Spanish NIE numbers: Why you need one, and how to get one in or outside of Spain
A guide to getting a Spanish NIE number so you can buy a property in Spain.
This guide is about Spanish NIE numbers for the purpose of buying property in Spain. If you need an NIE number for another purpose, for example to work in Spain, the process might be different. The rules, or the application of the rules, can vary from place to place, and can change without warning. As a result, this guide can be temporarily out of date from time to time.
If you own property in Spain, or live here as a resident, you are going to need an N.I.E. number. This section explains what an NIE number is, why you need one, and how to get one, either in or outside of Spain.
What is a Spanish N.I.E Number?
N.I.E. is an abbreviation for Número de Identidad de Extranjero, which translates as Identification Number for Foreigners, or Foreigners’ Identification Number if you prefer.
The NIE is your all-purpose identification and tax number in Spain. You need it for everything that involves a tramite or official process in Spain. For example, you will need an NIE number to buy a property, buy a car, get connected to the utilities and, most importantly as far as the Spanish state is concerned, pay your taxes. Without an NIE number, the Spanish tax authorities are unable to assess or process annual tax payments such as income tax (IRPF), and the annual wealth tax (Patrimonio), both of which are declared by resident and non-resident property owners.
NIE number certificates were being issued with a 3-month validity from the time of issue, after which you were expected to apply for residency, or register as a non-resident. So after three months the certificate was no longer valid, at least in principle. However, at some point the regulation was changed to eliminate the three-month expiry deadline, so NIE number certificates now bear no expiry date. But this is Spain, the bureaucracy is a bit of a mess, and regulations are not uniformly implemented or even understood. You may find that some notaries refuse to accept an old certificate that expired after three months, which could cause problems for people who have one of the old certificates. So if you happen to have requested an NIE number in the past, check it to make sure it doesn’t bear an expiry date. If it does, request a new copy without an expiry date.
If you are an EU citizen and spend longer than 3 months in Spain after getting your NIE number, you are required to register and get a government certificate that shows your NIE number.
Who needs an NIE number in Spain and when?
You need a reason to request a Foreign ID number in Spain, which generally puts you into one of the following three groups:
- Any foreigner who becomes resident for tax purposes in Spain needs an NIE number in Spain.
- Any non-resident foreigner who buys property in Spain. If a couple buys a property in Spain together, and they register the property in both their names, then both of them must obtain an NIE number in Spain.
- Anyone who wants to work in Spain, or start a business in Spain.
Students staying in Spain for 3 months or more also need to get an NIE number.
When do you need one?
If you are going to buy property in Spain, then you need to have an NIE number by the time you sign the deeds of purchase before notary, an event known in Spanish as the escritura.
Getting your NIE number in time for escritura means applying at least 1 month before hand if you are applying in Spain, and at least 2 months before hand if you are applying via a consulate abroad. The actual time it takes depends upon where you apply, and the time of the year. You might be able to get an NIE number in person in Spain in a couple of days, but it could also take weeks, so best allow yourself plenty of time. You should start preparing to apply for your Spanish NIE number when you start getting serious about house-hunting in Spain.
How do you apply?
The first thing to understand is that dealing with the Spanish bureaucracy is often a perplexing, not to mention frustrating affair. The way they interpret the regulations in Andalusia might differ from the way they interpret the same rules in Catalonia. In one area, for example Barcelona, you need to book an appointment online in advance to request your NIE number, then spend hours waiting in a queue, whilst in other areas you can just turn up and get everything done in half an hour. I have confirmed for myself that the rules are inconsistently applied, which makes it difficult to prepare a guide to NIE numbers.
So keeping in mind that the process and interpretation of requirements might be different depending on how and where you apply for an NIE number, here is a general guide that explains the official requirements and the process as it should work (but might not)
There are three ways to apply for a Spanish NIE number:
- In person in Spain.
- In person via a Spanish Consulate abroad.
- Apply through a representative in Spain
Applying in person in Spain
Applying in person for an NIE number whilst in Spain is a relatively straightforward procedure. The only inconvenience is that you may have to wait for several hours in a queue in order to submit your application at a Spanish police station. It does depend upon the police station where you apply, and the time of day (early is better). With a bit of luck you will be in and out in half an hour or less.
The process is as follows:
1) Prepare the necessary documentation:
- All applicants: Two copies of the Ex-15 application form filled out and signed . The Spanish name for the NIE form is Solicitud de Número de Identidad de Extranjero (NIE) y Certificados (EX-15), and you can download this NIE application form by clicking on the link below.
- All applicants: An original document (plus a photocopy) that justifies your reason for applying for an NIE number, such as a private purchase contract for a property, deposit contract, or a mortgage approval.
- EU nationals: Your passport and a photocopy of the main page of your passport (the page that includes your photo, name, passport number, address, etc.).
- Non-EU nationals: Your passport and a photocopy of your entire passport (all pages), plus proof of your legal entry into Spain (for instance a landing card, known in Spanish as a declaración de entrada or a título de viaje or cédula de inscripción). Some Oficinas de Extranjeros might accept a valid entry stamp in your passport as proof of legal entry. To be on the safe side non-EU nationals might also want to take along two recent passport size colour photographs with a plain coloured background.
