How to Apply for Your Student Stay Card (Estancia por Estudios – TIE) in Spain

¡Bienvendos a España!

Jetlag and culture shock aside, you’ve arrived in Spain at long last.

But, just when you thought you could solely focus on adjusting to the Spanish culture and language, there’s this one last step (or is it?) you’ll have to do in terms of paperwork and getting set up in your new Spanish city.

As per Spanish law, student visa holders who plan to stay or study for longer than six months will have to apply for a physical foreigner identity card (commonly known as the tarjeta de identidad de extranjero). It will allow you to stay in Spain for up to one year or the duration of your study, language assistant teaching program or TEFL training program. It’s not to be confused with a regular Spanish residency card – which is a different process – so you will see it referred to as a student stay card in this post.

However, if you are interested in applying for a work permit after 3 consecutive years in Spain on a student visa, then I would recommend you renew your TIE (pronounced tee-ay) each year. Student years will count as “half time” and can be applied to other types of residencies in Spain (only if you renew the TIE in the country itself) so it’s something to keep in mind if that’s your end goal.

Anyway, let’s focus on applying for your first physical student stay card and get you all set up wherever you happen to be in Spain this upcoming school year.

Disclaimer: I have only ever applied for the student stay card (tarjeta de estudiante as it’s sometimes referred to) in two different provinces in Spain, La Coruña and Madrid. I also lived in Santiago de Compostela during my second year in Spain but I never did any official paperwork there. Why? It was because I was able to maintain my census registry in the region (empadronamiento) for two years in the city of Coruña. At the time around 2014-2016, registering that you lived at an address inside Galicia was challenging as I didn’t have a rental contract in any apartment where I lived. I did get written receipts from landlords but that was it.

(Learn from my rookie mistake and don’t do that in today’s world.)

It’s important to note that the Oficinas de Extranjería (Foreigners’ – Immigration Offices) all across Spain are decentralized, meaning that they all do things a little bit differently and aren’t subject to one set of rules for processing and approving residency and student stay cards. Some provinces might have different requirements and it might take longer (or less time) to process the same application for a student card in one province than in another. I will touch on those differences but you are free to ask any questions you might have in the comments.

If you’ve come across this article and find yourself needing to apply for a different type of initial TIE, then check out this list of forms.

Jardines de Méndez Núñez, A Coruña, Spain
The beautiful Jardines de Méndez Núñez which you’ll pass on your way to the Comisaría (main police station) in A Coruña.

Make an Appointment

When I applied for all of my student stay cards, I never had to make an appointment. However, when I first applied for this type of card (and its subsequent renewals), I did so back in October 2014. The last renewal I did before my application for a work permit was approved was back in late 2016 so needless to say, things have changed since then.

As stated on the Extranjería website, initial applications cannot be submitted electronically (or telemáticamente) and must be submitted in person. And since the pandemic began, all government offices are ONLY seeing people with appointments. Unlike in the past, you will be turned away if you don’t make an appointment online before you show up at an office. You also need to do this within the first 30 days of arriving in Spain, even if your actual appointment will be over 30 days from the day you landed.

Don’t fret.

The most important thing is setting the appointment within that time frame. I would urge you to get a Spanish pre-paid phone plan or SIM card so that you’ll be able to list a Spanish phone number (+34 country code) on the website as you’re filling in the necessary information for your appointment. They will send the appointment confirmation to your email but nowadays they usually send you a code via a text message to fully confirm the date and time you’ve chosen.

Aerial view of Madrid from the Riu Plaza España Hotel Rooftop (December 2020)

So, first things first, and after the dust has settled a little bit and maybe you’ve gotten a couple of nights’ sleep (and have done some apartment searching), go to the Extranjería’s appointment booking website and make a cita previa.

The other important thing you will have to obtain before you go to the appointment for your TIE is to register through the city’s census (empadronar in Spanish). This is an official process, after showing you live or having your landlord sign and verify that you live at the address you say you do, that simply lets the city know that you are indeed living in their province. During my very first year in Spain as a non-study abroad student, I had no bills in my name and unfortunately no written lease or rental contract with my landlords – something I now regret not having.

