Getting your NIE number

moving abroadIf you are thinking about moving abroad there are two very different ways to go about it – either just take the plunge and work with what you find or … research, research, research. And of course all points in between.
The first approach is probably only an option if you are footloose and fancy free – that means no dependents such as children and you have enough money behind you that you can sustain a potentially long period without employment or can return back to home base with no major harm done.
The second approach of researching thoroughly can be daunting, difficult and time-consuming – knowing where to begin and having started, information can be elusive at best!
But let’s make a start with one official requirement at least – if you are moving to the Canaries, at some point you will need what is known is a NIE number, Numero de Identificación de Extranjeros, or identity number of foreigners. Once your number has been issued to you, this is your number forever.
So when is the NIE number required? As a foreigner, you need to have a NIE number if you remain in the Canary Islands for 3 months or more. It is also a requirement if you are to buy a house or vehicle in the Canaries as you can’t buy either without your NIE number and passport.
Old style NIE cardJust to keep things interesting, the requirements as to how you get your NIE number change from time to time, just like regulations everywhere.  When we came to the Canaries, there was a whole host of paperwork required at the end of which an A4 certificate was issued along with a plastic card (looked and felt like a credit card but unfortunately didn’t work like one!) with photo on one side, thumbprint on the other along with all the written details.  Later, the plastic card system was dropped which was a real shame as this meant all foreigners had to carry their passport as proof of identity along with the A4 sheet.
Some years after that, the regulations were relaxed and when my daughter came to live in Fuerteventura, the A4 certificate with NIE number was issued on the spot.
New style NIE cardThen, last year, the documentation was changed and we now have a card again, of credit card size and lightly plasticized but no photo, so unfortunately it doesn’t act as proof of identification but it’s a lot easier to carry around than the A4 sheet!
If you have recently moved to the Canaries though and are applying for the first time, there are currently certain requisites which depend on whether you are employed, self-employed or living from private means such as pension. Essentially, you will need to prove either that you are paying into the Canarian Social Security system or that you are financially independent and have either private health insurance or an EU Health card as issued to pensioners, You can check out the details in our ‘Legalities and Work’ page.
When you have gathered your paperwork together and are ready to apply for your NIE number, it’s time to take a trip to the Policia Nacional. Now for those of you who are not a frequent visitor to police stations (and even those that are), there is nothing to be alarmed about and it’s all routine.
If the thought of the procedure and all in a foreign language makes you nervous, don’t worry, it sounds more complicated than it is and after all, you can pay someone to apply for you or at least help you!
And once you have your NIE number, it’s great to know that you have officially arrived.
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