How do I: 1) get a NIE, 2) register as officially resident in Spain or 3) get on the ‘padrón'(town hall census)?

How do I: 1) get a NIE, 2) register as officially resident in Spain or 3) get on the ‘padrón'(town hall census)?

This article explains briefly the process for applying for the following three things and the differences between them:-

  • A Spanish identification number known as the NIE (Numéro de Identificación de Extranjero)
  • As a British national, how to obtain your green-coloured certificate of registration as a resident foreign national (Certificado de Registro de Ciudadano de la Unión). This is the key step British nationals should take if living in Spain before the end of the Brexit transition period (31st December 2020).
  • Registration on the local municipal/town hall census – the ‘padrón’

Important initial advice: When applying for the above it is not unusual to be asked for different things depending on the town. The best thing is to check locally exactly what is required and be prepared for two or more visits to get the document you need.

Scroll down to see the information you need. If you need further assistance in understanding how to apply, click here for voluntary and statutory organisations that can help.


  1. Spanish identification number, known as the NIE (Numéro de Identificación de Extranjero)

A NIE is required for any type of process in Spain if you live here, do business or own a property, (such as opening a bank account, registering for a doctor etc.). It stands for Número de Identificación de Extranjero (foreigner identification number).

It does not mean you are resident, (you can have a NIE but still live full-time in another country), and does not affect your tax resident status.

It is easy to obtain. Fill out the NIE application form (EX-15), available here. It can be typewritten on the computer or in clear, handwritten capital letters and black ink.

The form should be filled out in Spanish. However by clicking here you can see a helpful translation of the form (for guidance only) supplied by the Spanish government. There is no need to complete the Appendix (anexos)  third sheet.

You should take to your nearest National Police station (Policia Nacional) the following items:-

  • Two originals of the filled-out form
  • A copy of your passport (all pages with information/text on including the cover) and the original
  • You will need to pay a small tax/fee (under 12 euros) by filling in 790-012  online here (external link). This can now ONLY be filled in online  and printed out, taking the form to any bank to pay it, before going to the police station. Click here for some guidance notes on filling in 790-012.

In the majority of provinces in Spain, especially where there are many foreign residents, you need to arrange online a prebooked appointment at the nearest National Police station to where you live. Click here for the appointments link. Click here for our explanation of this process in English, for guidance only. (*In a few provinces you may still be able to get an appointment in person but this number is reducing).

You will be given a  white certificate with the number on, or in some cases may be asked to collect it another day. NIE numbers always begin with the letter X, Y or Z.

If you need further assistance filling out forms click here, for voluntary and statutory organisations that may help.

Note: If you are applying for the green-coloued certificate of registration as a foreign national instead (as described below in point two), you do not need to apply separately for a NIE first – you will be given one automatically when getting your Certificado de Registro de Ciudadano de la Unión.


2. As a British national, how to obtain your green-coloured certificate of registration as a foreign national (Certificado de Registro de Ciudadano de la Unión)

Even after Brexit and until 31st  December 2020, as a British national you are automatically entitled to register for temporary residency if you are staying longer than three months (and permanent residency if in Spain already for five years), meaning you rights are protected and you can stay in Spain under the old EU conditions*.  You do not need to request residency, but by Spanish law you do need to register as a foreign resident living in Spain.   You will be given a green piece of paper or a small green card entitled ‘Certificado de Registro de Ciudadano Europeo’ (European Citizen Registration Certificate). You need this, for example, as a key piece of paperwork to register with the local doctors.

Post-Brexit, you may also be given a photo ID card known as a TIE, but details of this are not clear yet and it is not essential, providing you register your residency by 31st December 2020 (the end of the Brexit transition period) to guarantee pre-Brexit rights.

(* Background point: under the EU Withdrawal Agreement with the UK, if you were to leave Spain and live outside for five continuous years you would lose these old EU-rights).

