Article Index

Important clarification: This article was written in April 2020 and deals with regulation at the time we mention it!

DNI/NIE/TIE : What is it really?

In Spanish territory, the National Identity Card (CNI) is a document in the format of a credit card (tarjeta).
There are 2 cases:

  1. For local people :
    The "Documento Nacional de Identidad" (DNI), which is a white, plasified card that identifies its owner by an unique and personal number.
    It is an official document with photo that, like the Spanish passport, proves its spanish identity.

  2. For foreigner people :
    • The "Número de Identidad de Extranjero" (NIE ), which is a green paper card.
      It is an official document without photo that pertains to European Union nationals and which allows to seattle permanently in Spain by carrying out the acts of civil life there. The NIE is also and above all this unique identification number of each citizen residing in the Spanish territory.
      The NIE does not allow to prove its own identity (foreign therefore) and it must be accompanied by the presentation of the CNI or the passport from where you come.
      Since it does not include a photo, the NIE has in addition a "Número de Soporte" that reinforces the traceability of its owner and can be requested in the context of certain procedures.
      Although this document is permanent, it must be renewed at each change of residency in order to have the address entered therein changed. More specifically, it should include the address to which one is geographically and administratively attached, where you are  "empadronado".
      In addition, there is also a "provisional" NIE with a validity of only 3 months.
      That last NIE only allows one to obtain a civil and/or legal existence for some Spanish administrations to complete certain formalities. For example, in the context of the acquisition of real estate, a traineeship or the creation of a professional activity. This interim NIE may, with conditions, be converted to final.
      !Be Careful! The NIE, which is a very fragile piece of paper, cannot be officially plasticized. It is therefore better to take care of it, although it is renewable in case of loss or deterioration, but it will first be necessary to do a "denuncia" at the police station and, secondly, the waiting times for an appointment with the authorized centers are very long (sometimes several months).
    • The "Extranjero's Identity tarjeta" (TIE), a white laminated card.
      It is an official with photo (unlike the NIE alone) which allows on the one hand to prove one's foreign identity (unlike NIE alone ) and, on the other hand, to reside in Spain.
      This document concerns foreigners living in Spain who are non-nationals of the European Union.
      The validity of the TIE is not permanent but only 5 years old, so it must be renewed periodically in order to reside here sustainably.
      Each TIE also has a NIE (unique number) that allows to identify its owner.

In summary, the NIE is therefore sufficient for EEC nationals, whereas the TIE (which also contains a NIE) is mainly necessary for persons coming from other continents or outside the EEC.
In fact, each case is different depending on the country from which one comes exactly, so I will refrain from giving an absolute rule on this point.
Usually also, when one speaks of NIE in a form, one refers indiscriminately to this personal and unique number appearing on the green or white card. You indicate the number that concerns you and that's it!
On the other hand, if you are a Spanish citizen, you will not be asked for your NIE number but for your DNI number (as indicated above) and whose format differs a little.

In any case, by coming here, at least you will need a provisional NIE.

Understand that without the DNI or NIE number (provisional NIE, definitive NIE or TIE), in Spain it is impossible to do anything!!
Go to the next page to better understand...

spanish Document Identite