All visitors spending three months or more in Spain are legally required to sign on to the Registro Central de Extranjeros. Before March 2007, this meant everyone that registered was issued with a tarjeta de residencia, a wallet-sized photocard, handy for when I.D was required. But this has now been scrapped for EU nationals and replaced with the Certificado de Registro de Ciudadano de la Union. This sheet of green paper, which cannot be used for I.D, details your name, nationality, address, and issues you with personal Numero de Identidad de Extranjero (NIE) or ‘Foreign Identity Number’.
All EU citizens can get a NIE that lasts for three months with just their passport. For a NIE that lasts for longer than three months they will need proof of one of the following: a) That they have employment or work for themselves. b) That they have sufficient financial resources to look after themselves, including private health insurance. c) That they are enrolled as a student and have sufficient financial resources to look after themselves, including private health insurance. d) That they will be joining a family member according to the conditions in the Agreement on the European Economic Area.
The NIE is required for a number of legal and other transactions, including:
* Opening a bank account
* Buying, selling or insuring property
* Arranging credit terms or a mortgage
* Paying taxes
* Being paid for employment
* Using short-term employment agencies
* Applying for a business permit and starting a business
* Registering with social services and arranging receipt of social security benefits
• Applying for a driver's licence
Applying for the NIE is relatively straightforward if you are an EU national, with just one or two visits to your local Oficina de Extranjeros (Foreigners' Office—usually located at a police station). In Barcelona this is located in C/Balmes 192. You will need: your passport and two photocopies of it.
At the Oficina de Extranjeros you will be given the correct form to fill out and a payslip, which must be taken to a bank to pay for the associated taxes (this is around €10). Be aware, however, that many banks will only deal with this transaction between 8.30am and 10.30am, so be prepared to either get to the Foreigners' Office early, or complete the process over two days. Once paid, you must take your stamped slip back to the office, where you will be able to process your NIE. You will be given the your number, but will have to return in approximately one week to pick up the official paper.
* You can download the required form from the internet, but there have been several changes recently so it is safer to get the correct form directly from the Oficina de Extranjeros when you go.
The process for non-EU residents is generally more complicated, and you will also be required to take the declaración de entrada, or any other document which proves your legal entry into the country. Non-EU residents can usually expect to receive their NIE within two to six weeks. For more information, you should contact the Spanish Embassy in your home country or go directly to your nearest Oficina de Extranjeros for advice on the necessary paperwork.
For more information (in Spanish) see the Spanish Home Office website