Healthplan Spain


Working in Spain: A Foreigner's Legal Guide Expat Tips

Spain has, for many years, been a very popular destination for those seeking to live and work abroad.

There are a multitude of advantages to working in Spain, including a high standard of living, access to a diverse job market, plus the opportunity to immerse yourself in a rich cultural tapestry. However, before embarking on this exciting journey, it is crucial to navigate the legal landscape effectively. Understanding the necessary permits, work visas, and compliance with Spanish labour laws is essential to ensure a smooth transition into the Spanish workforce.

If you're a foreigner with ambitions of working in this captivating country, you may be looking for answers to the many questions you have regarding the legal requirements and procedures involved.

This article aims to provide you with the essential information you need to legally work in Spain as a foreigner. We will explore the different types of work permits available, the application processes, and the criteria for eligibility. Additionally, we will provide valuable insights into the Spanish labour market, highlighting in-demand industries and valuable resources for job seekers.

Whether you are a skilled professional, an entrepreneur, or a recent graduate, this guide aims to equip you with the knowledge and resources necessary to pursue your career aspirations in Spain legally.

Let's take a look at what you need to start working in Spain.

To legally work in Spain as a foreigner, there are several key requirements that you need to fulfil. While specific details may vary depending on your individual circumstances, here are the general requirements:

  • Job Offer or Employment Contract: In most cases, you will need a confirmed job offer or an employment contract from a Spanish company or employer before applying for a work permit or visa. The job offer should comply with Spanish labour laws and meet the requirements set by the Spanish authorities.
  • Valid Work Permit or Visa: You must obtain the appropriate work permit or visa that authorises you to work in Spain. The type of permit or visa you need will depend on factors such as your nationality, the duration and nature of your employment, and whether you have a job offer from a Spanish employer. We will look into the types of visas available further into this article.
  • Registration and Identification: Once in Spain, you will need to register with the local authorities, such as the Oficina de Extranjería or the National Police, to obtain your Foreigner Identification Number (NIE). This identification number is crucial for various administrative and employment-related processes.
  • Health Insurance: It is mandatory to have health insurance coverage while working in Spain. This can be through public health insurance (if you are contributing to the Spanish social security system) or private health insurance.
  • Tax Obligations: As a foreigner working in Spain, you will have tax obligations that you must fulfil. The Spanish tax system applies to residents and non-residents alike. If you are considered a tax resident in Spain, which is generally determined by spending more than 183 days in a calendar year in the country, you will be subject to worldwide income taxation. This means you must report and pay taxes on your income earned both in Spain and abroad. Non-residents, on the other hand, are subject to taxation only on their Spanish-source income. It is essential to obtain a tax identification number (NIF) and understand your tax obligations, including filing annual tax returns. Spain has tax treaties with many countries to avoid double taxation, allowing you to benefit from certain tax reliefs or exemptions. Consulting with a tax advisor or professional can help ensure compliance with Spanish tax laws and optimise your tax situation while working in Spain

Rules also vary depending on whether you, as a foreigner working in Spain, are an EU/EEA citizen or a Non-EU citizen.

  • Non-EU Citizens: Non-EU citizens generally need to obtain a work permit, also known as a "residence and work authorisation”, from a Spanish consulate or Embassy in their home country. The work permit is usually tied to a specific job offer or employment contract from a Spanish employer. The employer must demonstrate that there are no qualified EU or Spanish candidates available for the position.
  • EU/EEA Citizens: If you are a citizen of a European Union (EU) or European Economic Area (EEA) country, you have the right to work in Spain without a work permit. However, you still need to register with the relevant authorities within a certain timeframe (usually three months) This involves obtaining a Foreigner Identification Number (NIE) from the Oficina de Extranjería or the National Police. You must also have a valid passport or national identification card from your home EU/EEA country to prove your citizenship and identity and proof of any professional qualifications.

Visa and Permit Options

Work permit: Obtaining a regular work permit is the most direct, albeit challenging, pathway to work in Spain. The process involves complex requirements that make it difficult to obtain. Here's an overview of the process:

To begin, you must initiate the application process from your home country. Unlike other options, you cannot be in Spain when you start the application. The first step is to find a company in Spain that is willing to hire you and handle the application process on your behalf. This means you need to secure a job offer.

However, not all job offers will meet the requirements. They must be included in either the shortage occupation list or the list of jobs that are difficult to fill.
In essence, Spain prioritises job offers for legal residents and Spanish nationals to address the national unemployment situation. As a foreigner, you will only be able to apply for a limited number of job positions.

There is an exception for citizens of Peru and Chile, who are not subject to the national unemployment situation and can benefit from any job offer available.

It's important to note that the regular work permit route is known for its complexity and limited opportunities. Exploring alternative pathways, such as entrepreneurship or specialised visas, may offer more feasible options for working in Spain as a foreigner.

