Spain represents an exciting market for individuals and companies to expand to, not just because of the western European country’s natural beauty but also because of the emerging digital economy.
The country has plans to expand essential digital infrastructures, including improving 5G capabilities, investing in artificial intelligence, and allowing people better access to digital education.
However, navigating Spain immigration can be complicated and time-consuming, and applying for work permits and visas is a necessary but exhausting process for employees and self-employed individuals who aren't native to the country.
Furthermore, knowing which type of work visa you're eligible for and whether the individual or their employer is required to submit the work-permitting applications can add additional challenges.
This article will provide an understanding of the types of work visas for which individuals moving to Spain can apply, what requirements an individual must meet to be eligible for these work visas, and what the visa application process entails.
Types of Spain work visas and permits
When a non-native employee lives and works in Spain, the responsibility of ensuring that the individual possesses the correct work permits falls to both the employee and employer, as both parties can be held financially and legally liable if the employee's documentation is found to be invalid.
Fortunately, Spain is one of many European countries that offer non-citizens the opportunity to live and work in the country. However, depending on the type of position the employee is applying for and their country of origin, their eligibility for certain work visas may change.
Consider the following types of work visas and permits in Spain that an employee can apply for:
Seasonal work visas
A seasonal work visa is a special work visa that allows an employee who isn't a European Union (EU) member to live and work in Spain for a brief period to meet a seasonal business need. This might be necessary for many reasons, such as a hospitality worker employed by a Spanish company for the peak tourist season.
To be eligible for seasonal work in Spain, an employee must obtain both of the following:
- A work and residence permit
- A work and residence visa.
Unlike some other work permits in Spain, to be eligible to receive a seasonal work visa the employer will first need to apply for a work permit on the employee's behalf from the Provincial Aliens Affairs Office. This government body will approve both the employee's work and residence permits.
At this time, the employee can apply for a work and residence visa with their local embassy.
EU Blue Cards
Candidates or employees who aren't citizens of countries belonging to the EU or the European Economic Area (EAA) are eligible to apply for an EU Blue Card, allowing them to live and work in a country belonging to the EU, including Spain.
The EU Blue Card is unique compared to other Spain work permits because employees who hold this card can move amongst other EU countries. If a candidate or employee is only planning to live in Spain temporarily before moving to another country within the EU, this can make the process of moving much more straightforward.
However, employees will only be eligible for the EU Blue Card if they fill an employment need that national candidates cannot fill. For this reason, EU Blue Cards tend to be granted to individuals filling highly skilled positions or to companies who have proven they've been unable to find local candidates qualified for the position.
Employees will need to meet the following requirements to be eligible for an EU Blue Card:
- Possess a current or prospective employment contract from an employer legally entitled to hire employees in Spain. If the employment contract is a fixed-term contract, the length of employment must be one year or more.
- Under their current or prospective employment contract, the employee must meet the current minimum eligible salary established by the Spanish government. The current minimum annual salary is 33,908 EUR.
- Possess any required licensing, certification, or documentation necessary to perform the job they're being hired to do in Spain.
- Possess the following valid documents:
- Travel document
- Visa application
- Residence permit
The length of validity for an EU Blue Card varies by country, and in Spain, the EU Blue Card is only valid for a single year, although it is eligible for renewal. The initial cost of the EU Blue Card is 418 EUR, and each renewal costs 112 EUR.
Work employment visas
A standard employment visa differs from a seasonal work visa because it's a renewable visa that lasts for a year at a time. Although it's similar in function to an EU Blue Card, it's granted more commonly because you don't have to be a highly skilled worker to be eligible for this type of visa.
Instead, employment visas are granted to individuals who can fill roles that need to be filled in Spain. Like the EU Blue Card, Spain requires employers to prove that certain positions cannot be filled by Spanish citizens first, but once the need has been proven, an employer can submit a work permit request on behalf of a non-Spanish employee.
Self-employed work visas differ from all of the above visa types, as the individual applying for the visa will not have a legal entity in Spain applying for a work permit on their behalf. Therefore, an individual applying for a self-employment visa must obtain a work and residence permit as well as a self-employed work and residence visa.
Because there won't be an employer in Spain applying for an employee work permit, any individual applying for a Spanish self-employment visa must apply for their work permit through their local embassy.
