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NIE, TIE, CUE and Empadronamiento in Spain: Differences and Conditions

NIE, TIE, CUE and Empadronamiento in Spain: Differences and Conditions

In the complex maze of administrative procedures in Spain, it is crucial to understand the differences between the NIE (Número de Identificación de Extranjero), the TIE (Tarjeta de Identidad de Extranjero), the CUE (Certificado de Usuario de Extranjería) and the empadronamiento in Spain. Each of these documents is used for specific purposes and has different requirements. Our partners at  Entre Trámites explain how it all works in this informative article.

NIE (Foreigner’s Identification Number)

The NIE, which stands for “Número de Identificación de Extranjero”, is a unique identification number assigned to foreigners in Spain. It is the first document that foreigners must obtain when carrying out official procedures in Spain, such as opening bank accounts, buying a property, or starting a business.

This number is used as identification for non-residents and is valid for administrative and legal purposes. The NIE can be issued for various reasons, such as work, study, and residence. It is important to note that the NIE alone does not grant residency in Spain. Foreigners can obtain an NIE by applying at the Spanish Consulate, Immigration Office in Spain, or at police stations.

Required documents for your application:

Application form (Form EX-15 or EX-18).

Passport or valid identity document.

Justification of the reason for requesting the NIE.

TIE (Foreigner’s Identity Card)

The TIE, which stands for “Tarjeta de Identificación de Extranjero”, is a physical card that is used as an identity document and residence permit for non-European Union (EU) foreigners residing in Spain for more than three months. It is an essential document for those who have obtained a visa or residence permit.

The TIE contains personal information, a photograph, and the foreigner’s NIE number. This card must be renewed periodically, generally every one to five years, depending on the type of residency obtained. The process for obtaining a TIE depends on the individual’s situation, such as employment status or family ties in Spain, and must be done at the nearest immigration office or police station.

Required documents for your application:

Application for residence authorization.

Passport or valid identity document.

Justification of the reason for residence.

Criminal record certificate (in some cases).

CUE (Immigration User’s Certificate)

The CUE, which stands for “Código Único de Extranjero”, is a unique code given to foreigners who have a residence permit or authorization to stay in Spain. It is used for administrative and identification purposes within the government or bureaucratic processes.

The CUE is not a physical document like the NIE or TIE, but an identification code required for various administrative procedures, including requesting official academic records, accessing public health care, or applying for social benefits. The code is linked to the individual’s personal information and residency status.

On the other hand, as soon as the application for the CUE is made at the Immigration Offices, it is granted as a provisional certificate during the procedure process.

Required documents for your application:

Application form for residence or work authorization.

Passport or valid identity document.

Justification of the reason for residence or work.


Empadronamiento in Spain is an administrative registration that confirms residency in a specific municipality. It consists of registering in the municipal padrón, an official registry where the data of the people living in a specific place is collected. This registry is the responsibility of the municipalities and is obligatory for all residents in Spain.

When registering, a person provides basic personal information (name, date of birth, nationality, etc.) and data on their usual residence, such as the address where they live. This registry is used by local authorities for various purposes, such as assigning public resources and services, determining the distribution of state funds, and planning social, educational, and health services, among others.

Required documents for your application:

Registration form (may vary by municipality).

Valid identity document.

Proof of your address.

Understanding the differences between the NIE, the TIE, the CUE and the empadronamiento is essential for foreigners residing in Spain. While the NIE represents the initial identification number for non-residents, the TIE becomes a physical card and residence permit essential for foreigners outside the EU. Meanwhile, the CUE operates as a unique code linked to the individual’s residence status and is used for administrative purposes. Finally, the empadronamiento allows official registration in the area of residence, facilitating the application for government benefits and access to local services.

Each document plays a different role within the Spanish administrative and legal system. Be sure to obtain the identification document required for your specific circumstances and refer to the appropriate authorities for accurate information and guidance.

If you need help with this procedure or any other related to immigration, count on Entre Trámites to help you, they offer free advice to solve all your doubts in this matter or book a free call here.

If you are looking for therapy, don’t hesitate to reach out to the English-speaking team of expat therapists at Therapy in Barcelona. We’re here to accompany you on your journey in a foreign culture, both online or in-office in Barcelona. Reach out to us today

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The information provided on this website does not and is not intended to, constitute legal advice; instead, all information available on this site is for general informational purposes only. Laws are subject to change and do so regularly. While Therapy in Barcelona endeavours to ensure that the content is accurate and up-to-date, users should seek appropriate legal advice before taking or refraining from taking any action based on the content of the website or otherwise. Post contains affiliate links.

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