Understanding Paperwork and Residency

Chatting with some foreign friends over the weekend, it became apparent to me that there isn’t really a clear understanding of what the different types of paperwork that relate to foreigners living here actually mean. It’s also important in relation to Brexit, for British people living here to know what they are talking about.

So here we go:


This stands for Numero Identification Extranjero. It identifies a foreigner in any of the Spanish “systems.” You’ll need one to buy a property or car, register for healthcare, pay any taxes due or do pretty much anything official.

It is just an identity number and doesn’t come with any benefits or rights.


There actually isn’t any such thing, but it’s the name given to the green certificate or small green card given to EU citizens who are registered as living in Spain. The correct name is Certificado de Registro.

This isn’t something you “choose to apply for.” You are obliged to register as a foreigner living in Spain, if you are indeed, living in Spain!

Equally if you are on the register, but you are not living in Spain, you have made a false declaration.

This is the process for getting on the register.

TIE – Tarjeta Residencia Extranjero

This is the biometric ID card issued to foreign residents of Spain from non-EU countries. This applies, of course, to British citizens. It serves as photo ID.

For non-EU citizens planning to move to Lanzarote, the first step is to get the correct visa, which you must apply for before arrival. Once on the island, you can then begin the process of applying for your TIE.

Certificado de Empadronamiento

This is the one that’s hard to pronounce! It’s a document you are issued with when you register at the Ayuntamiento (town hall) where you are living. Again, you are obliged to do this. This is so the town hall knows how many citizens they are responsible for and it also drives their funding from central government. You may occasionally be asked for this document as proof of your address.

The process is to visit your local ayuntamiento with your escritura (title deeds) or rent contract and they will issue the certificate.

Other types of Empadronamiento

Once you are registered with your town hall, you may apply from time to time for other Certificados that have specific purposes:


This is the most common. It is the certificate you need to qualify for the very generous travel discounts given to residents to travel between the islands, or to the mainland of Spain. Generally, they last six months, and you can call in to your town hall to apply for one. They are usually issued instantly, and some town halls charge a small fee.


When you apply for a new driving licence, you’ll need to get a “Certificado Empadronamiento para conducir.” Again, this is a one off to prove your address for the licensing authorities.

More reading: Spain confirms UK citizens rights post Brexit.


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