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, and in most cases, a job will need to be arranged before you can apply for a permit to move to Spain.
Do you need a work visa in Spain?
If you’re from the EU/EEA or Switzerland, you can live and work in Spain without restriction.
Most non-EU citizens will need a work permit, although there are some exceptions, such as academics or scientists working on specific projects, or close relatives who are joining family members who have been working in Spain for a year or more.
Working in Spain as an employee
After you have secured a job, your employer must request authorization – a work permit – for you to legally work in Spain. This will be granted if the job is listed as a Shortage Occupation or if the vacancy has been advertised and there are no other suitable candidates from Spain or the EU. Once authorization to work has been granted, which will be combined with your residence permit, you can apply for a visa.
Your employer will submit an application for a work permit to the provincial office of the Ministry of Labour (Delegación Provincial del Ministerio de Trabajo e Inmigración) on your behalf.
While this is being processed, you’ll be sent a copy of the application with the stamp from that office and file number. You can send it onto the Spanish embassy or consulate as part of your application for a work and residence visa. The embassy will inform the regional labor office that it has your application and the labor office will start to process your application.
It can take up to eight months to process a work permit application, so plan well ahead. Once the labor office has approved the work permit, the embassy or consulate will issue your work and residence visa.
A work permit is valid for one year and is renewable as long as you still fulfill the conditions.
Permits are granted for specific sectors, so it’s usually possible to change jobs as long as you’ll be working in the same field. After five years you can apply for long-term residence (see Expatica’s guide to permanent visas in Spain).
Exemptions for employee work permits in Spain
Some people don’t need a work permit to undertake employment in Spain, but they may still need to apply for a visa or residence permit to come to Spain.
These include university professors, technicians and scientists, those invited to Spain to develop scientific or cultural programs, foreign journalists, artists coming for specific performances, clergy and internationally recognized 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’ll need to obtain a work permit and visa in the same way as other workers. 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 aged between 17 and 30,
- possess an au pair agreement between you and the host family setting out details of the work and financial recompense, 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 (for example, a bachelor’s degree) which 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’ll also need to have a work contract or legally binding job offer, and the job in question 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 will submit the application on your behalf along with documentation about the job, evidence (where appropriate) that no Spaniard or EU citizen was available to fill the position, and information about your qualifications and passport/ID and health insurance.
Once the EU Blue Card work/residence permit is granted, you must apply to the Spanish consulate or 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 will have to apply for an EU Card in that country.
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 consulate or 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 licences 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 complete guide to Spanish visas and permits.
Work permits, which may be limited to specific activities and locations, are valid for a year and are renewable if you still fulfil the conditions. After five years you can apply for long-term residence (see link to Staying on in Spain).
Students working in Spain
If you have a student residence card, you are allowed to work up to 20 hours a week for the duration of your study in Spain as long as it does not interfere with your studies. Your employer must arrange a work permit on your behalf.
For more information, see study in Spain: Spanish student visas and permits.
Family members – who can work?
Family members can join non-EU relatives who have been living and working 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 will need to 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 Station within 30 days. The NIE is needed for all financial and administrative procedures in Spain, including opening a bank account, being paid for employment, registering for social services, paying taxes, buying a property, and applying for a 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.