If you’re planning to move to Spain and stay for more than 90 days, you’re going to need to register as a legal resident. This means applying for a foreigner identification number and obtaining the required documents to legally live in Spain.
Without these, you won’t be able to do most things that require identification in Spain, from renting or buying property and setting up a telecoms contract to getting a job and driving a car. You’ll always be asked to provide your NIE or TIE details.
While the NIE and TIE are sometimes treated as interchangeable, they aren’t the same thing. To help you understand the differences between them and which one you’ll need to move to Spain, here is the information you should know about what they’re for, who needs them, and how to get them.
What is an NIE number?
The NIE (Número de Identidad de Extranjero) is an official identification number assigned to foreigners who want to stay in Spain longer than a short stay visa allows. Anyone who wants to live in Spain for longer than 3 months is required to register with the Spanish authorities and apply for an NIE number – including EU/EEA citizens.
This will be a nine-digit number consisting of a letter followed by seven numbers then another letter (e.g. X1234567Y). Wherever you’re from, whether you intend to apply for residency or not, you’ll need this number to carry out economic activities in Spain, including earning income, filing taxes, renting or owning property, and paying bills.
Your personal number will stay with you, so even if you lose your documentation and have to apply for another copy, the NIE will still be the same. However, it is important to note that this is only an identification number, and does not provide residency or work permissions.
To live and/or work in Spain legally, EU citizens must apply for an NIE card, and non-EU foreigners must apply for a TIE card. Getting an NIE number is the first step to apply for either of these authorisation documents.
What is an NIE card?
When referring to an NIE, confusion can arise between the NIE number and the NIE card. The card is a green paper known as an EU residency certificate – officially the Certificado de Registro de Ciudadano de la UE – with the number printed on it.
EU nationals who want to reside in Spain for longer than 3 months must get their NIE number and use it to apply for an NIE green card while they’re staying in Spain. To qualify for this green card, the EU national must provide proof of the following:
- ⦿ Valid health insurance for the duration of the intended stay
- ⦿ Sufficient funds to be financially independent during this time
- ⦿ Acceptance at a university or official institution of education
- ⦿ OR a work contract with a Spanish employer
- ⦿ OR autónomo (self-employed) status
- ⦿ OR living with a resident family member
Your NIE card contains information such as your full name, date of birth, nationality, address in Spain, and application date. It doesn’t have a photo, so you must also carry your national photo ID to prove your identity alongside your right to stay in Spain.
Family members of green card holders can also apply to join them in Spain as their spouse, child, or other dependent relative, even if they aren’t EU citizens themselves. Successful applicants will receive a pink NIE card instead.
How do you apply for an NIE?
If you are an EU citizen in need of an NIE number in order to stay in the country, you can apply for one using the EX-15 form. However, if you need this number to get an NIE green card as an EU national, you should use the EX-18 form.
As you need to book an appointment in advance, you should request an appointment online (cita previa), allowing yourself enough time to prepare the necessary documents that you’ll need to bring with you as supporting evidence.
You can fill out and submit the EX-18 form online as part of your Certificados de Registros de Ciudadano de la UE appointment submission, but be sure to save a copy to print and take with you on the day along with your other paperwork.
You will need your confirmation code as proof of your appointment, and a document proving that your address in Spain is within the area of the police station or consulate – such as your certificado de empadronamiento individual (certificate of registration at your local town hall).
Other documents you must provide for your NIE card application include:
- ⦿ Original passport or accepted ID document, plus a photocopy of all pages
- ⦿ Documents certifying the reason for your extended stay (e.g. employment contract, university acceptance letter, family relationship, etc.)
- ⦿ Documents showing sufficient income to support yourself while living in Spain (e.g. payslips, bank statements, pension records, etc.)
- ⦿ European health insurance card (EHIC) or certificate of private health insurance
- ⦿ Modelo 790-012 form printed and stamped by the bank as proof of payment of the application tax fee (around 12€)
Bear in mind that for the local police or consulate to accept your documents, they must be officially translated into Spanish and apostilled or legally notarised if they originate outside of Spain.
What is a TIE card?
The TIE card – officially the Tarjeta de Identidad de Extranjero – is a physical document that contains your identification details and proves that you are a legal resident in Spain. This allows you to stay in Spain for as long as your particular Spanish visa lasts, and may not be valid without one.
Only non-EU citizens are eligible for a TIE card, as EU nationals don’t need one, because they can already apply for an NIE green card. The TIE card is typically for non-EU foreigners who want to stay in Spain for longer than 6 months, as it is usually sufficient for the NIE number to be printed directly on the visa for those staying between 3–6 months.
