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 credit-card sized piece of paper.

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 depending on the country.

Renewing your NIE

The little green cards with NIE numbers don’t expire and the number never changes so you shouldn’t need to renew your certificate unless you lose it. If you do lose it you may need to justify that you still need it and quality al over again.

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.

For more info on moving to Gran Canaria, get this ebook: Gran Canaria Living.


Gran Canaria Paperwork

Guides on how to do paperwork in Gran Canaria, how to get a residencia, NIE in Gran Canaria, how to get a social security number in Gran Canaria, all the paperwork for setting up a business in Gran Canaria etc. etc.

Speak to anyone in Gran Canaria and ask them what the worst thing about Spain is and they will tell you the paperwork. On the face of it, any task which involves going to a public office looks almost impossible to complete and for the unexperienced can take days and days of frustration. And to top it all after days bouncing between various buildings dotted around Las Palmas you probably won’t even have the piece of paper you wanted in the first place! However … if you know what you’re doing and you come prepared, doing paperwork can be a relatively simple task that only takes a couple of hours of your time. We have waited in the queues and we have taken 5 days to do a 1 hour task so hopefully you should be able to learn from our many many mistakes. Below are a few guides to get you started, if you need something else just contact us via the forum and we’ll try our hardest to help you out.

Getting a residencia (NIE / ID Card / DNI)

Getting Social security

Getting an empadronamiento certificate

Car paperwork

Getting married in Spain

Baby paperwork

Maternity leave

Paternity leave

Registering a business in Spain



A guide on internet services in Gran Canaria. Internet companies in Gran Canaria, internet deals in Gran Canaria and all you need to know about getting connected.

Broadband or ADSL in Gran Canaria is generally pretty good with 3mb speeds the norm, however you don’t get the vast choice of providers that you do in the UK are there are no really cheap offers. Currently there are quite a few ISPs (internet service providers) each with a variety of plans.

The main internet providers

How to get connected

Telefonica – the Spanish equivalent to BT, it is generally very reliable although usually isn’t as cheap as the others. The vast majority of internet users in Spain use Telefonica

Orange – started here in 2006, Orange is still pretty new to the broadband market, however they often have very good deals and are just as reliable as Telefonica. Look out for their ‘Internet mas llamadas internacionales’ deal which gives you unlimited broadband + 1000 minutes of calls within Europe, which is more than enough for even the most talkative girlfriends.

Our advice is to look at the websites above, see what deals they have on at the moment and choose the best. Think in the long term though because if you ever want to change ISPs you will be without the internet for at least a month.

Nb. You can get cheap plans which give you a maximum download limit / month. If you use the internet to just look at static pages you’ll be fine. If you watch youtube, skype or download music you’ll be in for a nasty shock at the end of your first month.

How to get connected

Actually getting an internet contract is relatively easy. On Orange and Ya you can do it on the internet without speaking to anyone. If you prefer to do it over the phone Orange and Telefonica have English speaking operators. Just say “No habloespanol, puedohablar con unoperador en ingles” and they’ll transfer you.

Offers and companies change all the time, if you find new offers or ADSL providers not mentioned in this article please add a comment below. Thanks.



Comprehensive guide on getting a telephone and internet connected in Gran Canaria. How to do it, how to get the best deals and what to look out for.

So you have a flat and now you want a phone. Good idea as it will save you loads on international calls and will allow you to get a broadband (ADSL) connection so you can get onto Facebook and Youtube.

Read our guides below to find out:

How to get connected
Who to get connected with
How to get the cheapest international calls.
Telephone + ADSL + TV (in English)

How to get connected
Connecting a landline is theoretically a very simple process and if everything goes well you should be connected within a week. If it’s an old flat without a telephone line though expect to wait.

