Frequently Asked Questions about NIE (Número de Identificación de Extranjero)

The NIE (Número de Identificación de Extranjero) is a unique identification number assigned to foreigners in Spain. It is given to foreign individuals who, for family, economic, work, social, tax, or administrative reasons, need to be registered with the public administration. This identification number is usually generated and assigned by the Spanish National Police (Policia Nacional). However, in the case of non-EU citizens, it can also be assigned by the Delegacion de Gobierno, or, if required for tax purposes, it can be issued (temporarily, in the form of a temporary «NIF») by the Spanish Tax Agency (Agencia Tributaria).

Excluding non-EU citizens, for whom the NIE is generally associated (except for specific cases) with a residency permit, which involves a more complex application process, we will refer here to cases related to citizens coming from European Union countries.

As mentioned above, the NIE is an acronym for «Número de Identificación de Extranjero,» which means it is a unique and permanent number that identifies a foreign citizen in Spanish territory, valid nationwide regardless of the city/province where the police authority (or the Spanish consulate abroad) issues it.

Firstly, it is important to clarify some concepts to dispel the many urban legends that circulate online, especially on social networks, which can confuse those who are going through the administrative process of obtaining the NIE.

The NIE is, indeed, a number, not a document, and it uniquely and PERMANENTLY identifies a foreign citizen in Spain. Once assigned, the NIE never changes and remains valid for life. Therefore, the NIE is not a document but a number that can be included on various types of supporting documents, depending on the reasons and the nationality of the applicant. These supporting documents can include a visa affixed to a passport, a residence permit (T.I.E.), a «Certificado de no residente,» a «Certificado de registro de ciudadano de la Unión Europea,» a «Certificado de residencia permanente de ciudadano de la Unión Europea,» or a «Certificado de concordancia,» among others.

What can vary is the type of supporting document on which the NIE is listed. For citizens of the European Union, the most common documents issued by the police authorities are the «Certificado de no residente» (resembling a white A4-sized sheet often called «white NIE») and the «Certificado de registro de ciudadano de la Unión Europea» (a green pocket-sized card made of cardboard, often called «green NIE»).

To sum up, the NIE is a number, not a document, and it has no colors. The visual aspect (a white sheet or a green card) belongs to the supporting document on which the NIE is listed.

A widely spread urban legend concerns the alleged expiration of the «Certificado de no residente» after 3 months. In reality, this document does NOT have an expiration date, just like any certificate issued to European Union citizens. None of the documents/certificates issued to EU citizens have an expiration date. In the past (but not anymore), some «Certificado de no residente» documents used to state that they were valid for 3 months. This happened in specific situations, such as when a non-resident EU citizen needed to identify themselves with an NIE for a specific operation with the Spanish public administration (e.g., purchasing a property). However, this practice is no longer common, and most of the documents issued no longer display an expiration date (except in very few cases, such as documents issued by Spanish consulates abroad). The NIE itself, as a unique identification number, remains valid for life.

A similar situation applies to the «Certificado de registro de ciudadano de la Unión Europea» (green residency card). There is no expiration after 5 years, as this document is also permanent. After 5 years, a person may become eligible for a «Certificado de residencia permanente de ciudadano de la Unión Europea,» which means a different document can be requested without the need to prove the same requirements again. The term «permanente» in this context refers to the fact that a duplicate card does not require the individual to provide the same documentation needed for the initial «Certificado de registro,» as it is already permanently registered in the system.

In summary, the NIE does not expire, does not have colors, and is permanent.

Now, let’s address the question: How can you obtain the NIE?

For non-EU citizens, there are rare and specific cases where an «Asignación de NIE» (NIE assignment) can be requested from the foreigner’s country of residence by visiting a Spanish consulate. However, for most cases, the «Certificado de no residente» (white NIE document) must be requested in person at the foreigners’ office of a Spanish National Police station in the province where the individual’s social, work, economic, or family interests are located. Alternatively, a representative acting as a legal representative with a special notarial power of attorney can request it on their behalf, which must be issued by a Spanish notary or, if issued by a foreign notary, accompanied by a legally certified translation into Spanish and an Apostille.

The «Certificado de registro de ciudadano de la Unión Europea» (green residency card) can only be issued in person at the foreigners’ office of a Spanish National Police station in the province where the individual’s social, work, economic, or family interests are located, and it cannot be requested by a representative with a notarial power of attorney.

The requirements for obtaining the NIE can vary depending on the type of document requested (a «Certificado de no residente» or a «Certificado de registro de ciudadano de la Unión Europea»). Generally, the NIE is assigned when a foreign citizen can demonstrate the need for the Spanish administration to identify them for family, social, economic, work, tax, or administrative purposes (documentarily). For example, in the case of purchasing a property, a private contract or notarial deed can be used as evidence. For opening a bank account (though many Spanish banks do not require an NIE for non-resident accounts), a letter from the bank requesting the NIE for account opening can be presented. Similar documentation can be used for the acquisition of company shares or the establishment of a company.

