A guide to the biggest mistakes when moving to Spain, and some tips on how to avoid them.
Whether you want a long term professional role with a large corporate firm or you're looking to spend a season living and working in a non-stop seaside resort, you'll find a job in Spain to suit either desire. With a huge range of options from the coolest of cosmopolitan cities to the hottest of tourist destinations, Spain is a popular place for expats.
If you're planning to live and work in Spain you might need to get a work visa before you go. Check out this handy guide to help you navigate the process of getting a Spanish work visa.
Your first priority should be to figure out if you need a work permit at all. In some cases, depending on your nationality and the role you’re going to take on, a permit might not be necessary.
If you're a citizen of another European Union (EU) country, Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein or Switzerland then you don't need a permit to live or work in Spain. In some cases, work permits aren't necessary, but you might still need an entry visa or residence permit. This is usually the case in academic or religious positions or if you're coming to Spain to work in the sporting or cultural field.
You must find a job before you can apply for a Spanish work visa, as your employer will have to initiate the application process. Usually 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. It will be up to your employer to prove that they've sought candidates in Spain and the EU first and have been unsuccessful. As part of their application, your employer will also need to show evidence of your qualifications, so expect to be asked for copies of professional qualifications and your resume for submission to the Ministry of Labour.
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One of the biggest challenges in navigating the application process is that most of the information available through the authorities’ websites is exclusively in Spanish. Having your employer on hand to help will be a definite advantage if your Spanish isn’t up to scratch.
Some official translations of details for visas such as the highly qualified professional visa, which are covered under the Entrepreneurial Support Act are available, however in the links above. Some more English language information about working visas can be found at this government portal. Additional helpful information can be found at the European Commission mobility portal, EURES, and the EU Immigration Portal.
Your employer will submit an application for a work permit, on your behalf, to your local Ministry of Labour. You should get a copy of this application from the Ministry of Labour, complete with a stamp and a file number to show the application is in progress. You can then send this to your local Spanish embassy along with your application for a work and residence visa. It can take months to complete the application process, so plan well in advance.
A fee of around € 60 will be payable when you submit the visa application at your local embassy. If you struggle to make the application yourself, you'll find agencies online who can help for a fee. Make sure you check out their credentials though, before handing over any money.
Once your employer has initiated your application for a working visa, you have one month to complete your accompanying application to the local Spanish embassy in your home country. When you make your submission, you'll need to provide a completed application form, along with the following documents:
A certified copy of your employment contract
A valid passport with at least four months left to run
A clean criminal record statement covering the past five years
A medical certificate proving you have no communicable diseases
If the embassy has any questions about your application you may be asked to attend in person for an interview.
Depending on the type of work you're planning on doing, it might be possible to apply for an EU Blue Card. Similar to the US Green Card, this document gives you the right to work across most EU member states (excluding Denmark, Ireland and the UK). To be eligible for a Blue Card, you must be from a country 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 binding job offer or active work contract.
The Blue Card application process is fast tracked by member states, meaning it's typically quicker than other forms of work visa application. However, it may still take up to three months. Although you start the application process online and through a single point of contact, the process may vary depending on your personal circumstances. The Blue Card network has a good website and offers support to applicants to help them understand the process.
Seasonal workers, in general, need to apply for a work permit in the same way as anyone else. In addition, you must show that you have the money to cover your travel, and suitable accommodation arranged. You’ll have to return home after your seasonal work contract ends, and may be asked to prove your intention to do so with a prepaid flight ticket.
There’s a different visa type which is made available for people travelling to Spain to work as an au pair. You may be eligible for this if you're between 17 and 30 years old, with an agreed working contract and medical cover arranged for the duration of your stay.
If you're in Spain primarily to study then you're entitled to work up to 20 hours a week. To do so, your employer will still need to apply for a work permit for you, and this permit may be withdrawn if your university or school believes the work is interfering with your study.
One final option, if you're Canadian, is to consider a visa under the Youth Mobility Program. This one year visa allows Canadians under the age of 36 to come to Spain for up to 12 months for any reason.
If you intend to work for yourself, you'll need a visa which allows you to work as an entrepreneur. In this case you will be asked to provide more evidence of your intentions, such as:
A business plan for your new venture, including any prearranged contracts
A financial plan, including details of how you will support yourself while your business is established
The necessary licenses or permits relevant to your field of work
Proof you're qualified to do the work you intend to carry out.
Under some Spanish work visas, your spouse or family members may also be entitled to a work and residence permit. The Highly Qualified Professional work visa, for example, has a provision for the married or unmarried partner, dependant children, or in some situations the elderly parents of the applicant to apply for their visas at the same time.
Holders of the EU Blue Card are able to apply for visas on behalf of family members without a waiting period under the family reunification scheme. Students in Spain can also have family members join them for the duration of their study period.
Holders of other visas will need to be in Spain for a year and have another 12 month visa approved before they can bring family members to join them.
Once in Spain you must apply - in person - for a Foreigner's Identity Number known as a NIE number. If you don't do so in good time, you're committing a criminal offence. This requirement applies to everyone, including EU citizens who don't need a work visa for Spain.
Getting your work visa arranged is one more thing to check off your relocation to do list. Now you can get on with planning your move to sunny Spain in earnest.
How can I move money to Spain from my bank account abroad?
Once you send money either to or from Spain, consider using a money conversion service like Wise to avoid unfair exchange rates. There's a small transparent fee, and when your money is converted from one currency to another you’ll get the real exchange rate - the same one you can find on Google. Not only that, but Wise receives and sends money via local bank transfers instead of internationally, further saving you money by cutting out hefty international transfer fees.
If your trip is short or opening a bank account in Spain isn't an option, you can always withdraw money from your foreign account using an Spanish ATM. Just keep in mind it'll be more favourable to agree to be charged in the local currency, not your home currency.
Regardless of when you start your new job abroad, it should be fairly straightforward to get yourself a visa if you follow the right steps. The most important part is just to make sure to enjoy your new adventure.
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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