For those needing a physical TIE document, the plastic card will display their photograph and fingerprint. The front of the card will list your immigration status, date of birth, nationality, and NIE number, while the back will show your place of birth, address in Spain, and the date of issue and expiry. This card is unique to you as a non-transferable document.
The TIE card eligibility criteria is similar to the NIE card, requiring:
- ⦿ Valid health insurance to cover your entire stay in Spain
- ⦿ Sufficient finances to support yourself for the duration of your stay
- ⦿ Acceptance at a Spanish university or higher education institution
- ⦿ OR a valid contract from an employer in Spain
- ⦿ OR autónomo status (self-employed)
You’ll need to use your TIE card most places you go in Spain to prove your identity and residential status. You’ll also need to renew the document regularly depending on your residency – for example, within 90 days if you change your address or job.
How do you apply for a TIE?
Again, the process of obtaining a TIE card is similar to the process for getting an NIE card. If you only need an NIE number, you can use the EX-15 form, but if you are a non-EU national planning to stay in Spain for longer than 6 months, you can use the EX-17 form to get a TIE.
You’ll also need to book an appointment at the nearest police station or immigration office in advance – but in this case, the cita previa is for the Toma de Huellas (Expedición de Tarjeta) y Renovación de Tarjeta de Larga Duración. You must arrange this within 30 days of arriving in Spain.
Of course, in order to be in Spain for up to 6 months or more as a third-country citizen, you must have successfully applied for a Spanish visa prior to arriving in the country.
Whether this is a student visa, work visa, digital nomad visa, non-lucrative visa, or family reunification visa, you must have evidence of this to get a TIE, and bring these visa authorisation documents to your appointment.
Attending your TIE appointment
When you fill out the EX-17 form, download a copy to print, sign, and bring with you to the appointment, along with your appointment confirmation code, visa authorisation, and the following documents to support your TIE application:
- ⦿ Original passport and a photocopy (of all pages) plus a passport-sized photo
- ⦿ Document confirming your reason for staying longer than 6 months in Spain (e.g. work contract, university letter, marriage certificate, etc.)
- ⦿ Proof of income showing sufficient funds to support yourself during your stay in Spain (e.g. payslips, bank records, pension documents, etc.)
- ⦿ Certificado de empadronamiento individual (certificate of registration at your town hall) confirming the same address on your EX-17 form
- ⦿ Private health insurance certificate (or social security registration, if applicable)
- ⦿ Modelo 790-012 form taken to the bank to pay the application fee (around 15€) and stamped to confirm payment
As with the NIE application, any foreign documents must be professionally translated into Spanish and legalised with an apostille stamp to be accepted by the Spanish police or immigration office.
When you attend your TIE appointment, you’ll hand over your documentation for inspection, and if everything is in order, you’ll have your fingerprints taken digitally. The office will then give you a white piece of paper with your details on it known as a Resguardo – this is not your TIE, as you’ll need to make an appointment to return and collect the actual card.
It typically takes around 30 days for your TIE card to be printed, after which you can return to the same office for your collection appointment. You must bring the Resguardo you were given at the first appointment and your passport to prove your identity before you can receive your TIE.
Do you need an NIE or a TIE?
Though their names are similar, the NIE and TIE are not the same document. While any foreigner can have an NIE as an administrative ID number, they won’t necessarily have a TIE, but third-country nationals who apply for a TIE as a resident ID card must already have an NIE.
Additionally, the NIE number isn’t a physical document and doesn’t expire, whereas the TIE is a physical card whose validity is dependent on your residency visa. If your visa expires, so does your TIE, and if you renew or change your visa, you must also renew your TIE.
If you are a non-EU national planning to live in Spain for an extended period, it’s very likely that both the NIE and the TIE will be a significant part of the start of your journey – just as it’s likely that you’ll need to look into non-resident tax Spain if you’ll be living and/or working in Spain for less than 183 days, and tax for Spanish residents if you’ll be staying longer than 183 days with a TIE card.
Even with the help of this blog, you might still be a little confused about these processes and what they mean for you, but you can always book a consultation with Manzanares Abogados to learn more about how our experienced lawyers can assist you with these legal processes in Spain.
We can help with everything from visa applications to property law and taxes in Spain, so don’t hesitate to contact Manzanares Lawyers at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also give one of our offices a call, depending on where you’ll be going in Spain – we’re available at +34 952 82 41 12 (Marbella), +34 952 59 50 42 (Alhaurin), and +34 971 30 31 32 (Ibiza).