How to Apply for a Spanish Resident Card (TIE): Our Story & Tips

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Today I’ll explain our experience with applying for a Spanish resident card, also known as a foreigners’ ID card (Tarjeta de Identidad de Entranjera).

How to Apply for a Spanish Resident Card (TIE): Our Story & Tips

How to Apply For A Spanish Resident Card (TIE)

This is the fourth entry in our (originally unplanned and surprisingly comprehensive) Spain Story series.In this small series posts, I’ve tried to my best to describe different aspects of our first-year saga living in Spain. For more tips on Spain residency and living in Spain, look here:

All caught up? Ok then, let’s begin!

How to Apply for a Spanish Resident Card (TIE): Our Story & Tips Police station

The Elusive Spanish Resident Card

Let’s start where we left off: an apartment lease signed, and schools for our boy and girl sorted. We moved in, bought their books and some new clothes and had the kids ready to return to public schools. After all that time back and forth to the Spanish embassy in Tokyo, our Spanish resident card issue must be settled, right?


There is still one more important task to complete to become a legal resident in Spain.

Once in Spain with non-lucrative visas like us, you must apply for your Spanish resident card within 30 days of arrival. However, we couldn’t do this. Why? Because we didn’t have an apartment — and the address where the paperwork could be mailed to — until early September. We couldn’t use the address of our first apartment because we knew we would be moving out soon. If you don’t have this problem (and I hope you don’t), then get this process moving ASAP.

Because of our apartment and school search drama, we had only three days before we hit the 30-days limit. Yikes! I know it sounds like our traveling life is full of last-minute, under-the-wire moments. Unfortunately, this has been the case during the entire Spanish resident card process. However, let me remind you that this is only our experience in Valencia. The Spanish resident card experience could be completely different for you and your location/circumstances.

Visit(s) to the police station(s)

Before we left the Spanish Embassy in Tokyo, they gave us a paper to hand in at the appropriate police station in Valencia. However, the paper does not state exactly which police station we should go to. Naturally, we walked over to the nearest police station. The officers looked puzzled when we explained what we were there for. They excused themselves, spoke quietly for a moment and then gave us directions to a different police station.

We were greeted by the same puzzled look at this station as well. After several minutes of calls to confirm, the officers directed us to the right police station, about 30 minutes away. However, the office would close soon and not reopen until 5 pm (oh hello siesta culture). After waiting around for a few hours, we went to this new office at five. Now we can complete the application process for our Spanish resident card once and for all, right?

Wrong place, wrong time

When we finally talked to an officer, she simply said “NO VALE,” which is Iberian Spanish for “It ain’t happening.” Our hearts sank. The officer gave us a form to pay the application fee at a bank. She also handed us a slip of paper with a URL scribbled on it. We had to make an appointment, she said, and this was the website to do it.

Wait? What? But we have only three days before we hit the 30-day deadline!

Using Google translation, we explained that we were told we have to apply within 30 days. We had all the documents we needed. She just shrugged and said it is ok if we make an appointment now. As long as we made an appointment, she said, we could come back. She really looked like she just wanted to get rid of us, so we weren’t confident with her answer.

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Appointment is 60 days away

We left confused and worried. What if she misunderstood what we wanted? The next morning, we went to a different office to confirm what we had heard the day before. There, we met a staff who could speak English and confirmed it was really ok for us to overstay our 30-day period ended without our Spanish resident card. That said, she urged us to make an appointment.

It was early September, and Keiko tried to make an appointment online. The earliest available appointment was in early November. Yes, you read it right. Two months later. We went back to the same office the next day and made sure that this was really the case. It was.

On being immigrants

We went to the same few police stations many times. One of those stations handles the last steps for Spanish resident card applications for the city. Every time we went there, we waited in a long line outside the building, along with many others seeking residency. Among those in line were African men in suits, Venezuelan girls in tube tops, and Muslim families texting. The headlines on the news around this time were about Syrian refugees, and the images of their struggles along Mediterranean shores were heartbreaking.

Looking around me in this line gave me some well-needed perspective. I had chosen to move to Spain. We had chosen to apply for a Spanish Residence Card. There were certainly people in that line that didn’t have the choices I had.

