Explainer: Social security contributions and getting your NIE number in Spain

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If you are a foreign national working for a Spanish company, no matter whether you are living in Spain or not, it’s necessary for you to obtain your NIE number (Numero de Identidad de Extranjero), which translates as Identification Number for Foreigners. And, if you move to Spain, you must register and contribute to social security (seguridad social) each month.

In this explainer, the Euro Weekly News will help you to navigate getting your NIE number and what it means to pay social security in Spain.

If you have moved to Spain to work, you will need to register and contribute to social security each month. Despite Spain having the highest monthly social security contribution rate in the European Union (EU), it gives employees access to lots of benefits including healthcare and maternity leave. In order to make these payments, you first need an NIE number, which acts as a unique and personal tax number and also helps you to keep track of your legal and financial activities in the country.

Read on to find out much more about social security, who needs to pay and the benefits, in addition to steps on how to obtain your NIE number.

What is the NIE number in Spain?

Let’s start with what an NIE number is and exactly why you need it to carry out working life in Spain. In short, your NIE number (Numero de Identificacion de Extranjero) is your Spanish tax number as a resident or working foreigner.

This means that you can legally make major purchases (for example, buying a house, flat or car) and receive social security without Spanish citizenship. It’s stated on your residence card (tarjeta de residencia) and social security card.

If your application is approved for the NIE number, an A4 white certificate with your name, surname, date of birth, city and country of birth, and your unique number will be sent to you. This number will always stay the same and does not change – in other words, it will never expire.

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Why do I need an NIE number in Spain as an international?

You need an NIE number in Spain to:

  • Work legally
  • Be self-employed in Spain
  • Register a business
  • Pay taxes in Spain
  • Open a bank account
  • To buy or sell real estate
  • Study in Spain
  • Obtain a driving licence
  • Set up utilities

Basically, any large financial transactions involving the tax authorities in Spain must be linked to your personal NIE number.

Children also need an NIE number in Spain for social security reasons.

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Image – LiliGraphie/Shutterstock

When and how do I apply for an NIE  number?

If you live in Spain as an EU citizen for more than three months you will need an NIE number. If you are a non-EU citizen, you will apply for your NIE at the same time as you apply for your residency.

You can apply for your NIE number in two ways:

  • At the Spanish embassy in your country, if you have not yet moved to Spain
  • At your nearest Spanish National Police Station, which deals with foreign documentation

In typical Spanish style, what you will need to bring varies from office to office.

We advise you to check the website of your relevant office, however, in general, you will need:

  • NIE application form (Modelo EX15).
  • Original passport (current and not expired) and a photocopy of it.
  • Two small photos.
  • Government fee (€10 – €15), which you must pay at the bank using the NIE Form 790.

Follow these steps to apply for your NIE number:

EU nationals of any other nationality:

  • Passport or identity card and a copy of it.
  • Copy of proof of residence in your country.
  • Proof of the reason for the request (e.g. inheritance or purchase of real estate).

Non-EU nationality:

  • Passport or identity card and a copy of it.
  • Proof of the reason motivating the request (e.g. inheritance or purchase of property, a letter from the bank).
  • Students doing internships in Spain must provide a letter from the receiving entity (company or study centre) stating the duration of the internship.


  • Minors must be accompanied by a parent.
  • Passport or identity card of the minor and a copy of it.
  • Passport or identity card of the father or mother and a copy thereof.
  • International extract from the registry office justifying the relationship between the minor and the father or mother.
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Image – fizkes/shutterstock

Who pays social security in Spain?

Anybody who works in Spain must have a tax ID number and pay Spanish taxes and social security. For employees, your employer will register you with the Spanish Social Security authorities (Tesoreria General de la Seguridad Social – TGSS) and insurance scheme. Your employer will share the cost of contributions and this registration doesn’t expire.

The National Institute of Social Security (Instituto Nacional de la Seguridad Social – INSS) handles state-funded healthcare and welfare entitlements. If you need to know more information about your benefits and entitlement, you can usually find the answer by contacting your local INSS office.

Self-employed workers (autonomo) must also contribute to the system based on their income. They are eligible for the same benefits as employed workers except for unemployment, work-related illnesses and accidents. Students in Spain are covered by a special protection plan (school insurance).

Image – Pixel-Shot/shutterstock

What are the benefits of paying social security?

