The Coveted NIE in Spain

by | Feb 11, 2022 | Spain | 1 comment

Are you playing with the thought of moving abroad? If you do, it is important to research the legalities behind moving to your host country to understand your rights and the government’s expectations fully.

Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash
Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash

One of the less charming realities of Spain is the heavy bureaucracy that slows down the overall system and sometimes makes you question why you put up with it.

But then you remember your quality of life, the beaches and open-minded attitude, and all the other things you love about Spain, and you do whatever it takes so to get your legal residency  — you even tolerate the NIE…

In order to do just about anything in Spanish society, such as work, open a bank account, set up utilities, see a doctor, get a package delivered to your home, you must have that NIE.

What’s a NIE?

The acronym stands for “Número de Indentidad de Extranjero,” or foreigners’ identification number. Every foreigner who wants to live in Spain must apply for this number, which functions as your social security number (for those from the US), or your government tax ID.

Until you get this sorted, your hands are often tied, because in situations you least expect, like getting a discount card at a grocery store, they will ask you for this number. Now, that’s not to say that you cannot use your passport until you have your NIE, but you may miss out on certain benefits.

How Do I Get a NIE?

There’s no straightforward answer, because it depends on how you have immigrated to Spain. Some processes are easier and take less time, others can take months. For example, I arrived in Spain with a student visa, and once my visa was approved, I was told by the Spanish embassy that I had 3 months to submit my documentation and apply for the NIE.

This entailed taking care of the “empadronamiento,” which is the process by which you register yourself at the address where you are living by receiving a document only your landlord can issue. This has to be done locally.

Once you have collected all the necessary documents and paid the corresponding “tasa,” or tax for the application, the next feat is scheduling what we call the “cita previa”. This appointment can take months to get if you want to present the documents in person. Luckily, there is also an option to do this electronically: you take all of your documents to the local post office, known as “Correos,” through the ORVE system. They will scan the documents and send them directly to the government for you. Then, wait to receive confirmation of receipt and approval of your documents via snail mail.

What Happens Next?

Photo by Akshay Nanavati on Unsplash
Photo by Akshay Nanavati on Unsplash

Once you applied for the NIE, you will get the TIE, which stands for “Tarjeta de Identidad de Extranjero,” or foreign identification card. This is basically the hard copy document that has your NIE, visa and address information available like any other identification card.

It’s important to keep this on you at all times because they will ask you to present it for various legal and daily life situations.

You have to schedule another “cita previa” when you’re ready to pick up the TIE, and this can also be a challenge, because the system is quite archaic.

I had tried to schedule mine for several weeks before I finally received an appointment, and there is no one to call and help you unless you hire an immigration lawyer.

An Important Piece of Advice

When you have finished this process, apply for what they call the “Certificado Digital,” or the digital certificate. You can do that only once you have got the NIE. This allows you to submit all future applications electronically, which saves you time and many headaches.

Feeling like you still have some unanswered questions? Comment below and let’s see if we can answer them together! The TCI Alliance team is here to help.

by Marjorie Vera