Your interactive family guide to Spain as recommended by local mums | Last updated 7 months ago

Moving to Spain

NIE Numbers & Residency Certificates

An NIE (Número de identidad de extranjero) is essentially an ID number for foreigners. You will need an NIE number if you buy a property, if you buy or insure a car, if you want to open a bank account or set up utility bills – i.e., you will need it often during your day-to-day life in Spain. Also, if you do not have an NIE number, tax authorities cannot process annual tax payments such as income and wealth tax.

The NIE is the equivalent of a Spanish persons Número de Identificación Fiscal (NIF) which serves as a fiscal identification number.
The CIF number (Certificado de Identificación Fiscal) is equivalent to the NIF, but applies to companies.

If you are intending to stay in Spain for more than 3 months, it is advised to apply for a Residency Certificate as you will automatically be issued with an NIE number.

  • Applying for NIE numbers & Residency Certificates

    Relocating to Spain has changed with new residency approval processes being introduced from 3 January 2012. The new procedures affect all newly arriving foreigners planning to stay in Spain for longer than 3 months, including UK and EU citizens.
    From the start of the year, foreign arrivals seeking to stay in Spain must now personally present their paperwork to the police station as part of the NIE authorisation process.

    The NIE is Spain’s paperwork registering the identity number of a foreigner (Número de identidad de extranjero) for tax purposes. A NIE grants foreigners residency rights to remain in Spain for longer than three months and is essential paperwork to many other administration and financial systems.

    To receive a NIE, applicants must:

    Complete two copies of the NIE application form
    Present original passport and copy along with two passport photos
    Details of your current address in Spain
    A personal statement or letter explaining why you are seeking NIE registration (business work located here, renting long term, buying property or accompanying a spouse, for example).

    The new approvals legislation now requires applicants to take the paperwork to a police station in person. In the past, foreigners could employ a gestor to literally do the legwork involved, whereas now a personal appearance is mandatory.

    While not expected to involve any more rigorous scrutiny or delays for the bulk of applicants, it does create inconveniences for long-term renters, relocating parents and business transfers to sacrifice up to half a day for the new processes.

    With a NIE, you can then apply for an empadonamiento registration with the local Town Hall, a necessity to receive the paperwork required to enrol children in international or local schools, use the public health system, or open a business or company office.

    For a list of consulates abroad go to

    Applying for a Residency Certificate

    You need to go to the Oficina de Extranjeros (Foreigners Office) or local police station close to where you live. This needs to be done within the first 3 months of arriving in Spain. In some areas, an appointment can be made in advance.

    Click here for a list of Oficinas de Extranjeros

    Youll need to go to the National Police Office for a payment form. This needs to paid at a bank and stamped before you apply for a Residency Certificate.

    The following documents are needed when applying for a Residency Certificate:

    - proof of payment (as outlined above)
    - passport or ID card
    - A completed and signed application form.You can download it by clicking here
    (Note: if you already have an NIE number then this is a valid proof of payment)

    Your residence certificate is normally issued immediately and is valid indefinitely. You need to notify the relevant foreigners office if you get married or divorced.

    It's worth remembering that unlike the previous wallet-sized laminated cards, the Residency Certificate cannot be used as ID but should be carried along with photo ID if needed.

    If you would like to add family members to your residence Certificate  then the same form should be completed and handed in at the local police station or foreigners office. Youll need to bring relevant birth & marriage certificates and also 3 passport-sized photos of each member. Youll also need to bring your passport and the passport or ID of the family members.

    The residence certificate is a piece of paper which contains the NIE number. It is not an identity document and the certificate should be carried with identification (such as a passport) at all times.