stability and healthcare coverage is crucial for a successful residency application.

Expats will also need to have held an NIE number for at least five years to be considered for residency. EU nationals with an EU Blue Card will only need to live in Spain for two years before qualifying for permanent residency. You must ensure you apply for your residency at least three months before your current permit or visa expires. 

As before, expats should check the procedures in their respective regions.

The general steps are as follows:

1. Complete the EX17: Spanish Residency Application form.

2. Original and copy of the applicant's valid (i.e. not expired) passport or national identity card. If this document has expired, a copy and proof of renewal will be required.

3. Bank receipt to declare Spanish Residency Application taxes paid. The Modelo 790 payment form will cost approximately EUR 10 to 16.

4. Proof of residence in Spain, such as a rental agreement

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 employment contract), they must submit at least one of the following:

1. A letter from the employer that includes the name, address and the company's CIF and Social Security numbers (Código Cuenta Cotización en la Seguridad Social).

2. A certificate of employment (including the details stated above).

3. An employment 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, 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 receive 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 covering the intended residence period, and a declaration of sufficient funds.

2. Proof of participation in an inter-EU educational exchange programme.

You will be issued a green residency card/certificate with your NIE number upon completing a successful application. This new certificate is valid for five years and renewable for another five years. That said, regulations often change, so it's best to stay up-to-date with the latest information.

*This information was accurate at the time of publication. 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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