The whole process of obtaining a work permit in Spain is not as simple as it may seem at first glance. In this article we will discuss the different options available to those who wish to work in Spain, as well as the ways to apply for such a permit, depending on your situation. To learn more about labor mobility in Spain, see: Mobility and professional recognition in EU and Spain

During 2019, almost 3 million residence permits were issued across the European Union (EU) to people from third countries. Now, in relation to mobility and professional recognition in the EU and in Spain, what have been the main reasons for these people to obtain a first residence permit? Let's see 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 in Spain that allows a third-country national to stay for at least three months in its territory. Here you will find more information on residence permits issued in the EU before COVID-19.

1 — No residence in Spain

Foreign citizens residing outside Spain have several options for obtaining a work permit:

  • If you have found a potential employer in Spain, they should check with the Spanish employment office to see if there are registered job applicants with the skills/qualifications you are looking for for the particular position. This is 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 for entry of the foreigner as a worker and the foreigner will have to apply for a visa in his or her country.
  • There are also lists of specialized or "hard to find" occupations, which are published quarterly in each Spanish province, where jobs such as naval machinist, senior engineer, professional athlete or sports coach can be found. The process, here, differs from the previous one: an employer can apply to the Oficina de Extranjería in Spain to bring a foreign person as a worker to Spain, without first going to the Oficina de Empleo.

2 — Highly qualified workers

Highly qualified workers are persons who can also obtain a residence authorization in Spain. In this case, the application will be submitted by the employer to the Large Companies Unit (UGE). This modality can be carried out when the following conditions are met:

  • If it is a person with higher education or equivalent professional experience of at least three years.
  • If the applicants are graduates, postgraduates from universities and business schools.
  • For regulated professions in Spain, the homologation of the degree will be required.

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3 — Student visa holders in Spain

Those who have a student visa in Spain and have completed their studies may apply for a residence permit for up to 24 months to find work in Spain. Once they have found a job, they can 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. Therefore, it is very important to know how to stay and work in Spain as a foreigner after higher education.

4 — Foreigners who want 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 residency on their own account once they have completed their studies in Spain. For more information, see: How to develop a business project in Spain as a non-EU citizen?

5 — Foreigners with relatives in Spain

Those foreign citizens who have regrouped with a family member in Spain, through the family regrouping process, may work in the country without the need for prior authorization, provided they are of legal age.

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

For more information, see: 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, unless it is a job offer as a highly qualified worker.
  • Those who have been living in Spain for three years without a residence authorization may apply for a work and residence authorization if they have received a job offer. This applies to full-time and part-time jobs, but they need to earn at least the amount of the minimum interprofessional wage (€1,080 gross per month in 2023). They can also apply for a residence and self-employment authorization.
  • Those who buy a property worth €500,000 in Spain can apply for a residence authorization as an investor, which entails 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?