A row between the Secretariat of Labour and Immigration and the Central Police Station is threatening to discourage hundreds of potential property buyers from taking the plunge. The former has ruled, against the opinion of the latter, that the obligatory NIE numbers can no longer be applied by representatives with a power of attorney and so personal attendance is mandatory (as from the 3rd Jan 2012).
Although the reason behind the disagreement appears to be how both Government offices interpret a particular norm, the consequences can be devastating given that NIE numbers are now required for almost anything and many people will just not feel that Spain is a country worth investing in if you need to queue up at 6 AM at police stations, get a ticket, walk to a specific bank to pay the fee and then go back to the police station to apply for the number: buying property, setting up a business, signing up for a job and many other legal matters just don’t deserve this third-world treatment. In Madrid, a city that aspires to become a European financial hub, you can expect a 3 month wait for an appointment to apply for the NIE.
Also, there is a total lack of uniformity in what documentation is required: for EU and Non-EU citizens alike, some police stations in the Costa Blanca are asking for notarized documents of the property one wishes to buy, others will accept a reservation contract (original or copy) and proof of payment of deposit and if you are not around to pick the number up, you will have to give an official power of attorney to someone if you are in Ibiza. The random nature of documentation requirements is perplexing to professionals and unbearable to investors.
Spanish Consulates, not particularly equipped to assist investors, have been commissioned to process applications and return an NIE number within 5 working days (RD 557/2011), a tall order for some of such offices not used to dull admin work. And that is if you have a consulate nearby, as cost-cutting has meant that the Spanish Government has closed many (e.g. Manchester and Hamburg), so if you happen to be a billionaire currently in Vladivostok looking at buying a property for a zillion euros that you have already visited and reserved, and you are told that you need to fly to Moscow, or back to Marbella, to apply for the NIE that you forgot to get whilst property hunting, then Spain has a problem.
The property industry is dismayed by what are probably the weirdest, craziest and most idiotic laws around Europe, and is hoping that as with most things, common sense will ultimately prevail.