Why we started FastNIE

So it's time to get your NIE...

Spain is an incredible country filled with rich history, deep culture, beautiful scenery, a bustling economy, and most importantly, its friendly and welcoming people. This entices many to move to one of its beautiful cities, to purchase a property there, or to conduct business in the country.

To take those steps, there’s one key identification number that every foreigner needs: the Spanish NIE, short for Foreigner Identity Number (or “número de identificación de extranjeros” in Spanish). The NIE is a tax identification number for foreigners of Spain. Think of it like an American Social Security Number or a British National Insurance Number. It’s issued by the Spanish government as a unique identifier for an individual, which links that person’s identity to any legal or business activities that may have a tax impact.

Unfortunately, the process for obtaining an NIE can be very daunting! We know this because we’ve been in your shoes before. In fact, that’s the entire reason FastNIE.com got started. The founder, Stephen Kneubuehl, is an American who co-founded a tech startup called RoadStr, headquartered in Madrid, Spain. He needed an NIE not only for himself, but also for over 50 foreign investors in his startup. Just getting one is difficult enough, so imagine the coordination required for even just 10.

After much trial-and-error fulfilling those NIEs under tight deadlines, managing across many different locations, he figured out the simplest and fastest way to get them. Now, he’s bundled those services into a convenient package for clients of FastNIE.

The many ways to get an NIE

So what were all those trial-and-errors like? It turns out there are many different approaches to getting the NIE. Here’s a brief explanation of the main methods:

Obtain your NIE directly at a police station in Spain

While this is the cheapest approach (not considering travel costs), it’s also the most time-consuming and complicated, leaving many to seek additional assistance through the process. Plus, you’ll need to be physically in the country in order to complete it.

First you will need to navigate the cumbersome government website. You will need to have a good grasp of Spanish, as most web pages are not available in English or other languages. You must print and fill in two Spanish-only forms with equally strange names of “EX-15” and the “Form 790, code 12”.

Once you’ve completed the forms, the next step is to schedule an appointment at a local police station. You will navigate through a deep tree of (often broken) web links to find your local province and office. Watch out: each police station may have a different layout of links to reach the booking forms.

After filling yet another form with your details and request type, instead of selecting dates and times from a calendar as you would expect, you are usually given a random choice of appointment slots to choose from. Typically those appointments are at least a week or two out from the current date.

And by the way, before you head to the police station, you must pay your fee for Form 790 at a local bank. The fee is 12 EUR, but this is subject to change from year-to-year. Don’t forget to keep the receipt as proof of payment along with your completed forms in the next step.

OK finally, it’s time to head to the police station! You will often find a multi-step process to check in and queue up at the office before you finally get to see the police officer. Each office may operate differently. All interactions are strictly in Spanish (por supuesto). You will review the forms together with the officer, answer a few simple questions about the reason for your NIE, and under most cases, you will be approved.

Congratulations! After hours, days, and likely weeks of searching, learning, translating, clicking links, visiting banks, and attending a government office, you finally got your NIE!

Visit your local consulate for an NIE

Another option is to head over to your local Spain consulate. If you’re unable to go to Spain but can travel to your local consulate, this can be a reasonably lower cost option. However, this approach comes with plenty of complications as well.

First, you will need to locate your local Spain consulate. In many cases, this may be inconvenient. In the United States, only a few cities have consulates, which means you may have to travel hundreds or even thousands of miles to reach one. In the UK and most European countries, there’s only one embassy, with the UK’s being located in London.

Of course, nothing is standardized between each consulate. Each consulate has its own webpage and organizes instructions and information differently from each other. In some cases, it’s unclear whether and how to make an appointment at the consulate as a foreigner. It can be confusing to know whether you should just show up at the office or if you must book an appointment in advance. We recommend to call the office, but again, be prepared to speak in Spanish.

After checking in and waiting at the consulate, you will typically be called to meet with a representative. You will still need to bring your EX-15 and Form 790 to the consulate, pre-filled. In this case, you can pay both the Form 790 fee at the consulate along with submitting your documents.

After submission, you will not immediately receive your NIE number, since they are physically sent to Spain for processing. This can take quite a long time. You will typically receive the NIE via email anywhere from 6-8 weeks after submission at the consulate. There is no way to check on the status of the process, so just sit tight and wait indefinitely. Eventually that email will cross into your inbox with the NIE scan attached.

Pay a law firm in Spain to get your NIE

You may be searching the web and find a law firm in Spain that can get your NIE. They promise to help you get the NIE quickly, but beware, this comes with plenty of costly caveats as well. In fact after all costs are considered, this is the most expensive option, but not necessarily the most convenient.

You may notice on the EX-15 form that there is an ability to authorize a representative to obtain your NIE on your behalf. This means that someone else can go to the police station in Spain without your physical presence required. They will prepare a Power of Attorney document. This is a legal document which formally authorizes a representative in Spain to obtain the NIE on your behalf.

But that’s where the convenience ends. The lawyers will send you the Power of Attorney document, and it's up to you to notarize, authenticate, and ship the document back to Spain. Once you visit your local notary, you will then need to internationally authenticate the document, through a process often referred to as an “Apostille” stamp. The process requires you to submit the document to the Secretary of State. Many times, the document is rejected due to improper notarization, which happens more often than you may think.

The authentication can take several days or more than a week in many cases. Finally, once approved, you must head to your local courier office and ship the documents to Spain, yet another added expense.

Once the documents finally arrive to your law firm in Spain, the representatives can go to the police station on your behalf and request the NIE. What looked like a simple process in reality has become many costly steps.

Alas, FastNIE makes it simple and fast

Fortunately, our founder Stephen already experienced (and suffered) all of those approaches. After much practice for his 50 investors, he perfected an alternate approach that makes the NIE process very simple and very fast for the client. In fact, the client doesn’t even need to leave their home, as the process is 100% remote.

FastNIE will collect the same information as what’s needed for the EX-15 and Form 790. But don’t worry, you don’t need to read any Spanish. Our single web form is in English for your convenience.

To sign it, we’ll setup a short 3-minute video call with our expert US-based notary, where you will simply identify yourself and sign the document virtually. Citizens from most countries, not just the USA, are eligible for the same process. And that’s all that’s required from you, as we take care of the rest, including the complicated authentication and international shipment.

Once it arrives in Spain, our representative’s have strong relationships with their local police station, which means they can request appointments within just a few days rather than weeks, obtaining your NIE as fast as possible. Once completed, FastNIE emails your scanned NIE. The total time from order to delivery can be completed in 14 days or even less, without you having to leave your home.

Focus on your end goal while we take care of the details

FastNIE’s professional, hassle-free service let’s you focus on your most important goals, whether it’s purchasing your dream home in Spain, embarking on your move to Spain, opening your Spanish bank account, or getting started on your new business activity in Spain. The NIE is the key to opening those possibilities, and FastNIE makes it fast and simple. Don't face the same trial-and-error as our founder endured. Instead make it fast and easy with FastNIE. We stand ready to help.

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