The Guru Guide To Getting A NIE Number & Residencia In Gran Canaria

Example of a green NIE paper

Example of a green NIE paper


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. Currently you need a 20-hour contract to get an NIE. The days of getting a few hours teaching works and geting your number seem to be over (for now).
  • 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. an income of 600 per month 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. The number is valid, but the certificate isn’t and you need to update it in order to use it.

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).

  1. Passport
  2. Document accrediting the change on your NIE. For marriage, you need a British consulate certificate explaining th custom of changing names.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

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Laura Leyshon
Las Palmas Realtor at Las Palmas Property
I'm Laura Leyshon and I'm Las Palmas' specialist foreign buyer (and seller) specialist. I work with RE/MAX Cony Overseas, one of the city's oldest and most prestigious agencies, and offer a complete and friendly service. Get in touch if you have any questions about buying or selling property in Las Palmas.

54 thoughts on “The Guru Guide To Getting A NIE Number & Residencia In Gran Canaria

  1. Just though I’d clarify and update some of the info for anyone looking to move here now.

    In Las Palmas to get your NIE you have to go to the Oficina de Extranjeros which you will find in Plaza de la Feria, 24. It is open Mon – Fri 9am till 2pm. There is no need to queue at ridiculous times in the morning, just turn up during the opening hours and say you are there to get your NIE. They will then give you a number (your turn) and the necessary application form which you can complete whilst waiting for your number to be called.

    Once called you will be given a form to take to the bank to pay an admin fee, so you take that to the bank, pay and return with the form signed/stamped by the bank saying you’ve paid, along with your passport + photocopy and of course the completed application form. That’s it – they print your certificate there and then. Also, they’ve now changed the format from an A4 sized certificate to a credit-card sized one which is much more convenient.

    And yes, with this (which is your NIE number and Residence Certificate also) you can get discount on flights and ferries to and from the Canary Islands.

    Hope this info is useful!!

  2. I have been told that I need to set up a “cita previa” ( appointment) in order to request a NIE duplicate (I misplaced it) in Las Palmas. Is that correct? Or do I need to go straight to the Comisaria de Policia. I am flying from Austria and I am planning on staying only for 5 days in GC to get this NIE. Any help is greatly appreciate it!!

    Also, do you know if all this can be done in one visit? Or I’d be ask to come back in 2 weeks ???

  3. Hi, you do not need a cita previa but you will need a police report stating you have lost the old one otherwise they won’t give you a new one.

  4. very usefull information..but how do u get discounts on flights and ferries?is there spacific company u book flights and ferries with?



  5. The discount is valid with any company if you are travelling to or from the Canary Islands and within Spain, so Ryanair, bintercanarias, armas etc. When you make your booking to or from the canary islands an option will come up asking if you have any discount entitlement so you select Resident’s Discount. Then you just need to present your NIE when you collect your tickets and/or travel.

    Hope that explains it!

  6. Hi I live I fuerteventura and received my resistencia October last year, I have a copy of my green certificate only. I have been out the country traveling and will return later this month, can I use my green certificate for my Ryanair flight?

  7. Since September 2012, the Spanish government has re-introduced the need for another form of flight discount qualification.

    When booking a flight to the mainland via online / Travel agents, you used to tick the ‘resident’ box, instantly getting the discount for the flight and arrive at the airport with your passport and your green residency A4 page and board the flight … NOW… you also need a ‘Certificado’ that states that you are not only a resident, but you are also entitled to services given to the locals. This was re-introduced to stop those ‘residents’ who pop over for 3 months, enjoy the cheaper medical / pharmacy facilities and then pay taxes, collect pensions etc. in their homeland.

    In Gran Canaria, you need to take your green A4 page, along with you Passport to the Town Hall offices in San Fernando (next to the football stadium) and pay 3 Euros – if you are paying taxes etc. you will be on their computer and a certificado will be provided. WITHOUT THIS no flight – you arrive at the airport, and they inform you that you are missing the certificado and you must book a brand new ticket … you cannot even pay the discount back on the ticket in your hand … This is causing locals problems also who do not know of the change … BE WARNED

  8. I am a non-EU/Schengen resident. I currently spend almost 1/2 my time in Gran Canaria. I currently have a NIE and Empadronamiento because I own property here. Do you know if it possible for me to obtain the certificado that is necessary to receive discounts on flights and ferrys?