I know that the tone of these posts is occasionally dramatic. I am sincere when I say that the process of applying for Spanish residency has been a struggle. However, each time we waited in this line, I was reminded of the level of privilege that I’ve experienced in my life.

All of the hassles and waiting. All the red tape and runaround. Boo hoo, you big baby. What we dealt with is nothing compared to what thousands of immigrants and refugees go through every day. Hundreds of thousands honest and desperate people have been through hell and back in the past decade or two, and here I am griping about waiting and confusing paperwork.

It was humbling.

One month to receive a card

Okay, on with the story. November finally arrives. We head back to the police station with all the documents at our appointment time. We were so afraid that the same grumpy officer would greet us. I feared that she would take one look at our papers and shout “NO VALE” again. Fortunately, this wasn’t the case. The same officer looked at our appointment paper, filed our documents and took our fingerprints. We signed the documents and we were finished. The officer told us to come back after four weeks to pick up our Spanish residence cards in person.

Fast forward a month and it was done. We were finally legal residents with an ID card. We were legit! We had our Spanish residence card! It was then early December — four month after we landed in Spain.


How to Apply for a Spanish Resident Card (TIE): Our Story & Tips

So you want a Spanish Resident Card — otherwise known as an ID card for foreigners (Tarjeta de Identidad de Entranjera, aka TIE) in Valencia. Here’s what I would recommend keeping in your mind.

Brush up your Spanish

We didn’t speak any at the time. Virtually none. On top of that, we didn’t really have any Spanish-speaking friends to turn to for help with all the documents. Sure, we had my buddy from the Tokyo years, but c’mon, he’d already helped us in so many ways, and the amount of paperwork was dizzying. I just couldn’t bear putting more responsibility on him.

Look up the terms that you think you’ll need. Write them down in Spanish and bring it with you. If you have a device with data, make sure to have Google Translate fired up and ready if needed. It’s not perfect, but it’s guided us through a lot of confusing moments.

If you know how to say it in Spanish, you will automatically have an easier time of it. Like, duh.

Know which office to go to

I know this is a no-brainer, but for us in Valencia, there are several offices in the city dealing with Spanish Residency applications. One is only for registration, while another is for general information, and yet another is for handling the application for the actual Spanish residency ID card. There are others offices as well.

We’ve gone to several different police stations and different offices to get answers to our questions. It is due to not being able to reach the right information online because of our limited Spanish. There are some officers in Valencia who can speak English, but most of them only speak Spanish and Valenciano. If you speak as little as we do, be prepared to hop from office to office to get the right information. Check the government site to see which office you should go to.

Make an appointment ASAP

Keiko made an appointment through the government website. It seems like you can do so wherever in Spain you are, but be sure you are following the procedures of your city or region. If you need to make an appointment, do so ASAP.

Living in Japan for so long, Keiko and I were used to dates set by the government to be fixed and unalterable. No wiggle room. It took a while for us to realize that Spain is different. Our visa’s going to expire but we’ve made an appointment? No problem! That would never happen in Japan. If our case is common, then you won’t get your Spanish residence card until you’ve been in Spain for 3-4 months.

The sooner you have this card, the easier life in Spain will be. With a Spanish resident card, you can start using utilities (water, gas, power, phone, internet/wifi), and the card has other uses, as well.

Have all the documents ready

Be sure to have all the documents ready to apply for your Spanish resident card. Every document we submitted to the Spanish Embassy in Tokyo for the visa came with us to Spain (originals, or copies if they kept the original). On top of this, we also brought:

  • Our lease contract: signed by both us and landlord
  • Certificados de empadronamiento: registration proof you can get from the city hall
  • Form Ex-17: application for the card
  • Modelo 790, código 012: payment proof

We received Form EX-17 and Modelo 790, codigo 012 when we first went to the police station. You can get both forms off of the official site, but Modelo 790 is a three-layer carbon copy, so if you print it out, you should have three copies for one application. Before you apply for the card, bring this paper to any Spanish bank and pay the fee. They will take your money and give you back two of the stamped sheet. One is for the bank, one for you, and one is to submit when you apply for the card.

