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From abroad or in Spain? Obtaining a foreigner’s identification number

There are many frustrating aspects of bureaucracy in Spain, but none more so than when one official categorically tells you one thing and another states the opposite. Unfortunately, this isn’t as rare as you might think and the last example that’s been confusing us all concerns the foreigner's identification number (NIE).


Oficina Extranjeros MadridYou need an NIE if you live in Spain. Your foreigner’s identification number (Número de Identificación de Extranjeros) is the key to everything from buying your home to collecting your mail. It can also be essential for the non-resident too. If you want to make a house purchase or you have been left Spanish property in a relative’s will you need an NIE to make the transaction. If you need to get an NIE as quickly as possible then you may prefer not to have to travel to Spain at all.

Until 2011 it was possible to obtain a power of attorney in your home country which enabled someone in Spain to act on your behalf and obtain the NIE for you. However, in April 2011 a new regulation stipulated that an applicant had to appear at their local Spanish police station themselves.

The difficulties in enforcing this led officials to interpret the regulation ‘loosely’ and they continued to allow applications for the NIE to be presented through third party with power of attorney. A further communication followed in December 2011. This pointed out that the loose interpretation was not acceptable and that in the future the application must be made in person. This tougher interpretation was greeted with alarm by those trying to sell properties and another U-turn looked likely.

In April 2012 the Spanish interior minister sent out yet another communication, this time reversing the advice. The latest is that you can, once again, either apply in person or through a third party via power of attorney. All those with a property to sell must surely be hoping it stays this way.

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Ábaco Asesores

Ábaco Asesores is a firm of lawyers and tax advisers established on the Costa Blanca in 1999. We have clients all over the world and provide legal and tax advice in seven different languages.

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