Boasting some of Europe’s most beautiful landscapes, Spain is one of the most important economies in the European Union. Madrid and Barcelona are home to important multinational companies, including Amazon, McDonald’s, Microsoft, and Oracle. Known for its work-life balance, Spain is a talent hotspot for companies looking to hire top talent internationally.
Spain has a lot to offer for those who want to immigrate to the country for work. It has some of the best and most mild weather year-round, and ranks as one of the best countries for work/life balance globally. For Mexicans, Colombians, and other Latin Americans, working in Spain is especially appealing, as the official language is Spanish.
However, as a foreigner, hoping to be approved for a work visa in Spain, the process can be lengthy–up to 8 months. Most of the time, expats will need to provide proof that they have specific skills and meet required conditions, making them an asset for the business.
This article gives foreigners a general guide of how to apply and qualify for work visas and permits in Spain, as well as gives employers information about what steps they need to complete to hire foreigners in the country.
A Spanish work visa allows foreigners to live and work within the country. These visas are also known as residence permits. To be approved for a work visa means that you will be approved for a residence permit.
Without a work visa, a company cannot legally employ non-EU citizens. If you are an EU citizen, EEA resident, or are from Switzerland, you can live and work in Spain without going through the lengthy process of approval for a work visa.
A Spanish work permit proves that a foreigner has a job offer pending within the country. The work permit process must be started by the employer before the individual enters and moves to Spain.
Work permit applications can take up to 8 months to process, and foreigners will need to go to the Spanish embassy or consulate in their home country to begin the application. The Ministry of Labour in Spain must approve the Spanish work permit and all the required documents before the move to Spain. After approval, the Spanish government officially issues the work and residence permit.
There are a few main types of Spanish visas that non-EU citizens can apply for. Approval for a visa in Spain will depend on the person’s home country, residence status, and their pending employment situation. Almost all Spanish visas will need a pending job offer with proof of an employment contract and application from the future employer to be considered a suitable candidate for a Spanish visa.
Visas are valid for one year in Spain and can be renewed for up to five years. After five years, foreigners have the option to apply for permanent residence.
There are a few different types of Spanish work visas, and most of them require the Spanish employer to submit and begin the application form on behalf of the employees.
The most common visa is for highly-skilled employees. For foreigners to be approved for this visa, they will need to go online to the Spanish government’s visa site and look at the “Shortage occupation” list. This will tell you what types of workers in specific fields have shortages of workers. Employers will need to request a work visa from the Ministry of Labour on behalf of the employee applying.
To apply for a visa and permit in Spain, there are a few steps that need to be completed:
Apply for a resident permit and a Foreigners Identity number within 30 days of moving to Spain
Need an NIE for opening a bank account, receiving salary, registering for social security, and paying taxes
Must register for the country’s General Social Security fund if self-employed (or have your employer register for you)
Another option for foreigners is to apply for a freelance or digital nomad visa.
Foreigners who plan to work and live in Spain either as self-employed (such as a consultant or freelancer) need to complete the following requirements:
Need to apply at a Spanish consulate or embassy
Prove that you have sufficient funds to be be living in Spain through financial records
Prove that you have the skills relevant to your job with experience, which might include showing certificates of higher education
Have a business plan if necessary
Show any job contracts or commissions from companies if applicable
Show any required license or registrations
All Spanish visas and work permits are valid for 1 year and must be renewed after each year for up to 5 years.
Beckhams Law is a Special Expats Tax Regime (SETR) for foreigners and their families. It was recently introduced to attract talent and qualified workers to Spain.
The tax law gives foreign workers that move to Spain a fixed tax rate of 24% on total income up to $600,000 EUR ($644,00 USD) generated in Spain in their first 6 years in the country.
Expats can apply if they meet any of the following criteria:
Have not been a tax resident in Spain in the past 5 years
Have a pending employment offer before entering the country, a Spanish digital nomad visa, or are the director of a company located in Spain with less than 25% of its shares
Will perform all work in Spain. If they have to work abroad, their work can be no more than 15% of their total activity
Do not receive income that would qualify as obtained from a permanent establishment in Spain
Must apply for a special tax regime within 6 months of registering with the Spanish social security system
For expats that want to find a job in Spain from countries like the United States, you will need to think about what skills you have that make you stand out in the visa application. Many employers use specific job websites to find potential candidates. Having Spanish language skills will make the job process easier and help you stand out as a noteworthy applicant. Keep in mind that speaking Spanish will also make living and working in Spain more comfortable.
Employees will almost always need to have a pending job offer to apply for a work permit. However, there are a few different job fields that will allow employees to surpass the work permit application. These fields include university professors, special technicians, and scientists and have specific education requirements to be approved for this type of visa in Spain.
Some expats who are joining family members that already have an approved work permit can be exempt from needing a work permit, but will need to apply for a residence visa.
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To get a work permit in Spain, your future employer will need to begin and submit an application to the Ministry of Labour for approval. The permit and visa application process can take around 8 months to be approved, so making sure you get a head start by having your employer submit the correct documents early. This will increase the changes that your work permit application goes through before you move.
You will almost always need to have a work permit to be employed in Spain as a foreigner. The only fields that will allow expats to work in the country without a work permit are university professors, specialized technicians, and scientists.
Spain is one of the more challenging countries for non-EU citizens to obtain a work visa. The country has high unemployment rates, so they favor giving jobs to Spanish citizens over expats. To receive a work visa in Spain you will need to prove that you have specialized skills that will add to the Spanish workforce. The application process also takes 8 months to complete, so you will need to plan according to this timeline.
The cost of a work visa and permit application in Spain ranges from 80-120 EUR.