How to Work in Spain as a Foreigner (All Your Options) (2024)

How to Work in Spain as a Foreigner (All Your Options) (1)

Would you like to move to Spain and start working, but don’t know where to start? Then this post will be the guide that you need. Although this is a long and tedious process, with the keys and pieces of advice that you are about to discover here, everything will be much easier.

Next, we will explore how to work legally in Spain as a foreigner. We will analyze all the requirements that you must meet, the different paths currently available, and other tips that will prove very useful.


What do I need to start working in Spain?

In order to be able to work legally and effectively in Spain, you only have to meet three main requirements:

Minimum age

First of all, we find the age requirement. To be able to work in the country you must be over 18 years old.

However, it is also possible to work from 16 to 18, as long as you get explicit authorization from your parents or legal guardians.

On the other hand, the other crucial requirement is having the right to work. This can be achieved in two different ways:

  • By a Spanish citizen (with nationality), something that intrinsically grants this right
  • Having a residence and work authorization

Thus, by obtaining a work authorization (work permit) you will be able to work in the Spanish territory, either as an employee (for a company) or as a self-employed person (as a freelancer).

By obtaining this permit you will also be automatically granted an NIE, the number that identifies you as a foreigner, and that you will need to sign the employment contract.

Since there are different options for obtaining this authorization, all with their associated requirements, we will, later on, expand on this information in greater detail throughout this article.

Be registered with the Social Security

Finally, in either of these two cases, you will have to be registered with Social Security in order to start working.

This registration is the one that allows you to receive unemployment aids or pension; besides being able to benefit from the public health system in Spain, one of the most recognized in the world.

In general, the company that hires you will be the one registering you. However, you must first request and obtain your affiliation number, which you must do at the Social Security Treasury.

Do you have any doubts so far? Keep on reading for more information or ask our expert immigration lawyers here:

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How to work in Spain as a foreigner

As we have mentioned in the previous section, one of the key requirements when working in the country is having the right to do so.

In order to get this right, you will either need to obtain a work permit or be the holder of a residence permit that allows you to work.

And here you have two options:

  • Arrive in Spain already with a job offer (recommended)
  • Enter the country as a tourist without a job offer (something that will complicate your options drastically) to find a job later on

Below we will explain the different immigration paths that will grant you the right to work.

Beyond the regular work permit, keep in mind that there are many other residencies that also allow you to work (and in many cases are easier to obtain).

Let’s explore those options by defining their requirements so that you can clearly understand which option is the most appropriate for your particular case:

Regular work permit

The most direct (but not the easiest) way to work in Spain is to apply for a regular work permit.

This is usually a very complex and almost impossible process due to its complicated requirements:

First, you will have to initiate the process from your home country. Unlike some of the options discussed below, in this case, you cannot be in Spain when you start the application procedure.

To do so, the first thing you will have to do is to find a company willing to hire you and manage the application. That is to say, to receive a job offer.

But not just any job offer will work, since it must be included in what is known as a shortage occupation list or a list of jobs that are difficult to cover.

In other words, in order to respect the national unemployment situation, priority is given to legal residents and Spanish nationals with the vast majority of job offers, so that as a foreigner you will only be able to apply for a very small number of them.

The exception to this rule is Peruvian and Chilean citizens, to whom the national unemployment situation does not apply and who can benefit from any job offer.

Self-employed work permit

In parallel, you can also apply for a regular work permit to start your own project or work on your own.

This is known as being an “autónomo” in Spanish, and you can learn all the steps to register as one here.

In these cases, you must also submit a business plan detailing, clearly, your business idea or project.

Unfortunately, few projects are accepted on this path, since opening a generic business (such as a coffee shop) is not enough.

It must be a project that can generate a large number of jobs and contribute significantly to the development of the Spanish economy.

The application process for this type of permits are also initiated in the country of origin.

Highly qualified working visa

On the other hand, we find the first of the work permits under the Entrepreneur’s Law: the permit for skilled workers.

Like the next one on our list (entrepreneur visa), it can be applied for directly from Spain as a tourist, and it offers quick resolutions in just 20 days.

This work permit is designed for foreigners with higher education (bachelor’s or master’s), who will occupy technical or managerial positions in a Spanish company, and will receive a salary of more than 50,000€ per year.

You can access here a complete guide with all the information about this permit.

Entrepreneur visa

In the case of wanting to set up a highly innovative company in Spain that includes a large technological component, the entrepreneur visa is the most recommended option.

It is the work permit that allows you to set up your startup in Spain; and although few projects are finally accepted for this visa, it may be a more recommended option than the regular self-employment permit.

Again, here it is crucial to develop a meticulous business plan to favor your immigration application.

Access here a complete guide with all the requirements of the entrepreneur visa.

Family member of an EU citizen visa

If you are a family member of a Spanish or European citizen living in Spain, you will be entitled to obtain a residence card as a family member of an EU citizen.

The most frequent applications for this card come from those cases where a non-EU citizen registers a civil partnership or marriage with an EU citizen.

One of the main advantages of this 5-year residency card is that it allows you to work as an employee or self-employed.

Click here and access a complete guide with all requirements and the application process for the family member visa.

Social arraigo

Many foreigners arrive in Spain in search of a job offer, but after the end of their 3 months as a tourist, they have not been able to fulfill that goal.

In the case of staying irregularly in the country and staying a total of 3 years (being able to prove it), it is possible to apply for the “arraigo social”.

This residence for exceptional circ*mstances not only allows to reside for one year in the Spanish territory legally but also to work.

Thus, in addition to having to prove these 3 years of continuous residence, it will also be essential to find a job offer to complete the process.

Permanent residency

Finally, once you have been legally and continuously living in the Spanish territory for 5 years, you will be able to obtain long-term residence.

This, besides allowing you to stay in the country indefinitely (with renewals every 5 years), also allows you to work (regardless of the national unemployment situation).

And up to here the process to work legally in Spain if you are a foreigner. If you have any doubts or would like to receive personalized advice from our team, do not hesitate to tell us more about your situation in a consultation!

Get in touch with our lawyers and let us guide you step by step:

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