EU and EEA citizens, plus Swiss nationals can come to Gran Canaria for as long as they want without needing to register with the local authorities.
However, if you plan to spend longer than 90 days in Gran Canaria, getting an NIE number makes daily life and lots of admin procedures smoother. Many banks, utility companies, government offices and businesses ask for the NIE, and you also need it if you set up a company in Gran Canaria.
The NIE number is a tax ID number used by the Spanish state to keep track of your economic activity. Once you get a Spanish NIE number it never changes.
The actual number also doubles up as your ID number if you decide to become a Gran Canaria resident. However, you can get an NIE number without applying for residence. Your NIE number comes on a certificate that currently doesn’t have an expiry date.
It is either an A4-sized piece of white paper or a small, credit card-sized piece of green paper.
To get an NIE number you need proof of address. A rental contract, even a temporary one from your holiday let landlord, is enough.
If you are staying at a hotel or hostel, your booking receipt is often enough but it’s best to get it printed out on A4 paper with the address and tax number of your host.
You also need one of the following...
This doesn’t need to be full-time but it does need to be formal.
Currently, you need a minimum of a 20-hour contract, or a contract for a defined period of work (as a consultant, programmer, etc), to get an NIE
If you are thinking about starting a business or start freelancing from Gran Canaria, you might be asked to write a Memorandum explaining your project, almost like a business plan.
Spanish law states that you are eligible for an NIE number if you are employed in Spain, are buying a property here, or have a minimum income level that allows you to live here and not be a burden on the Spanish state and its social security system.
The minimum income is defined by Spanish law, but the police are also obliged by the law to take your circumstances into account; you need to have enough income to pay your rent, bills and living expenses before the police will register you and give you a certificate.
As a guideline, you need a regular income of at least 600 euros per month (per person for families).
Having significant savings in your bank account (at least 5000 euros also helps.
If you have an income but don’t work, the authorities will also ask for a certificate proving that you have private medical insurance equivalent to the cover offered by the Spanish state healthcare system. This costs around 1000 euros per year.
You can apply for an NIE number before coming to Gran Canaria via your nearest Spanish consulate. The exact procedure varies from country to country.
Once you are in Gran Canaria, you need to go to the main police station in your local municipality. In Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, there are two places to get your NIE.
If you have a formal work contract from a Spanish company, or an arras contract
to buy a property, go to the Comisaría de Distrito Las Palmas de Gran Canaria Centro on C/ Luis Doreste Silva, 68 (known locally as the Super Comisaria).
If you don’t have a work contract or an arras, go to Extranjería at Plaza de la Concordia, 5. It’s open Mon – Fri 9am till 2pm. If you are an EU, EEA or EFTA citizen, you may need to book an appointment in advance.
In both cases it is helpful to visit with a Spanish-speaker as the staff don’t speak much English.
Your appearances will count so make an effort to dress smart when you go to apply for your NIE.
If you work for a company in your home country, or own your own company, you can apply for Posted Worker status before you come to Gran Canaria.
As a posted worker living in Gran Canaria your health care is covered by your home country’s system for up to two years and you can even file your taxes at home for up to six months.
If you plan to live and work in Gran Canaria for more than a few months, it is worth applying for residency or residencia. Legally you have to apply if you spend more than 90 days in Spain.
Becoming a resident gives you some significant perks including a 75% discount on the price of travel between the Canary Islands and 50% between the archipelago and Mainland Spain, local transport discounts, and reduced entry prices at many museums, galleries and tourist attractions.
Here is useful summary of residency requirements for EU, EEA and EFTA citizens. Essentially they are the same as for your NIE application although you may be asked for more documentation to prove your financial status and/or ongoing employment.
For families where only one person is working in Gran Canaria, the rest of the family is entitled to residencia although you could well be expected to provide documents proving that you are married or in a civil partnership.
These will need to be translated and verified officially via your consulate or an apostille.