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Getting Your Digital Certificate In Spain

One of the aspects of living in Spain that always surprises me is just how up to date Spain is in terms of technology. For example, banking in Spain is way more advanced than in Canada – with just a few clicks I can send money to any other person in the EU using their IBAN number. Credit cards can easily be added to Apple or Android pay (unlike in North America where some banks are still holding out, trying to release their own competing services), and payments can even be split up over multiple months (not that this is a good thing, but it’s neat that they at least have the option).

Another area which is great to see some movement is in cryptography. Spain allows you to obtain a digital certificate which essentially can be used to verify your identity, cryptographically, when using websites online. I hardly know anyone who has done this, probably because it’s a bit complex, but it has a ton of advantages – for example, once you have a digital certificate you can skip going in person to many government offices for simple items, like getting another copy of your empadronamiento. I’ve even been told that once I obtain my digital certificate I can even renew my non-lucrative visa by submitting, and cryptographically signing (which proves my identify), all my documents.

The process for obtaining a certificate is as follows:

  • Visit the website, and start the process for a personal certificate (for a legal person, not a business or representative). You’ll need to enter your name and enter your NIE number. Start the process now.
  • Once done, you’ll receive an email with a 9 digit confirmation number. Next you have to visit a social security office in person with your residency card, passport, and confirmation information from the previous step. Once they verify you are who you say you are, they’ll activate your certificate, which you can later install on your computer. This step essentially links your physical identification to your digital one.
  • After you can download your certificate and install it on your computer, allowing websites to verify your identify.
Confirmation from the Certificate Request

Confirmation from the Certificate Request

A few days after I did this, I visited the social security office here in Valencia on Calle Colón. I told the receptionist I needed my digital certificate, after which they led me to a seating area on the second floor. After about ten minutes my number was called, and I went to the designated desk.

Once there, I gave the individual my original print-out, along with my TIE card and my passport. He typed things into his computer for a few minutes, then explained that I would receive an email shortly with the information I needed.

Sure enough, as I was walking out the front door of the social security office I received an email with a link to download my digital certificate. I downloaded the certificate and right away put a copy on Dropbox so I would never lose it. The website says the certificate only works in Firefox and IE I believe – since I use Chrome mostly, I downloaded a copy of Firefox and installed it. Once in Firefox, I went into the Certificates section in the settings and installed the one they gave me. You should see something similar to what I have here, showing an installed certificate from FNMT-RCM.

Installed Certificate

Uses For The Certificate

If you’re looking to make use of your shiny new certificate, here are a few articles with how you can use it.


  1. Thank you, Duane, for writing this up for us. As a retired IT professional I too am impressed with the use of technology in the banking and government sectors, but also the warm attitude of staff members helping those who are not too savvy, or in my case, don’t have much vocabulary to navigate the systems.

    I applied online for my certificate around midnight on Saturday night. On Monday morning I went to the location recommended when I entered my mail code on the web page, a 4-minute walk from my apartment, showed the security guard my printout. He told me I needed an appointment and offered to help me make one. Remember my comment about helpful staff members? He showed me how to do it, asked if tomorrow was OK, I said yes, he showed me the times available and I selected 9 am.

    I went today at 9 am and the same guard showed me how to check in, get my ticket and wait until my number showed up on the screen. When it did I went to the desk indicated and showed my letter, passport and residence card and the staff member asked me a couple of questions (like which name is your first last name) and confirmed my residence address.
    He then told me in great detail how it worked which I understood from Duane’s post and I was on my way. I walked out the front door at 9:07 am and as Duane said, my phone dinged notifying me of the incoming email with certificate download and install instructions.

    The certificate is installed and backed up in two cloud locations. I look forward to using it on taxes and visa renewal. We have been in Spain for almost two months now and life here exceeds my expectations. We live in Astorga (León) a small city along the Camino de Santiago and moved here from the US.

    • Congrats! Glad this post was useful for someone. I know Leon and Astorga – I walked the Camino de Santiago a few years ago, and spent a few days resting in Leon. I remember walking through Astorga and wishing I had more time there.

  2. I followed your instruction – spot on. I’m in Santiago de Compostela and booked an appointment at the social security office at 9:30am and it went rather smoothly. except, I had put my full name in instead of just my last name and so that created problems. But the guy working there was very nice and with my non-existent Spanish he asked me if I had a laptop and if I could do it again in front of him. Sure enough, he noticed that I was using my full name which is why he couldn’t pull me up. All done, certificate downloaded.

  3. Hey Duane,

    Do you know if I can get my first time empadronamiento using this digital certificate or if it will only be useful for obtaining a new copy?

    Also does the digital certificate expire?

    • I think it’s mostly only for obtaining a copy of it. You might be able to change your padron later on using it, but I think it’s mostly just to get a new copy.

  4. Thank You Duane, Extremely Helpful even if I did struggle with the Spanish / Browser configurations.
    Can the one certificate be used for both myself and my wife or are separate installs required do you know?

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