Complicated, time-consuming stuff, I know, but thanks to our Spanish resident visa, our kids have enjoyed going to school and playing soccer in Spain. We were able to drive all over Spain and see places like the Playa de las Catedrales and Santiago de Compostela. We could go canyoning in Galicia and surfing in Santander. So it’s worth it!


Have you applied for Spanish resident card? Or do you want to? Why or why not? What was your story? What other tips you can share about applying for residency outside your home country?

Further Reading


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How to Apply for a Spanish Resident Card (TIE): Our Story & Tips


  1. Hi my name is Telma from Canada. I have arrived in Barcelona about 3 weeks ago and having a hard time obtaining my card. I asked my consulate in Toronto if I had to do any steps once I arrive in Spain and they told me no. Now that I am here I have so many people telling me exactly what it is I need and I am going crazy. To book a appointment here in Barcelona is very difficult. How do I go about making an appointment I went to the website and they don’t have any appointments available but I checked for other cities and they had so many appointments available. And second … right now my boyfriend is renting a room from this lady here in barcelona and I am staying with him in the meantime, next month him and I are renting from a family friend for 2 months because she is leaving the place for Argentina. How do I show proof of address when we are renting from a second party?

    • Hi Telma,

      I’m sorry you’re having such trouble. That said, I don’t know what visa you’re on at the moment so I can’t really tell you what to do for your situation. I’m no expert, but without the type of visa (tourist visa? non-lucrative visa?), it’s hard to even speculate. If you have the non-lucrative visa as we did, then the first thing you should do is register yourself at city hall. You should have an address in Spain when you applied for the VISA (before you arrived in Spain), so that’s where you should list, first. In order to register yourself to the city hall, you’ll need a signed lease contract. Then, with that you can start applying for TIE. You should be able to get an appointment however far in future it may be. If you don’t know how then you should go to the Foreigners Office in Barcelona to ask for help. The embassy of Spain in Tokyo (where we got our VISA) told us to follow whatever instruction we get in Spain. Once we were in Spain, just follow the rules in Spain, as it can be different in other embassies. Good luck. I know it’s a challenge.

  2. Hello, Me and my wife arrived in Barcelona on non-lucrative visa. We are now in the process of applying for TIE cards. In this regard, Please clarify whether we need to open a bank account in Spain and show it with funds in that account to authorities at the time of application for TIE cards?If so, how much funds are to be deposited? I had already shown the availability of sufficient in my account at the time of application for non-lucrative visa in my country of origin.

    • We opened the bank account more for our kids’ school fees than anything else. When we applied in Valencia, it was not required to have a bank account to apply for TIE. It is best to check with the office where you plan to apply for TIE, but if you already have a visa then it shouldn’t be a problem. Good luck!

  3. Hey jason! Thanks, as always, for your helpful info! Do you happen to remember which police station in Valencia is the right one to go to? And/or what the web address is for scheduling an appointment? Many thanks!!

  4. HI Jason!
    My family and I will be moving to Barcelona next month, already got our non lucrative visas. Two questions:
    1. Do you know if it’s possible to set an appointment now through the website even though we are not in Spain yet?
    2. Is there some sort of requirement not to travel outside of Spain while you wait for the card?
    Thanks so much

    • Hi Zlata!

      Congrats on getting the visa!
      1. Yes, you can set an appointment before you arrive in Spain as long as you know that you can gather all the documents before your appointment day/time. In fact, it’s wise of you, I think, to go ahead and book. As you know, we were surprised that we had to wait for two months to apply for TIE. You can actually change your appointment day as well should you need to.
      2. My understanding is that you will lose your residency permit when you leave without any proof that you are in the process of getting residency. Look for “Autorización de regreso” once you start the TIE process. It’s best to ask at the Oficina de Extranjeria (Foreigner’s office) in Barcelona where you plan to apply for TIE. Don’t lose your residency because of leaving too soon!

