Leigh Gillis

Your NIE: Spanish documents made easy

4 min read


Congratulations! You’ve found a property to buy in Spain. Now you need to head to the local police station. Don’t worry – you’re not in trouble. But you can’t buy your Spanish property until you have your NIE (Número de Identidad de Extranjero), or foreign identification number.

The NIE is essential for your new life in Spain. However, don’t get yours until you’ve found the place you want to buy or you’re applying for a Spanish mortgage. Your NIE certificate expires in three months, when you’ll either need to register as a resident or non-resident.

Your NIE number lets you:

  • Buy property
  • Buy a car
  • Apply for a mortgage
  • Get connected to utilities
  • Insure your property
  • Sign on to the Spanish healthcare system
  • Pay Spanish taxes
  • Work in Spain

There are four ways to get your NIE:

  • In-person at a Spanish police station
  • In-person at a Spanish consulate
  • Through your lawyer or estate agent in Spain
  • Through an online service

1. Applying in person at a Spanish police station

One way to get your NIE is to apply in person at your local police station. It’s usually attached to the town hall (ayuntamiento). Once inside, head to the Foreigners’ Department (Departmento de Extranjeros). Make sure you bring at least two copies of form EX-15. There are English instructions on filling out the form at the link.

Each person buying the property needs their own EX-15 and:

  • Their passport with photocopies of all pages
  • An address in Spain – either the property address or the address of an agent, lawyer or friend
  • In some regions, you have to provide written justification for why you need an NIE – like a preliminary contract or a statement from an accountant, Spanish bank manager or lawyer. Contact the national police station’s Departmento de Extranjeros on (+34) 952 923 058 to check if you need it

After applying, you’ll need to pay the €10 tax at a local bank. Hand over your stamped receipt from the bank to complete the application.

When you apply, you’ll get a stamped copy of your application. This is your official receipt (resquardo). You’ll need this and your passport to collect your NIE on the date you’re given. In larger cities (where you’ll have to make an appointment to get your NIE) you’ll get it the same day. In other places, you’ll have to wait for a few weeks. Someone else can collect your NIE for you if they have your resquardo.

2. Applying in person at a Spanish consulate

In the UK, you can apply for your NIE in person by making an appointment online with the Spanish consulate in Edinburgh or London. The consulate acts as an intermediary between you and the Spanish authorities. Your NIE will come in the post, so it can take three weeks or more. If you can’t apply in person, you can authorise your solicitor to apply for you.

You’ll need:

  • Your passport and photocopies of all pages
  • Two copies of your form EX-15 – filled out but not signed
  • A stamped, self-addressed envelope
  • £8 for the application fee

3. Applying through your lawyer or estate agent in Spain

You might find it easier to get your lawyer or estate agent to apply for the NIE on your behalf. They’ll do it once you’ve found your property, so it’s ready for when you need to sign the deeds. Your NIE certificate expires after three months, at which they can either reapply for you or register you as a non-resident. You’ll need to: Give your lawyer or estate agent power of attorney (poder), signed before a notary Make an official copy of your passport (copia legitimada) at the notary to help with the application. (You can do this with a notary outside of Spain, but you’ll need a Hague Apostille service – some Spanish officials won’t accept passport copies notarised outside of Spain)

4. Applying through an online service

If you need your NIE rushed to you in the UK, don’t panic. There are lots of companies that do this, although you’ll pay a fee.

What to do if your NIE expires

You should register as a non-resident if you’re only popping over for a holiday. Return to your local Departmento de Extranjeros with your NIE and passport.

If you’re spending over 183 days a year in Spain, you’re a resident. Apply with your NIE, passport and four passport photos. You’ll need to show bank statements proving you have enough money to support yourself.

How to register for your Padrón

Visit the town hall (Ayuntamiento) to register for your resident’s certificate, also known as a Padrón (Certificado Padrón Municipal de Habitantes). The municipality will put you on the census record for government funds, money that helps to maintain the town. Bring proof of where you live – either your title deeds or rental contract and a utility bill.

You’ll need your Padrón to buy and register your car and to register for healthcare. You’re entitled to free healthcare if you’re a UK pensioner – just register with the Spanish social security (INSS) using the TA1 form.

If you’re not a pensioner, you can pay into the Spanish healthcare system for medical coverage. The UK Department of Health has offices in the British consulate to help you sort your Spanish medical care.

The information in this article is correct at the time of publishing (October 2019). It could change depending on the outcome of Brexit.

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