The equivalent to BT in Spain is Telefonica, so if you don’t already have a phone your first step will be a call to them at 1004. They have English speaking operators so just ask in English to speak to someone who speaks English. The cost of connecting a new line can vary between 0€ and 80€ depending on the offers they have. Have a look at their website to see their deals. Within a week someone will come around to your house with a new phone and connect you. Word of warning though – before you start calling the UK, set up a cheap deal for international calls – that way you’ll save yourself a big shock when you receive your first bill.

Who to get connected with
In the past you could only get your telephone line with Telefonica now you have a choice. Each company has its benefits so our recommendation is to look at each website individually and see which one is best for you.

They offer landlines, ADSL and cable TV (Imagenio) have a look at their website for their latest deals. Be careful they don’t usually mention the line rental of 13€ in their prices.

They offer landlines, ADSL and TV and cheap international calls. Pay 6€ a month and get 1000 minutes of international calls.

Most well known for their cable TV services they also offer landlines and Internet too and often at very reasonable prices.

How to get the cheapest international calls.

Orange have an international offer where you pay 6€ and get 1000 minutes.

Telefonica have a system where you pay a monthly fee and get calls for 6c / minute to the UK. (Tarifa Mini InternacionalEuropa USA) – not particularly cheap and can add up if you make a lot of calls.

With Ikea family you can get cheap unlimited international calls, if you really like calling your UK friends then it may be worth having a look at their telephone deals.

Probably the cheapest way to call the UK is with SKYPE a telephone service that uses the internet instead of the telephone line. The standard price is 1.7c a minute but you can also get packs for 3.95€ with unlimited calls for a month. You can either call through your computer or buy a Skype phone that plugs into your computer’s USB port. They can be as cheap as 5€. The other major advantage of SKYPE is that you can get free video calls worldwide. In the past the quality wasn’t great, now it is argued that it is actually better than a normal telephone.

Telephone +ADSL + cable TV (in English)
These packages are relatively new to the Canary Islands but are getting more and more popular and available in more and more places. You basically pay a monthly fee and get TV, ADSL and your telephone included. You will get 70ish basic channels and then you can pay extra for sports, Disney, adult channels etc. The advantage is that for any American or British program you can change the language to English.

The following companies offer cable TV in Gran Canaria

The Guru Guide To Settling In To Gran Canaria Life

Newbie guide to Gran Canaria

A comprehensive guide for new arrivals in Gran Canaria. All the paperwork you need to do in Gran Canaria and how to settle in, get a telephone, Internet and mobile.

So you’ve arrived, you’ve been to the beach, you’ve eaten out and been shocked at how cheap it is and you’ve tried to buy something in a shop and nobody has understood you. If you’ve been on the roads someone has probably honked their horn at you and you’ve no idea why. More than likely you like living here and wouldn’t mind hanging around for a bit. Well, if you’re serious about staying there’re a few things you should know that will make your life a lot easier.

A good way to start is to read the book Gran Canaria Living: It’s packed with tips about how to come to Gran Canaria, make friends and live happily ever after.

If you ever get stuck ring 012
It’s a free Canarian helpline, they speak English and can advise you how to do almost anything, plus doctor’s appointments and telephone numbers.

NIE First you’ll need to get your NIE (Número Identificación Extranjero) – ID number. You need this to get a job, buy a car, get cheap flights and for any kind of paperwork you’re thinking of having a go at. Have at look at this guide to see how to get it.

Secondly you’ll need to get your social security number. Basically, if you get ill, unless you have insurance or an EHIC card (valid for 90 days from arrival) you’ll need this to get medical attention.

CERTIFICADO DE EMPADRONAMIENTO Basically a certificate certifying where you live. They are easy to get and you never know when you’ll need it. Your local Town Hall budget depends on how many people are empadronado in the area. Getting your certificate helps everyone.

Read up here on where to get it.

DOCTOR Register with your local health centre – If you think you’ll get ill while you’re here, best register now, it makes life a lot easier once you do need to go to the doctor.

