Just when the Spanish property market needs all the help it can get from foreign investors, the bureaucratic obstacle of getting a foreign ID/NIE number gets harder than ever.
Foreign investors are vital to the Spanish economy: They are Spain’s best hope for dealing with the glut of new homes on the coast, something even the incompetent former Government recognised with its futile European road-shows last year. So why, then, is the state making it harder than ever to get an ID number, known as a número de identidad de extranjero, or NIE number for short, without which foreigner investors can’t buy?
I ask the question, but don’t expect an answer from me because I’m as baffled as anyone. At a time like this the Government should be bending over backwards to make it easier for foreigners to buy property in Spain, not creating new obstacles.
NIE numbers for property buyers are nothing new, so what has changed? The fact that you can no longer use a power of attorney to authorise someone else to request a number on your behalf. That used to take the pain out of the process (whilst adding to the cost), but now you have to go in person and waste half a day in some grim government office staffed by surly bureaucrats and police.
As Graham Hunt of Houses for Sale in Spain says: “The applicant also needs to present themselves, at least here in Valencia, at a police station in the middle of an industrial estate on the outskirts of Valencia and queue up to be treated like a piece of dirt by the civil servants working there.”
Is there any alternative? Yes, you have the option of requesting a number from the Spanish embassy or consulate at home, if you live near one, which most people don’t. That, however, can take months, which is no use to most people buying a property.
For most people, the only option is to waste a morning of their life suffering at the hands of the Spanish bureaucracy, with the biggest queues and longest waits reserved for buyers from countries outside the EU, like Russia and China. As Graham says, “This means that millionaires wanting to invest a lot of money in Spain are treated like dirt on their first experience of the country.”
Once again, the Spanish bureaucracy comes up trumps.