Spanishized: The surprisingly painless unemployment experience
Signing up for unemployment as a foreigner in Spain was surprisingly easy US expat Michelle discovered – if only the job hunt process would go as smoothly.
Signing up for unemployment is the easy part – the actual experience of being unemployed, however, is another story. But for now, what I can share is my experience of adding to the more than 20 percent national unemployment rate.
Now you may be thinking, “Great. A foreigner adding to the already blown-out-of-proportion percentage.” However, I have to say that no one has complained that I’ve been paying about a third of my salary to the government since 2006 – I guess I’m seeing a little Return On Investment (ROI) now.
As an American living legally in Spain and after having gone through all of the bureaucratic red tape involved in the various government processes, I was expecting the worst. I guess I should have remembered that signing up for unemployment, 'paro' as it’s called here, isn’t a foreigner-only process. Let’s just say that If I had known it were this easy to sign up, I would have thought about it a long time ago (emphasis on 'thought about').
There are a few steps that have to happen before you are officially on paro.
Getting unemployment benefits in Spain
1. You have to get laid off
Now, maybe this is something you’re expecting or hoping for, or it comes as a complete surprise. In my case, with global restructuring and centralisation, let’s just say drastic country workforce reduction (aka an 'ERE' as they call it here) wasn’t exactly a surprise. Still don’t do something crazy to get fired; you have to be laid off in a good way, not as a disgruntled employee gone mad throwing patas de jamón (aka ham lags) around the office.
2. You must have worked legally and paid social security for at least 12 months
If you’ve been working legally, you’ve probably sadly noticed how far away your salario bruto is from the net amount you take home every month.
3. You need to get an 'unemployment card'
In order to get this you have to go to one of the employment offices and sign up. It’s really easy – no appointment needed. You just have to bring your NIE, social security information, proof of any studies (although they didn’t even want to see my diplomas when I went, as much as I was waiting to show them), and that’s about it. You can read more information here: www.citapreviainem.es.
4. You need to make an appointment to officially sign up
You’re allowed 15 days (not including Sundays and holidays) from the first day of unemployment to sign up. What I didn’t realise is that you can sign up for an appointment online whenever you like. I waited until after getting the unemployment card (DARDE) and was given a date dangerously close to the deadline. You can sign up here: sede.sepe.gob.es.
5. Sign up to receive your unemployment payments
On the actual appointment day, you’ll need to go with all your official paperwork from your company (or they may have already sent it electronically) and your libro de familia (if you were married in Spain or have children), as well as your NIE, and any other required paperwork. Overall, the signup experience was pretty smooth and painless. And thank goodness for the internet to figure out how to go about everything (forget about asking HR).
I have to say I was also impressed with the channel-transition. When I signed up for an appointment online, I received an online confirmation and a number. Then, when I went to the employment office on the day of my appointment, I was happy to see that there was an electronic board flashing numbers, and the one they had given me for that time was just about to be called. Even the woman handling my case was quite pleasant. Once again, I seemed to have brought with me more information than was actually needed.
About a week later, I received a letter in the mail confirming my paro for a year and a half. Note: I think the longest you can receive paro for is up to two years depending on how long you’ve been working (back to the high unemployment rate…).
If being laid off was rough, at least they made signing up for unemployment pretty easy.
Note: I’ve never been on unemployment in the US, so I can’t compare the experience there. If you have any thoughts, feel free to comment below.
Michelle Amato is a Bostonian living in Spain since 2006. She loves meeting new people and sharing her many expat experiences such as getting working papers, having a baby, marrying a Spaniard, getting robbed and more. Michelle is a bilingual marketing professional. Find her on Facebook.
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