However, the landlady had no problem coming with me to my appointment and showing a bill in her name with the correct address of my new apartment listed and signing the registry (empadronamiento) form to confirm that I did indeed live there. If you do register yourself as living in an apartment with someone else who is already registered, they will have to sign your form before you can submit it to the Ayuntamiento. I have always been asked for proof of address, but have not tried to prove it with a utility bill (even though I now have a phone and Internet bill in my name). Other auxiliares (and friends) have told me that they were never asked for theirs at the appointment and their address was listed correctly.

After seven years in Spain, my advice is to always err on the side of caution.
Register at an address in your new town or city and get a copy of your registry certificate (volante del padrón in Spanish) and make sure it is less than 90 days old. The latter won’t be a problem seeing as you just arrived here and have only been here for a couple of weeks or so! 🙂

(Note: this process also varies by province so keep in mind that I’m only providing you with the general rundown of how things work. Always double-check the requirements for your particular province before you submit your application.)

Tips for Appointments & Gathering Your Documents

A beautiful aerial view of A Coruña as seen from the district where I lived (not my view, though)

A Coruña, June 2015

In A Coruña (Galicia)

The good thing about applying for your first student stay card in regions outside of Madrid and Cataluña is that you will get it into your hands much quicker.

Even though this was a few years ago – and take into consideration the high or low seasons in which you submit your documents – I had my physical ID card within 6 weeks of arriving in Spain the very first year I came here to teach as a language assistant.

I searched this past month (in 2021) to see how easily appointments are in the province of A Coruña (which also contains cities such as Ferrol and Santiago de Compostela) and whether appointments are available as early as the same week or the following week. You will have a bit of extra time in terms of submitting your documents for the TIE at the police station but if you still need to gather a specific document, I would not book the appointment just yet.

If the certificado de padrón is on your list of things to do before your appointment and you have found a place to live, make the appointment at the Ayuntamiento de A Coruña – Concello da Coruña’s website. Choose the office that would be the most convenient for you to go to such as María Pita, the Fórum Metropolitano, or the Ágora. I chose the Ágora on Avenida Gramela, 17 because it was about a 5-minute walk from my apartment on nearby Calle Barcelona.

The office inside Plaza de María Pita (the fancy domed building dominating the architecture in the square) would be more convenient if you lived in the city center or old town as it’s referred to. Next, select the type of trámite (paperwork process) you need to do and in this case, it will be Certificados Padrón Sin Modificación de Datos. It will take you to a calendar page to choose the day and time after you hit submit and then ask for your personal information.

**Note and some good news: you can apply for the padrón and register yourself at an address with just your passport number as proof of ID. Select the Pasaporte No Español option when categorizing your ID. Just remember to go back to the office to modify your information and change it to your NIE by presenting your brand-new TIE once you obtain it. You can’t register for things and maintain them in Spain long-term under a foreign passport.

If you want to get other tips from people who have done this process recently or to ask questions, join this Facebook group for Auxiliares in Coruña.

For more links to other Extranjerías in Galicia or elsewhere, go check out the full list here.

In the Comunidad de Madrid

The Immigration – Police Station near Metro Aluche (or oftentimes referred to as Dante’s Inferno) is a place that most foreigners go to at least once during their stays in Madrid. Not always, though! (May 2021)

As I was told one time by the Ministerio de Educación when asking about my placement in Madrid, you should armarse con mucha paciencia (have lots of patience) if you are applying for your initial card here. And five years later, it still proves true today.

The biggest issue, since the pandemic started, has been getting an appointment for any type of visit to a government office. Social Security, Hacienda, municipal offices, you name it. (Offices you don’t exactly have to visit any time soon.) Although I must say that even though the backlog is still very apparent at some city offices, things have improved greatly in the last nine months. The key thing to keep in mind when booking appointments in Madrid is the time of day when you look for one.