  5. Hi!

    I’m having a similar experience in Barcelona just looking for some reinforcement.
    I could not get an appointment online before my deadline so the support email of the police told me to go outside Barcelona. Once I did, they told me it was impossible because I was registered to live in Barcelona.
    The earliest appointment I could make online is one month past my “30 days”. Did you really not have any problems processing and getting your TIE after this deadline?

    I’m freaking out!

    Any help would be greatly appreciated!


    • Hi Sophia,

      I can totally understand why and how you are freaking out. That is exactly how we felt. Our appointment was way after our first 30 days as you might have read in the post. However, we didn’t have any problem to apply for TIE. If you’re still unsure, it might be best to write back to support email ([email protected]) as you did before to confirm if that is ok. Good luck!

      • Jason,
        Love your blog. We just finished the process of applying for visas for our family of 5. Waiting to go pick up the non lucrative visas. Question: were your kids able to start school without the TIE? Or do they only need the certificate of “empadronamiento”. Your blog has definitely been a game changer. Thank you.

        • In our case, we didn’t need to have TIE when the kids started school, but we were asked to submit the copy once we obtained it. They certainly need “Empadoronamiento” since it’s the proof of where you live and has NIE (Número de Identidad de Extranjero) on it. Good luck!

  6. Ted Pallach says:


    My wife and I received our non-lucrative visa and moved here just before Fallas. Fun. We went to a police station and were also told we had the wrong one. They sent us to another station but before we went we found someone to help up make an appointment. It is at yet another station. We stopped by there for the 790-012 form ( We filled out a 790-052 form in the US ) but they sent us to a website. No mention about 3 copies. This is the first I’ve heard about about the EX17 form. Good to know. Hopefully we will have a place rented before out appointment

  7. Cindi Conners says:

    Hi Jason,
    I just posted a comment on your other post about getting the visa. Just found this, and happy to have more information, but still confused about making the appointment. I made one for “certificado de residente o no residente”, but found out that was wrong. The person who replied to my message, at the government office associated with the site, told me it was wrong, but didn’t tell me which one I SHOULD choose. Can you tell me which type of appointment you made, and where you went for it?

    • If you read what the Spanish government site says about TIE, there’s an explanation on the steps to do and the documents needed. The first step is to make an appointment. However, the site they link to, at least on my computer, won’t open due to security reasons. It was like this on Google Chrome for a while. Now I can’t even open it on Safari nor Firefox. It could be because of where I am using internet at the moment. No idea. If you can’t open the site, it’s best to prepare to explain that (“I can’t open the site”) in Spanish and talk to some staff in the Foreigner’s Office in Valencia to make an appointment. You need patience and persistence to get things done in Spain sometimes…. Good luck!

  8. Sandra L Irick says:

    Hi Jason,
    We are a couple from Portland, Oregon moving to Valencia in October. We have an Airbnb all set up but only for 2 months. Our wonderful hosts have offered to give us a rental contract and use of the address. However, we will be looking for a more permanent and less expensive home. If I understand this process correctly, each time you move it is required that you apply for another TIE card? Thank you so much for your blog.
    Sandra I

    • Valencia is a great place to live! As for TIE and changing address, my understanding is that you don’t need to apply for a new TIE every time you move. You have to register yourself to a new address in the city center every time, and most certainly have to inform authorities (Oficina de Extranjería) of your change of address, but shouldn’t be required to have a new TIE.

      However, it’s best to ask in Valencia once you settle. They’re pretty laid back (which frustrated me sometimes…) and are usually helpful (except for Comisaría de Policía de Patraix….at least in our case). Good luck!

  9. Hi Jason, I have been in Girona now for about 5 days and wow… it has been an emotional ride. I have a Non-Lucrative visa and am in the process of getting my registration from the city council but this too has had many battles. I have my appointment on the 19th so I am excited to get it done. I am trying to get a Spanish friend or translator to go with me as my case is not so stock standard. But I would like to say thank you as this helped me a lot and gave me some form of hope and knowing that I am not alone in my frustration with this system. All the best from Girona.

    • Thrilled if I have helped in any way. Best of luck in whatever comes next!

