Differences between a TIE, a NIE and a residence card

Foreigners who are preparing to reside in Spain encounter several different forms of official identification, which can cause some confusion. As specialists in everything related to immigration and international law, we at ICN LEGAL will try to clearly explain the various concepts foreign citizens living in Spain need to understand.
The nomenclature makes it clear that the NIE (Foreigner Identification Number) is simply a number, while the TIE (Foreigner Identity Card) is a physical document. But how are they related and how do they differ? Let’s establish their primary characteristics:

A NIE is assigned to any foreign citizen who needs to carry out formalities with the Spanish government, even if they don’t have permission to reside in Spain. Therefore, having a NIE does not imply being able to remain in Spain. This number never changes, even if the status of its holder does. It identifies the person in all areas; for example, it appears on the driver’s licenses or health insurance cards issued to you. It fulfills a role similar to that of a Spanish citizen’s national identity card (DNI), but does not necessarily imply the issuance of a TIE.

A TIE is first and foremost a form of proof of permission to reside or remain in Spain for a specific period of time. Among other information, it contains the holder’s NIE, as well as other information on their status in the country. The TIE has the same period of validity as the recognition of the right justifying its issuance, therefore it must be renewed if appropriate.

An important fact to keep in mind is that TIEs have not been issued to citizens of other EU countries since 2007. They can instead obtain a certificate to prove their status as residents and their address; it is a green piece of paper. For general identification purposes, EU citizens must use the documents from their own country, be it their national identity card or their passport.

What do we mean when we talk about a residence card? Well, there is no document that officially has that exact name. Sometimes the term can be used generically to refer to the TIE, which is in fact the card that proves residency. It can also be used more specifically in reference to the tarjeta de familiar de residente de la Unión, a specific type of TIE to which family members of EU citizens are entitled.

At ICN LEGAL, we hope we have helped you better distinguish between these concepts. If you require legal assistance in Spain related to immigration or international family law, we would like to remind you that our attorneys are former judges specializing in marriage or divorce involving foreigners in Spain. Our legal team is composed of renowned attorneys who write for legal journals in the sector and have proven experience in all matters covered by international law.

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