Work Permits for Spain

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In order to live and work there, expats must obtain a residence and work permit for Spain – notoriously elusive paperwork that requires any number of documents, depending on an individual’s purpose in the country. Thankfully, work and residence are linked in the Spanish permit system.
European Union (EU) nationals only need special authorisation or a work permit to live and work in Spain, although they will also have to register as residents once in the country. 
Non-EU nationals, on the other hand, will have a long and tedious process to look forward to and, in most cases, it is necessary to have a contract of employment before they can apply for a work permit; a legality which can result in a catch-22 situation, as many employers won’t offer someone a job without a work permit, but it is necessary to have a job contract to apply for one.

Expats should remember that a visa entitles them to enter the country, and a permit enables them to stay there. 

Types of work permits for Spain

There are two types of work permits in Spain, the Cuenta Ajena and Cuenta Propia.
The Cuenta Ajena is given to those who have a specific contract from a specific company. The Cuenta Propia, also known as an autonomo, is for those who are self-employed and would like more freedom to move between different companies and positions within the working world.
It is generally easier to obtain a Cuenta Ajena, thus it is often recommended that expats first secure this type of permit, and apply for a Cuenta Propia after the fact.
That said, many positions that are popular with expatriates – specifically careers in the education and language sectors – will require that the person has a Cuenta Propia permit.
In addition to the list of documents required for both permits, Cuenta Propia certification requires that the applicant first registers with Hacienda (the Spanish revenue service) and Seguridad Social (Spanish social security).

Work and residence permits for non-EU nationals in Spain

For non-EU nationals, starting the work permit application process largely falls on the shoulders of the employer. The work residence visa that will be needed to enter Spain and the collection of the work permit is, however, usually the applicant’s own responsibility.
For the most part, it is not possible to apply for a work permit from within Spain, although there are a few loopholes for those who have been living illegally in the country for an extended time.
There are several procedures expats will have to follow in order to work and live legally in Spain.

Secure a job

Whether someone is lucky enough to have secured a job from abroad or whether they have journeyed to Spain, found a job and returned home while their application processes, to obtain most forms of work permit an expat will need an employment contract. The only exception is the Cuenta Propia.
Once a job has been secured and a contract has been negotiated, the employer will request certain documents from the prospective employee and will submit a work permit application to the Spanish Ministry of Labour (Ministerio de Trabajo y Asuntos Sociales) on their behalf.

Apply for work and residence visa

After the work permit is approved by Ministry of Labour, the employer will send the expat a notification of approval, which should have an official stamp.
Next, the applicant needs to collect and submit all the documents required to apply for a work and residence visa at their closest Spanish embassy.
Expats should keep in mind that many of these documents will need to be translated into Spanish and certified. 
Furthermore, an applicant only has one month to apply for the visa after their permit has been officially approved. It is therefore best to begin gathering the necessary documents well beforehand.

Depart for Spain

If the work and residence visa is granted, the applicant will have one month to retrieve it after the official date of approval and notification. They must then make arrangements to enter Spain within the timeline designated by the visa. Expats are usually granted a three-month window.

Apply for a work and residence permit

Once an expat has entered Spain with their visa, they can pick up their work and residence permit card, a simple bureaucratic process that merely requires an application form and the applicant’s passport. The card must be applied for within 30 days of entry at either the Foreign Nationals Office (Oficina de Extranjeros) or at a police headquarters. 

Non-working residence permits for Spain

Those moving to Spain as a dependent or non-worker only need to apply for a residence permit, and not a work and residence permit. This permit is largely linked to the validity of the work permit obtained by the applicant’s working partner.
Residence permits can be applied for at local police stations or a Foreigner’s Office within Spain, or at a Spanish consulate outside of the country. The time period required for completion can be anywhere from days to months depending on the locale – smaller towns often take longer.

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