2) Take all documentation in person to the appropriate place of submission.
You have to go to one of the immigration offices (oficinas de extranjeros) that are usually found in designated police stations (comisaría de policía), preferably in the area where you are buying your property. If there is no immigration office in your area then it should be possible to make your application through a local police station. In any event the local police station will be able to tell you the best place to go to apply for an NIE in your area.
In Barcelona, and some other places, you have to request an appointment online using the “Certificados EU” (for EU nationals) option at the Public Administration website. You might have to book an appointment a month in advance – you can’t just turn up. (More information from the Public Administration website in Spanish)
You will have to pay a tax of around €10.00 at the nearest bank branch after making your application, then take proof of this payment (the stamped receipt from the bank) back to the Oficina de Extranjeros. That completes the application process.
3) Collect NIE number immediately or after a few days
After you have submitted your NIE application you will be given an official receipt (resguardo) and a time / date after which you can return to collect your NIE document. In some places you can collect your NIE number immediately, in other places it might be a couple of days later, or a couple of weeks – the police station will tell you. The time it takes varies by region and time of the year. Generally speaking it seems that places where there are not many foreigners requesting NIE numbers deliver quicker, in some cases immediately (for example the city of Segovia).
You do not have to collect your NIE in person – anyone can collect it for you if they have the official receipt or resguardo you were given when you submitted your application.
The time it takes to get an NIE varies greatly by region. Whilst it is still common in most areas to wait 15 days or more before collecting an NIE, in some areas, for instance Oviedo, in Asturias, (North Spain), you can apply for, and collect, an NIE in one single visit, which might not take longer than half an hour.
Applying for an NIE number in person via a Spanish Consulate abroad
You can also apply for an NIE from Spanish consulates around the world if you do not have the time to apply whilst you are in Spain. I haven’t checked this process for a few years, and Covid-19 has come along to muck up many bureaucratic processes, so it may no longer work as described below.
Using London as an example, the process is as follows:
1) Prepare the necessary documentation:
- EU nationals: Your passport and a photocopy of the main page of your passport (the page that includes your photo, name, passport number, address, etc.). Non-EU nationals: Your passport and a photocopy of your entire passport.
- 2 copies of the appropriate application form duly completed but NOT SIGNED as you will need to sign in the presence of a consular official. The Spanish consulate will not be able to provide you with this form so you must obtain it beforehand. I strongly recommend you ring the consulate beforehand to check the latest situation as the procedures do change and these instructions may already be out of date.
- In the UK it appears you now have to pay a fee of £8.05 in fees (December 2016), so make sure you have the means on you to pay this small sum. (For a while there was no fee to pay, and before that there was a fee of £22 so it keeps changing, for which reason always best to ring or check the Embassy website in advance for the latest requirements).
- You might also have to produce an original document (plus a photocopy) that justifies your reason for applying for an NIE number. This documentation might not be necessary, but best have it with you just in case. If you don’t have it, then don’t worry too much, as both London and Manchester consulates say they don’t require it.
It also used to be necessary to take the following:
- A self-addressed envelope (no stamp)
- An envelope addressed to: Comisaría General de Extranjería y Documentación
Dirección General de Policia
C/ General Pardiñas, 90
However, the latest feedback in the forum says this is no longer necessary as they now send you your NIE document in pdf format by email after two or three weeks.
2) Take all documentation in person to your nearest Spanish Consulate.
You have to go in person with all the relevant documentation to your nearest Spanish consulate. The Spanish Consulate cannot issue NIE numbers; it only acts as a “postal box” between the applicant and the competent authorities in Spain. Once you have submitted your application through the Consulate they will not be able to provide you with any further information on the status of your application. For any further information or enquires as to the status of your application you should write to the address given above for the Comisaría General de Extranjería y Documentación.
For contact details of Spanish Consulates in the United Kingdom see below:
3) Await notification from the Spanish authorities
If all goes well you should receive your NIE number in pdf format by email within 2/3 weeks.
Authorise a third party to obtain your Spanish NIE number on your behalf
The Spanish Government now permits foreigners to authorise a third party to obtain an NIE number on their behalf, as I reported in this article The Spanish Government now allows foreigners to get an NIE number through a legal representative. There was a period of time when this was not possible.
As a result, you can now authorise someone to get your NIE number for you in Spain. Once authorised they take care of the whole process for you. There are numerous companies now offering this service. To do this you need to:
- Grant them a poder, or power of attorney signed before notary, expressly granting permission to request an NIE number on your behalf.
- Let them have your passport, or send them a notarised copy of your passport (copia legitimada). Getting a copy of your passport in Spain is easy and cheap to do with a quick visit to a notary. If you get it from a notary outside of Spain you will also need the Hague Apostille. Be warned that some oficinas de extranjería do not accept passport copies that have been notarised outside of Spain – they only accept copies done by a Spanish notary.
If you go to a notary outside of Spain, the documentation will also need the Hague Apostille (but not if you go to the Spanish embassy or consulate).
British Notary Publics are often solicitors so I recommend you start by contacting some local solicitors to find your nearest Notary or try the Notaries Society website.