While employed in Spain to access benefits including:

  • Public healthcare

Your contributions entitle you to use Spain’s public healthcare system. When your social security number is issued to you by the Spanish government, you will also receive a certificate for public healthcare. You can then register for medical treatment and apply for a health card (tarjeta sanitaria individual – TSI). The TSI covers care from doctors and hospitals and gives you a discount on your prescription medication.

You can also pay for private health insurance to access additional health services that you cannot get through the public system.

  • Retirement and pension

Social security contributions in Spain also pay into the state pension scheme. The Spanish Ministry of Inclusion, Security, and Migration (Ministerio de Inclusion, Seguridad Social y Migraciones) oversees the state pension in Spain.

To receive the minimum state pension, you have to have worked and paid social security contributions for at least 15 years. You also need at least two of these years to be within the 15-year period immediately preceding the pension claim. The full pension rate will require at least 37 years of contributions.

  • Unemployment benefits

To receive unemployment benefits, you must be over 16 and not reached retirement age. You’ll need to have made social security contributions for a minimum of 360 days during the previous six years before becoming unemployed. That contribution period entitles you to unemployment benefits for four months (120 days). If you meet the minimum employment period, you can apply for unemployment benefits if you are unemployed but looking for work, your employer did not renew your contract or if your employer has reduced your working hours and salary by between 10 per cent and 70 per cent.

The State Public Employment Service (Servicio Publico de Empleo Estatal – SEPE) manages these benefits.

  • Maternity and paternity care and child allowance

Workers in Spain can get paid leave when they become parents. This also includes those adopting and fostering children. Your eligibility depends on your age and contributions. Those under 21 do not have a minimum contribution period, those between 21 and 26 years old need to have paid 90 days within the seven years prior or 180 days during your whole working life, and people over 26 years of age need to have paid 180 days within the seven years prior or 360 days during their entire working life.

Female employees who meet all requirements for receiving a birth and childcare benefit, with the exception of the minimum contribution period, are eligible for a non-contributory maternity payment.

  • Benefits for non-work-related illness or injury incapacity

You are eligible to receive a temporary incapacity allowance in Spain if you are temporarily unable to work due to illness or an accident that is not related to your job. You may be eligible for this benefit whether you are an employee or self-employed if you have made social security contributions for a total of 180 days during the preceding five years and are registered with the programme, or if you are unable to work because of a common illness or a non-job-related injury.

When your treatments are finished but you are still unable to work, you may be eligible for payments for permanent invalidity. Depending on how much you are unable to perform your job, you will receive a different amount.

  • Coverage for work-related incapacity due to sickness or injury

You do not need to fulfil a minimum contribution period to be eligible for benefits if you are temporarily or permanently disabled from working as a result of an illness or accident sustained at work. 75 per cent of the regulatory basis will be paid to you starting the day after your last day of employment. You are eligible to receive associated pharmaceutical allowances and at least 12 payments each month.

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Image – ESB Professional/shutterstock

Social security in Spain as an expat

EU/EFTA nationals in Spain

Under the laws of the EU, citizens of the EU, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland are covered by the legislation of one country. This means you will only pay contributions to one social security system at any time. You can’t choose which system, and the decision comes from the legislation of the country where you reside. You will have the same rights and obligations as the nationals of the country where you are covered.

Non-EU/EFTA nationals in Spain

Generally, if you are legally working in Spain and you have a Spanish tax ID number, you will contribute to the social security system in Spain. this means you will receive the same benefits as EU citizens and Spanish nationals.

NIE spain
Image – Yau Ming Low/shutterstock

Spanish social security for self-employed and freelancers

Entrepreneurs and independent contractors in Spain must also contribute to the social security system. Online or in person at your neighbourhood INSS office, you can apply for a social security number. You’ll need a passport and NIE number to achieve this.

Starting in 2023, all independent contractors will be required to pay Social Security taxes based on their annual salary.

When you have contributed for 15 years, you are eligible for healthcare in Spain as well as a pension. A higher Spanish pension can be obtained by paying more than the minimum required amount or by selecting a private pension fund. You must make your own arrangements with social security or private insurers as an autonomo in order to collect unemployment benefits or payments for illnesses and accidents at work.

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Image – GaudiLab/Shutterstock

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Written by

Laura Kemp

Originally from UK, Laura is based in Axarquia and is a writer for the Euro Weekly News covering news and features. Got a news story you want to share? Then get in touch at editorial@euroweeklynews.com.