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Administrative procedures

Common Mistakes Foreigners Make When Trying to Get a NIE in Spain

Written by Paula

The process of getting an NIE is no piece of cake. You will have to jump through hoops and get a fair amount of paperwork done. Keep reading this article by ShBarcelona to know step by step how to get an NIE.

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We have already written articles explaining what you need to get your NIE in Barcelona. Today I am going to talk about some of the most common mistakes foreigners make when trying to get a NIE.

Which mistakes to avoid when getting your NIE number

Not booking a Cita Previa (NIE appointment)

Public service in Barcelona is very fussy. They don’t care if it is out of laziness or the fact that you just couldn’t decipher the endless explanations written in Spanish in the puzzling official website, if you don’t follow the exact rules, they will probably send you home.

agenda with pen and paper clips

Photo via Pixabay

Learn the words “Cita Previa” (appointment), as you will need them if you want to take care of any sort of bureaucratic issue in Barcelona. 

Public service offices usually have overcrowded waiting rooms, which is why the public service officials go nuts if you don’t have a Cita Previa booked. (Get your online NIE appointment in Barcelona by clicking the link.)

Being misinformed

If you did your due diligence, looked up everything online or even tried to call (they rarely answer the phone), you can still be misinformed about the procedures. Try to get information with people who have gone through the same process and look for answers in online forums.

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Becoming trapped in an endless loop

While you do have to be employed (or about to become employed) to get a permanent NIE, there are ways in which you can get a temporary one.

I have been severely scolded by the receptionist at the Comissaria de Policia in my district for sharing this information in front of her, but I have been through that process, having to go back countless times, desperate to understand what was it that I needed after al.

I can’t stand seeing other foreigners go through the same.

frustrated man withs hands in hair

Photo via Pixabay

When I was looking for work in Barcelona for the first time, I felt trapped in a loop. The SEAP wouldn’t give me a NIE because I didn’t have a job, and I wouldn’t be called for interviews because I didn’t have a NIE.

I was desperate, not knowing how to escape this situation when a friend informed me that there was such a thing as a temporary NIE. I went back to the Comissaria de Policia and explained, with pleading eyes, that I needed a temporary NIE to look for a job because no one would hire me otherwise.

The nice man behind the desk issued me a white sheet with a temporary NIE that was valid for three months. Armed with this sheet, I was finally able to get a job.

hour glass patience

Photo via Pixabay

Turning into dust while waiting in lines

After having had to wait in countless lines to get things done, I learned one or two tricks to get things moving faster. 

You already know booking a Cita Previa will speed up the waiting process at the Comissaria de Policia, but here are a couple of pieces of information that are useful to have when they send you to the bank to pay taxes for your NIE.

papers, pen and taxes

Photo via Pixabay

If you have a bank account in Spain, go to one of the branches of your bank to pay for the tax. I used La Caixa and after waiting a long time in line, someone told me I could use the ATM to pay.

If you don’t have a bank account in Spain, you will have a limited time slot to pay for this. Banks usually accept payment for the NIE between 8:30 and 10:15 am, otherwise, you will have to pay the next day and have to go back to the Comissaria de Policia.

Not having something to read

Having an appointment will make things move faster, but not so fast that you will just be in and out of the Comissaria de Policia.

reading a book

Photo via Visualhunt

And if you have not booked a Cita Previa but they decide your reason for being there is good enough that they will award you with numbered ticket, don’t start doing a happy dance – you will most likely have to wait close to an hour (or more).

To keep from losing your cool while waiting for your turn, always carry a book, magazine or even a couple of Sudokus and crossword puzzles with you.

It may be a hassle to carry them, but I guarantee you will be happy to have them with you when number 25 is being called and you realize your number is 67.

Get to know ShBarcelona’s services 

Did you manage to get your NIE number swiftly? 
Any advice for anyone who needs to get one now?

About the author


Paula is an experienced content writer, translator and editor.


  • Hey there, so I managed to get an appointment online. I am an eu citizen and I’m looking to get a temporary nie.should I just show up and explain to them I need a temporary one ? I also have an empadronamiento as well. My appointment is next month.

    • You should have all your papers with you….otherwise they will probably tell you to come back when you have them…read online about all the papers you need. Good luck!

    • I am in the same situation. I have got an appointment but it is in a month. If you can just turn up and get a temporary NIE in order to get a job I will do that?

  • Went to office today in lleida today with all papers with copies.told to come back with a precontract. Am looking for work, reason I need this number. This is only my first day on this but with a lot of research( in the net) and help from my friends working in the government of Spain didn’t see this one coming.well, asi es la vida. Just to let you know dudes. P.S. eu-citizen, just arrived, have address, no work.