Similar to the EU Blue Card and a work employment visa, a self-employed visa in Spain lasts for a year and can be renewed. Individuals will need to prove they have the legal ability to conduct their business in Spain (e.g., relevant licenses or certifications) as well as the financial ability to live and work in Spain.
Note: Individuals who plan to work as independent contractors in Spain may need at least one Spanish client to have their visa application approved.
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Requirements for a Spain work visa
There are numerous reasons for employees and self-employed individuals to relocate to Spain. Regardless of which of the above visas an individual applies for, the requirements to apply for a work visa in Spain are the same.
Below is a list of Spain visa requirements that all individuals will need to abide by when applying for a work visa:
- A valid passport
- Expired passports and previous work visas
- A valid medical certificate verifying the individual is in good health and isn't a threat to the public health of the local Spanish population.
- Two current photos
- A current criminal history record (cannot be more than six months old) verifying the individual hasn't been involved in any crimes within the five years leading up to the time of applying.
- Any relevant licenses, certifications, or other documents detailing the individual's ability to perform the duties they're being hired for in Spain (e.g., medical licenses).
- A valid employment contract from an employer that can legally hire employees in Spain. This document should include relevant information such as the agreed-upon salary the employee will receive and the contract duration.
- Proof that the individual has made living arrangements.
- A valid work authorization from the relevant local government body that the individual's employer submitted within one month of the employee's work visa application.
How to apply for a Spain work visa
Once an individual has ensured they meet the above requirements and have gathered the necessary documentation, they will need to apply for a work visa. This process can be complicated, but it typically includes the following steps:
- The employee signs an employment contract. First, an employee must receive a valid employment contract from an employer that can legally hire employees in Spain.
- The employer submits a work permit application. The employer must submit a work permit application on the employee's behalf with the Ministry of Labour, Migrations, and Social Security. The work permit and residence permit are issued together.
- The employee submits a work visa application. The Spain work visa application form is submitted to the employee's local embassy.
- The employee's embassy communicates with the Spanish authorities.
- The employee's application is processed. The relevant section of the Ministry of Labour, Migrations, and Social Security proceeds with the employee's work visa application.
- The work visa is approved. If the employee's visa is approved, the Ministry of Labour, Migrations and Social Security will deliver the employee's visa to their local embassy, which will then issue the visa to the individual.
Application processing time
Many factors can affect the work visa application processing time, but it typically takes up to eight months.
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Spain work permit and visa FAQs
Below is a list of frequently asked questions about how to best navigate Spain immigration and what you can expect when applying for a work permit in Spain.
How do I get a work permit for Spain?
While there is a general framework you should follow to obtain a Spain work permit, the specifications of your visa application will depend on factors like your country of origin and the type of job you’re being hired to perform.
Be sure you meet all the necessary Spain visa requirements before applying and gather the relevant documentation ahead of time.
Follow these steps to get a Spain work visa:
- Sign a valid employment contract from an employer legally entitled to hire you in Spain
- Submit your work permit application to the Ministry of Labour, Migrations, and Social Security
- Submit your visa application to your local embassy
Working with an embassy representative can ensure you have the required documents to obtain your visa and work permit, including the following:
- Your criminal records
- A valid work authorization
- Proof you’ve made living arrangements
How much is a work permit in Spain?
The cost of a work permit in Spain depends on a variety of factors, including your country of origin and the type of work permit for which you’re applying.
You will be expected to pay the fees associated with your specific visa application, but Spain immigration costs typically amount to the following:
- A Schengen visa costs EUR 80
- A work-employment visa costs EUR 167 ($178) for U.S. citizens, EUR 100 ($106) for Canadian citizens, and EUR 80 ($85) for all other individuals
- A self-employed visa costs EUR 238 ($253) for U.S. citizens, EUR 674 ($717) for Canadian citizens, and EUR 80 ($85) for all other individuals
For how long is a work permit valid in Spain?
Work permits in Spain are valid for differing periods of time, and you can only legally live and work in the country with a valid work visa.
Typically, a Spain work visa is valid for a 12-month period, although many of them are renewable and can allow you to live in Spain for years at a time. When you apply for your work visa, be sure to check how long it will be valid and apply for renewal if you plan to stay in Spain before your existing visa expires.