Moving to Spain to work? Find out if you need a visa or permit to work in Spain, and the procedures for applying for your Spanish work permit.
Certain nationalities require a Spanish work visa to legally live and work in Spain. There are a number of different types of Spanish work permits, as well as exemptions, depending on your employment situation.
The Spanish work permit is closely linked to your residence status in Spain. In most cases, you must arrange a job before applying for a permit to move to Spain.
Do you need a work visa in Spain?
Moving to Spain as an EU/EEA or Switzerland is simple; you can live and work in Spain without restriction.
Most non-EU citizens need a work permit. There are some exceptions, such as academics or close relatives who are joining family members working in Spain.
Working in Spain as an employee
Before you can get a work permit, you must first get a job. For information and advice on getting a job in Spain, see our guide to finding a job in Spain.
After you have secured a job, your employer must request a work permit for you to legally work in Spain. This is granted if the job is a Shortage Occupation or if the vacancy was advertised and there were no other suitable candidates from the EU. After authorization, you can apply for a visa.
Your employer submits an application for a work permit to the provincial office of the Ministry of Labor (Delegación Provincial del Ministerio de Trabajo e Inmigración) on your behalf.
While this is being processed, you get a copy of the application with the stamp from that office and file number. You can send it to the Spanish embassy as part of your visa application. The embassy informs the regional labor office that it has your application and the labor office processes your application.
It can take up to eight months to process a work permit application. Once the labor office approves the work permit, the embassy issues your work and residence visa.
A work permit is valid for one year and is renewable as long as you fulfill the conditions.
Permits are available for specific sectors, so it’s usually possible to change jobs as long as it’s in the same field. After five years you can apply for long-term residence; see even more in our guide to visas in Spain.
Exemptions for employee work permits in Spain
Some people don’t need a work permit to undertake employment in Spain. However, they may still need a visa to enter Spain.
These include university professors, technicians, and scientists, those coming to Spain to develop scientific or cultural programs, foreign journalists, artists coming for specific performances, clergy, and trade union officials.
There are no visa or work permit restrictions if you want to come to Spain to carry out voluntary work.
Visas for seasonal workers in Spain
To work in seasonal employment in Spain, you need a work permit and visa. However, in addition, you’ll need to show that:
- you have suitable accommodation,
- your travel costs are covered, and
- you will return to your home country after the seasonal contract ends.
The permit will last as long as the duration of the contract.
Visas for au pairs in Spain
You must apply for an entry visa (if necessary) and get the special residence permit for au pairs from the Spanish consulate or embassy in your home country before coming to Spain.
You must also fulfill certain conditions, for example, you must:
- be between 17 and 30,
- possess an au pair agreement between you and the host family setting out details of the work and salary, and
- have proof that you can support yourself as well as medical cover.
The year-long permit may be renewed subject to you meeting the conditions.
EU Blue Card
If you have a higher education qualification that took at least three years to complete that allows you to work at a high level in a professional capacity, or have a minimum of five years’ professional experience at the same level, then you can apply for an EU Blue Card.
You also need a work contract or legally-binding job offer. The job must have a salary of at least 1.5 times (or 1.2 times for jobs that are in particular demand) the average wage in Spain.
The employer submits the application on your behalf along with documentation about the job, evidence that no EU citizen could fill the position, and information about your qualifications and passport/ID and health insurance for Spain.
Once the EU Blue Card is granted, you must apply to the Spanish embassy in your home country for a visa. You’ll need your passport, medical certificate, no criminal record certificate and a copy of the job contract. When you have the visa, you have three months to come to Spain.
The Blue Card is valid for a year and is renewable for as long as you still meet the conditions.
Once you have an EU Blue Card, you can travel to other EU states for up to three months within a six-month period. After 18 months, you can move to another EU state but you must apply for an EU Card there.
If you have held a Blue Card issued by another EU member state for 18 months, you have the right to move to Spain and apply for a Spanish EU Blue Card. You or your employer can apply either before you arrive in Spain or within a month of entering the country.
Self-employed and freelance workers in Spain
If you want to come to Spain and work independently, you have to apply for a work permit from the Spanish embassy in your home country. You’ll have to provide certain documents, which may include the following:
- a business plan (if appropriate);
- evidence that you have the appropriate finances to invest in it or support yourself;
- proof that you have the skills or experience to do the work;
- any contracts or commissions from companies;
- any licenses or registrations required to carry out the work in Spain;
- information about potential to create employment in Spain.
Once you have the work and residence permit, you can apply for a visa to enter Spain, if necessary. Find out if you need an entry visa in our guide to Spanish visas.
Work permits, which may be limited to specific activities and locations, are valid for a year and are renewable if you still fulfill the conditions. After five years you can apply for long-term residence.
Students working in Spain
If you have a student residence card, you can work up to 20 hours a week during your studies in Spain. Your employer must arrange a work permit on your behalf.
For more information, see our guide to Spanish student visas.
Family members: who can work?
Family members can join non-EU relatives who have been living in Spain for one year and hold a residence permit for a further year, by applying for a family reunification residence permit. Once approved, family members can work without a work permit.
Non-EU relatives of EU/EEA/Swiss citizens can come to Spain without waiting for a year and can also work without a permit. However, if any of these family members wish to stay in Spain on their own separate residence permit and work, their employer must apply for a work permit on their behalf.
Family members of EU Blue Card holders can apply for a temporary residence permit without waiting for a year, as long as the conditions for reunification are met. They can also work without a work permit.
For more information on family reunification, see moving to Spain to join a relative or partner.
Once you arrive in Spain
Foreigner’s Identity Card (TIE/NIE)
When you arrive in Spain, you must apply for a Foreigner’s Identity Card/number (TIE/NIE) through the local Foreigner’s Office (Oficina de Extranjeros) or police within 30 days. The NIE is necessary for all financial and administrative procedures in Spain. These include opening a bank account, receiving salary, registering for social services, paying taxes, buying Spanish property, and applying for a Spanish driver’s license.
Everyone working in Spain must register with the Spanish Social Security authorities, the General Social Security Fund (Dirección General de la Tesorería General de la Seguridad Social – TGSS). If you are an employee your employer will do this for you; if you are self-employed it is your responsibility. See their website for information on how to register, contributions and benefits. There are provincial offices throughout Spain.