If you do get ill in your first week here there is a private clinic in Las Palmas where the staff speak English – Inter Clinica, on the Paseo de Las Canteras near the Hotel Melia. In the South there is a private clinic in Puerto Rico and in San Agustin in the hospital San Roque. You can’t get aspirin in a supermarket, you’ll have to go to a pharmacy. To find the nearest out of hours pharmacy go to this site.

FLATS Flat hunting – It’s always a bit stressful arriving in a new place and not knowing where you’re going to live – check out our guide on how to find the best flat.

MOBILE You want a mobile – stop using your UK phone – you’ll go bankrupt before you know it. Go get a pay as you go to tide you over – read our guide on how to do it.

CAR So you want a car to explore our beautiful island?  Reading our guide is a must; it’ll save you many euros and many hours of frustrating waiting in queues.

Restaurants don’t open until 8 – you will be considered very strange if you try to eat anytime before then!

You want to visit the other Canary islands or Mainland Spain. Here’s how to claim your 50% resident travel discount.

While we’re at it, here’s a list of other cushy discounts for Gran Canaria residents.

Everyone was new here once.  If you have any hot tips for new arrivals please leave them below.

The Guru Guide To Finding An Apartment In Gran Canaria

How to find an apartment to rent in Gran Canaria

Canarians regard property as the best way to invest their money so there are lots of rental apartments available.

However, they are quite cautious about renting them out and most ask for a work contract or proof of income before they let you move in.

This is fine if you come to Gran Canaria with a job already arranged. It makes life harder if you don’t.

Where to look for a place to live in Gran Canaria

You used to buy the local papers on property supplement day, bunk off work and rush around visiting flats before they all went. Then someone invented the internet.

Most owners now advertise their rental property on Spanish websites or put it with an estate agency (who advertise it on the same websites).

The best websites are Vibbo (this was called Segundamano), Fotocasa, and Idealista

Some owners still put a sign in the window so it’s worth walking around areas you like to see what you can find.

Teachers: Ask in your school as they often know good landlords and empty flats.

How much does it cost to rent a flat in Gran Canaria?

Prices for a one-bed apartment start at about 350 euros per month. Prices are higher the closer to the sea you get.

You need the first month’s rent and a month’s rent as a deposit. If you get your apartment via an agency, you pay them a month’s commission too.

That’s three months of rent befoe you get the key. Oh, and you have to provide proof of income.

You can avoid the agency commission by looking for adverts that say ‘particular’. Or by spotting private rental signs in windows.

However, lots of the best flats are with agents as the owners like their strict contracts and credit checks.

What other rental costs are there?

The owner pays monthly Comunidad costs and there is no council tax in Spain. All you have to pay for are you water, electricity and internet costs.

Often you can just change the bank account number associated with the existing water and electricity contracts. It’s quicker and easier than starting a new one.

What rights do I have as a tenant?

The owner has to give 24 hours notice before entering the property. They can ask you to leave once your contract has finished but can’t hoof you out on a whim.

Owners have the right to ask a tenant to leave with three months notice if they need the property for family reasons such as divorce.

You gt your deposit back after you leave, minus any costs. The owner can’t withhold your deposit because of reasonable wear and tear.

Some people just don’t pay the last month’s rent. It’s effective but illegal and if you have damaged a property you can expect the owner to chase you (down the road if necessary).

Can I sublet?

Most Gran Canaria rental contracts don’t allow subletting.

Can I live in a resort area?

Uf, that’s a kettle of fish. The law is still being written.

If a resort complex is de-facto residential, you’ll be fine. If you’re the only long-term tenant on a complex full of tourists, have a Plan B.


Accommodation in Gran Canaria

Sleeping on the beach is not allowed in Gran Canaria and with high tide often covering all the sand it’s probably not a good idea either. So if you don’t want to stay in a hotel you’ll probably need somewhere to live.

Whether you are looking to rent a place or buy a luxury mansion in the hills, our guides should be able to help you out.

Guide to renting an apartment

Guide to buying property in Gran Canaria