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Applying for a work visa in Spain

Live and work in Spain

Spain is one of the most attractive countries to live and work in for any expat from around the world thanks to year-round sunshine, its rich culture, food and friendly people. Also, what makes Spain highly appealing to any foreigner is that even though the average income in Spain is below the OECD average, the cost of living is cheaper than in other countries. Besides, Spain has some of Europe’s strongest labour laws.

Are you planning on moving to Spain to work?

If you are, then you need to figure out if you need a visa or permit to do so. We will help you to define the best option for you and also to explain some of the procedures for applying for your Spanish work permit.
Some nationalities require a visa to live and work in Spain legally. The first thing that one needs to know is that there are several types of work permits in Spain, as well as some exemptions. The permits depend on your nationality, residence status, and employment situation.

Spanish Visa requirements

The different visa holds specific requirements, but there are some common documents such as:

  • Proof of not having a criminal record.
  • Evidence of full health coverage as if you were a Spanish national, either private health insurance or social security.
  • Show full passport and a copy.
  • Also, all foreign documents must be legalized and translated into Spanish by a legal translator.

What do you need to arrange in order to work in Spain? Who needs a work visa in Spain?

If you wish to work and live in Spain you should be aware that the main authorities that you will have to deal with are the immigration authority under the Ministerio de Inclusión, Seguridad Social y Migraciones (Ministry of Inclusion, Social Security, and Migration), and the labour and employment authorities under the Ministerio de Trabajo y Economía Social (Ministry of Labour and Social Economy).

Nevertheless, moving to Spain is easy if you are EU, EEA, or Swiss citizen. If this is the case you can enter Spain and work freely, without the need of a work permit. You can register yourself as self-employed when you enter the country; as long as you are over 18 or emancipated.

However, British citizens who want to move to Spain to live and work now after Brexit will need a residence and work visa in the same way as most non-EU/EEA citizens who also need a work permit and must sign a job agreement before they can apply for employment in Spain.

Work permit exemptions

Even though there are exemptions and some people don’t need to apply for a work permit to work in Spain, they might still need a visa to enter the country. Those who will not need a work permit are for example university professors, technicians, and scientists.

There are also some other people who can benefit from this exemption and those are the ones moving to Spain to develop scientific or cultural programs, journalists, or artists who are coming to Spain for specific exhibitions or shows, clergy, and trade union officials. People who are coming to stay with a family member who has already got a Spanish work permit, may not need a visa either.

Volunteers works

You can also enter Spain without a work permit to do volunteer work. However, you should double check the agreements that Spain has with your home country in terms of lengths of the stay. For example, the maximum stay for US citizens is 90 days.


Any foreigner who wishes to stay longer than 183 days in Spain to stay long term, shall apply for a resident’s permit (Tarjeta de Residencia – TIE) and get a NIE number (Foreigner’s Identity Number) at the National Police office within 30 days.

The NIE number is requested for any finance and administrative procedures in Spain; such as opening a bank account, signing contracts, registering for social security, to pay taxes, to by a property, and when applying for a Spanish driver’s license or buying a car.

Visa for Self-employed in Spain

In order to be able to work legally in Spain you must register with the General Social Security Office (Dirección General de la Tesorería General de la Seguridad Social – TGSS). Both if you are employee or self-employed. If you are an employee, then your employer will register you and pay the contribution for you, but if you are self-employed, it is your responsibility to register and you will have to pay the monthly contribution based on your estimated net income.

Types of work visas in Spain

A non-EU/EEA citizen who wants to live and work in Spain will need a residence and work permit (visado de trabajo y residencia).

There are several types of work permits depending on the type of job and the lengths of the employment contract. The most common types of visas in order to live and work in Spain are:

• Work employment visas – includes permits for highly-qualified professionals and seasonal workers
• Self-employed work visa – this allows you to live and work in Spain for a period of one year

When applying for a work visa in Spain there are application fees involved that will not be refunded if your application is denied.

Work visas for employees

Before you can get a work employment visa (trabajo por cuenta ajena) step number one is to have a job offer. The employer is then in charge of the request for a work permit for you to legally work in Spain. The permits are issued for specific sectors, so it is possible to change jobs later if it is in the same field.


One of the particularities to bear in mind is that you cannot apply for a work visa while you are in Spain. Any application submitted in Spain will be considered to be illegal and the immigration authorities will reject the application. So be sure to apply from a consulate or embassy in your country.

The work visas are often granted by the Spanish government when the job is considered a “profession difficult to cover” or if there were no suitable candidates from the EU countries applying for it. Normally, the candidate is generally a highly qualified professional.

How to apply for a visa in Spain as employee

It is your employer who should apply for the work permit at the Delegación Provincial del Ministerio de Trabajo e Inmigración (Labour Ministry) on your behalf.

During the process you will receive a stamped proof of application from the Spanish government with your file number. This is an official document that you can send to the Spanish embassy as part of your visa application. The embassy will be in charge of informing the regional labour office who will process your application.

How long does the process take? Length of validity

A work permit application can take more than seven months to process. First the labour office approves the permit, then the errand goes back to the embassy who will have to issue the visa. The work permit has a length of one year and is renewable. It’s only after five years that you can apply for a permanent residence in Spain.

Self-employed work visa

If you are thinking of starting your own business in Spain and being your own manager, then you might want to consider becoming self-employed. This is what the Spanish call an autónomo. However, it is important to understand that the process you will need to follow depends on your citizenship.

Who needs a self-employed work visa in Spain?

Non-EU/EEA citizens

Requirements self employed work visa

• To be of legal age
• Have regular immigration status
• Have no criminal record
• Have the professional qualifications required for the business activity you want to conduct
• Be able to show evidence of having sufficient financial resources to conduct your business

Length of validity

A self-employment work permit allows non-EU/EEA citizens to live and work in Spain for one year. After that, they can renew the visa for two years, and then repeat this until they reach the five-year mark.

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