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Must Have Documents

NIE (Numero Identificacion Extranjero)

The NIE is perhaps akin to the UK national insurance number or the Irish PRSI number and unless you get one assigned to you then you more or less don't exist. If you don't exist you cannot get a medical card, or buy anything like a car or property or start a business or get a job or a bank account (on Spanish terms) or rent an apartment long term etc. etc. etc.

Therefore it is vital to have the NIE arranged as soon as possible. Once assigned the NIE number does not expire. However, the certificate on which the number is printed does expire and will need to be renewed.

To apply for a NIE you may choose to apply in the following three places:

  • Local police station (Comiseria), though check, as not all have a Foreign Dept.
  • Office for Foreign Nationals (Oficina de Extranjeros).
  • Spanish Consulate outside Spain.

You should bring along your passport (valid of course) as well as a couple of photocopies.

You will be required to fill in an application form and you will also have to pay a fee which is payable at a bank. So you will have to take the fee form to the bank, pay the fee, get it stamped and return to submit the application form together with stamped proof of fee payment.

It may be that you have to face long queues and will need to arrive extremely early in the morning to be able to be processed on that day. But this will depend on the time of year and where you are making the application.

This can be avoided by requesting the assistance of a gestor.


Another very important document to arrange is the Documento de Empadronamiento. This is a document obtained upon registering with your local council and is carried out at the local town hall or ayuntamiento. It is proof that you are resident in a local council area and will allow you to vote and get a medical card amongst other things such as registering with your local doctor as well as when registering a car in your name.

How to apply for Documento de Empadronamiento

You just simply go to your local town hall and with your passport/Certificado de Residencia/NIE as well as any bill or deed that has your name on it as well as the address to which you wish to become 'empadronado'.

So your rental agreement, deed of your house or any utility bill will all serve as proof that you reside at the address.

It is also possible in limited circumstances where the address is jointly rented and it is not possible to put the utility bills in your name, to be sponsored by the person whose name is on the utility bill.

Social Security Number

In order to work in Spain it is necessary to have a social security number. A social security number is also necessary in order to obtain a medical card and to begin making contributions that allow you to receive unemployment benefit and eventually a pension.

How to apply for a Social Security Number

If you plan to work for a company as an employee you can obtain this by filling in form TA-1 at the local Social Security Office and you will be required to bring your passport. A different application procedure applies to the self-employed.

Formerly you would receive a small yellow card but this has been changed and you now receive a print-out immediately at the time of application.

Medical Card

One of the first things it would be advisable to do is to register with your local health centre. Even if you intend to use private health insurance there are circumstances where you could be required to visit the public health doctor e.g. where you are off work due to illness you are required to obtain a 'baja' in order to receive (a proportion) of your salary while sick.

How to apply for a Medical Card

In order to obtain your medical card you just need to call into your local health centre with your Social Security Number your passport and certificate of empadronamiento (some may ask for a certificate of residency but strictly speaking this is not necessary).

You will also be asked for your NIE number and details such as your address etc.