The process can take a few weeks so it is best to plan ahead. If you have just arrived and know you will be in Spain over three months, you can usually apply sooner to register. Indications are that this will still be the same process during this transition period. Any green card/A4-certificates issued after Brexit will still be valid. 

You must apply for this at your nearest National Police station (Policía Nacional) to where you live (and in some provinces and islands, the Oficina de Extranjería, in the provincial capital/island capital also processes the applications as well – this can vary. See the getting an appointment link.)

Please note in some busier areas with a high proportion of British residents, appointments may not be immediately available. The link on getting an appointment offers some extra guidance, however information may change without notice. You can also see our Brexit update page.

What you need to bring is listed below, which is a shorterned version of what is published on the British government’s ‘Living in Spain’ website, which has more details on this process.

  1. Applicant’s passport
  2. In addition, the following documentation will be required, depending on the applicant’s circumstances:
  • a) Employed workers must produce a declaration to the effect that they have been hired by the employer or a certificate of employment.
  • b) Self-employed workers must produce evidence to the effect that they are self-employed. Registration on the Economic Activities List “Censo de Actividades Económicos” or proof of their establishment by means of registration in the Mercantile Registry “Registro Mercantil”.
  • c) People who do not work in Spain must produce documentation proving that they comply with the following two conditions:
  • i. Public or private health insurance contracted in Spain or in another country, provided that it ensures cover in Spain during their period of residence equivalent to the cover provided by the National Health System. Pensioners will be considered to meet this condition if they can prove, by means of the corresponding certificate (S1), that they are entitled to health care paid for by the State from which they receive their pension. The S1 can be obtained from the  UK Overseas Healthcare Team on +44 191 218 1999.
  • ii. Have sufficient resources, for themselves and their family members, not to become a burden on Spain’s social assistance system during their period of residence. Proof of the possession of sufficient resources, whether from regular income, including work income, pension or income of another kind, or from ownership of assets, will be given by any legally admissible evidence, such as property deeds or a bank certificate. If you are a UK pensioner and get pension money paid into a Spanish bank account, a bank certificate is enough. Otherwise you will have to get a letter from the UK pensions office and have it translated by an official legal translator.

You should take with you:-

Two filled-out originals of form (EX-18), available here. It can be typewritten or in clear, handwritten capital letters and black ink.

The form should be filled out in Spanish. (A helpful, unofficial English translation is here.)

Original passport and photocopy (of all pages with information on, including the cover).

Payment of tax/fee of approx. 12€ (on form 790-012): (fill the form in online only and print out). Get it here (external link)

For guidance notes, click here). The tax/fee should be paid at the bank before you can present your application. The bank will give you a receipt as proof of payment.

You need to prebook  an appointment online for your nearest National Police station (or in some cases the provincial Oficina de Extranjería) first (mornings only) to present your paperwork. Click here for the appointments link. Click here for our explanation of this process in English, for guidance only. On the appointments page, as you fill it in you will get a drop-down list of the offices/s handling the process – choose the nearest to you.

If you don’t have a NIE (see above) you will be issued with one automatically and do not need to apply separately for a NIE. If you have a NIE already take a copy of the official piece of paper with it on with you, if you still have it.

If you need further assistance filling out forms click here, for voluntary and statutory organisations that may help.


  1. If you have lived in Spain for five years and already have the green card/certificate you can apply, if you wish to, for the card/certificate to be permanent (reissued and marked ‘residente comunitario permanente’). Changing it for ‘Permanente’ in this way is not a legal requirement and is not obligatory for British nationals, even if you have been here more than five years as the law says you automatically become classed as a permament resident after five years regardless, without the need for a new green card/certificate saying ‘Permamente’. You use the same forms and pay the same tax. When you apply for it to be permanent, in theory you should not be asked to resubmit all the paperwork you originally submitted again, but some centres may ask for proof you have been living here for five years, such as a rental contract, bank slips or utility bills.
  2. You should always, of course, show this green card or  A4 certificate to the authorities to prove your identity and right to residency with a valid (not-expired) UK passport. Keep your passport up to date. To renew a British passport and have it sent to your home in Spain see this UK government link.
  3. Hint: Treat your registration green card carefully. Getting a replacement copy means repeating the whole process again (showing the same proof etc.). Take colour photocopies and/or an electonically scanned copy and use the original as little as possible.


