The NIE (Número de Identificación de Extranjero), meaning – Foreigner Identification Number, is the counterpart to a DNI (Documento Nacional de Identidad), the ID card issued to Spanish citizens, and is the identification number issued to people who are not a Spanish nationals.
The National Police, (Cuerpo Nacional de Policia), handle the issue of NIE’s and any one planning to carry out a transaction in Spain, e.g. buying a holiday home, or various other interests, needs to have one.
The NIE identifies you whenever you do something official, or which involves the authorities. For example paying taxes, buying a property; signing a document at Notary; starting a business; taking shares in or becoming a director of a Spanish company, even registering as a student on a Spanish university course.
The NIE is not a fiscal (tax) residency identification – you can have a NIE and be fiscal resident in another country, however it is used to link payments to you that may be due, including tax amongst others. Both EU citizens and non-EU citizens are issued with NIE’s, and if you become resident, you keep the same NIE when you apply for your residence certificate.
How to Get an NIE
You can obtain an NIE via the Spanish embassy, before you come to Spain. To do it this way, you take you application in person to the Consulate General, and it is then passed on to the National Police in Spain to be processed as usual. This can take anything from 2 – 4 weeks.
Most people apply direct when they arrive in Spain, or have someone handle it on their behalf. Often estate agents, or lawyers will provide this as a complimentary service, if you’re using them for a property purchase. If your lawyer is getting you NIE’s for you, it’s worth checking, if they are charging you, as their fee for the service could quite likely be a lot higher than a gestoria or other companies, like ourselves, who provide general assistance services.
If you’re doing this yourself, you first need to make an appointment at the National Police station in your area that handles residency applications. The process of arranging an appointment to register varies from town to town, with some it’s possible to book online, others you can book by telephone, and some you have to go in to make your appointment.
At your appointment you’ll need your completed EX15 form, your passport, plus copies of each, and the same for anyone else applying at the same time. You’ll also need confirmation that you have paid the application fee. You can pay the fee online, and print of a payment confirmation or ‘justificante‘ once you’ve done so. This is the link to the online payment: Modelo 790
Once you have presented your application and supporting documentation and it’s been accepted, depending on the Police Station, you will either be given your NIE there, or you may be asked to come back in a few days to collect it. The NIE is only valid when accompanied by an internationally recognised form of ID, such as a passport or national ID card.
NOTE: If you are planning to take up residence in Spain, but want to start getting things organised first before registering as a resident (recommended), when you attend your NIE appointment, if the Police Officer queries why you need an NIE or asks if you are moving to Spain, make sure you give the specific reason, e.g. buying a house, rental contract etc. It is not uncommon for the handling officer to refuse to process the NIE application and insist that you apply for a residency certificate, if they think you are moving to Spain. Taking up Spanish Residency usually requires planning and in most cases isn’t something you should be railroaded into unprepared.