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Important clarification: This article dates from April 2020 and deals with the regulations at the time we mention it!

DNI/TIE/NIE : What is it exactly?

In Spain, the National Identity Card (NIC) is a document in credit card format (tarjeta):

  • For nationals:
    The "Documento Nacional de Identidad" (DNI), a white plastic card.
    Official document with photo which, like the Spanish passport, allows proof of Spanish identity.

  • For foreigners :
    1. The "Tarjeta de Identidad de Extranjero" (TIE), a white plastic card.
      Official document with photo that allows on the one hand to prove one's foreign identity and on the other hand, to reside in Spain.
      This document concerns foreigners in Spain who are not nationals of the European Union.
      The validity of the TIE is 5 years, so it must be renewed periodically to reside here "permanently".

    2. The "Número de Identidad de Extranjero" (NIE), a green paper card.
      Official document without photo that allows you to stay "permanently" in Spain by carrying out civil acts.
      The NIE alone does not allow you to prove your identity (therefore foreign) and it must be accompanied by the NIC or the passport where you are from.
      Although the validity of this document is permanent, it must be renewed at each change of residency in order to modify the address entered therein.
      In addition, there is also a "provisional" NIE with a validity of 3 months.
      This latter only allows to complete certain formalities with some Spanish administrations. For example, in the context of the acquisition of real estate, for an internship or the creation of a professional activity.
      Warning! The NIE, which is a vulgar and very fragile piece of paper, cannot be officially laminated. It is therefore better to care of it.

The NIE is therefore sufficient for EEC nationals while the TIE is above all necessary for people coming from other continents.
In fact, each case is different depending on the country where you come from exactly, I will therefore refrain from giving an absolute rule on this point precisely.
Usually also, when one speaks of NIE in a form, one refers without distinction to the NIE or the TIE. You indicate the number that concerns you and that's it!

In other words when coming here, at a minimum you will need a provisional NIE.

Understand that without the number registered on the DNI, TIE or NIE, in Spain it is impossible to do anything !!

spanish Document Identity