Getting an appointment for things like submitting paperwork, booking fingerprints or picking up your new student stay card have been the most difficult parts of the whole process. My best advice to you would be to look at various times during the day and night. While the office in Aluche will tell you that they upload new time slots every day at midnight, from experience, every day between 8 am and 10 am is more accurate. Also, take this advice with a grain of salt, and anyone else who happens to tell you that the best time to look is on Thursday evenings at 7 pm for example.

Truth be told, anyone who has secured an appointment before you could cancel it at any time. And whoever scooped up that person’s canceled appointment at that lucky moment in time, happened to be just that: lucky. To recap, appointments can be canceled at any point in time so if you are having trouble finding an appointment for days on end, just remember that any time slot (between the hours of 9 am – 2 pm or 3-6 pm, double-check the hours for the office in your specific city) could pop up unexpectedly due to cancellation. There is no official magic time. It just depends greatly on who you talk to and what part of Spain they live in.

I always had the most success when looking on a Monday morning (or early in the week) before or around 9 am. Or the day after a national holiday when people were less likely to be on their appointment-setting game. Just know that they will go quickly (in seconds sometimes!) if you’re looking to go to the office on Avenida de los Poblados (Aluche).

Pro-tip: You don’t have to make your appointment at the office in Aluche. You can go anywhere inside the Comunidad de Madrid as long as you can make it there via public transportation and come back to the same place to pick up your card once it’s ready. I have been to the police station in Coslada before and had a good experience there. Other offices that friends have spoken well of are Arganda del Rey, Parla and Torrejón de Ardoz.

You will make a cita previa on the same appointment booking platform that has been mentioned throughout this post. From experience, it’s best to arrive at the office where you’ll be submitting your paperwork about 30 minutes early. Aim for an hour before the time (which is generally just a placeholder as the lines can be ridiculously long) if you are going to go to Aluche. Be sure to have your appointment confirmation email accessible to show them that you do have a cita previa booked and at what time.

If you have any lingering questions that you’d like to ask before a bigger audience (and I mean huge), join the Madrid Auxiliar Facebook Group which has been around since 2010. There are over 20,000 members (myself included) and is full of useful information, individual cases, apartment searching, and paperwork tips, and more. Just make sure you search the group before asking a question as it’s highly likely it’s already been asked – official group rules!

A lesser shared piece of advice for the appointment itself inside the Immigration Center in Aluche: be nice and polite towards the officers and workers there. I think they tend to get a bad rap (although there have been some positively mean people who worked there before) and lots of applicants aren’t nice to them so they are used to that.

They are curt and to the point but I think they are also more used to people not being nice to them at all due to the large variety of cultures that pass through their doors. Do the best you can to be nice, communicate to the best of your ability in Spanish and smile. I’ve found that I have a better experience if I maintain a friendly attitude and I have gotten a couple of nicer workers at the tables I’ve been assigned to in these past couple of years. They’re not used to people understanding them well or being friendly to them so it can take them off guard when someone does act like that.

They’re used to dealing with accents of all types and people from many different backgrounds so everyone is a little nervous when they go down there. Why not break the ice with a smile?

Documents You’ll Need

This is just the beginning of your Spanish paperwork trail but papers like the one above will soon look familiar one day.
  • Copy of the Spanish Consulate-issued visa (affixed to a blank page in your passport)
  • Copy of the first two ID pages of your passport (and the physical passport itself)
  • Completed and signed EX-17 form and a copy (print and fill out both copies)
  • Carta de nombramiento or acceptance letter from university
  • Proof of financial means to support yourself during your stay (for language assistants this is your carta de nombramiento)
  • Proof of health insurance for your time in Spain (this is also included in your letter –carta – if you will be a language assistant – auxiliar de conversación
  • Empadronamiento or proof of address (such as electricity, water, gas or phone bill in your name)
  • Your State or FBI Background check with Apostille (and translation into Spanish)
  • Two recent carnet (ID-sized) photographs (you can go to any one of these photo booths around most cities)
  • Filled out and proof of payment of tasa (fee)
    • (Modelo 790 Código 012), underneath the category, Tarjetas de Identidad (TIE) y certificados de registro de residentes comunitarios, select the line TIE que documenta la primera concesión de la autorización de residencia temporal, de estancia o para trabajadores transfronterizos. The current fee is 16.08€ (as of March 2023)

