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How to save lots of time on official matters through Spain’s online [email protected] system

If you want to avoid Spain’s dreaded “cita previa” appointment system, here’s what you need to know about the [email protected] digital certificate options that will allow you to handle official matters from home.

How to save lots of time on official matters through Spain's online Cl@ve system

Bureaucracy is undoubtedly one of the aspects of life in Spain foreigners find hardest to deal with, even if they’ve been living in the country for years and speak fluent Spanish.

The requirement of having a prior appointment (cita previa) for pretty much every official public process, the convoluted government websites and the blasé attitude of many civil servants makes it hard to get things done quick and efficiently.

Fortunately, there’s been a push towards the digitisation of bureaucratic matters in recent years, meaning that there’s a growing number of “trámites” (processes) that can be carried out online.

Currently the main ways to access the Spain’s national and regional departments electronically are the digital certificate (certificado digital), the [email protected] Pin, the permanent [email protected] and the autosignature (AutoFirma).

That’s right, they could’ve kept it simple with just one system, but instead there are four, and Spanish nationals also have the DNIe at their disposal.

Unfortunately, these rather generic, similar sounding names are what makes it complicated from the start to know what each one does or which one’s best.

In this article we will explain Spain’s [email protected] system in depth, as the temporary key (clave) and the permanent “clave” allow you to complete most of the digital processes available in Spain right now (stay tuned for future explainers on the other digital options mentioned above).

What’s Spain’s [email protected] system?

It’s a digital signature system which allows you to do all kind of official processes safely from the comfort of your home, and a way for the government to know it’s actually you, as you won’t be going into the office in person for them to identify you.

One code can be used for everything from filing your tax returns and plenty more fiscal matters, to applying for unemployment aid or other subsidies and paying for traffic fines.

Both the the [email protected] Pin and the permanent [email protected] are fully integrated into the [email protected] system and fullfill the same purposes.

READ ALSO: 25 official matters you can do online in Spain

What’s the Permanent [email protected]?

The “[email protected] Permanente” is pretty much what it sounds like, a password system that’s valid for a long period of time (although not permanent the government website clarifies) which is suited for people doing lots of official processes online often.

It works with a username (your NIE, foreign ID number) and a password which only you must know, plus an extra level of security which comes in the form of an SMS sent to your phone. This system also you to access a cloud-based signature.

What’s the [email protected] PIN?

It’s a temporary [email protected] password system valid for a short period of time, intended for users who use do these online processes more sporadically.

In this case the system is based on username or ID code that you choose but with a PIN code that you’re sent every time you start a session, and which will always be different, so need to memorise or write down any passwords in this case.

Image: Biljana Jovanovic/Pixabay 

How can I register for [email protected]?

To get either [email protected] PIN or the permanent [email protected], first you have to register in the [email protected] system.
Start by going the English language version website of [email protected] here

If you don’t have a digital certificate, which is what we’ll presume in this explainer, you will have to click on “Registrarse en [email protected]” and enter your NIE and the support system.

This is an obstacle for some foreign residents in Spain as the “número de soporte” doesn’t always work when added (check here to find out where to look for the support number on your residency document) 

Some foreign residents have commented on Citizens Advice Bureau that adding a C and a 0 (zero) before the number has worked for them whereas Spain’s tax authority says that you should contact the national police to revise and update the information of your card.

According to the Agencia Tributaria, the support number consists of 8 numbers preceded by the letter E.

If you’re successful you will be asked to enter your date of birth and your fiscal address, then you will be able to request the Letter of Invitation.

Once you receive the letter, you will find it includes a Secure Verification Code (CSV) that’s made up a total 16 numbers and uppercase letters.

This will allow you to continue with step 2, where you will need to access the “registrarse en [email protected]” page again, fill in the same details as before and check the option “I already have an invitation letter” before pressing the “Continue” button.

Then you will have to fill in the 16-character Secure Verification Code (CSV) and once it has been validated, type in the mobile phone and email to complete the registration process.

You’ll get a confirmation message saying that you’ve been registered and to remember the pin codes obtained.

Alternatively, if this process still seems to complicated or you run into problems, you always register for the [email protected] in person, at one of the various registration offices.

Social security offices, tax departments and regional citizen advice buildings often offer help with this service, but as you may have guessed already, you’ll need a cita previa (pre-booked appointment).

Find out where your closest government office to do this here.

You must show your NIE, provide your mobile phone number and an email address.

When you have your appointment, double check that the civil servant has filled in your details correctly as there are often typos with foreign names.

How do I get a [email protected] PIN?

Download the app available for iOS and Android, you’ll have to activate it following the steps given. After that, you can view the PIN obtained from the web on your mobile device. Here is the link to the app and instructions in Spanish. 

These are the steps you have to follow:

1) Fill in your NIE/DNI number. 

2) Select the button that says ‘Utilizar la App [email protected] PIN para obtener el PIN (recomendado)’. 

3) Fill the date of issue for your NIE/DNI, as well as the expiration date, if you have one. 

