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14 things you should know about Spain's NIE number for foreigners

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14 things you should know about Spain's NIE number for foreigners
Everything you need to know about Spain's NIE. Dimitri Karastelev / Unsplash

Find out what the NIE is in Spain, what it is not, why you'll need one, what it's used for, common misconceptions and how to apply.


If you're planning on moving to Spain or you have just arrived you will have probably heard the acronym NIE thrown around many times. It's a term you'll hear a lot when you're a foreigner living in Spain and something that you'll need over and over again, whether you've lived here for three months or 10 years. Read on to find out all about it. 

NIE stands for Número de Identificación de Extranjero
The 'Foreigner Identification Number' is a number for those who are not Spanish citizens. Spanish citizens have the equivalent   NIF (Numero de Identificación Fiscal or fiscal number) instead, which appears on their DNI ID cards (Documento Nacional de Identidad), just like your NIE will appear on your residency document. 

It features both numbers and letters
The NIE has 7 or 8 numbers and 2 letters – one at the beginning of the number and one at the end. It will begin with either an X, Y, or Z.

'The NIE is a personal, unique and exclusive number' 
That's how the Spanish government describes it. It is assigned to foreigners in Spain for economic, professional, or social reasons.

It was first introduced in 1997
The NIE first began to be used in Spain in 1997. Its initial structure was conceived as an 8-digit sequential number, preceded by the letter X and followed by an alphabetic verification character.

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You will keep your NIE forever
You will only ever be granted one NIE number. If you leave Spain and then return years later, your number will still be valid. You may have to renew your residency documents and complete other bureaucratic processes in Spain, but your NIE should be the same one that you were issued with last time. The same happens if you get your NIE as a non-resident and then decide to permanently move to Spain. 

It’s not only residents in Spain who need a NIE
This number is needed by anyone who wants to carry out various types of economic activities in Spain. This includes non-residents who want to buy a house in Spain, a car, open a bank account or set up a company.


The NIE does not entitle the holder to residency in Spain
Just because you have been granted a NIE number, doesn’t mean that you have the right to reside in Spain. It cannot be used to prove your residence in Spain either.

The NIE doesn't give you the right to work either 

A NIE doesn't allow non-EU nationals to get a job, become self-employed or access the country's social security system either. These again depend on having legal residency in Spain.


It is not only a fiscal residency identification
As mentioned above you can have a NIE and be a fiscal resident in another country. If you are asked for your NIF in Spain, however, for fiscal reasons then this will be the same as your NIE number.

It is not the same as the green residency certificate
Many foreigners started to refer to the green Certificado de Registro Ciudadano de la Unión Europea document that EU citizens residing in Spain receive as a NIE, but this is not actually the case. The NIE only refers to the unique identity number on the card, not the card itself or the residency document.

The NIE document you get from the police station is a white sheet of paper different from the green certificate or the TIE card for third-country nationals. Image: Barcelona City Hall

You must apply for your NIE within three months of moving to Spain
However you're gaining residency in Spain, whether through a visa or because you’re an EU citizen, you are required to apply for your number within the first three months of arriving in the country. The authorities won’t come after you if you don’t, but life will be very difficult in Spain if you don’t have one as you can see from our many other points.

You need to apply for it by making an appointment at your local police station or Oficina de Extranjeros
Getting a cita previa (prior appointment) when applying for your NIE can be a bit of a headache, but once you do, you’ll need all your supporting documents and the EX-15 standard application form. And find out more about the application process here.

READ ALSO: How to get a 'cita previa' (appointment) in Spain when it seems impossible

You will need your NIE for almost everything in Spain
Once you start living in Spain, you’ll learn how important this number is. You will need it for everything from buying new kitchen appliances to contracting internet, receiving packages and even buying tickets online. In some situations, companies may let you use your passport number instead, but many others will insist that you have a NIE.

It's not free

Processing a NIE costs €9.84 in 2023, a price which goes up a few cents every year.


Join the conversation in our comments section below. Share your own views and experience and if you have a question or suggestion for our journalists then email us at [email protected].
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Adrian and Dawn 2023/04/25 15:44
Not quite correct re first issues of NIE. My Wife and I both have a little red card with our NIE numbers, as well as a photo and fingerprints ! Valid for 5 years and dated 29th Febrero 1996. . !!

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