      • Jeannette says:

        Good morning Jason, Have been informed by one person that in order to get the Certificado de Empadronamiento we need a 3 year rental contact. We have an 11 month. Do you know what is required, please? Thank you very much Jeannette

        • Hi Jeannette

          Our lease contract was for a year with auto-renewal if both parties (us and landlord) agreed. I had no problem to register our family and get the Certificado de Empadronamiento in Valencia. I’ve never heard that you had to have a 3-year rental contract. However, as I say many times, it might be different from place to place. We heard contradicting info all the time. It’s best for you to ask a staff in the city hall where you plan to live in. Best of luck!

          • Jeannette says:

            Hi Jason – Thank you for your reply. We have our NIE number with our non lucrative vasado and will soon have our Empadronamiento papers. So, now we need some guidance where the TIE card is concerned. We were originally told we need to apply for this within the first 30 days of living here. April 15 is the 30 day deadline. Been to several police stations and were told conflicting things. One stated we need to wait for a paper to arrive in the mail giving us directions but can find nothing regarding this anywhere on the web. Any advice on what we need and where we need to go to obtain our TIE would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!

    • Jeannette says:

      Good morning Brent – We are living in the Girona area for one week now. Have been told conflicting things about papers we need to provide for the Certificado de Empadronamiento. Would love to speak with you regarding your experience. Any help would be appreciated! Thank you Jeannette

    • Jeannette says:

      Hi again Brent – Thank you for your reply. We have our NIE number with our non lucrative vasado and will soon have our Empadronamiento papers. So, now we need some guidance where the TIE card is concerned. We were originally told we need to apply for this within the first 30 days of living here. April 15 is the 30 day deadline. Been to several police stations and were told conflicting things. One stated we need to wait for a paper to arrive in the mail giving us directions but can find nothing regarding this anywhere on the web. Any advice on what we need and where we need to go to obtain our TIE would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!

  10. Jyoti Fitter says:

    Hello Jason,
    I am heading to Barcelona on 12th of October 2017 for my Masters Study at University and it is for one year
    and am worried for NIE and TIE Card can I know please who can help me for this properly as am also worried that wether I can work for part time or not and how everything will go just need a proper guidance as the experience of yours which I read was very helpful but if any other advise you have to give please reply.
    Jyoti Fitter.

    • Hi Jyoti! Getting your masters in Barcelona…wow. What an experience! That means that you should have a student visa, right? That would be entirely different from what we had. The best thing for you to do is talk to the representative from the University you will be attending. They are a much better resource for you. Enjoy!

  11. Hi there!

    Thank you so so much for posting this! My husband and I will be moving to Madrid from Sydney in April. He is a Spanish national but I am not. The consulate here in Sydney said that I would need to enter Spain on a tourist visa (I hold a Philippine passport), then apply for a residency card when I get there. Is this the same residence card that I would apply for?

    Do you reckon I should make my appointment way in advance (like while were still here in Sydney? LOL) We will actually be going there in February for one week then after that we will be travelling for a few months before going back in April to stay permanently. Since we wouldn’t have a lease yet, we probably wouldn’t be able to do it in February huh?

    Your help would be much appreciated!!

    • Hi Maria. Your husband is Spanish national so your situation should be far easier than ours :-). However, I would be skeptical about entering Spain on a tourist visa. You may want your husband to contact local office where you plan to apply for residency to confirm how you should enter and what kind of paperwork is required. For the record, we found long waits for some appointments, so I would definitely consider setting appointments early. Exactly how early is hard to say. Again, if your husband or another Spanish national could call, you’d probably get better answers.

      Best of luck!

  12. Mark Fernandes says:

    Hello, Former Surgery Resident based out of Settle, Washington currently on vacation in India. I will be starting the process to obtain the non – lucrative visa shortly. In the process of accumulating a my documents as i type this. I had a quick question for a you, Did you have to translate all documents to Spanish? if yes, did you have to notarise/apostille the translations as well?
    Thanking you gratefully in advance.

    • Hi Mark. Translation and notary/apostille are all crucial to this process. The answers may vary depending on which office you ask, but I would say that yes, you should translate/notarize/apostille everything to be safe. We had one significant snag in our paperwork, and this may have been the problem. Best of luck!

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