Anyone living in Spain for more than a few months should be aware of the NIE; the Número de Identificación de Extranjero – or Foreigner’s Identity Number. The process on how to get one has changed a bit recently. It’s not been a card for some while but, instead, a handy A4 sheet of paper.
If you’re doing ‘official business’ in Spain you need an NIE – to open a bank account, buy a property, arrange utilities, arrange private health insurance, get a job and so on. It’s also used as a form of identification.
Now, this was OUR experience (as EU residents) and contradicts a lot of information out there. For example, you do not need two passport photos, you don’t need one at all.
There are websites who’ll do it for you, stating it’s a ‘stressful experience, time-consuming and complex,’ or that they’ll be ‘long queues and you’ll need two or three visits to get it.’ One even states that ‘public servants can lack patience.’ Ouch!
We arrived at our nearest Comisaría de Policía at 9.30am and it was all done by 11.30am. The staff were friendly and efficient. The form just needed a bit of translation beforehand. In some cities there may be longer queues but in Motril, not so. Just be sure to get there as early as possible and have a large pack of sherbet lemons, just in case.
Your NIE, which you can apply for the week you arrive if you like, will remain for life although the certificate is only valid for three months. The Spanish government is trying to encourage people to apply for residencia after the initial three month period of living here.
And if, for example, your NIE had ‘run out’ and you were heading towards some transaction – like opening a bank account – it could be refused by the bank.
The NIE application process (at our local Comisaría de Policía):
- Print out an NIE form (EX15) and complete but don’t sign it – you can download one here (PDF document, 200KB)
- Find your passport. Take two photocopies of the bit with your details/photo and front cover
- Take the original documents and photocopies to your nearest Comisaría de Policía (normally in larger towns)
- Go to the oficinas de extranjeros – you are given a numbered ticket
- When called, the official inputs your details into a computer
- You are given a piece of paper – take it to a bank where you must pay the fee, currently about €23
- The bank gives you a receipt which you take back to the Comisaría de Policía
- Wait again
- When called, hand the bank receipt in and you should be issued with your NIE certificate
- Smile and offer them a sherbet lemon
Some people say it’s quicker to get an NIE processed at a local tax office instead, but we did it in two hours. The ‘going to a bank instead of paying the fee at the time’-lark is apparently to stop corruption. Corruption, in Spain?
Finally, if you’re not resident in Spain but want to, for example, buy a Spanish property from your home country – you’ll need an NIE. You do it via your Spanish Consulate.
Our first brush with Spanish bureaucracy was a pleasant surprise.
© con jamón spain