Residency and NIE

How to become an official resident in Spain

Even if you don't need a visa for staying 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 many transactions, for instance a NIE is required for work by the social security administration.

The Tarjeta de Residencia (residency card) is a card incorporating your NIE, your personal details and a photograph/fingerprint. It is necessary for transactions where someone wants to see a proof of your current physical address in Spain (i.e. in local video rentals, banks etc.). The Tarjeta is valid for five years and must then be renewed. Non-EU applicants are granted an initial Residencia for one year, which is usually extended to five years on renewal. EU nationals do not need a residency card in Spain. Those who currently hold a residency card don't need to re-register until their card expires.

A NIE (Número de Identidad de Extranjero) is a number the immigration service issues once you obtain residency (you will find the number 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.

How to apply for residencia

In order to obtain your residency and NIE, you have to apply at the nearest Oficina de Extranjería o Comisaría de Policía. You then receive your Tarjeta de Residencia after three months. Since each Oficina de Extranjeros processes candidates locally, the time spent both waiting in line at the office and waiting for your Tarjeta de Residencia can vary tremendously, even within the same city. It is therefore worth to ask people who have recently applied for a residency about their experiences.

A complete list of Oficinas de Extranjeros is available on the website of the Ministerio del Interior .

Also, note that the NIE can often be processed faster than the physical Tarjeta de Residencia, since it is issued before the actual production of the physical card. If you are in a hurry, it might therefore be worth to apply separately for the NIE and the Tarjeta, so you receive your NIE faster.

Documents needed for application

Below are some documents you'll probably need to bring in order to apply for your residency. However, we haven't found any official listing of these, and 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 3 recent passport style photos with your name clearly written on the back
  • The completed application form, plus 3 photocopies of it

Further documents that might be requested could 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 you will be working for someone: a contract of employment. If you will be self-employed: documents that prove you fulfil the requirements necessary to undertake that activity.
  • If you will not be working: documents that prove you have enough money to live during your time in Spain, plus medical insurance.
  • If you are 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

You will not be reminded when your 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 probably need the following documents:

  • 2 passport photos
  • original tarjeta de residencia + 1 photocopy
  • original Passport + 1 photocopy
  • relevant completed application form + 3 photocopies

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

  • the residency visa or its extension (necessary for non-EU-citizens)
  • a medical certificate

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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