A guide to the biggest mistakes when moving to Spain, and some tips on how to avoid them.
As well as enviable culture, climate and food, Barcelona clocks the 4th highest GDP per capita in the EU. Much more than just a tourist city, it’s no wonder that expats from around the world decide to live and work in Barcelona, finding their place among the local and international companies who make their base here.
Because of the huge numbers of tourists every year, there's a great demand in Barcelona for English speakers and those with fluency in other foreign languages - although for some jobs a basic knowledge of Catalan is a must. The mix of tourism, startups and established businesses means there’ll be a job in Barcelona for you. You may wish to work just for a season, fit a part-time job around your studies, or climb up the career ladder with an impressive job at a global multinational.
If you’re looking for expat jobs in Barcelona, here’s how to find your perfect match.
Before you start to look for a job in Barcelona, check if you have to do anything before you can work legally in Spain.
As Barcelona is an EU country, citizens of other EU and EEA countries are free to live and work there without needing any special visa or permit. In some cases, however, depending on your nationality and how long your stay is going to be, you might have to register with the local authorities.
If you’re from America, or another country outside of the EU, you'll probably need to have a permit to work in Barcelona, or elsewhere in Spain. You must find a job before you can apply for a Spanish work visa. This is because your employer will have to initiate the application process.
Work permits will only be issued if the job is in a shortage occupation, or has been advertised locally without finding a suitable candidate from Spain or another EU country. You can find details about working in Barcelona as a foreigner on the government immigration portal.
It’s worth checking if you can apply for an EU Blue Card which gives you the right to work across most EU member states. To be eligible, you’ll be from outside the EU, be highly skilled (typically meaning you have completed a bachelor's level university degree, or have five years of senior professional experience), and have a job already lined up. Blue Card applications tend to be fast tracked so you can get your documents much more quickly.
You can check the details about living and working in EU countries at the EU immigration portal. Simply put in a few details about your situation, and the handy form will tell you all your visa options. Alternatively, try our quick guide to getting a work visa for Spain.
It’s a smart idea to research the largest industries and companies in Barcelona to guide your job search. With a long history of trading and manufacturing, there are plenty of global and homegrown businesses to consider.
Barcelona has a long tradition of car manufacturing, and auto giant Seat still have a large plant there. Because Seat is now German owned, the team look especially for people with fluency in Spanish, English and German, making them a good option for those seeking jobs with an international flavour.
If you're interested in the startup scene then you're in the right place, as Barcelona also offers a range of startup jobs. The website Barcinno provides news and coverage of events in Barcelona which will be of interest to budding entrepreneurs. Check out their jobs page for the latest leads.
If you’re an American, native English speaker from elsewhere, or have a TEFL qualification, there's always demand for teachers in Barcelona. These opportunities can make for great jobs for English speakers - check out online boards or language schools for available jobs.
Au pairs coming to Barcelona will need a specific visa, which is subject to strict conditions. Listings for au pair jobs can be found online.
Spanish student visas typically allow you to work a few hours a week as long as it doesn’t interfere with your studies. Your employer might still need to get you a permit, but the process should be quite easy as long as your university doesn’t object. For part time or flexible work in Barcelona, such as a job in a cafe or bar, asking around will help. Things happen by word of mouth here, so waiting until you arrive and then checking out notices in local store windows, or asking friends for recommendations should open doors for you.
Of course, you’ll want to know more about the salaries and costs of living in Spain, and specifically Barcelona. Annual GDP in the Barcelona area is EUR 28,400 (16% more than EU average), reflecting the fact that salaries tend to be fairly good. If you have a specific company or role in mind, Glassdoor can be a great way of getting more detail about the likely salary ranges on offer. For cost of living information compared to your current home, try Numbeo where you can compare costs of rent, groceries, utilities and other daily expenses.
When it comes to job hunting, the internet is your friend. Aside from the most popular job sites like LinkedIn, Indeed and Monster which cover more or less the entire globe, there are also lots of local sites to choose from.
If you’re looking on a local website or job board, then don’t forget that the local spelling of the city is ‘Barcellona’, and you'll find it can also be abbreviated to BCN. Using search terms like ‘BCN jobs’ alongside the English searches, might pull up a wider range of choices for you.
Try these Barcelona specific job sites as a starting point:
Infojobs is a good place both to search for available roles, and upload your CV for employers to find you
Think Spain allows you to look for jobs and then filter depending on whether you want to speak mainly English or Spanish, a handy tool if you’re only after expat focused jobs
There’s nothing to stop you from approaching recruiters and applying for positions before you actually arrive in Spain. In fact, this is essential if you're from outside of the EU and need to get a job before you can apply for a visa. Just make sure you’re clear about when you'll be available and what your visa status is when you contact the agency or hiring manager.
Companies in Barcelona know that the recruitment market is competitive, and recruitment agencies exist to help them connect with the job seekers that are right for them. It could be worth talking to an agent, especially if you're looking for a graduate or professional level job, as this can help to boost your job search.
