All foreigners that live, do business or buy property in Gran Canaria need a Spanish NIE number.
Spain has made this harder, especially for non-EU and non-EEA nationals. Even EU citizens don’t just get one these days.
What is the NIE
The NIE, or Numero de Identidad de Extranjeros, is the number that goes on your Spanish residency card.
It’s a fiscal identification number that allows the Spanish Government to coordinate your affairs. Note that the social security has its own number system and card.
The NIE is the equal of the NIF number that all Spanish citizens have on their DNI identity cards. But, EU and EEA citizens don’t get photo ID in Spain anymore. You can thank a group of British expats for it. They sued Spain in the EU courts for forcing them to carry ID, so Spain stopped issuing them.
This is a serious pain as Spanish law states that you have to carry your passport and NIE paper with you at all times.
What is the NIE for?
If you plan to live in Gran Canaria, you need a NIE to…
Get a job, pay taxes, own or sell property, sign a rental contract, start a business, register with the social security system and sign up for utilities, phone and internet contracts.
You also need it to claim the discount that Canarian residents get on travel. Residents get 50% of travel between islands and to Spain.
NIE or residencia?
This causes a lot of confusion because you need a NIE to be resident, but you don’t need to be resident to get a NIE.
If you are in Gran Canaria to buy a property, then you can apply for a NIE number alone. It comes on a green A4 certificate and is temporary (three or six months).
If you plan to live in Gran Canaria, apply for residencia straight away.
What does the NIE look like
Your NIE number is the letter X or Y followed by seven or eight digits and then another letter. You’ll learn it pretty fast.
Currently, it comes on a floppy, credit-card sized bit of green paper. This falls out of passports and disintegrates when wet.
You’re not allowed to laminate it.
What you need to get a NIE
Spain used to assign NIE numbers to anyone who asked for one, but this has changed.
To get a NIE number these days, you need one of these…
- A work contract: This doesn’t need to be full-time but it does need to be formal. A contract for a few hours a week of teaching at a language academy is enough.
- A pre-contract (contrato de arras) to buy property gets you a NIE. You get a number on a certificate valid for three or six months. The number stays with you but non-residents need to renew the certificate as needed.
- Have at least €5000 in your bank account and private medical insurance. The health insurance must cover you to the level you get from the Spanish health service. However, there are no official guidelines about what qualifies you to. The decision seems to depend more on how your policemen feels on the day than anything else. Look smart and be polite; It helps.
How to get a NIE / apply for residencia
Go to the Extranjeria department of your nearest Policia Nacional station, (Plaza de la Feria in Las Palmas). Fill in and sign an application form (take a pen). Hand it in with your documentation, a passport photocopy and your original passport.
Then you have to go and pay a fee at the nearest bank and bring back the receipt. You may get your NIE card on the day or have to come back in a few days to pick it up.
EU citizens now have their own queue at extranjeria in Las Palmas with short queues. Spare a thought for everyone else as they sometimes wait weeks for an appointment.
For a NIE certificate, you may need your hotel booking receipt or proof of address.
For residencia, you may need your rental contract or a paper showing your current address.
Getting your NIE at home
If you qualify, you can get your NIE before arriving in Gran Canaria. Phone your nearest Spanish Consulate as procedures vary depening on the country.
Renewing your NIE
The little green cards with NIE numbers don’t expire. Temporary NIE certificates are invalid once they are out of date even though the NIE number is still fine.
How to change a NIE
Once you get an NIE number it never changes. But you can change the name on your NIE paper (if you get married or divorced for example).
- Document accrediting the change on your NIE. For marriage, you need a British consulate certificate explaining th custom of changing names.
- Receipt from the bank stating you have paid the relevant tax. (get the form when you meet the officer for the first time, pay it at the nearest bank and return.
- Social security certificate.
Note: Changing your name causes confusion within the Spanish government and Social Security system. Avoid doing it unless you really love your new partner or can’t stand the old one.