This regime is not applicable to nationals of the Member States of the European Union, the European Economic Area or Switzerland (or to countries to which this regime could be extended in the future, by means of an international convention), nor to nationals of third countries to whom, by reason of family ties, the EU regime of free movement applies (EU citizens + family members of EU-EEA-Swiss citizens, and who are nationals of third countries), nor to those to whom the benefits of international protection apply.

Foreign citizens who intend to travel to Spain to carry out any lucrative, work or professional activity must first meet the following requirements:

  • Be over sixteen years old, unless you are self-employed, in which case you must be over eighteen.
  • Obtaining the corresponding prior authorisation to live and work in Spain. This authorisation must be requested by the employer offering the employment contract.
  • Obtaining a visa once the residence and work permit has been issued.

There are different regimes through which the Spanish authorities regulate the authorisations or documents that entitle foreign people to work in Spain:

  • General regime for foreigners: Organic Law 4/2000, of 11 January, on the rights and freedoms of foreigners in Spain and their social integration, which regulates the general regime for foreigners, in the wording given by its various amendments
  • Regime applicable to EU citizens and their families: Royal Decree 240/2007, of 16 February, on the entry, free movement and residence in Spain of citizens of the Member States of the European Union and other States party to the Agreement on the European Economic Area, which lays down the regime for these citizens and their families. For the time being, the final situation and regime applicable to UK nationals after their eventual departure from the EU remains to be defined.
  • Regime applicable to applicants and beneficiaries of international protection: Law 12/2009, of 30 October, regulating the right of asylum and subsidiary protection, which determines the nationals of third States with this special protection regime and their families.
  • Regime applicable to the figures contemplated in Law 14/2013, of 27 September, on support for entrepreneurs and their internationalisation, Section 2 "International Mobility", of Chapter I, Title V "Internationalisation of the Spanish economy", which regulates certain cases in which, for reasons of economic interest, the granting of visas and residence permits is facilitated and expedited, in order to attract investment and talent to Spain

Authorisation for profit-making activities

Foreigners over the age of 16 who wish to carry out any lucrative, professional or work activity in Spain will require prior administrative authorisation in order to work legally.

The work permits that can be obtained in Spain are:

  • Temporary residence and employment.
  • Temporary residence and work of highly qualified professionals holding an EU Blue Card.
  • Temporary residence and fixed-term employment.
  • Temporary residence and self-employment.
  • Temporary residence and work in the framework of transnational service provision.
  • Temporary stay/residence with the exception of work authorisation.
  • Residence for family reunification with permission to work.
  • Residence for exceptional circumstances due to roots or international protection with the right to work.
  • Work permit for holders of residence permits in exceptional circumstances on humanitarian grounds, for cooperation with the authorities, for national security or in the public interest.
  • Temporary residence and work due to exceptional circumstances of foreign women victims of gender violence.
  • Temporary residence and work for exceptional circumstances due to collaboration against organized networks.
  • Temporary residence and work in exceptional circumstances of foreign victims of trafficking in human beings.
  • Authorisation to work for holders of residence permits for study, research or training, non-working practice or voluntary services.
  • Work permit for cross-border workers.
  • Long-term residence.
  • Long-term residence - EU.

This regime does not apply to nationals of the Member States of the European Union, the European Economic Area or Switzerland (or to countries to which this regime could be extended in the future by means of an international convention), nor to nationals of third countries to whom, by reason of family ties, the EU regime of free movement applies (EU citizens + family members of EU-EEA-Swiss citizens, and who are nationals of third countries), or to whom the benefits of international protection apply.

Asylees and beneficiaries of subsidiary protection

The procedures and conditions for granting work permits to asylum seekers are governed by Law 12/2009, of 30 October, which regulates the right to asylum and subsidiary protection.

In accordance with the twenty-first additional provision of the Regulations of the Law on Foreigners (RELOEX), applicants for international protection will be authorised to work in Spain after six months have elapsed since the presentation of their application, provided that it has been admitted for processing and has not been resolved for reasons not attributable to the interested party.

The authorisation to work shall be accredited by the inscription "authorises work" on the document of the applicant for international protection and, if applicable, on its successive renewals, and shall be conditional on the validity of the document. In the event that this inscription does not apply because these requirements are not met, the Asylum and Refugee Office shall record this fact in a reasoned decision and shall notify the interested party.

The granting of the right to asylum or subsidiary protection implies, among other rights:

  • Authorisation to live and work in Spain indefinitely under the same conditions as Spaniards. The national employment situation does not therefore apply.
  • Access to nationality with 5 years of legal residence (Article 22 of the Civil Code) for those who have obtained refugee status.
  • Access to Social Security.

This condition shall be accredited by a favourable decision issued by the competent body of the Ministry of the Interior or by the Identity Card of an asylee/refugee or beneficiary of subsidiary protection.

Family members

The right to asylum or the benefit of subsidiary protection, by family extension, may be granted to the spouse or partner of the foreigner who has been recognised as having refugee or subsidiary protection status, as well as to his/her ascendants and descendants in the first degree, except in cases of family independence, age and different nationality.

The decision to grant the right of asylum or subsidiary protection by family extension shall entail for the beneficiaries, among others, the right to exercise work, professional or commercial activities without any restriction.

In addition, refugees or beneficiaries of subsidiary protection may choose to reunite the family members indicated above, even if they are already in Spain, without requesting the extension of the status they enjoy. This regrouping will always be applicable when the beneficiaries are of a nationality other than that of the refugee or beneficiary of subsidiary protection.

In this case, the resolution by which family reunification is agreed will imply the granting of a residence permit and, where appropriate, a work permit, of similar validity to that of the applicant.

What to do after arriving in Spain?

Upon arrival in Spain, the foreign worker must:

  • Cause registration in the corresponding Social Security Regime.
  • Applying for a foreigner's identity card.

Citizens of the European Union and members of their families, whenever the latter travel or join them, are subject to a specific legal regime based on the rights recognised by the Treaties.

Links of interest

Visa procedures are not easy, so getting advice can guide you through the whole process to make it easier and less tedious. You may also be interested in the following resources:

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