Some of the larger and more popular agents in Barcelona include:
Approach People are an international recruitment firm, who deal in roles across different industry sectors and languages
Another good choice for candidates in Barcelona with different language skills, is Blu Selection, who typically have hundreds of opportunities for jobs working in English and other European languages
Be wary of scams when working with agencies. Check out the credentials of any you choose to use, and make sure you get the service you ask for. You shouldn’t ever hand over cash to simply be put in touch with an employer. Some agents offer a range of extra services like helping you to polish your CV, write a cover letter, or get a visa. Take recommendations from previous clients, and compare prices if you decide to include any extras and, if in doubt, move on to a different agency you can trust.
A huge number of jobs are filled through word of mouth, meaning your network is your most important tool when looking for a new position. This can feel like a challenge when you’re also moving to a new city, but don’t panic. Start by building your network online, joining groups active in your field in Barcelona on professional sites like LinkedIn.
Depending on your work area, you might also benefit from joining a local chamber of commerce or business networking group. Checkout sites like Meetup that specialise in bringing like-minded people together for ideas.
In Barcelona the city council also offer supportive services, like job coaching and training, which can be great ways to meet people and find a job in Barcelona once you're there. Or combine some of the finer things in life, by joining a business networking lunch, specifically designed to connect English speaking professional in Barcelona.
Having a CV that stands out is crucial when you’re looking for a new job. Make sure it’s up to date, error free, and easy to read, or busy recruiters will likely put you to the bottom of their call pile. Getting a job in Barcelona is likely to be a competitive affair, so make sure you invest the time upfront.
The document you need to submit is usually called a CV in Europe, but is different to that known as a curriculum vitae or CV in America. Here, your CV should be no more than two to three pages and provide a concise summary of your work, education, extracurricular activities and how they relate to the job you’re applying for.
If you’re starting from scratch preparing a CV for the European market, check out the CV and cover letter templates and advice available from Europass. Here you can download a standard template including all the relevant information for CVs in Europe, which you simply have to complete. For more specialist ideas about the Spanish labour market, try online sites like Jobera or consider hiring a local CV consultant who can help tailor your documents for the roles you’re seeking.
When you're applying for an English speaking job in Barcelona, it's completely acceptable (and expected) to submit your CV in English. However, if the job will use both Spanish and English, you might be best to prepare a Spanish CV version.
You'll need to include your marital status, place of birth and a professional passport sized photo as part of your ‘personal’ section. If you have a family it's normal to say how many children you have, and also give other relevant details like whether you have a driving license. To work in Spain you need a registration number known as an NIE number - if you have this already, add it in with your personal details.
For most of us, job interviews can be quite stressful - not least when your prospective employer might be on the other side of the globe. When recruiting long distance, it’s not uncommon for first interviews to be held over the phone or on a video call. This approach presents a whole set of different challenges to a face-to-face meeting, so it’s worth planning in advance and thinking about how to build rapport with your interviewer while you’re not even in the same room. Asking relevant questions, using humour, and even smiling while you speak, can make for a friendly conversation which could help you get through to the next round.
Despite the reputation for Spaniards being somewhat relaxed about time keeping, it's important to be punctual for your interview. Dress smart too; interviews tend to be formal, and Barcelona is known for its sharp dressing.
The interview format is likely to include talking through your CV, so be well prepared for this predictable question.
Of course, if you have any doubt, then you should confirm in advance what language the interview will be held in. If you're applying in English, for an English speaking job, then of course it’s most likely that you’ll be interviewed in English. But if your job will involve even a little Spanish, the interview might be used as an opportunity to check out your language skills. Best to practice in advance.
Don't be surprised if are asked whether or not you have kids (or plan to do so in future). Although a taboo subject elsewhere, this isn't avoided in Spain. But if you're uncomfortable answering, you can be rather vague in your response.
Once you have your job and visa sorted, you'll need to consider more practical factors regarding your move to Spain. Luckily the Barcelona city website shows all you need to know about living in Barcelona as a foreigner, and even has an app for you to access information easily.
You’re going to need some cash to get you started in Spain, so you may be wondering how to go about converting your money to the local currency. If you plan to open a bank account in Spain, or know someone with an account there, consider using Wise to send your money to and from Barcelona. There’s a small transparent fee, and the real exchange rate is applied to convert from one currency to another - the same one you can find on Google. In addition to that, Wise receives and sends money via local bank transfers instead of internationally, which saves you even more money by eliminating international transfer fees. Once your visas and currency exchange are in order, you’re ready to move to Barcelona!
This publication is provided for general information purposes and does not constitute legal, tax or other professional advice from Wise Payments Limited or its subsidiaries and its affiliates, and it is not intended as a substitute for obtaining advice from a financial advisor or any other professional.
We make no representations, warranties or guarantees, whether expressed or implied, that the content in the publication is accurate, complete or up to date.
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