  9. Ive just moved to gran caneria and hopeing to stay for anything from 1-3 years. The most frustrating thing for me being new here. Being on my own here is that I’m told I need to go with a fluent Spanish speaker to get my NIE as the police won’t speak to anyone unless they speak Spanish. It’s frustrating but don’t misunderstand me or get me wrong I do understand why that happens but try getting someone to help. Also I’ve been told I need NIE to rent a apartment is this true? Many thanks

  10. Most NIE can be downloaded as a PDF,filled in and printed off before attending the Comisario. The problem is that you are never sure which form to fill in. I need to change address. do I fill in Form EX15 or EX18.It would help if someone could put togethrer a comprehensive guid to form filling

    • Hi, it’s about 10 euros and you have to take a piece of paper to the nearest bank, pay it, then go back to the Extranjeria office

  11. Hi all,

    I need some help about how to get a replacement NIE certificate. I had one 9 years ago when I lived there. I am returning soon and need the certificate for clearing my goods through customs. I have my NIE number, but don’t have the certificate. Is there any way I can get a copy of it online?

    • Hi, you’ll still have the same NIE number, but how you get a replacement certificate depends on what you are planning to do. It’s got harder to get certificates and residency in the last few years. If you have a job contract or own a property here, then it’s easy to do when you are here. There is no way to get it online although you can go to your nearest Spanish consulate or embassy.

  12. I’m retired and have residencia on Costa blanca . I’m looking to relocate to fuertaventura in near future would my present n.i.e be valid or would I need to re- apply? Also I receive free health care still at the moment (pre Brexit) what is the procedure in the canaries? Many thanks for any advice in advance

    • Hi, your NIE would be valid because it is issued by the Spanish authorities. You’d have to register on the Padrón in the municipio where you live, and also tell the seguridad social that you’ve moved. If you work or pay tax, you’d also need to inform both the Canarian tax authorities. If you’ve been resident in Spain for 5 years, it may well be worth applying for permanent resident status.

    • Hi, make it 6000 to be safe. And no, we think that provided it is in your account, at the time you apply, you are fine. However, the policy hasn’t been defined, so different people are being told different things.

  13. First, your site is the best!! Thank you so much!!
    And second, the question/my plan; My plan is go to Madrid, just for a few days, in friends house, and use his house adress to apply for NIE.
    In the moment I get NIE, move to Playa del Ingles and rent a flat for long term.
    Doing this way to make my renting a flat on the island easier.
    Am I doing a right thing? Any advice or suggestion?
    Once again-thanx a loot!

    • Hi, we don’t think having an address is enough to get a NIE and or residencia in Madrid. These days you need a job, income, to be self-employed (autonomo), or be doing a 20-hour a week course to get residencia. They don’t even hand out NIE numbers unless you can justify why you need them.

  14. Hello and Thank you for all the information provided !
    I am a resident in the Canary Island ,however i have recently lost my Residence card .
    How do i get it replaced ? Is it the same procedure as having a new one ? Or it is easier for replacement ?
    Thank you !

    • In theory, you can just replace a lost card by turning up with your ID. However, they are checking that people still qualify, so take the papers with you: Job contract, proof of address, etc, just in case they ask for them.

  15. Hello I’m from India I was looking for a startup business in GC my friend live there & we are planning to do it together right now he is doing a job I’m planning to be there for 1or 2 years I can invest 50 thousand Euros for my residential apartment & other 50 for my business startup can I get Nie number there

    • Hi,

      As a non-EU citizen, we think you’d need to invest more than 50K to get residencia. The rules vary by country so the best way to find out exactly what you need is to contact your nearest Spanish consulate and ask them exactly how it works. For a property, 50K is right on the lower edge of what you ned to buy a studio apartment.

