If you’re planning on buying a property in Spain, moving to Spain or you have just arrived you will have probably heard the acronym NIE thrown around many times. It’s a term you’ll hear a lot when you’re a foreigner living in Spain and something that you’ll need over and over again, whether you’ve lived here for three months or 10 years.

NIE stands for Número de Identificación de Extranjero. The ‘Foreigner Identification Number’ is a number for those who are not Spanish citizens. Spanish citizens have the equivalent   NIF (Numero de Identificación Fiscal or fiscal numberinstead, which appears on their DNI ID cards (Documento Nacional de Identidad), just like your NIE will appear on your residency document. 

‘The NIE is a personal, unique and exclusive number’. That’s how the Spanish government describes it. It is assigned to foreigners in Spain for economic, professional, or social reasons.

You will only ever be granted one NIE number. If you leave Spain and then return years later, your number will still be valid. You may have to renew your residency documents and complete other bureaucratic processes in Spain, but your NIE should be the same one that you were issued with last time. The same happens if you get your NIE as a non-resident and then decide to permanently move to Spain.

The NIE number is needed by anyone who wants to carry out various types of economic activities in Spain. This includes non-residents who want to buy a house in Spain, a car, open a bank account or set up a company.

A NIE doesn’t allow non-EU nationals to get a job, become self-employed or access the country’s social security system either. These again depend on having legal residency in Spain.

You need to apply for it by making an appointment at your local police station or Oficina de Extranjeros. Getting a cita previa (prior appointment) when applying for your NIE can be a bit of a headache, but once you do, you’ll need all your supporting documents. Processing a NIE costs €9.84 in 2023, a price which goes up a few cents every year.

Once you start living in Spain, you’ll learn how important this number is. You will need it for everything from buying new kitchen appliances to contracting internet, receiving packages and even buying tickets online. In some situations, companies may let you use your passport number instead, but many others will insist that you have a NIE.

If you are looking to buy a property in Spain and need a mortgage, email mark@vci-network.com for the latest criteria.