Residency and NIE

How to become an official resident in Spain

Even if you don't need a visa to stay in Spain, you might want to consider getting a NIE (Número de Identificación de Extranjero - Foreigner Identification Number) and a Tarjeta de Residencia. These make you a legal resident in Spain and are necessary for employment and other matters.

A NIE (Número de Identidad de Extranjero) is a number the immigration service issues you once you become a resident, you will find it on your Residency Card. This is your identification number in Spain. It is needed in order to file taxes, establish a business, open a bank account, and for almost all other forms you fill out. Both EU citizens and non-EU citizens get issued a NIE.

The tarjeta de residencia (residency card) is a card incorporating your NIE, your personal details and, for non-EU citizens, a photograph and fingerprint. It is necessary for transactions where someone wants to see a proof of your current physical address in Spain (e.g. banks, phone companies, etc.). Non-EU applicants are granted an initial residencia for one year, which is usually extended to five years on renewal. EU nationals have to apply for a residency card after three months, which will never expire.

How to apply for residencia

In order to obtain your residency and NIE, you have to apply at the nearest Oficina de Extranjería  or Comisaría de Policía. You then receive your tarjeta de residencia after three months, although you should be given your NIE then and there. Since each oficina de extranjeros processes candidates locally, the time spent both waiting in line at the office and waiting for your tarjeta can vary tremendously, even within the same city. It is therefore worth asking people who have recently applied for a residency about their experiences.

Documents needed for application

Below are some documents you'll need to bring in order to apply for your residency. However, you might be asked for different things in different locations (or even on different days). The best thing is to check with the local oficina what they require exactly.

Documents needed by all applicants (EU and non-EU-citizens):

  • Current passport and one photocopy
  • 2 recent passport style photos with your name clearly written on the back
  • A completed EX18  form, plus 3 photocopies of it
  • Form 790 which is filled in and signed by your bank. It confirms your Spanish bank account and the money you have in there. You can get this form at your local Comisaria de Policia (police station) and costs 10.60€ (as of 2016).
  • A padrón certificate that was issued less than three months ago. You can obtain this document at your local town hall, and is a way for the government to know how many people are living in a certain area. Normally you only need to bring your passport and one copy, but some town halls have other rules and ask you to bring a rental contract as well. The best thing to do is to ask them what they expect you to bring.

Further documents that might be requested can include:

  • A medical certificate, depending on country of origin and recent residency

If a member of the family is Spanish (or has residency):

  • Your Libro de Familia and DNI (or residency card) of that family member
  • Empadronamiento
  • Medical insurance

For specific circumstances, the following may apply:

  • If employed: a Vida laboral (working records), both the original and a photocopy
  • If self-employed: the Vida laboral (again with a copy), all the documents  you got when you registered for self-employment and a bank statement where your pension is mentioned
  • If not seeking employment: proof of adequate finances and medical insurance.
  • If studying in Spain: proof of matriculation in an accredited school, plus documents that prove you have enough money to live during your time in Spain, plus medical insurance.

Renewing your residency

Non-EU citizens will not be reminded when their residencia needs renewing, so it is up to you to check and make sure you get this done. In order to renew your residencia, you will need the following documents:

  • 2 passport photos
  • Original tarjeta de residencia and one photocopy
  • Passport and one photocopy
  • Relevant completed application form and three photocopies
  • Show that your personal circumstances have not changed, e.g. changed address or job

Be aware that the exact documentation may vary according to your legal status in Spain. Further documents might include:

  • Residency visa or its extension
  • A medical certificate

Since rules and regulations can vary per city and governmental institution it is always best to simply ask your local oficina de extranjería  or comisaría de policía what they expect you to do.

This article was written with the help of David Ruiz, author of The Ultimate Guide on Spanish Residency .

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Other comments

  • Victor T., 10 December 2009 Reply

    Documents needed when applying for Residency

    Besides all the documents listed here it's also necessary:

    For spouses : Marriage Certificated, issued within 90 days. If the marriage was celebrated abroad, this certificate must be first notarized then sent to your own country's Foreign Ministry to be recognized, then sent to the Spanish Embassy/Consulate in the same country so they can recognize the document and confirm the seals on it, then once it arrives in Spain you must send it to Ministerio del Exterior in Madrid, so they recognize the signatures from their own embassy employees.

    Once you got all 3 stamps, if the document was not originally issued in Spanish language you must send it for translation by an official certified translator, then you can make 3 copies and apply for the Tarjeta de Residencia.

    For children, the process is almost the same, but with a birth certificate instead. It will also need 3 stamps, translation, etc...

    • Jann 22 Mar 2013, 10:44


      awesome, made me laugh!

  • Toni, 31 December 2012 Reply

    If married with Spaniards...

    Hope it helps:
    A post on 8th July 2012