Spain has long been a mecca for northern Europeans planning to spend their retirement in the sun. For most, this is a relatively painless journey, only needing to deal with some local bureaucracy. While Brexit has made the plans of UK pensioners more difficult to achieve, a non-lucrative visa in Spain is, nonetheless, within the reach of many.

However, Spain is no longer an option exclusive to pensioners alone, and for those British citizens who wonder, can I live in Spain after Brexit? the answer is an emphatic yes, though you may require a visa.

For several years now, Spain has become an attractive proposition for those wanting to optimise their work-life balance. The prospect of leaving cold, rainy shores for sun-kissed Spain has become more attractive still, with the emergence of cities such as Barcelona, Valencia and Malaga as technology hubs. New technology businesses are emerging constantly, and so with it, the demand for qualified staff.

But, who exactly is entitled to work in Spain? What are the rules that determine eligibility, and what hurdles must be overcome so that a foreign citizen can gain the right to legally work in Spain?

Normally, countries control the access to jobs and residency in their countries by the issue of visas. There are many types of visas, designed to be suitable for the needs of different groups. Broadly speaking, there are visas that grant a residence permit only, and those that function as a work and residence visa.

Obviously, for anyone wanting to work in Spain, a work visa Spain is necessary. However, there are a number of different routes to obtaining a work visa in Spain, and we shall discuss these below.

Firstly, though, it can be useful to determine whether you even need a Spanish work visa.

1. Work permit exemptions

Citizens of EU countries do not require a work permit to be able to work legally in Spain.

Of course, the Spanish authorities will still require that such workers fulfil their obligations to register as a full-time resident in Spain once they have been living here for 3 months, as well as obtain a Spanish NIE number and register with the Social Security system and tax agency. Normally, if you are an employee, your employer will arrange for this.

Working as an au-pair is generally not considered to be work, but rather a something akin to a student exchange, and accordingly it does not require a work permit (see below).

Another exemption, of sorts, lies in the professions with low coverage - essentially there are jobs that local employers find difficult to fill, and which the Spanish authorities, in an effort to support the Spanish economy, have decided may be opened to competition with nationals of non-eu countries.

Of course, by their nature, these jobs tend to have few people who are qualified (or wish) to do the work. In any case, a full list is available on the Spanish government website.

2. Who needs a work visa in Spain?

So, unless you're planning on retiring in Spain, you are an EU-citizen or you are qualified to work in one of the professions listed by the Spanish government as difficult to fill, then you will need to qualify for a work visa.

3. Working in Spain after Brexit

Of course, included in the group of people who now need a work visa to be able to work in Spain are British citizens, following Brexit. This is the case unless you can prove that you were resident in Spain before the cut-off date. This is increasingly difficult to do, given the amount of time that has passed. Such proof that would be required includes the certificate of ‘empadronamiento’ (document showing that you were registered with a local council in Spain as living in the area), as well as tax returns.

Unless a British citizen can prove they were resident in Spain before the Brexit cut-off date, they must obtain a visa if they wish to become resident and/or work in Spain.

4. Types of Spanish Work visa

There are a number of types of work visa in Spain, and they may be divided into two groups - work visas for employees, and work visas for the self-employed:

  • Employee work permits
  • Work visa with offer of employment contract
  • Au Pair visa (a version of the above)
  • Student visa (carrying out research work)
  • EU Blue Card Visa

 

Self-employed Work Permits

  • Entrepreneur Visa
  • Digital nomad visa

 

Each Spain work visa includes a residence permit, since this is necessary for the holder to fulfil their work contract. We shall deal with these one-by-one.

5. Work visa with offer of employment contract

Many people who wish to work in Spain are confused by this visa, as they believe that on obtaining an work contract in Spain, they are entitled to make an application for work permit and the corresponding residence permit.

However, this is only the case where the position that has been offered is included in the list of difficult to fill jobs, as provided by the Spanish authorities.