For obtaining the «Certificado de registro de ciudadano de la Unión Europea,» additional requirements may apply, such as demonstrating a work contract with a duration of over 3 months (as up to 3 months, a work contract can be signed with a passport or EU national identity card, along with the NUSS or Número de Seguridad Social – a number required for working in Spain). Specific conditions specified in the work contract must meet the parameters needed for the issuance of the «Certificado de registro,» usually revised annually.

There are cases where an «Asignación de NIE» can be obtained without having a job, such as demonstrating sufficient bank liquidity (established annually according to IPREM tables) and having a private health insurance policy without copayments («SIN COPAGO»), or presenting an S1 document issued by the health authorities of an EU member country (in the absence of private insurance). It is also possible for family members (spouse, partner, child, or sibling) of an EU citizen already residing in Spain and holding a «Certificado de registro de ciudadano de la Unión Europea,» to obtain a residency certificate, provided they meet the minimum economic requirements for their support (complete health coverage and minimum bank liquidity) or, in the absence of these, by demonstrating regular employment registered with the Spanish social security system.

In addition to the documentally demonstrable requirements, depending on the certificate requested (a «Non-Resident Certificate» or an «EU Citizen Registration Certificate»), one must pay a ministerial fee of 9.84 euros or 12 euros (amounts updated as of 06/08/2023) and attend the immigration office of the National Police station of the corresponding Spanish province only by appointment, i.e. only having obtained a «prior appointment» (”Cita previa”).

It is important to keep in mind that, in addition to the identical technical guidelines at national level for the issuance of the documents we are dealing with, there may be some differences and/or additional requirements that some police stations may require: for example, some police stations may require a «Certificado de empadronamiento» for the issuance of a «Certificado de registro», or a record of the employment contract of at least 3 months. On the other hand, it is also possible that in some police stations the requirements for the issuing of some certificates may be much less strict, just as the officers may be much less strict if the applicant presents himself/herself without having previously obtained a «prior appointment» (“Cita previa”).

After obtaining the NIE («Certificado de no residente» or «Certificado de registro de ciudadano de la Unión Europea»), it is not necessary to carry the document with you, as it is not considered a valid form of identification. Whenever the NIE is required, it must be presented along with an original and valid identity document (national identity card or passport). It is recommended to keep photocopies or scanned copies of the documents issued by the Spanish National Police.

Normally, your NIE will not appear in the records of the Spanish public administration (unless you previously interact with public offices, e.g., for work contract registration or payment of fines) until you expressly request its registration («activación del NIE») in the central registry, known as «censo,» of the Agencia Tributaria, by submitting the «Modelo 030» form.

I have a NIE and I registered it in the national tax registry: what can I do now? Your NIE is now in the central archives, and can be used for all the purposes for which a NIE is requested from a foreign citizen.

BarcelonaGlobalService strongly recommends, as first steps, to activate a ‘Certificado Digital’ and obtain a NUSS, or Número de Seguridad Social (It is the registration number with the Spanish Social Security, which is indispensable for working in Spain. It can also be provided directly by the company that will proceed with the recruitment or directly requested by the person concerned using his or her passport or national identity card, however having an NIE and a ‘Certificado digital’ will make this process much easier and quicker).

Do you need professional assistance in obtaining the NIE? For more information, contact BarcelonaGlobalService at (Facebook:; Linkedin: ; Instagram: ).

8 comentarios en “Frequently Asked Questions about NIE (Número de Identificación de Extranjero)”

    1. Hi Lucas, first of all you can legally stay as long as you can in Spain even though without NIE, since you are (I assume) a EU citizen. Secondly, the white document you have («Certificado de no residente» – non-resident certificate) doesn’t expire at all (And you can quickly check this since you won’t see any expire date/validity indications written on the document). However, you should request a «Certificado the registro de ciudadano de la Unión Europea» (EU-resident green card) after three months, of course if you meet the requirements (having a registered working contract, or minimum bank balance together with a «Sin copago» private health insurance, or any other personal situation established by the Spanish law that would allow you to request the document). Kind regards

  1. Good morning, I’ve been living in Madrid for 3 years, I’m currently working and I already have a «Certificado de registro de ciudadano de la Unión Europea». Can I request now a «Certificado permanente»? Thanks

    1. Dear Chris, your «Certificado de registro de ciudadano de la Unión Europea» can be converted, after 5 years, and if the requirements are met, into a «Permanent Certificate» (”Certificado de residencia permanente de Ciudadano de la Unión Europea”), hereby you should still wait two years (And still have the requirements by then). Kind regards

  2. Hi, I already have a NIE on white document but I urgently need a green NIE («Certificado de registro de ciudadano de la Unión Europea»), I’m working in Madrid since November 2022, I’d need your assistance. Thanks a lot

  3. Hi, I’m from Romania, I arrived to Barcelona 2 weeks ago, my question is: do I need the so called «empadronamiento» to get my NIE? can you help me for all this paperwork? many thanks

    1. Dear Cris, the empadronamiento will be useful form many things you will need in the future (Like getting a local public health card), so I would suggest you (In case you meet all the requirements) to request it, by the way it doesn’t impact at all on the NIE request, since you can get a NIE without having an empadronamiento. Kind regards,

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