      • Thanks for your help for me studio apartment is fine but my query is about business do a non EU citizen can start a business there

        • The criteria vary by nationality so you’d need to ask the Spanish consulate in your country what exactly you’d need to move to Spain.

  16. Hi,

    Does anyone have experience of getting health insurance without a NIE? All the insurers I have contacted need the NIE to process the application.

    If not, is it possible to get the NIE (not residencia) without health insurance then go back to the police and do the residencia application separately?

    I’m British, married to a Spaniard, but he has no idea either…

    Any advice very much appreciated as it all feels a bit chicken and egg at the moment!

    • Hi, you can’t get health insurance in Spain or GC without an NIE number as you’re not allowed to be here for more than 90 days without one. To get an NIE number here (and go on to get residency) you need to have a job, or be able to prove that you are financially independent. It is a bit chicken and egg. I’d think that being married to a Spanish citizen would be enough to go and get an NIE number and residency.

  17. Hello… thank you for your post, I have found it very interesting as I am looking to move out in May and trying to get a job before arriving seems to be very difficult, I thought I could rent an apartment, go to the police station and get an NIE number to enable me to find work and start quickly. On the point where you state ‘Have at least €5000 in your bank account and private medical insurance.’ Is this your advice rather than a hard and fast rule? It reads to me as if there could be some flexibility depending on the day and police official that sees you? I am just trying to clarify as after paying deposit, 1st months rent & agency fee it is unlikely I would still have 5000 Euro in the bank by the time I get to the police station. I’m not sure if other people just get here, try and get a job and then go about trying for an NIE. I understand the authority are trying to make sure people don’t come out for sun and a free ride. Any further information would be great especially if you know of any recent cases of obtaining an NIE without job offer or money to buy a property. Many thanks.

    • Hi, in theory you need 5-6k in the bank, an income of 500 euros per person and even private health cover in order to get an NIE without a job. There are other ways of getting an NIE such as doing a 20 hour per week language course (as you have to pay for it you need an NIE although you will only get a temporary NIE certificate). There is some flexibility depending on the municipality and the person behind the desk but it isn’t easy to get one without a good reason.

  18. Hi I lived in las palmas in 2004 for 2 years and had an NIE. This of course expired in 2009 I am however moving back I’m May hopefull for good, do you know if I can just get a renewal of the old no or if I will have to reapply. If reapplying the funds of over 5k are ok but how is the income assessed? Thanks for your help

    • Your NIE number is still valid but you will have to renew your residency (even though your green papar is still valid) and your empadronamiento with the local town hall. The income is normally assessed by providing payslips, pension payments, etc.

  19. Hi all, I got my nie number in 2007 in Alicante, it was on a4 white paper, although I still know the number I no longer have the paper, I have just moved to GC and have found work but have been told I need nie to get contract and on here is saying I need contract to get nie.. Please I am confused any advise please?? Xx

    • Hi, yes, it’s a pain. Your employer should be able to give you a draft contract or a statement of intent to employ and that should be enough to get your NIE renewed (the number will be the same but you need a new piece of paper: The new white forms don’t have an expiry date). There is no easy answer at the moment and you may need to go and ask the local police office to find out exactly what they need you to provide.

  20. Hi, I arrived a few days ago with no immediate plans other than to stay so will be looking medium term at residency, unless is best and easy enough to do it straight away. I won’t go in to full details but my ex wife is from Las palmas and we lived here in 2004 and as such I had an NIE (which i still have!) so am I right in thinking that this will just be updated? this being the case will they still need to see proof of income and private medical? Income would be in the form of UK rental income and I am currently looking at medical and not sure what level of cover I need and who to go with. Also I am temporarily staying with ex inlaws!! so don’t have a fixed address as yet, I’m assuming thats not a problem. I’m looking to start getting things sorted in the next few weeks just trying to settle the dog and remind myself how bad my Spanish is!! thanks for you help!

    • If you have an NIE, plus your wife is Spanish, you should have no problem getting residencia, especially as you have an income. The health cover has to be equivalent to the level provided by the Spanish state system. However, as the spouse of a Spanish citizen, you probably qualify for state healthcare anyway.

      You will need to ask as things are not exactly clear at the moment.

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