The visa application process normally is initiated when the employer submits the appropriate visa application form to the Spanish consulate in the worker's home country.

Since such visa applications are normally managed by the employer, they take responsibility to obtain the employee work permits in these circumstances.

6. Working Holiday visa

Spain has a working holiday agreement with a number of countries, including Australia, New Zealand, Canada and Japan, that permits adults under the age of 30 to apply for a 'spain work visa application'.

This is a temporary work visa that allows the applicant to work for a period of 3 months and stay for a maximum period of 1 year. This visa may not be extended or renewed.

7. Au Pair visa

Rather than an employment contract, the au pair has an au pair agreement with the host family. This agreement will detail the duties the au pair will have and the remuneration they may expect.

However, payment is expected to be more in the nature of a stipend, since the au pair is helping a local family, while benefiting from the chance to live in another culture, learning the local language.

The au pair should contact the local consulate in order to ensure that they will be issued with a residence permit. This will depend on their host family being approved as sponsors of their visit.

If the au pair is from a country that permits residency in Spain for up to three months, then they may proceed without the need for approval by the Spanish consulate.

8. EU Blue Card Visa (For the high skilled professional)

As the name suggests, this is a European Union initiative designed to help the EU economy by permitting employers to hire highly educated employees from outside the European Union. A search can be made on the EU Portal designed for the purpose of matching employer's requirements with suitably qualified employees.

In order to obtain a work permit under this visa, the requirements are that the employee has a higher education qualification - typically to university degree level, and that a work contract of at least 1 year's duration has been offered to the potential employee.

Not only this, but the pay offered to the employee must be at least 50% higher than the national average income, and you must have appropriate health insurance and any family members that are joining you.

The work permit is valid for at least 2 years, where the contract of employment is of this duration. Where the work contract has a duration of less than 2 years, the card is valid for the period of the contract + 3 months.

For those with the relevant skills that are able to benefit from this visa, it is a highly attractive option, given that it permits the holder to travel with immediate family and relocate to Spain.

The holder can spend 3 months during any six months period in another EU period and, at the end of the year, the holder can spend a year working in a different EU country

9. Student Visa (Research Work)

There are in effect two types of student work permit that may be applied for in Spain.

Students who are attending an accredited educational program may work for a maximum number of 30 hours per week, however, this cannot be in order to support themselves financially.

Students living in Spain must have proven that they have the financial resources to support themselves for the duration of their course when making their visa application.

The work activities should be compatible with the student's study programme.

No authorization is necessary for non-labor internships that are an integral part of the curriculum and have been mutually agreed upon between the educational institution and the hosting entity (employer).

For higher education, vocational training, or programs designed to acquire a professional certificate or technical qualification required for a specific occupation, the study permit allows for both employed and self-employed work without requiring an additional authorization request.

If applying for a work permit to work with a specific employer, the employer must be registered with the Spanish social security system, and the student must have the appropriate qualifications to do the job, with documentation to demonstrate this. Furthermore, the employer must demonstrate they have the economical means to employ the student under the terms of the contract.

Apart from the above, a work permit may be issued where an applicant is engaging in training, research, development and innovation activities at public or private entities in Spain, provided they can demonstrate eligibility under Article 13 of Act 14/2011 of 1 June on Science, Technology and Innovation. Residence permits issued under this visa permit the holder to be joined by close family members.

Upon fulfilling the necessary requirements, it is possible to work in Spain following the completion of your studies.

To be eligible, you must secure a job offer, and your prospective employer must submit the work permit application on your behalf. Additionally, you must demonstrate that you have resided in Spain for a minimum of three years under a student permit. However, if you are a highly-qualified professional or intending to establish your own business, there may be no minimum residency period required.

Furthermore, upon graduating, you have the option to apply for a job-searching residence permit, which grants a 12-month period to seek employment.

10. Requirements for Spanish Self-Employment Visas

Among the Spanish work visas available, there is a type of self-employment visa which exists within the wider Entrepreneur's Visa, which is a visa designed to attract investors, entrepreneurs, intra-corporate transferees, highly skilled professionals, and researchers.

