Living and Working in Spain

TIE vs. NIE in Spain: what's the difference?

Living and Working in Spain Emily Woerfel

Any foreigner in Spain knows that bureaucracy is one of the only major downsides to life here. (That and the average salary in Spain tend to be the biggest shocks!) Your first weeks, months, and quite honestly, years, in Spain are filled with appointments to different offices trying to navigate an entirely new system in an entirely new country in a language that is not likely your mother tongue.

One of the first things you will find that you need for doing any sort of official business dealing with government offices, the health care system, or banks, is your foreign identification number, or numero de identidad extranjero, or more simply put–your NIE. Confusingly, though, there are times you will also be asked for your TIE, and it is normal for some people to treat them interchangeably. The reality is, though, that they are not exactly the same. You might be asking yourself, okay, so what exactly is the difference between the TIE vs NIE? In which case, you’ve come to the right place. In this article we’ll outline exactly what a NIE is, what a TIE is, and which one you might need depending on your status here in Spain.

TIE vs. NIE in Spain: what's the difference?

What is a NIE?

A NIE, as stated above, is your official foreign identity number, or your tax ID number in Spain. It is a number issued by the Spanish authorities to any foreigner in Spain, resident or non-resident, EU or non-EU member. It is much like a Spanish person’s NIF, and you will need it for any official processes you may want to execute in Spain, even if you aren’t applying for residency in Spain. Some of those processes might be:

Most people looking to do one of the aforementioned activities are also likely going to be looking to obtain residency in Spain, but not necessarily. If they do not seek residency in Spain, they simply apply for a non-resident NIE which is issued by the Spanish Police. It is important to note that having a NIE number does not mean you have legal residency in Spain.

What is the NIE card?

To make things slightly more confusing, the NIE can also be referred to as a card, but in this case, it only refers to the green card that foreign nationals of the EU are issued when they become residents in Spain. This card will have your NIE number on it, but no picture. Any family members of the green card holder will have pink NIE cards. You will need this to prove your identity for certain processes.

Who needs a NIE?

At this point you may be asking yourself, who needs a NIE in Spain? Do I need a NIE in Spain? Essentially, any foreigners looking to do financial, professional, or social activities in Spain need a NIE, as well as any foreigners seeking residency in Spain.

You can apply for a NIE number at your local Spanish Police Station or at the Spanish Consulate of wherever you currently reside. Be sure to check out this step by step guide on how to get a NIE in Spain for a more in-depth look at the documents and steps needed to follow in order to apply for a NIE in Spain. One you apply for the NIE, the process of receiving the number is quite fast, usually between the same day and up to two weeks. It will be issued to you on a piece of A4 paper. The longer process is the process of how to get a TIE in Spain, which we will touch on next. It should also be noted that your NIE number, once assigned, will always remain the same.

What documents do I need to apply for a NIE?

You’ll need the following documents to apply for a NIE at the consular office nearest to you or your local Police Station if you are in Spain.

  • EX-15 Application Form, filled out and with a photocopy
  • Original passport and photocopy of the biographical data page
  • Form 12, filled out and paid for–price is 9.74 euros as of 2021.
  • A document explaining the reason for the request of the NIE–be it professional, economic, or social reasons
  • If a representative is applying for the NIE, they must show original and a photocopy of identification card or passport as well as a power of attorney granting them permission to act as your representative
  • If you are a member of the EU you may present your original identity card plus a photocopy of the front and back
  • If you applying at a consular office, you must bring a document showing your residence within the consular area
If you are applying at your local police station, you must bring a document proving your current residence corresponds to said police station

What is a TIE?

A TIE, in contrast to the NIE, is simply the physical foreign identification card issued to non-EU residents in Spain. If the NIE is like a Spanish person’s NIF, a TIE is like a Spanish person’s DNI. You will use it to prove your identity and residency in Spain whenever necessary. You will first apply for your NIE number and with that you will be able to apply for the TIE if you fulfill the requirements for residency. If you plan to stay in Spain for more than 6 months, you should look into how to get a TIE in Spain as soon as possible. Specifically, since covid, wait times for booking an appointment and processing requests and applications has increased so it is best to apply for a NIE number and request a TIE as soon as you are able.

British citizens post-Brexit should note that while before Brexit they were able to simply apply for the NIE number and green NIE card, now it will be necessary to apply for the TIE as well.

TIE vs. NIE in Spain: what's the difference?

Who needs a TIE?

If you are a non-EU resident in Spain, or plan to be, you will need to apply for a TIE. Before applying for a TIE, you must have already been assigned a NIE number by the Spanish authorities, so review those steps first.

What documents do I need to apply for a TIE?

You’ll be able to apply for a TIE if you’ve first;

  • Been issued a visa to stay in Spain for more than 6 months
  • Your legal or work situation in Spain has been modified (for example you have gotten married to a Spanish citizen or have been granted a work visa), or you need to renew your card
  • Your original card has been lost, stolen, or destroyed

In order to apply for the TIE you’ll need the following documents:

  • EX-17 Application Form, filled out and with a photocopy
  • Form 790/12, filled out and fees paid, with proof of payment–you’ll need this form when you get your fingerprints taken. The price varies from roughly 12-22 euros, depending on your reason for applying for the TIE.
  • Proof of health insurance or access to Social Security, if that is the case
  • A recent photograph, size 26x32mm (“tamaño carné)
  • In case of loss or theft, you’ll need to bring the police report

Be sure to read more about the exact steps on how to get a TIE in Spain!


In summary–TIE vs NIE, what’s the difference?

Hopefully by now the difference between these two is clear, but just in case the throwing around of these two (very similar) acronyms has you more confused than when you started here are a few bullet points:

NIE: Foreign Identification Number (número de identidad extranjero)

  • Needed for any formal economic, professional, or social activities in Spain, regardless of whether you are a resident or not. (Most people with a NIE are also residents)
  • Needed by all foreigners in Spain, whether they are EU or non-EU nationals
  • EU nationals will be issued a “NIE card” which is a green card with their number and other details, but no picture
  • Issued by the local Spanish Police Station
  • Only a number, not proof of residence or ability to work in Spain
  • Will always remain the same
  • The first step to applying for a TIE
  • Follow step by step instructions on how to get a NIE in Spain

TIE: Foreign Identification Card (tarjeta de identidad extranjera)

  • Needed by non-EU nationals residing in Spain past their tourist visa of 90 days
  • Issued by Spanish Immigration offices
  • Proof of residence and ability to work in Spain
  • Must be renewed regularly and depends on the kind of residency you have
  • Has specific requirements that must be fulfilled in order to apply. Follow step by step instructions on how to get a TIE in Spain.

If you are planning to live in Spain for any extended period of time, the chances are very high that both the NIE and TIE will be part of the beginning of your adventure in Spain, so hopefully after comparing the two, the mystery of TIE vs NIE has become a little more clear. Foreign bureaucracy can feel overwhelming at times, but battling bureaucracy in Spain is like a rite of passage for expats and the good news is that we’ve all been there, and have somehow managed to get to the other side with a cold beer and our favorite tapa as consolation. Good luck and welcome to the adventure!

Download Free Guide: Advice for Finding a Home in Spain


Emily Woerfel

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