The Numero de Identification de Extranjero (NIE) is the main piece of identification you'll need in Spain. It is simply a number that is needed in order to purchase real estate, register a business or as self-employed, open most bank accounts, set up a mobile phone contract, sign an apartment lease, file taxes, and for almost any other government form or contract. Both EU citizens and non-EU citizens get issued an NIE. When registering for an NIE through your local consulate, the number is issued from the central police state in Madrid via a certificate valid for three months.
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