After seeing how battered the Spanish labor market is, the Spanish government finally opted to reform the Alien Regulation and create a legal framework that is better adapted to the current situation.

Obtaining a work permit in Spain has generally been very difficult. On the other hand, many important jobs for the country's business activity are difficult to fill and need to hire personnel from abroad.

The recent modification of the regulations has approved several measures to help with the two problems described above, and they are very useful for all foreigners who want to come to work in Spain.

In general, the changes have focused on three main aspects:

  1. To make it easier for non-EU foreigners to obtain a work permit, both as employees and as self-employed or employed persons.
  2. To facilitate the possibility of working, being compatible with study permits, and to exchange a study permit for a work permit.
  3. To give foreigners in an irregular situation new ways of living in Spain so that they can be trained and start working in qualified jobs, a sector in which more workers are needed.

The following is a list of the most relevant aspects that every company should be aware of in order to benefit from this legislative reform:

1) The list of hard-to-cover jobs has expanded

Many more people can come to Spain to work. But, before the change in regulations, the list of hard-to-fill occupations was very small and did not reflect the needs of the labor market at any given time, and had not been updated for years.

This meant that a worker could only obtain his or her first work permit if the position was on this list (which was not very frequent). The other option was to present a negative or hardship certificate from the SEPE (Public Employment Service) showing that there were not enough people looking for work in that particular position.

With this new modification, they have committed to update the jobs within the hard-to-fill catalog, making it much easier to find employment opportunities in Spain. This catalog will be updated every 3 months and will be based on the needs of each Autonomous Community or region.

What does this mean?

It means that all people who want to come to Spain to live and work will have more options and opportunities for success. And that companies that need workers in certain sectors, when they have difficulties to find them, will be able to cover them with workers who are in their countries of origin and who want to come to Spain to work in jobs in line with the training they have.

2) Reduction of the time required to hire foreigners in their country of origin

The deadlines have been considerably reduced, which makes it possible to obtain a work permit more quickly. This is undoubtedly excellent news.

Any company based in Spain that needs to fill a position that is not on the list of hard-to-fill occupations will find it much easier to hire foreigners in their country of origin.

From now on, a job offer will only have to be posted for 8 days on the Spanish Government's electronic portal to prove that it does not have enough applicants. If after that time no workers are found, the SEPE will issue the certificate of insufficiency within 3 days.

Once the 3 days have elapsed, any interested person or company may submit the application for official residence and work authorization at the immigration office.

3) The renewal of the residence card for labor reasons will now be for 4 years (instead of 2 years)

This could probably be one of the most significant and beneficial components of the whole reform of the Foreigners' Regulation.

Immigrants will find it much easier to reside in Spain indefinitely. Until now, the procedure was as follows: you received your temporary card for one year, renewed it for two more years, then another two years and then applied for long-term residence.

This is a radical change, since after the initial 1-year residence card, the renewal will be for 4 years, which will greatly simplify the foreigner's life in Spain and will eliminate an important bureaucratic burden.

But there is even more, because with the new reform, renewals will also be simpler, with fewer strict conditions. And it will allow that person to work both as an employee and as a self-employed person, directly, without the need to apply for authorization of compatibility between the two, as we will explain later.

Therefore, the new rule will eliminate the so-called "supervening irregularities", making the renewal assumptions considerably more flexible. By only working for 3 months (instead of 6) and actively looking for a job (registering with the SEPE), you will be able to renew your first residence and work permit.

4) Main changes in Labor Roots

Labor Roots will only be granted to foreigners who have worked in the past on a regular basis, but who are in an irregular situation at the time of the application.

Now, what happens to people who have been working irregularly?

In these cases they will have to obtain a permit for exceptional circumstances, but through the route of social roots.

In any case, in the case of labor roots, it is still necessary to have resided regularly in Spain for at least 2 years, and absences of more than 90 days in the last 2 years are not considered continuous stay.

The only change is that now you only have to prove that you have worked 30 hours per week for six months, or 15 hours per week for one year. This is the flexibility provided by the modification, as it allows you to include part-time work situations.

5­­) After renewal, it is not necessary to apply for compatibility or a new permit for self-employment or employment.

Foreigners who have obtained a self-employed work permit and want to work in Spain must change or apply for compatibility if they want to enjoy both at the same time. In other words, the transition from one regime to the other is a long and often tiresome process.

The transition from an employee to a self-employed regime and vice versa is a tedious and difficult procedure. This is also the case when you want to combine the two. However, this is no longer necessary, since after you renew a work permit for the first time, you can work as a self-employed person or as an employee without having to go through any further legal formalities.


For many years, obtaining the necessary permits to live, work and study in Spain has been a tedious and complex process. Therefore, it was about time that the Spanish Government modified the immigration regulations to simplify things for foreigners living in Spain.

The modification offers foreigners who are regularly or irregularly present in Spain more options to obtain valid permits to stay in the country, through more simplified procedures.

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