Optional: declaración de entrada en España (if you landed in another EU country first and therefore did not receive an entry stamp into Spain to officially activate your visa)

Note: If you didn’t receive your N.I.E (número de identidad de extranjero or foreigner’s ID number) printed on your Spanish student visa from the Consulate General of Spain, you will need to fill out and turn in the EX-15 form to an Extranjería or Comisaría first before you can do any of the following steps. And remember, when you are filling out the above form, leave the line for the NIE blank since the number has yet to be assigned to you.

Cost to assign NIE (optional): 9,84€ (May 2022)

Your Appointment Day

The hard copy of my confirmed appointment for my regular residency card back in May 2021. Digital copies are now accepted but if the funcionario (civil servant) looking at your application that day is in a bad mood they might frown upon it. Print it out for backup or if your phone battery dies!

One of your first citas previas in Spain has arrived. If you stay here as long as I have, you will get very used to these! I wish I could say that the Spanish bureaucratic processes get easier as time goes on but they don’t. And my biggest tip for you is to just maintain an attitude of over-preparedness when it comes to applying for visas and work permits.

It’s okay if you made extra copies of a document or brought extra pens or even bought a fancy, waterproof folder. Whatever you need to do to make yourself feel confident on the day of your appointment, do it. That includes bringing someone with you to help you with Spanish if need be (although a lot of offices aren’t allowing third parties to attend appointments nowadays). Preparing yourself both physically and mentally makes a difference when it comes to how confident you’ll feel on the day.

This part is where your experience can vary greatly so bear that in mind.

There will likely be some sort of line outside the police station where you plan to go or a checkpoint just before you step into the building and go to the waiting area for appointments. If that’s the case, plan accordingly for the weather that day and bring a book or a portable charger for your phone to keep you occupied. Or make a new friend in line if you choose to do that.

All government buildings in Spain have security checkpoints so you will have to put your bag or other personal belongings through a screener and then you will have to walk through a metal detector, much like the ones you see in airports.

In 2021 (and possibly 2022), you will be asked to use some of the hand sanitizers near the door and your temperature may be taken. You must wear your mask over your nose and mouth at all times inside the office.

Let the security guard know when you walk in that you have a confirmed appointment (some may ask to see the form) and before you put your stuff through the screener. Take out your keys and phone and put them inside your bag before placing them on the conveyor belt.

You may have to take a number from a machine once inside the waiting area or you may not. There will usually be instructions posted above or next to the machine or a physical person might be there to help direct you to where you need to go. Remember to keep your distance (2m /6 ft) from people inside the building.

Now for the easier yet more difficult part: your number is called or it’s your turn to approach one of the Mesas (tables). At this point, you will have to communicate with another person in Spanish. You likely won’t have to tell them why you’re there that day but you will have to hand them specific documents that they will need to review and scan. Or stack them in a pile to hand over to someone else in order for the card to be made.

Now that I’ve done this part many times, I usually arrange the documents either in the order they list them on the website or in my letter. I recommend you do this as well. But always pay close attention to which papers they’re picking up or asking for and don’t be afraid to confirm that they do have a specific document.

(This year while renewing my card, the worker forgot to take the updated photographs I had taken that day for the new one. But another person at the back of the office told me that if his coworker didn’t ask for them, I didn’t need them. So I’ve now had the same photo for over 2 years.)

In 2023, when I renewed my residency card for the last time for a long time, they requested a new photo from me. At long last.

Now for getting the fingerprints taken themselves. They have a little white box hooked up to their computers at either the right or the left-hand side of their desk. They will ask you to place your finger (usually the right one, el dedo derecho) on the screen once it lights up in green. You do not have to do your thumb (el pulgar) or at least I was not asked for it the last time I did fingerprints. The first time they tell you to place your fingers on the screen, you will do just that. The second time the screen lights up green, they will ask you to gently roll your finger (whichever order they ask) as if you were rolling and twisting it onto the side of a lightbulb or another object.

