Professional visas in Spain

Work visas for Spain
Updated 2023-07-30 12:45

From its culture and cuisines, history and climate, Spain is a dream destination for expats. If you plan to live, work and study in Spain, you may need a visa and a work permit. There are numerous options and exemptions, and it can be confusing. So, this essential guide will help you discover which permits you may need to start your new life in the country.

EU-EEA nationals moving to Spain

If you are an EU/EEA national, you have the right to live and work in Spain without a visa or permit. 

Since 2006, European Union nationals can travel to Spain as tourists and register with local or national employment agencies. If you haven't found a job within 90 days, you can either request an extension of your stay to continue looking for work or leave the country and return for another period. 

Citizens of the EU or EEA can apply for a Spanish residency card/certificate and an NIE (foreigners' identity number). Without an NIE, you will not be able to open a bank account in Spain, seek employment or register with employment agencies. And the Spanish tax authorities won't be able to process your tax information.

You can apply for your NIE at the Spanish embassy in your home country or any National Police station in Spain that deals with foreign documentation. You will need to present:

  • A valid passport and photocopies;
  • A completed Ex-15 application form (Solicitud de Número de Identidad de Extranjero (NIE). You can download this from the Ministry of the Interior's website;
  • Two passport-sized photos;
  • Supporting documents justifying the reason for applying for an NIE. For example, a private purchase contract for a property or proof of employment. Make sure to check in advance which documents apply to your situation.

You will also need to pay the NIE processing fees, which are around 10 Euros. This is paid at a bank branch. You can return to pick up your NIE after the payment process.

Good to know:

In Spain, you need an NIE for almost everything - from opening a bank account and starting a work contract to purchasing a car and collecting registered items from a post office. Many administration offices will ask for your NIE instead of your name to process your requests. When living in Spain, you will probably know this number better than your telephone number!

The application process has become a little more complex in recent years. Consequently, numerous companies have sprung up that can manage the application process and obtain your NIE for you – for a fee.

Non-EU-EEA nationals moving to Spain

To live and work in Spain, citizens from outside the EU or EEA must apply for a work permit, a visa and/or an entry visa.

Visa to work as an employee in Spain

You must have a job offer before you can apply for a visa in Spain.

After you have secured a job in Spain, your employer must request a work permit so you can legally work in Spain. This has to be renewed after one year. Once the work permit has been approved, your work and residency visa can be issued. After five years of residency, you'll be able to apply for long-term/permanent residency.

Visa requirements

The typical requirements for expats wanting a work visa in Spain may vary depending on the situation. However, in general, they are:

  • A valid job offer or employment contract from a Spanish employer;
  • A copy of the work contract stamped by the Foreign Nationals´Office;
  • A copy of the autorización de residencia y trabajo por cuenta ajena (residence and work permit);
  • Depending on the job, expats may need to provide proof of academic qualifications or professional experience related to the position;
  • Valid health insurance coverage in Spain;
  • A medical certificate stating that the applicant doesn't suffer from any contagious diseases or conditions that may pose a public health threat;
  • Expats may need to provide a criminal record certificate from their home country;
  • Proof of financial stability, such as bank statements or employment contracts, to ensure the ability to support yourself while living and working in Spain;
  • A visa application fee must be paid at the time of submission. The cost is around 80 Euros.

It is important to note that these requirements are general guidelines, and specific requirements may vary depending on the type of work visa you´re applying for or your individual circumstances. It is advisable to consult with a Spanish consulate or embassy for detailed and up-to-date information.

How to apply for a work permit 

Your prospective employer in Spain will start the application process at the Labour and Immigration Provincial Delegation, where they will receive an officially stamped permit. The employer will send it to you so you can take it to the Spanish embassy or consulate in your country of origin to complete the application process. This will involve submitting the initial application documents, your passport, and other required documents. The embassy/consulate will then send the application to the Immigration Office in Spain for approval.

Length of validity

The length of validity for work visas in Spain varies depending on several factors. Typically, they´re granted for one year, allowing foreigners to reside and work in the country legally during this time. However, the validity can be extended up to a maximum of two years in certain cases. This can be repeated until the five-year mark has been reached.

Keep in mind that the length of validity for work visas in Spain is subject to change as immigration laws and policies continually evolve. Therefore, if you plan to work in Spain, you should consult with the relevant authorities or seek professional advice to understand the most up-to-date information and requirements regarding work visa validity.


Employers in Spain have to hire Spanish nationals or EU citizens first rather than foreigners. Therefore, if you are a non-EU citizen, you must look for work on the Shortage Occupation List which contains job positions employers still need to fill.

Other types of professional visas in Spain

There are various types of visas for different job types in Spain. They include:

  • Internship visa
  • Self-employment work visa
  • EU Blue Card 
  • Student visa
  • Au pair visa
  • Seasonal worker visa
  • Entrepreneur visa

Visa for internships

This visa is for expats who have completed a university degree within the last two years or are pursuing studies that will lead to a university degree in Spain or abroad. This visa is designed for individuals participating in an internship program in Spain. If some of the visa conditions aren´t met, you may be able to apply for a study/student visa to cover your internship.

