If you have recently moved to Spain or are planning to purchase property here it is vital that you apply for an NIE number. The NIE (or Número de Identidad de Extranjero to give its full title) is an essential piece of paperwork, since it registers the holder for tax purposes and must be obtained before the deeds of purchase (known in Spain as the escritura) are signed. Indeed, its essential to have an NIE to buy anything of significance.
The good news is that it is a fairly straightforward process and once you have obtained your NIE you will find it useful in all manner of situations! You can apply for this document at the immigration office at one of the designated police stations. Most towns with significant foreign populations will have such a facility, along with resident translators to assist the process for non-Spanish speakers.
Once you have submitted your application you will be given a receipt that you will need to bring with you when you return to collect your NIE certificate - usually about two weeks later. When you apply for your NIE number these documents will be needed:
- Your passport, plus a photocopy of the main page
- Two recent passport-sized photographs
- Any documentation that includes a reason for the application. For instance, if you are in the process of buying a house, bring with you a copy of the escritura or deed of sale. This might be deemed unnecessary, but it will help to offer this additional information.
- Two completed copies of the application form Solicitud de NIE (Ex-15).
You will be able to fill this in at home by following this link (http://www.interior.gob.es/modelos-de-solicitud-37/extranjeria-342 ), downloading the appropriate document and printing it
Recent changes to NIE procedure
Previously, it was possible for foreign property purchasers and immigrants to request that a lawyer or gestor (a clerk who is experienced in acting as a conduit between the client and all aspects of the Spanish bureaucratic system) handle the process.
However, new legislation that was brought in at the beginning of 2012 means that every applicant must apply for the NIE in person. There has also been some confusion of late about the status of the NIE certificate, which itself is only valid for three months, however the NIE number allocated remains with the applicant for life. This has unfortunately led to some so-called experts stating that NIE numbers have only a very limited shelf life, which is totally untrue.
However, for those planning a more permanent stay in Spain, it might be more sensible instead to register as a foreign resident. One of these certificates (Certificado de Residencia), which have replaced the old style residency cards, can save time in the long run. In order to do this you will need to fill out an Ex-18 form which you can print out from here.