This article explains briefly the process for applying for the following three things and the differences between them, as well as links to more information or support:
- A Spanish identification number known as the NIE (Numéro de Identidad de Extranjero)
- As a British national, how to register as an official resident in Spain before 31st December 2020 to ensure your pre-Brexit residency rights are maintained; the green-coloured documentation or the TIE card.
- 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.
- Spanish identification number, known as the NIE (Numéro de Identidad 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 Identidad de Extranjero (foreigner identity number).
Having a NIE number alone does not guarantee residency rights in Spain. Do not rely on having a NIE number alone to guarantee your residency. See point two below. You can have a NIE but still live mostly in another country. It does not necessarily affect your tax-resident status.
If you are applying for the residency 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.
A NIE number 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.
Click here for the appointments link. In the majority of provinces in Spain you need to arrange online a prebooked appointment at the nearest National Police station to where you live.
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.
2. As a British national, how to register as an official resident in Spain before 31st December 2020 to ensure your pre-Brexit residency rights are maintained; the green documentation or the TIE card.
This process has changed from July 2020.
Even after Brexit and until 31st December 2020, as a British national you are automatically entitled to register for 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 still live in Spain beyond 1st January 2021 under the EU Withdrawal Agreement conditions.
I already have the green documentation (credit-card sized paper or A4 certificate)
If you already have the green A4 certificate or small credit-card sized green paper saying you are registered as an EU citizen (Registro de Cuidadano de la Unión Europea) and showing your NIE number, whether it says ‘permanente’ or not, this green document is indefinite proof of your post-Brexit rights and you do not need to do anything now. After five years registered in Spain you are automatically classed as permanent without the need for it to be say ‘permamente’ on your green documentation.
Should I swap the green documentation to the TIE I have heard about?
Only if you want to. You can swap this to a TIE* photo ID card, marked with special conditions for British nationals who are protected by the EU Withdrawal Agreement, but this is completely optional and there is no deadline to do so. The green documentation is equally valid to prove your rights to the authorities. *(TIE = Tarjeta de Identidad de Extranjero (foreigner identity card)).
See the UK government’s Living in Spain guide for official information here.
Read also the Spanish government’s thorough guide in English for UK nationals living in Spain affected by the Withdrawal Agreement by clicking here . (pdf document in English). (Document also available in Spanish by clicking here).
It is recommended you read it all. However, page 16-17 of the English version summarises the optional process to swap to a TIE if you have the (green) registration certificate or green card already.
I do NOT have the credit-card sized green paper or green A4 residency certificate
The green documentation is not being given out anymore when you register for the first time as a British national resident in Spain. Instead, applying before 31st December 2020, you will get a TIE photocard which states you have special rights as a UK citizen living in Spain. TIE stands for Tarjeta de Identidad de Extranjero (foreigner identity card). It is based on the card given out to residents from outside the EU.
This is a new, two-stage process introduced on 6th July 2020.
In summary, it involves an application in person, or through a representative such as a lawyer or gestor, at the office of Immigration (Oficina de Extranjería) in your provincial or island capital city/town*. The same evidence of your residency rights will be needed as before Brexit.
*(You can also personally submit your documentation online instead, but you will need to already have a Spanish government-issued e-signature (‘certificado digital’) linked to your NIE number, if you have one and it is working on your computer).
Once approved, an applicant is informed and, within a month of being informed must ask for (and then collect at a later date) their TIE in person only from their nearest approved National Police station (Policía Nacional) after making an appointment.
For more details on the new processes see the Residency section of the UK government’s Living in Spain guide by clicking here.
Read also the Spanish government’s thorough guide in English for UK nationals living in Spain covered by the Withdrawal Agreement by clicking here. (pdf document). It is recommended that you read it all. (Document also available in Spanish by clicking here).
Page 18-20 of the English version summarises the two-stage process to register as resident then apply for the TIE if you DO NOT have the (green) registration certificate/paper already.
Form EX-20 that this guide mentions can be downloaded here. Form EX-23 that this guide mentions can be downloaded here. These should be typewritten on the computer or filled in with clear, handwritten capital letters and black ink. Remember to fill them in in Spanish.
The tax/fee form 790-012 that this guidance mentions is explained in more detail here. This can only be filled in online before printing (not handwritten).
The link to make appointments in person for both parts of the process is here. Select your province. Read carefully first the UK and Spanish government’s information on the links above, as well as the information on the appointments link (in Spanish – you may need to use a web browser translator, a dictionary, ask for assitance from a Spanish speaker or seek professional guidance).
If you are entitled to register for public healthcare in Spain because you receive a UK pension, the S1 certificate you will need to show for your residency application can be obtained from the UK’s NHS Overseas Healthcare Services: +44 (0)191 218 1999. Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm Saturday, 9am to 3pm.
On this link you can also see details of the UK Nationals Support Fund Helplines available in certain parts of Spain and only to those who need additional help with applying for residency. This may include pensioners, disabled people, people living in remote areas or who have mobility difficulties.
(Additional information: according to the UK’s Withdrawal Agreement with the EU, if you live in Spain for five years and then were to go on to live outside Spain for a continuous period of five years, you would lose the acquired residency rights in Spain. Otherwise, if you have lived in Spain for less than five years and are absent from Spain for over six months in a year, this is sufficient to lose those rights except in certain, exceptional circumstances).
Note: If you are planning to move to live in Spain from 1st January 2021 (the end of the EU Exit transition period), new conditions will apply to you for applying for residency. It will still be vital you apply for residency if you are moving after then to ensure your life in Spain flows smoothly and you are legally protected. It is strongly recommended you sign up for email updates on the UK government’s Living in Spain guide. The email-alert link is here.
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/TIE card (point 2 above) although it is very important to be on the padron to access most social services and welfare benefits. It is a legal requirement if you live in Spain. Being on the ‘padrón’ does not automatically affect your tax residency status and helps your local council receive more central government money to improve services.
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. Requirements might vary slightly by local council (always check first).
See full details on the process on the UK government’s Living in Spain guide here.
If you need further assistance filling out padrón application forms, click here, for voluntary and statutory organisations that may help. (Enter your town to narrow results to your area.)
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. In some cases you need to have been registered on this municipal register for a minimum period of time so it is essential to register as soon as you become resident in Spain, keep it updated if you move and above all do not wait to register for when things start to go wrong. 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 and your family can get in the future is significantly improved if you have registered at the town hall.