What is an NIE number and why do I need one?

I have learnt that I can stay in Gran Canaria for 3 months as a tourist, basically on holiday, but if I want to stay longer, rent or buy a property, or work there I need to have a Spanish NIE number.

What is an NIE number?

NIE Spain is translated as the Foreigner’s Identification Number (or Número de Identificación de Extranjero, NIE number).

The NIE number is the legal number assigned by the Spanish National Police to foreign people who don’t have Spanish citizenship, so that you can carry out legal activities in Spain, such as the ones mentioned below.

The actual format of the NIE number certificate is a A4 white sheet which contains your name, surname, date of birth, city and country of birth, and the unique NIE number, of course.


I did not want to leave this until I got to Gran Canaria, so I asked friends that I know who have lived in Spain and the Canaries and got one valuable tip. If you want to apply for an NIE number whilst still in the UK you need the assistance of a Spanish solicitor, but choose a UK based Spanish solicitor not one based in Spain. In Spain they have a much more ‘mañana’ attitude to getting things done and it might take longer than you would like and the language barrier will be difficult if you don’t speak Spanish, which I don’t.

Using your Spanish NIE number

Here are some of the most common procedures for which you will need a Spanish NIE number:

  • Open a bank account
  • Being legally employed
  • Paying taxes in Spain
  • Buying or selling property
  • Buying or selling motor vehicles
  • Becoming self-employed
  • Registering a business Inheritance
  • Studying in Spain
  • Getting a Spanish driver’s licence
  • Arrange utilities (but not a mobile phone).

The list goes on but as you can see if you are going to live there, you really need one to pretty much do all the basic things you need.

Applying for your NIE number

The more I read up on this, the more complicated it seemed. I had read that if you do this in Spain you are likely to struggle with the language barrier, complex form and that in general they would not be very helpful or patient with this.

So following from my friends advice I got onto Google,  as you do, searched for a UK based Spanish solicitor of which there are not many that are easily found. I made one phone call to a very helpful solicitor who explained the process in very simple terms. Hallelujah!!

It would cost me £180 for him to complete the complex form, I just needed to provide him with some basic information and my reasons for wanting one. Once complete I would need to arrange a day and time at his convenience to attend the Spanish Embassy in London, where it would cost me £7.50 to present my paper work and myself to them. No formal appointment with them required and this particular solicitor generally attended the Embassy twice a week. Then once that was complete it would take about two weeks for the NIE number to come through. Simple!

If I was not able to attend the Embassy myself he could do that without my presence but it would cost a considerable amount more and be more paperwork involved. It was much cheaper to have a day off and a train trip to London, so that is what I decided to do.


One thought on “What is an NIE number and why do I need one?”

  1. Pretty sure I have one; we used to have a Spanish bank account as we were considering buying a property back in 2005, glad we didn’t as this was before the crash. I don’t remember it being that complicated and I think the bank helped us sort it out in Spain. But it was a few years ago now of course. Paula

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