4) Click on ‘Deseo personalizar la generación del PIN’ which translates as ‘I want to customise the generation of the PIN’. Then you’ll be able to choose the 4 characters which will make up your [email protected], together with your PIN. Next click ‘Obtener PIN’ or ‘Obtain PIN’. 

5) A notice will be displayed in the browser informing you that the PIN is available. You’ll then get a notification from the app letting you know that everything has been performed correctly. For security reasons, you’ll have to put in the pattern or code to unlock your phone, after which your PIN will appear, followed by its validity time. 

6) To enter the app now, you must put in your PIN and login to identify yourself. 

You must use the PIN you have received to access the system before 10 minutes is up. If you have not accessed [email protected] within that time, you will have to request a new PIN. Once identified via your PIN, your can access the services that [email protected] allows until you disconnect from the Electronic Office or close your browser. 

How can I get a permanent [email protected]

If you want to be permanently registered for [email protected], because you need frequent access to the system, you can do this by following these steps:

1) To activate your [email protected] as a permanent user, you must access the activation service where you will be asked to enter your username (your DNI or NIE), your email address and the activation code that you received when you registered. If you have forgotten your code or need a new one, you can regenerate it by clicking on ‘Regenerar código de activación de [email protected] Permanente’.  

2) If they are correct, the system will send you an SMS with a single-use numeric code (One Time Password, OTP) that you must type in the corresponding field. If it is correct, the system will allow you to set the password you prefer, as long as it complies with minimum security characteristics. This password will be the one you will have to use from now on every time an electronic administration service requests it.

You can also unsubscribe from the permanent [email protected] using your password, whenever you want. 


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‘A long way to go’: Spain’s domestics fight to end discrimination

For years, Aracely Sánchez went to work without counting her hours, always fearful she could lose her job from one day to the next.

'A long way to go': Spain's domestics fight to end discrimination

“They would always ask me to do more and more and more, as if I were a machine,” she told AFP of her employers at a house in Madrid.

Within a collective of domestic workers, this 39-year-old Mexican has been trying to assert her basic rights to have time off every week, to be paid for working overtime and to have unemployment cover.

But given the precarious nature of this type of work in Spain, it is a challenge.

“There are employers who are very humane and who respect us, but there are many who try to take advantage of the situation,” she explained.

“They say: if the job doesn’t suit you, there are plenty more where you came from.”

According to the Workers Commission union (CCOO), nearly 600,000 women serve as domestic staff in Spain where taking them on for housework, cooking or childcare is widespread.

Of that number, nearly 200,000 are undeclared, working in the black economy without an employment contract.

“Many of them come from Latin America and they don’t have papers and find themselves in a very vulnerable situation,” said Mari Cruz Vicente, the CCOO’s head of activism and employment.

‘Exposing violations’

Following a ruling by the EU’s Court of Justice (CJEU) and pressure from the unions, the government of Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez adopted a reform this month aiming at ending the “discrimination” suffered by these workers.

READ ALSO: The new rules for hiring a domestic worker in Spain

Under the changes, dubbed by the government as “settling a historic debt”, domestic workers are now entitled to claim unemployment benefits and cannot be dismissed without justification.

They will also be covered by healthcare “protection” and be able to access training to improve their “professional opportunities” and job conditions.

“This is a very important step forward,” said Vicente, while stressing the need to step up efforts to register those who are working without a contract and don’t benefit from the reform.

“This reform was very necessary,” said Constanza Cisneros of the Jeanneth Beltrán observatory which specialises in domestic workers’ rights.

“Spain was very behind. Every day we have people coming to us whose rights have been violated. We have to end such practices now,” she said.

“Such situations have to be exposed.”


Around 200,000 domestic workers who are working in the black economy without an employment contract will not benefit from Spain’s new labour reform. (Photo by Ezequiel BECERRA / AFP)

‘Not seen as people’

Mexican home help Sánchez has often experienced such abuses in more than two decades of employment.

In 2001, she arrived in Madrid to take up full-time employment caring for an elderly person for €350 a month.

She then spent the next 15 years working in short-term jobs, almost always without a contract, despite the fact she had a valid residency permit.

“When I said I wanted a contract, they never called me back. They didn’t want to pay contributions,” she said, describing her work as “undervalued” with domestic staff seen as “labourers” and not “as people”.

Amalia Caballero, a domestic worker from Ecuador, has had a very similar experience.

“We often finish very late, or they change our hours at the last minute assuming we’ll just fall in line. But we also have a life that we need to sort out,” said Caballero, 60.

She also talks about the “humiliations” often endured by those who live with their employers.

“One time, one of my bosses asked me why I showered every day. It was clear he thought (the hot water) was costing him too much money,” she told AFP.

But will such attitudes change with the reform?

“There’s still a long way to go,” she sighed, saying many domestic staff “have completed their studies” back home and even hold a degree.

“People need to recognise that,” she said.

Cisneros agreed.

“Our work needs to command greater respect, not least because it’s so necessary. Without staff to pick up the children, run the household and look after elderly people, what would families do?”