Guide to registering with the Spanish Authorities

Welcome to this (hopefully) exhaustive guide to register with the Spanish authorities! It was neither my pleasure nor will it be yours to follow through with all the little steps and hurdles on the path I took.

This document mainly consists of three sections, the first is focused on errands to be completed before arriving in Spain, one short section for things in between where the humble author was not sure where to place it, and the last section on errands to be done after having arrived in Spain.

The following instructions are all made from the point of view of a European Citizen, or a Citizen of the European Economic Area (EU, Switzerland, Norway, some micro states…), but they may also serve as advice for anyone else.

1. Before arriving in Spain

1.1 NIE – Numero de identificacion de extranjero/a

All begins with this number. Unfortunately, not a single Spanish authority will process your application if you do not have an identification number. So the first step, even for your employment contract, is to obtain a NIE.
To that end, apply for a NIE at a General Consulate of Spain if you are residing outside of Spain. Inside, you should ask the National Police.
The form is EX-15 “Solicitud de Número de Identidad de
Extranjero (NIE)” and in 2022 the fees were 9.74 EUR.
I have been told that there are several other authorities that accept EX-15 (general consulates, police stations, embassies, foreign offices…)

In my case, I obtained an email which had a letter attached assigning my NIE to my name, birth date, and birth place.
Unfortunately, after arriving in Spain, this letter did not carry enough official weight in the view of some institutions, my bank for example, and initially also CSIC but they accepted it for my contract. People in these cases would sometimes ask you for your ‘real’ NIE with which they actually mean your TIE “tarjeta de identificacion de extranjero/a”.
To recap:

NIE: “numero de identificacion de extranjero/a”, is the letter and number combination you have been given upon filling out EX-15.

TIE: “tarjeta de identificacion de extranjero/a”, is a physical card displaying your NIE together with some personal information. This card actually depends on your citizenship: for EU-citizens it is a green paper card, without any photo, and one laminated side (only an over-glorified piece of paper), and for non-EU citizens it is a plastic ID card with your image on it. Both are credit-card sized. The TIE for EU citizens is only valid in combination with your national ID (or a passport containing your photo). Note that EU here may also refer to the European Economic Area (not sure though).

In section 3, I am explaining how to obtain a TIE as a EU-citizen after having arrived in Spain.

1.2 Equivalencia

Working for CSIC means going through a selection process which unfortunately must adhere to certain antiquated standards.
The candidate must be able to present a university degree equivalent to the Spanish “Grado”, not to be confused with a Spanish degree! The Spanish ‘Grado’ is most often translated as the Bachelor degree. However, the ‘Grado’ encompasses most of the time a 4-year course plan, while the Bachelor degree in e.g. Germany is most often 3 years long. The equivalence to a Spanish Grado is therefore only made in combination with a 2-year Master degree since the Spanish Master is typically only 1 year ( 3 + 2 = 4 + 1).
This might suggest that you actually want the equivalence of your Master degree. However, due to above mentioned antiquated selection processes, this is actually not what you want. I am told that the sole and only necessary equivalence is that of the ‘Grado’, not the Master, so be sure to tick the right box!

The right box is to be found on the application form for the recognition of your degree as equivalent, which has to be filled out digitally on the website of the Ministry of Universities:
You need to create a user account and a password. It is apparently not strictly necessary to have been assigned a NIE, neither it is apparently strictly necessary to reside in Spain to apply for this equivalence. The procedure of payment, however, is much easier if one has someone you know residing in Spain as a personal proxy to pay the fee in person. The ministry of universities details a bank account into which one may transfer the fee (166,55 EUR in 2023). However, I did not do this. I was afraid that my transfer would be lost in their account since I was never told which reference to use in the bank transfer to identify my payment to my application. An obvious choice would be the application number, however, I did not find one only after I submitted the application; but the application itself must contain proof of payment… (another bureaucratic Gordian Knot).

2. Somewhere in between

2.1 Social security number

To sign a contract, you need to apply for a social security number,
I have not been able to demand my social security number on my own because my phone number was not registered. Moreover, these form do not accept foreign phone numbers. Marcelo managed to find my social security number given my NIE.

3. After arriving in Spain

3.1 TIE as an EU citizen: “Certificado de Registro de Ciudadano de la Unión Europea”

In this section, I am explaining how to obtain a TIE as a EU citizen. In many cases, I have been asked to show my NIE when they actually wanted to see a TIE.
The TIE for EU citizens is called “Certificado de Registro de Ciudadano de la Unión Europea” and it proves your fiscal residence in Spain. Note that your physical residence in Spain (ES: padron) is registered by your municipality and it requires your initiative in form of the (ES) empadronamiento.

Your NIE is a strict requirement for your TIE. Having arrived in Spain is another requirement. You need to be physically present and have a signed working contract.

You can find out all necessary information for your application of your TIE under this link:

For your entry in the official register of European Citizens in Spain, you need the following documents:

  1. Copy of your passport of national ID
  2. Filled out form EX-18 ( )
  3. Proof of payment for the fees of EX-18, 12,00 EUR in 2023. You can look up the fee under “Certificado de registro de residente comunitario o Tarjeta de residencia de familiar de un ciudadano de la Unión Europe” following this link
    For paying EX-18, you have to use form template (modelo) 790 Code 102
    a. Fill out form 790-102 online. After filling it out, you have two options to continue: You may pay the fee directly online in case you have a compatible Spanish Online Banking account. Otherwise the website generates a printable PDF from the filled out form, which you then print and carry phyisically to a bank where you pay the amount in cash. BBVA has sometimes machines which can read the bar code and allow one to pay at any time at the machine, in cash!
  4. A signed working contract in Spain.
  5. The resolution of the recognition in the Public Social Security Insurance “Resolución sobre Reconocimiento de Alta de la Seguridad Social”. The proof of a social security number is not sufficient. The police need to know whether you have a valid health insurance in Spain.
  6. If 4. or 5. do not apply, please refer to above mentioned document which details other cases, notably as a Student, allowing you to get registered.
  7. I handed in an other document which I was under the impression was not strictly necessary; the proof of “empadronamiento” proof of inscription in the residence register of my municipality. The policeman was only copying the address on my EX-18, not the padron.

