Contributions to Social Security are compulsory for all foreign workers in Spain, whether employed or self-employed. The Social Security system in Spain is designed to provide the working population with a range of medical and financial coverage against a variety of accidents and contingencies. By contributing to this you will be entitled to the same level of protection as a Spanish National. It is mainly paid for by worker’s contributions (currently around 6.4% of the monthly wage), but the state also contributes around 20%. Cover under Spanish Social Security legislation generally means you are exempt from making contributions to your home country; however, agreements between Spain and other EU countries allow EU Nationals resident in Spain to remain a part of their home Social Security scheme for a limited period. EU Nationals who are transferred to Spain by their employer can continue to make Social Security contributions in their home country for a period of one year on provision of Form E-101 and can extend this by a further year on provision of Form E-102 (available from a UK post office). After two years in Spain you must legally begin making Social Security contributions. Usually, your employer in Spain will complete the necessary process to register you with Spanish Social Security. If not, you must do so yourself. Fortunately, the procedure is not as complex as some others you may have to go through! Go to your local Social Security office (see ‘Seguridad Social’ in the yellow classified section) and present the following:

  • Proof that you are employed in Spain.
  • Passport, plus marriage certificate and the birth certificates of any dependents if relevant.
  • Proof of residence (title deeds to a property or a rental agreement).

You may also be required to provide copies of some or all of the above, or translations; check if this is so with the Social Security office in your area. After one or two months you will receive a registration card (cartilla de la seguridad social or tarjeta sanitaria) in the post. Note that one card will provide cover for both partners in a marriage if only one partner is working and for all dependents (children under 16 years) who are registered on the card. If you are a pensioner, you will qualify for social security benefits if you receive a state pension from another EU country, or a country that has an agreement with Spain. You and your spouse will be entitled to benefits, but must prove your entitlement to a pension by obtaining form E-121 from your home country. If you retire to Spain before reaching Spanish retirement age, you must get private health insurance cover.



A NIE number (Foreign Identification Number, Número de Identificación de Extranjero) is a necessity in all fiscal or legal matters in Spain. These identification numbers are used to track an individual’s financial and official activities in Spain. Spanish citizens have a NIF number (Fiscal Identification Number / Número de Identificación Fiscal) which is their DNI (National Identity Document / Documento Nacional de Identitidad). The NIE number always starts with “X” and is followed by seven numbers and a letter. Your number is personal to you; it is not transferable nor does it expire. Obtaining a NIE number is quite easy and should be a priority upon arrival. If you do not feel up to the paperwork, you can pay a local gestor and for approximately 100 euros, they will get it done for you. If you choose this option, you must sign a power of attorney if you will not be present at the time of application.


The application process is straight forward. Go to your local National Police Station, to the Departmento de Extranjeros (Foreigners Department) and ask for the NIE application form or call directory enquiries in English on 807 422 422 to request the forms to be emailed or posted to you with instructions in English. The following documents must be submitted to the police station to obtain a NIE number:

  • Completed and signed original application and a photocopy (original returned)
  • Passport and photocopy
  • Address in Spain (you can use a friend’s)
  • Written justification of why you need the NIE (issued by an accountant, a notary, a bank manager, an insurance agent or a future employer, etc.)

Directory enquiries 807 422 422 or When you turn in the documentation, a stamped photocopy of the application is returned to you along with your passport. Ask them when you should come back to pick up the document. The turnaround time fluctuates and your NIE can take one to six weeks. You are not notified when it is ready; start asking two weeks after you have dropped off the application. You must present the stamped copy along with your passport to pick up your NIE number The NIE document is received as an officially stamped, A4 size document which bears your name, address, date of birth and your NIE number. Keep track of this NIE document, as different bureaucratic processes require the original. Always turn in photocopies – keep the original in a safe place.


These are fiscal and commercial numbers respectively. CIF numbers are issued to identify businesses and commercial entities such as SL and SA (Limited Liability and Public) companies. ASIDE: YOUR NIE NUMBER IS NEEDED TO:

  • Apply for a business permit
  • Apply for a mortgage/loan
  • Buy/sell property in Spain
  • Buy a vehicle
  • Employment
  • Inheritance of assets in Spain
  • Insure property
  • Pay taxes
  • Sign onto the national Social Security health plan