  • We one EU Brit and one Ukrainka dove in with our docs,this tactic wotrked in poland and ukraine.We were just short of some photocopies but these places are naturally surrounded by copy shops.After initial confusion and being told to translate our wedding cert ( which we don’t need to do yet) we got our number, sat down and didn’t wait too long. They for some reason had a good laugh and a brief conference, no one spoke English that’s fair enough I speak cave man Spanish sprinkled with Russian and English. I told him I want to start a business and I want my wife to stay with me, this is going to be interesting as Ukraine now has visa free but us not an EEA member so we could be unique,does that feel good? No. Anyhow, we got our bill to pay which we did the next day and collected two temporary NIE numbers,cards take five days to come. I really wanted permanent ones but this is the tip of the iceberg of bank accounts,rental agreements, ex forms galore prior to being able to work on the radar and not live in fear of immigration police,which is far better than living in fear of Russian attack .In Spain every loud bang is what it is, a loud bang and nothing else. This all happened in Granada so maybe a bit more provincial ,system much the same.

  • Hi Paula! Is it really as simple as asking for a temporary NIE??? Is this the answer I’ve been looking for??? Because I have been back and forth as well. I am American, without any type of EU citizenship. Will a temporary NIE work for me?

    OMG you will make my dreams come true if you say yes! I’m sorry, its just been a frustrating ride for me, so if this is the answer to all my problems… you just don’t know how grateful I am!! 🙂

    • Hey Paula. Were you able to obtain your Nie and was this the only thing you ncould ended to get a job? I’m in the same situation as you are

  • I managed to get in NIE in about 10 days but had to pay to get it. It cost 20 euros I kept trying on the Cita website myself and it always said no appointments available. I assume the online companies have some way to jump the cue as I paid that company and got an appointment in an hour. Maybe that’s why there’s never any appointments available because the booking companies have snapped them all up?

    • agreed. After spending almost a month trying to get an appointment in Barcelona for a NIE I also used MY NIE and got a booking the next day. The appointment was 4 weeks away but at least I got one

  • hi
    i am muhammad rizwan, i take cita from website for arrigo paper but i put my passport number wrong, can i change my passport number in cita pls guide me
    and its also acceptable in ministry wehn i put my arrigo docouments

  • Hello, We have had hell using this company, can i just ask if your NIE is permanent or temporary?

  • This article needs to be updated – a “temporary” NIE no longer exists. Get a cita previa, pay the fee at any bank BEFORE your appointment, bring the paperwork as stated on the government website, give it to the person handling your case and pick up your permanent NIE a few days (in Malaga one week) later.

  • I’m in Madrid third time because of my girlfriend, trying to get a job but still no luck. I’ve applied for about 500 jobs last year but nobody hired me as I didn’t speak spanish so I returned to my country and learned spanish. Its been 4 weeks now being again in Madrid and doing interviews (about 14 already) on a web developer position but they didn’t want to hire me for not having this NIE. I’ve been to 6 offices and they didn’t want to give me NIE (for not having a contract) nor temporary NIE. Its really difficult in Spain, I speak 5 languages and know web development but not even a fucking mcdonalds wanted to hire me… If anyone has any advice I’d be more than happy to hear that.

    • Hello Stanislav,
      As you have noticed there are rules to apply for a NIE. Our best advice would be to figure out if you can somehow break the cycle. Sometimes it’s better to do that from you home country. At least it will probably be less frustrating then.
      If you don’t mind taking on a different job at first, it might be worth checking out if there are vacancies that match other skills. Some companies will then help you with a NIE.
      Good luck!

  • Good afternoon Paula,
    A fantastic article. It shows that you know what you are talking about. My congratulations.

  • Hello! I would like to ask if internships in Spain are paid, if there is a law or if some companies provide a salary and some not.

    Thank you very much!

  • What doesn’t help is the lack of information and how they keep information a secret. The Spanish are world-renowned experts in creating processes that end up nowhere. Recent one they tried to run for a while but were forced to break was the “COVID program inclusion endless loop” for people don’t have health card. You called the vaccine registration line who tell you to go a medical centre who then tell you to call the vaccine registration line who tell you to go to a medical cen………..

    There’s 3 DIFFERENT TYPES of NIE, and 99.9% of population with DNI think (wrongly) that there’s only ONE SINGLE NIE and think it’s the equivalent to their DNI.

    1. Number of NIE. Just the number alone printed on an A4 piece of paper with a three month expiry date. All you need is a padron certificate.

    2. Permission of residence >3 months. A creditcard-sized slip of green paper with number and no expiry date. You have to jump through hoops to get it.

    3. Plastic card photo ID equivalent to DNI identity card. This is what 99% of Spain people think is a NIE.

    What makes it confusing is all three are called “NIE”

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