Getting a Work Permit for Spain
Updated: Nov 13, 2020
I have received many enquiries from people who wanted to come to Spain and work here. Their situations were as different as their chances to actually get the residence and work permit they required.
In general, the first question I ask any client who wishes to come here is where they are from and if any family members will accompany them. This is, of course, to know whether they are EU citizens or family members of EU citizens or not.
EU citizens can move to Spain and register here if they can show that they can sustain themselves and have health insurance coverage. They are allowed to work and live in Spain, have a right to do so due to EU laws and the European right of free movement.
Family members of EU citizens who are not EU citizens themselves, such as their spouses and children under 21, are also privileged when it comes to living in the EU. They can apply for the Residence Card for Family Members of EU Citizens. This permit allows them to reside and work in Spain for 5 years. Afterwards, they can apply for permanent residency.
UK citizens and their non-EU family members can take advantage of the transition period that ends on December 31st and apply with the same requirements as EU citizens for their Residence Card for UK Citizens. Their family members can apply for the corresponding residence permit. They would all still get to enjoy the same rights to work and live in Spain if they establish residence in Spain before the end of the year.
As a non-EU citizen it is very difficult to obtain a work permit in Spain. This is due to the fact that Spain, as most other countries, aims to protect its population and gives people already residing here priority when it comes to employment.
The National Employment Situation
This means that, in general, the so-called "national employment situation" has to be taken into account whenever a non-EU citizen wishes to be granted a work permit to fill an open position in Spain. This requirement supposes an obstacle that in many cases is impossible to overcome.
The general residence and work permit application goes as follows:
The employer publishes a job offer for the position they want the non-EU citizen to have via official channels for at least 2 weeks. Once this time has lapsed and no candidate has been found, they obtain a certificate to this effect from the labour department.
The employer presents the certificate and the application for the work permit at the immigration office.
Once the work permit is granted, the non-EU employee goes to the Embassy or Consulate at their place of residence and applies for the national visa to enter Spain.
After entering Spain, the employee registers with Spanish social security and the census.
The employee requests the residence card at the police station.
Note that the issuance of work permits is each autonomous region's competence. Thus, they all have their own additional requirements to the basic framework of requirements.
As you can imagine, it is not easy to prepare a job offer for which you do not find any eligible candidates in Spain. And even if you have one, this might not be enough. One client wanted to bring the nanny of his children with the family to live in Madrid. She was from China and realised many tasks in the family, she was the nanny, taught the children Chinese and took care of the accounting and family finances. After two weeks, the offer we published for a nanny with all of those skills came back without any possible candidates. However, the certificate issued from the labour department was negative, stating that there were sufficient nannies available in Spain. The immigration office did not accept the application for the work permit.
This example shows that applications for residence and work permits are only promising if the national employment situation does not have to be taken into account.
Exceptions from having to take the national employment situation into account:
Family members regrouped at working age, or the spouse or child of a foreigner resident in Spain with a renewed authorisation
Foreigners born and resident in Spain
Children or grandchildren of original Spaniards
Holders of a prior work permit who intend to renew it
Workers required for assembly due to the renewal of a production facility or equipment
Those who were refugees, during the year following the cessation of the application of the Geneva Convention of 28 July 1951, on the Status of Refugees, for the reasons set out in case 5 of section C of its article 1
Stateless persons and those who would have lost their status in the year following the cessation of that status
Those who obtain a residence authorisation due to exceptional circumstances and, in any case, when they are victims of gender violence or human trafficking
Those who have held work permits for seasonal activities for two calendar years and have returned to their country
Those who have renounced their residence and work permit under a voluntary return programme
Coverage of positions of trust and business management
Highly qualified professionals, including technicians and scientists hired by public entities, universities or research, development and innovation centres dependent on companies, without prejudice to the application of the specific authorisation regime applicable in accordance with this Law
Workers on the staff of a company or group of companies in another country who intend to carry out their work activity for the same company or group in Spain.
Coverage of positions that are listed in the catalogue of positions that are difficult to fill (professional athletes, sports trainers, positions on boats)
If you hold a university title, will be hired by en employer in Spain for a position that requires your qualifications and will earn a high salary, your employer can apply for a Golden Visa for Highly Qualified Professionals for you. The application is privileged and the national employment situation is not taken into account.
The decision is made by the Large Business and Collectives Unit and they are also the ones who evaluate whether the specific application qualifies.