Since this will be your first ID card in Spain, they will need you to submit your signature by signing a little sticker which they will affix to your application. Just do your best and make sure it’s clear and readable.

Once you’ve done all that, you are finished! They will either give you a piece of paper called a resguardo (receipt) at the same desk or tell you to go to a specific desk to pick it up (the latter is what happens at the office in Aluche). They will also verbally tell you how long it will be before your card will be ready for pickup. You will also see signs somewhere inside the office indicating how long it is currently taking them to make ID cards.

Whatever you do: DO NOT lose the resguardo. I’ll explain below what you’ll need to be able to pick up the physical card and I’ve never lost it myself so I don’t even want to know what happens if you do. It contains all the information they need to make your card and states how long your card will be valid for (an important date to note). It will be valid until the last day of your program. For most of the regions in Spain, it will be valid until May 31st of the following year. For auxiliares working in Madrid, it will be valid until June 30th, which will be your last day at your school. If you’ve applied for a university or Master’s program, the expiration date will likely be in the spring or early summer around the time your exams finish.

Inside the Atocha Cercanías Station (June 2021)

After the Process & Waiting Period

Something I always liked doing when I applied for or renewed my student stay card was to get a tapa, snack, or hot beverage after I turned in my paperwork. What I found by doing that was that celebrating small wins helps tremendously when you’re dealing with paperwork and bureaucracy in Spain. I encourage you to do the same and if your appointment is in the late morning, why not get a glass of wine or a caña to celebrate all your hard work?

You’re in Spain after all, aren’t you?

In the meantime, you could work on opening a bank account, continue hunting for a permanent place to live, take a day trip or plan some activities to help your students get to know you during your first few weeks in Spain.

I would love to say that this process is 100% finished for you but there are a couple more things to note after you turn in your TIE application and do your fingerprints.

Remember the first appointment you set?

Well, you’re going to have to set another one thanks to capacity limits and pandemic restrictions all across Spain.

The good thing is that you’ll go to the same booking platform (look familiar yet?!) you went to when you made the initial appointment. However, this time, after you select your corresponding province and the office where you had your first appointment -don’t choose a different one!- on the drop-down menu select Policia – Recogida de Tarjeta de Identidad de Extranjero (TIE). I’d recommend you check the availability, especially for Madrid and Barcelona, a couple of weeks before your card will be ready for pickup just to see what’s available.

At the police station, an officer likely told you how long you will have to wait before you can pick up your card. It could be anywhere from 30 days to 35 or even 45. (Extreme delay during the pandemic pushed it up to 60 days at one point in Madrid in 2021 but that’s not the case now).

The sweet spot is to wait around 30 days after your appointment and when you got the resguardo or receipt your application was accepted for processing. You can also look at the bottom of your form for the Lote (batch) number and watch for it to come up in the comments in the Facebook groups to see if the office has gotten to your group or passed it.

Tip: Make a copy of this receipt for your personal records.

Remember to bring these three things to the appointment:

  • Passport
  • Appointment Print-Out (or show a digital copy of email)
  • Resguardo (Receipt)

If you forget any one of the items on the list above, they’ll turn you away and you’ll have to make another appointment and trip to pick up your long-awaited card. But, if you did bring all those items, you’re in luck. And this last part will be over in a short amount of time.

You’ll likely be asked to wait in a separate line for TIE card pick-ups and might be asked to do your fingerprints at a different desk to verify your identity. It depends on the specific procedures at each Extranjería office.

Well, that’s it! I hope this post has proved to be helpful and that you have your very first student stay TIE in your hands sooner than you had hoped to have gotten it!

Hopefully, you’ll still be smiling after this strenuous process is over! Remember your marvelous journey in Spain has just begun. (Photo taken August 2020 and I was still smiling even during an ongoing global pandemic.)

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Have you applied for a student stay card (tarjeta de identidad de extranjero, estancia por estudios?) in another region of Spain? What was the process like and what was different about it? If you have any questions you’d like to ask, let me know in the comments or email me!

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