Business & Economy
What visas and permits do I need to work in Spain?
By Ann Knight
Sep 3, 2003, 05:17
If you're an EU national you have as much right to work in Spain as a Spaniard. But if you intend to stay in the country for more than 90 days you'll need to apply for a resident's permit (residencia). Strictly speaking you should apply within 15 days of your arrival in Spain but there are few people who actually do this simply because they don't know at the outset whether they intend to stay permanently or not. Applying for a resident's card can be a bureaucratic nightmare so most people prefer to spend some time looking for work and securing a job before getting involved in too much red tape.
If you're from one of the EU countries you can enter Spain as a tourist and register with the National Employment Institute (Instituto Nacional de Empleo / INEM) as a job-seeker, just as a Spanish job hunter would do. But if you're not a resident of an EU country you'll need a visa to enter Spain and a work permit. A permit will only be issued when it has been demonstrated that the job in question has been advertised to EU nationals without success. This is what's supposed to happen but of course there are many abuses of the system by employers who prefer to take on, for example, South American immigrants who are prepared to work for much lower wages than most EU citizens.
If you're an EU national and you fail to find work in the first 90 days, you can apply for a 90-day extension but you can only stay in Spain for a maximum of 182 days in any one calendar year if you don't have a resident's permit.
If you find a job with an employer you'll need a formal job offer in order to apply for a resident's card. As an EU national you don't need a work permit to start a business in Spain but you will need to present a business plan to the authorities giving details such as your proposed investment, location of business premises, projected income etc. Non EU nationals are normally expected to prove that they intend to invest a sizeable sum of money (around $100,000) and / or that their business will create a number of jobs for Spanish or EU nationals.
Anyone planning to work in a profession such as medicine or law must apply for membership of the appropriate professional body in Spain before they will be allowed to practise.
If you're going to be operating from your own business premises (such as a shop, restaurant or workshop) you'll have to apply for a business opening licence (licencia de apertura before opening. To sell or serve alcohol or food you'll need to acquire a health licence which will involve an inspection by the local authorities.
Be prepared for frustrating delays of several months, depending on the area, before the necessary permits and licences are processed. It's worth employing a bi-lingual gestor (a kind of Mr Fixit who can guide you through all the bureaucracy) especially if you don't speak Spanish. You'll find at least Gestoria in every town in Spain and there are usually several to choose from in the popular ex-pat areas.
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