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What is an NIE number? Why do I need an NIE?

El Altet beach lifeguard stand with Alicante castle behind

What is an NIE?

The NIE is the numero de identificicion de extranjero or foreigner’s identification number issued by the Policia Nacional or national police.  Any non-Spanish citizen who will be in Spain for an extended period of time or plans to go back frequently should have an NIE. This applies to both EU and non-EU citizens and both can apply.

It is important to know that an NIE is not the same as having residency or fiscal residency. You can have an NIE and be a fiscal resident in another country. If you have questions or doubts, best to consult a gestor or abogado experienced in these matters.

Why do I need an NIE?

If you are planning to spend a lot of time in Spain, you will find you need an NIE to get things done. You need an NIE to buy a property, to file your taxes (resident or non-resident), to start a business in Spain, to work, to open a bank account*, to register a car, to inherit a property in Spain, to get a driver’s license, more. Even when applying for a loyalty card at the supermarket, you will be asked for your NIE. While there are people who get by without an NIE, it isn’t always easy and you are just making life more difficult.

How do I get an NIE?

The easiest way to get an NIE is to ask a gestor or abogado to organize one for you. They will book an appointment, put all the paperwork together and tell you where and when to show up. Easy. In this area of the Costa Blanca, most charge 75-100 euros per person. Typically you have your NIE same or next day.

It is possible to DIY your NIE. Just know that Spanish bureaucracy can be formidable and even if your Spanish is very good, you may find the road difficult and frustrating. Do not just show up at the comisaria expecting to get your NIE. A few years back, people would queue at the police department very early in the morning to get an NIE. You now need to book an appointment in advance.

Another option is get your NIE at the Spanish Consulate in your home country. At the London consulate for example, you book an appointment and present your paperwork in person although you do not get your NIE immediately. Typically 3-4 weeks later your NIE is ready.

What do I need to apply for an NIE?

You must present

  • completed EX 15 application form
  • completed 790 payment form
  • valid passport and photocopy of passport
  • passport photo
  • written documentation supporting your application (why do you need an NIE?) Foreigners should have a professional, economic or social reason to apply. Some offices it is enough to state the reasons. Others will want documentation. For example if you are buying house, this could be your contrato de arras (reservation contract).

* Please note that some banks will allow you to open an account provisionally with your passport but you will be required to provide an NIE eventually. Do not ignore this requirement! We know of people whose bank accounts were closed for failing to update their documentation! This can cause chaos if you have a home in Spain and are using the account to pay community fees, electricity, water, etc. Speak to your bank manager if you have any questions. 

Disclaimer: The information above is provided by Gran Alacant Properties for general informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for obtaining legal advice from a licensed abogado or solicitor.  Always consult an independent solicitor.