Going through the whole process of obtaining a work permit in Spain is not as simple as it may seem at first glance. And in this article we will discuss the different options available to those seeking to work in Spain, as well as the ways to process such a permit, depending on your situation.

Mobility and professional recognition in EU and Spain

Nearly 3 million residence permits, at least, were issued across the European Union (EU) to people from non-member countries, during 2019. During 2019, nearly 3 million residence permits were issued across the EU. Now then... what have been the main reasons for people to obtain a first residence permit? Let's take a look at it below.

By way of introduction and for ease of understanding, it is important to note that a residence permit is an authorization issued by the competent authorities of Spain that allows a third-country national to stay for at least three months in its territory.

Residence permits issued in the EU prior to COVID-19

1 — No residence in Spain

Foreign citizens residing outside of Spain or already in Spain, but without a work permit, have several options for obtaining a work permit:

  • If you have found a prospective employer in Spain, the employer must check with the Spanish employment office to see if there are registered job applicants with the skills/qualifications you are seeking for the particular job. These are usually based on education. If the office confirms that there is no one with those skills/qualifications, the employer can apply to the immigration office to bring the foreign national as a worker and the foreign national will have to apply for a visa in his/her country.
  • There is also a list of specialized or 'hard to find' occupations, issued in each Spanish province, every quarter, in which jobs such as naval machinist, top engineer, professional athlete, or sports coach can be found. The process, here, differs from the previous one: an employer can apply to the immigration office in Spain to bring in a certain foreign citizen as a worker, without first going to the employment office.

2 — Highly skilled workers

Highly skilled workers - who need to have a degree obtained at a higher education academy or five years of professional experience - can apply for a Residence and Work Authorization, subject to Government Authorization, requested by the employer in question. 

Risks of the visa for Highly Qualified Workers (HQW) in Spain

This method can be carried out in any of the following cases:

  • If it is to carry out management work, or if it is for highly qualified personnel in large companies and business groups, or in SMEs in strategic sectors.
  • If it is to carry out management work for highly qualified personnel in business projects of general interest.
  • If they are applicants who are graduates, postgraduates from prestigious universities and business schools.

3 — Student visa holders in Spain

Those who have a student visa in Spain and have completed their studies may apply for a one-year residence permit to find a job in Spain. Once they have found a job, they may apply for a work authorization. It is also possible to exchange the student visa for a work authorization if you already have a job at the end of your studies.

How to stay and work in Spain, being a foreigner, after studying higher education

4 — Foreigners seeking to open a business in Spain

They will have to present a feasibility business project at the Spanish consulate of the country in which they reside or apply for self-employed residency once they have completed their studies in Spain.

For more information, check out: How to develop a business project in Spain as a non-EU citizen?

5 — Foreigners with relatives in Spain

Those foreign citizens who have been reunited with a family member in Spain, through the family reunification process, may work in the country without prior authorization.

Also, those married, registered as a domestic partner or who have been living with a Spanish citizen for more than one year (proving that both are registered at the town hall at the same address) may obtain a residence and work authorization as a family member of an EU citizen, which allows working from the day the authorization is requested (in some places in Spain only those who are spouses or domestic partners are allowed to work from the day of application only).

Residence on the basis of employment roots: New ruling broadens the assumptions for applying for it in Spain

6 — Other cases

  • Those who have arrived in Spain on a non-profit visa may change their authorization to obtain a work permit after one year, except in the case of a job offer as a highly qualified worker.
  • Those who have been living in Spain for three years without a residence permit may apply for a work and residence permit if they have received a job offer. This applies for full-time and part-time jobs, but they need to earn at least the amount of the minimum wage (€900, as of June 2021). They could also apply for a residence and self-employment authorization.
  • Aquellos que compren una propiedad por valor de 500.000 euros en España podrán solicitar una autorización de residencia como inversores, que conlleva la autorización para trabajar en España. Quizás te sea útil leer: Golden visas: what are they, how can they be obtained and what can they offer? Those who buy a property worth 500,000 euros in Spain will be able to apply for a residence authorization as investors, which entails the authorization to work in Spain. You may find it useful to read: Golden visas: what are they, how do you get them and what can they offer?