Lastly, if you are residing in Madrid, then there is only one office that allows you to apply for the TIE “Certificado de Registro de Ciudadano de la Unión Europea”:

Extranjería Ministerio del Interior
Av. del Padre Piquer, 18,
28024 Madrid

This is, unfortunately, only information one obtains after having been to another Foreigners Office in vain…

The Foreigners Office in Av. del Padre Piquer admits only visitors with a booked appointment (cita previa).
To book an appointment, follow this link:

  1. Select Madrid as province
  2. Select as procedure: (tramite)
  3. After that, register an account with this website and identify yourself.
  4. Lastly, select the office in Avenida del Padre Piquer 18

3.2 Registering your Residence & Public Health Insurance

Here, I detail the procedure to obtain a public health insurance card.

In Spain, Health Insurance is dependent on the Region. You need to have your principal residence (ES: el padron) registered within the Community of Madrid. Within the City of Madrid (not the same as the community), you can register your residence (ES: empadronamiento) at any municipality office (within the city) with a pre-booked appointment (cita previa):

  1. Follow this link:
  2. Select “Padron y censo” as category
  3. Select “Altas, bajas, y cambio de domicilo en Padron”
  4. At the time of writing, all pre-booked appointments regarding the Padron were unavailable and only given out in person. One could also appear in person during certain business hours. I refer to the instructions on above website.

Doctors and treatments that are covered by the Public Health Insurance are only provided in Public Health Centres. You cannot choose which public health centre you wish to visit, you must register with the “closest” one to you which you can inquire within the Community of Madrid following this link:

To register with this Public Health Centre, you need the following two documents:

  1. “Resolución sobre Reconocimiento de Alta de la Seguridad Social” which proves you are covered by the public social security insurace
  2. “Certificado de Empadronamiento” you received after inscribing in the Padron of your municipality, proving you are covered by Social Security in this Region.

4. Digital Private Individual Certificate

This section details the procedure of acquiring a Digital Private Individual Certificate from the National Factory for Money and Postage Stamps (Fábrica Nacional de Moneda y Timbre) (FNMT)

The digital certificate is highly useful and very practical in digitally signing paperwork for CSIC’s administration as well as official communication with many Spanish Government Agencies, such as the Tax Office, etc.
I would highly recommend acquiring one. I am in fact jealous that not more countries I have lived in possess such a digitalized interaction with their ministries and agencies. The other half of agencies which do not accept login with the personal certificate uses the so-called Cl@ave. Make sure to also apply for it by asking for it at the same time you got to the in-person accreditation of your identity in Step 3 below.

Quoting the relevant passage from their website:
“Any foreign citizen of legal age or an emancipated minor in possession of […] a Residence Card (NIE) may apply for and obtain a digital certificate free of charge to enable him to use his signature and prove his identity securely online.”

Although there are in principle two ways of obtaining a digital certificate, a foreigner with a NIE can only obtain one by accrediting themself in person, appearing in front of an accrediting desk (more on that later).

There are four steps involved with obtaining a digital certificate:

  1. Preliminary configuration. To request the certificate, it is necessary to install the software indicated in this section.
  2. Request via Internet of your Certificate. At the end of the application process, you will receive in an e-mail to your indicated address a Request Code that will be required at the time of accrediting your identity and later when downloading your certificate.
  3. Face-to-face accreditation at an Identity Accreditation Office. Once you have completed the previous phase and are in possession of your Application Code, to continue with the process, you will need to prove your Identity at one of the Identity Accreditation Offices. [Note that Identity Accreditation Office is a loose category of many different desks of several Government Agencies which are allowed to accredit your identity; have a look at the map here: Identity Accreditation Office LOCATOR service. NOTE: Some of those Offices required preliminary appointments to be made before appearing!]
  4. Download your User Certificate. Approximately 1 hour after you have accredited your identity in an Identity Accreditation Office and using your Application Code, from here you will be able to download and install your certificate and make a backup copy (RECOMMENDED).

Further details to Point 1:
The software required is based on Java and should run on any desktop machine. The big three are directly supported: Windows, macOS, Linux (Debian, and Fedora), and can be directly downloaded on the website of FNMT. Additionally, there are packages for many Linux distributions, e.g. the Arch Linux User Repository: here and here.

Further details to Point 2:
After installing the software, it must be running while filing the form for the certificate. This should automatically happen once you try to open the corresponding website with any modern browser (they have a list of browsers supported).
The software then copies an anonymous token to your PC to identify, such that the FNMT can recognize it again when downloading the certificate. One can only download the certificate the first time from the identical machine, one has filed the form with. While running the software, you have to set a password for the certificate to unlock. Please ensure a secure password, possibly using a Password Manager to safeguard it, or if you want to memorize it, I personally recommend a nonsensical sentence as a password.

Further details to Point 3:
Note again that one can choose from many different offices to accredit one’s identity. Although one needs an appointment, given the large pool, it should be fairly easy to get an appointment in reasonable time scales (1 week, 2 weeks maximum).
I was personally lucky to also have a civil servant at the desk who asked me if I also want login credentials, the so-called Cl@ave, which is as important when logging into government services as the personal certificate.

Further details to Point 4:
Downloading the certificate is only possible with the same machine with which one has filled out the online form. Afterwards, you can download a security copy and install the certificate on secondary machines.