Learn more about work visas in Spain.

Self-employed permit: The self-employed work permit allows you to start your own business or work as a freelancer. This type of work permit is known as "autónomo" in Spanish.

When applying as a self-employed individual, you will need to submit a comprehensive business plan that clearly outlines your proposed business idea or project. It's important to note that not all projects are accepted under this category. Simply opening a generic business, like a coffee shop, may not meet the requirements. Your project should have the potential to create a significant number of jobs and contribute to the development of the Spanish economy.

Similar to other work permit applications, the process for self-employed permits must be initiated from your country of origin.

Learn more about the self-employed work permit.

Entrepreneur visa: If you have ambitions of establishing a highly innovative company in Spain, particularly one with a strong technological component, the entrepreneur visa is the ideal option for you.

The entrepreneur visa is a work permit specifically designed for setting up startups in Spain. While only a limited number of projects are accepted under this visa category, it may be a more favourable choice compared to the regular self-employment permit.

To increase your chances of obtaining the entrepreneur visa, it is crucial to develop a meticulous and well-structured business plan. A compelling business plan will not only serve as a blueprint for your startup but also strengthen your immigration application.

By demonstrating the innovative nature of your project and its potential contribution to the Spanish market, you can position yourself as an attractive candidate for the entrepreneur visa.

Choosing the entrepreneur visa route showcases your commitment to creating a cutting-edge business in Spain. However, it is essential to carefully research the specific requirements and seek professional guidance to ensure that your business plan aligns with the expectations of the immigration authorities.

Family member of an EU citizen visa: If you have a family member who is a Spanish or European citizen residing in Spain, you have the opportunity to apply for a residence card as a family member of an EU citizen.

This type of application is commonly made when a non-EU citizen enters into a civil partnership or gets married to an EU citizen.

Obtaining the residence card as a family member of an EU citizen comes with several advantages. One of the key benefits is that it grants you the right to work in Spain, either as an employee or as a self-employed individual.

Digital Nomad Visa: Working remotely in Spain as a foreigner has become easier with the introduction of the Digital Nomad Visa. Approved by the Spanish Parliament in 2022, this visa offers residency rights and tax benefits to non-EU freelancers and remote workers.

The visa, known as the "Visado para teletrabajadores de carácter internacional," aims to attract digital nomads and startups. With the Digital Nomad Visa, individuals have the opportunity to live and work in Spain for up to five years, provided that 80% of their income is generated outside of Spain. The visa allows for free movement within the EU and offers a lower non-resident income tax rate.

Eligibility criteria include working for a non-Spanish company, having a contract for at least one year, and demonstrating work experience or a degree. The application process is streamlined, with a fast turnaround time of 20 days. This visa opens doors for remote workers seeking a favourable work-life balance, tax advantages, and the opportunity to reside in Spain while serving existing clients or employers.

Student Visas: Spain is an excellent choice for international students looking to study abroad, offering a unique educational experience, cultural immersion, and the opportunity to earn a top-notch degree. While studying in Spain, students can explore the country's vibrant cities, many of which are known for their affordability for international students. However, it's essential to consider additional sources of income due to the cost of studying and living expenses.

One common question among students is whether they can work in Spain with a student visa. The answer is yes, but it's important to understand the regulations surrounding employment for students in Spain.

Many international students in Spain balance their studies with part-time work to support their education and living expenses. The student visa allows for work authorization. However, for visas issued before August 16, 2022, students must apply for compatibility between work and studies. For student visas issued after August 16, 2022, students can work part-time for up to 30 hours per week. These work hours must be part-time and should not interfere with their class schedules or academic commitments.

Regardless of the visa issue date, the primary objective of the student visa is to pursue studies and complete the academic year in Spain. Work opportunities should be seen as supplementary income, and students must have their own means of financial support to remain in the country.

After completing their studies, students can explore opportunities for full-time work in Spain. Depending on their circumstances, there are several options available, such as obtaining a work permit as a highly skilled worker, applying for a job search permit, or transitioning to a regular work visa.

In addition to employment opportunities, internships (curricular and extracurricular) are also available in Spain, offering valuable work experience aligned with students' academic fields.

While studying in Spain offers an enriching experience, students should prioritise their studies and ensure they comply with visa regulations when considering employment opportunities. By understanding the rules and opportunities, students can make the most of their time in Spain and achieve their educational and career goals.

Learn more about working with a student visa.

It is essential to consult with the Spanish embassy or consulate in your home country or seek professional legal advice to understand the specific requirements and procedures based on your individual circumstances. The Spanish immigration authorities, as well as employment and labour agencies, can provide further guidance on the necessary steps to work legally in Spain as a foreigner.