3. Registration on the local municipal/town hall census – the ‘padrón’

The padrón is the local census of how many people live in a municipality. This is not the same as the certificate of residence/green card (see point 2 above), although for most administrative processes in Spain, including access to social care and Spanish benefits due to UK nationals, both may now be required to be shown. Being on the ‘padrón’ does not affect your tax residency status and the town hall does not share the information.

For a more general introduction to the padrón, see here.

To apply to be on the padrón, you need to go to your local town hall. Often a town hall has a department that can help British nationals in English. Otherwise you should go directly to the ‘Registro Público’  department to apply.

Although requirements might vary slightly by local council (always check first) you should normally take:-

  • Original passport and photocopy.

*If you have either your NIE number or Certificate of Registration from the National Police  (see above) take this along also with a photocopy, but it is not a legal requirement to have these nor to show these. Normally your British passport is sufficient.

  • Proof of ownership of property (either your title deeds or a rates receipt/bill in your name and a photocopy.)
  • If you do not own property and are renting, the rental contract in Spanish and a photocopy.
  • If you don’t own property and you are not renting, you have to come with the owner of the dwelling in order for him/her to sign the registration form, authorising you to register at the property.
  • All family members over the age of 18 have to sign the registration form in person. For minors the familybook or birth certificates and passport have to be presented; the registration can be signed by parents.

(Source of this list: Mijas Council)

You will be issued with a certificate to show you are on the ‘padrón’. Remember when you change address or move to a different municipality you must notify your old and new town hall of the changes to keep your rights. Getting a new one if you lose it/damage it is relatively easy.

Renewing your registration on the padrón:

For UK nationals, your town hall should contact you every two years to reconfirm you are still resident at that address (this two year requirement applies if you are NOT also permanently registered on the ‘Registro de Ciudadano Europeo’ (European Citizen Register – which is mentioned in part 2 above)).

However, if you are a UK national and ALSO permanently on the Registro de Ciudadano Europeo, (point 2 above), you should be contacted every five years instead to reconfirm you still live at your address.

In whichever case applies to you, normally town halls send a registered letter to your address asking you to reconfirm that you still live there, which you must reply to within about three months in order to stay on the ‘padrón’. As a UK national you do not need to reapply to be on the ‘padrón’ but failure to reply to a request to reconfirm you still live there could mean you are taken off the ‘padrón’ and lose acquired rights to local services and welfare in the future. This process may vary between town halls.


If you need further assistance filling out forms click here, for voluntary and statutory organisations that may help.

Some people confuse the padrón (town hall census registration) with the green EU citizen registration certificate card. These are two separate things and require different processes to apply for them.

If you have acquired  (or renewed) the ‘Registro de Ciudadano Europeo’ (European Citizen Registration Certificate) green card so it is now permanent (meaning you have been in Spain five years) and have done this after the last time you reconfirmed or signed on the municipal ‘padrón’, it is recommended you check with your town hall personally to see if you will need to reconfirm the ‘padrón’ within two years or five years the next time.

If you will be away from Spain for several weeks when your ‘padrón’ registration is due to be reconfirmed, contact the town hall before going away.

Help, if people find themselves in a vulnerable situation due to a sudden change in health or income, loss of a partner or onset of age-related conditions, is limited if they have not been on the padrón. Being on this padrón, and keeping your entry up to date, is strongly recommended for everyone living in Spain for over three months at a time. The information is not exchanged with other authorities. While you may not need the help of social services or other organisations now, the speed of help you can get in the future is significantly improved if you have registered at the town hall.

Last Update: April 22, 2020  

September 17, 2017   5171    Understanding The System  
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