If a self-employed person from outside the EU wishes to move to Spain to set-up their own business, there are considerable hurdles, since the business activity must be of an innovative nature with special economic interest for Spain. Furthermore, criteria such as the applicant's profile, the business plan and possibly the investment opportunities the business will offer will be taken into account.

For anyone with an existing business, working as self-employed outside the EU, the digital nomad visa would offer a more straightforward process, with additional tax benefits.

11. Digital nomads (remote work visa)

If you are a non-EU citizen currently working for a company that is registered outside of Spain - either as an employee or in a self-employed capacity - then Spain's digital nomad visa could be a great option if you would like to live and work in Spain. This law allows nationals of third countries to engage in work or professional activities remotely for companies outside of Spain using only a computer, telematics, and telecommunication means and systems.

This new visa is aimed at teleworkers, that is any worker authorised to stay in Spain to carry out work or professional activity at a distance for companies outside the national territory using a computer, telematics, and telecommunication means and systems. However, the workers must be authorized by their companies.

A self-employed person can be considered a teleworker as long as they work for companies outside of Spain and the Spanish companies they work for do not represent more than 20 percent. They must also prove that they had a commercial relationship with these companies for at least three months before applying for the residence or visa.

If you are in your home country, you can apply for the visa or residency at the corresponding Spanish Embassy or consulate. If you are a tourist or have legal residency in Spain, you can apply online to the competent Spanish administration, which is the Ministry of Social Inclusion and Immigration in the section responsible for large companies.

The requirements to qualify for this visa are as follows:

  • Lack of criminal record (proof via appropriate Police Clearance Certificate)
  • Sufficient economic means (approximately 26,000 euros in your bank account and, if bringing family members, approximately 9,800 euros for the first family member). You will want to check Spanish banks for the best bank account options.
  • Proof of the commercial relationship with foreign companies (if you are self-employed) or that you are allowed to work remotely (if you are an employee)
  • Private health insurance.

Apart from the relatively (!) straightforward process, many digital nomads can qualify for the special taxation regime under the Beckham law, such that they are taxed at a flat-rate, up to €600,000 per year.

12. Duration of Work Visas

The duration of the various work visas described above varies slightly according to the type of visa.

The work visa with offer of employment contract is initially issued for a period of 1 year, renewable. Once the employee has spent 5 years living and working in Spain, and if they continue to comply with the requirements, then they may apply for a permanent residence permit.

The au pair visa is required when the au pair is staying for a period greater than 3 months, and if so, should request a study/au pair visa which typically lasts for 6-12 months.

The EU blue card confers a residence permit with a maximum duration of 3 years, renewable for 2 years. However, this right can be interrupted due to unemployment for a period of 3 or more months.

Student visas are valid for one year or for the duration of their educational course - whichever is shorter. For students on longer term courses, the visa can be renewed and the end of 3 years, the student can apply for working visa, under certain conditions.

Self-employment or entrepreneur visas are granted for a period of 1 year, renewable.

Digital nomad visas are issued for an initial period of 1 year, and can be extended up to a maximum of 5 years.

13. How to apply for a visa

Each of the visas has its own peculariaties, however in general, the following process needs to be followed:

Visa application made to the local Spanish Consulate

Attendance at an interview at the Consulate or Spanish embassy (where necessary)

Include all documentation required for the application: (these tend to include): Certificate of not having a criminal record, medical certificate (if moving to Spain from the UK you can get this letter from a GP, or private practice), suitable health insurance, employment contract, business plan

Depending on the type of visa, it can take between several weeks to several months for a decision to be made. Therefore, you should make sure to factor this into your time-frame when planning your move.

Also important to note is that, if you wish to renew a visa i.e. extend your stay in Spain, there will usually be a deadline after which it is not possible to renew the visa. This cut-off date will often be between 1 and 3 months before expiry of the current visa.

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Martin Rimmer
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