Among the required documents are a valid passport, authorization for residence and internship, and a criminal records check.

Self-employment visa

The self-employment work visa allows individuals to move to Spain and work as self-employed professionals (autónomo). This visa is ideal for entrepreneurs, freelancers and those who wish to take charge of their professional destiny.

To qualify for the self-employment work visa, applicants must demonstrate a viable business plan and possess the necessary qualifications, skills, or experience to carry out their proposed business activities successfully. Additionally, applicants must show sufficient financial resources to support themselves and any dependents during their stay in Spain.

The required documents include a valid passport, criminal record check certificate, medical certificate, originals and copies of professional qualifications and proof of financial means.

EU Blue Card

The EU Blue Card is designed to attract highly skilled workers from non-EU countries to fulfill the labor market demands of member states. To obtain an EU Blue Card, individuals must satisfy the following requirements:

  • Have a confirmed offer of employment from a Spanish company for a minimum duration of 1 year;
  • Be employed and receive wages through the Spanish payroll system;
  • Receive a salary that is at least 1.5 times the average annual salary;
  • Possess a 4-year university degree (or 3-year university degree plus a master's degree) or have a minimum of 5 years of work experience;
  • You must work as a paid employee. The Blue Card is not available to self-employed workers.

With an EU Blue Card, you can work in Spain for between one and four years, and it can be renewed, provided certain conditions are met.

Student visas

This is a visa for stays over 90 days for studies, training, internships, or volunteer work. To apply for a student visa, candidates must first secure a place at an educational institution in Spain. This can include universities, colleges, or language schools that offer the desired courses. Once admitted, you can begin the visa application process at the Spanish consulate or embassy in your home country.

The student visa requirements typically include the following:

  • A completed visa application form
  • A valid passport
  • Proof of acceptance at a Spanish educational institution
  • Proof of financial stability
  • Proof of health insurance coverage
  • A clean criminal record

Additionally, you may need to provide supporting documents like medical certificates and vaccination records.

Activities that merit a student visa include:

  • Full-time (minimum of 20 hours per week) studies
  • Doctoral studies
  • Training activities
  • Secondary school exchange programs
  • Au pair programs
  • Internships or traineeships at public or private bodies that don´t qualify for an internship visa

Family members may obtain a visa to accompany the student, but this isn´t a work visa. Family members entitled to apply are a spouse or civil partner and children who are minors or have a disability.

Visa for au pairs

Au pairs in Spain can apply for a student visa as there is currently no official au pair program in the country.

Visa for seasonal workers

The seasonal work visa is for those who want to work in Spain on a temporary basis. This visa allows individuals to work during peak seasons in industries such as tourism or agriculture. Applicants must have a job offer from a Spanish employer and meet the specific criteria set for seasonal workers. For example, providing proof of accommodation and evidence of financial resources to cover return travel costs.

Visa for entrepreneurs

For investors and entrepreneurs, Spain provides the entrepreneur visa. This visa allows foreigners who plan to invest significant money into a Spanish business or create a new business venture in the country to obtain work and residence permits. Applicants must submit a solid business plan showcasing the economic and strategic benefits their investment will bring to Spain.

Some family members of the entrepreneur can also obtain a visa. These include:

  • Spouse or unmarried partners;
  • Children and adult children who have not created their own families and who are dependent on the entrepreneur.

The entrepreneur visa opens up various opportunities in Spain, as the country has a vibrant entrepreneurial environment and a burgeoning startup scene. Major cities like Barcelona and Madrid are renowned for their innovative business ecosystems, which attract entrepreneurs worldwide. Moreover, Spain's strategic location within Europe provides easy access to other European markets, enhancing the potential for business growth and international collaboration.

Pension contributions in Spain

Expats who live and work in Spain must make social security contributions for their pension. This is essential to their personal finance and retirement planning while residing in the country.

The Spanish social security system ensures that individuals, both nationals and expats, are entitled to various benefits and services, including retirement pensions. These contributions are made based on the individual's income and employment status, ensuring a fair and equitable distribution of funds within the system.

For expats, making these social security contributions not only ensures their eligibility for a Spanish pension but also allows them to take advantage of various benefits, such as free healthcare in Spain, unemployment benefits, and maternity/paternity leave, among others.

You will either work for a company that will deduct your social security contributions automatically from your salary or work as a self-employed individual (autónomo). In this case, you'll be responsible for making these contributions. Regardless of your employment status, making these contributions is a legal requirement for anyone working and residing in Spain.

Currently, the retirement age in Spain is 67 years old.

Useful links:

Ministry of Labour, Migrations & Social Security

Ministerio de Asuntos Exteriores, Unión Europea y Cooperación

EU Blue Card

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