Getting your Spanish NIE number
What exactly is an NIE?
The NIE - acronym for “Número de Identidad de Extranjero”, which translates to Foreigner Identity Number - is a necessary document if you plan to move to Spain for more than a couple months. Chances are, you have better plans for a sunny day in Spain than queuing up in some grey looking office to do paperwork.
However, once you will be assigned with an NIE, you will be officially welcomed to integrate into the Spanish community, which means being able to open a bank account, sign a job contract, and even get a fine. In the words of Peter Parker, with great powers come great responsibilities.
Every citizen of the European community is entitled to a three-month stay in Spain without the need for any additional document, apart from a valid ID card. Past the first three months or if you have professional, economical, or social relations with Spain, you will be required to have an NIE. In other words, if you want to rent a house that is not strictly a vacation rental, open a bank account, do business or work in Spain, you will have to be officially registered with the Spanish government.
Register, and you will be assigned a number; this number is called NIE. There are two types of NIE: the temporary one - also referred to as the white NIE, and the permanent one - also called the green NIE. The first time you register you will be assigned a temporary one. It lasts three months, and can be renewed for another three months should you want to extend your stay.
How to get an NIE
It can be obtained through your embassy; however, the standard procedure is to go to the National Police (in Spain there are three law enforcement authorities - the National Police, the Local Police, and the Guardia Civil) with your passport or ID, a form called EX-15 carefully filled in, and the receipt for the payment of the necessary tax (€ 9.64). At the time of the request, the authorities will verify your status in Spain and might ask several questions to assess what your intentions as a Spanish resident are.
Getting an appointment with Policia Nacional to do the NIE is quite straight forward. Once you have all the necessary documents sorted out, go to the Police station and find one of the automatic machines to sign up for appointments. If you are not so sure about what to do, the Police Officers in Spain are usually quite patient and well-versed in these kinds of issues. Once you sign up for the appointment, you will be given a queue number and the approximate time of your turn. Now you just have to relax and wait; you are on a good way to get your NIE sorted.
There are also a few agencies that can go through the paperwork instead of you, as the NIE can be requested through a delegate, but you will have to pay a good amount of commissions to get it done, on top of the required € 9.64.
What can I do with my brand new NIE?
If everything goes well, you will be issued an NIE on the same day of your appointment. The first thing you will probably want to do with it is open a bank account. Then, you will be able to stipulate a contract for long-term accommodation, your phone and internet, and eventually a job.
If you decide to extend your stay past the six months allowed by the temporary NIE, the next step is getting a permanent permit; the green NIE. Once again, you will have to go to Policia Nacional with your documents and your white NIE, ask for an appointment, queue up, and respond to a few questions when your turn comes.
The permanent, or “green” NIE
The officers will mainly assess whether you have integrated well in the Spanish social fabric. You must prove you can sustain yourself with a job or with the necessary funds or demonstrate that you own a business or a property in the country. Either with your work, with your business, or more in general with your income, you are paying some taxes to the Spanish government. At this stage, it might be convenient to inform your home country that you moved to live in Spain on a stable basis so that you can resign to your former residency and avoid paying the taxes in two separate countries.
You are now officially a Spanish resident! Be careful where you park though: ignorantia juris non excusat - which roughly translates from ancient Latin into “law does not allow ignorance”. As a Spanish resident with an NIE, you will have to respond of any misconduct you might incur into. Lastly, if you will stay out from the country for 12 consecutive months, you might need to do the entire NIE procedure from scratch.