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Visas & Work Permits in Spain

The Guide to Visa Types and Work Permit Requirements

Choosing the Spanish visa type you need depends on how long you plan on staying in the country. Apart from residence permits, most expats will require a work permit. If you already have a job offer in Spain, the application process for this permit is easy. If you are a skilled worker filling a position listed in the shortage list, you can apply for a high-skilled worker visa (European Blue Card). Otherwise, you will need a 90-day Schengen-visa before applying for a work, family reunion, or self-employment

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If you plan on relocating to Spain for work and are moving from outside the EU/EEA, you will need to apply for a Spanish work visa. When it comes to getting a work residence permit in Spain, EU-citizens have it easier, while for non-EU citizens, the process may take longer and require more preparation. No matter where you are coming from, this guide covers all the work visa requirements and application processes, from getting an employment permit, or a skilled worker visa, to registering with the local authorities, and all the other formalities of living and working in Spain.

If working in Spain is not your objective, you are perhaps moving there to retire or study. In this case your visa process is slightly different as you will mainly need to show proof of sufficient financial means.

The costs and requirements for a Spanish visa varies greatly depending on the purpose of your stay (e.g. work, study) and where you originally come from. Citizens from the United states and Canada have to pay much higher visa fees for Spain than any other country in the world.

Work Permits and Employment-Based Visas

As Spain belongs to the European Union, whether or not you need a work permit or employment visa, depends on where you come from. If you are a national of an EU/EEA country, you can skip directly to Formalities After Entering the Country, as you are free to live and work in Spain. Non-EU/EEA nationals will need a visa depending on the purpose of their stay.

For EU/EEA Nationals

If you are an EU, EEA, or Swiss national, living and working in Spain is relatively straightforward. You can stay in the country for up to three months without having to report your presence or having to register with the authorities. You are only required to hold a valid national ID card or passport, which you will need to present to the authorities whenever requested.

As a national of one of these countries, you do not need a visa or work permit to stay, work, or study in Spain. Keep in mind that there are still some formalities you will need to take into account, such as obtaining the Número de Identidad de Extranjeros (NIE) and empadronamiento, which are covered in this guide. 

For Non-EU/EEA Nationals

If you are not from an EU-country, you will need permission from the Spanish government to live and work in Spain. This means you need to apply for a work visa. There are two types of visas that you can apply for when you are already in Spain. These two visas fall under the entrepreneur law: the European Blue Card (visa for high-skilled workers), or the entrepreneur visa, if you want to start you own company (por cuenta propia).

For regular work permits, no matter if you want to be a freelancer (autónomo) or work for an employer (por cuenta ajena), you will need to start the application process from your country of origin.

Work Visa Requirements and Application Forms for Spain

To apply for a work permit, you will have to fill out the corresponding application form for the type of work permit visa you will need. You can find the correct form on the website of the Foreigner’s office. After filling out the application, you will need to bring the form including the following documents to the Foreigner’s office, or Oficina de Extranjeria:

  • copy of your passport;
  • criminal record;
  • medical certificate;
  • three passport-sized photographs;
  • your NIE (if you are already in the country);
  • your employer’s social security number;
  • job offer with the labor conditions;
  • full description of the job and the company’s activity;
  • proof of your employer’s financial assets (if needed)
  • and the corresponding Spain work permit visa application form.

Spain Work Permit Types

  • Type A work permit is for seasonal and limited work, with a maximum duration of nine months, including renewals.
  • Type B initial work permit allows you to work in Spain, in a specific occupation and geographical area, for a maximum period of one year.
  • Type B renewed work permit is a renewal of the initial work permit, which extends it to a maximum of two years. You can also carry out various professional activities with this permit.
  • Type C work permit is a renewal of the type B permit and allows you to carry out any activity in the country.
  • Permanent work permits have an unlimited duration, but you still have to renew them every five years. You can apply for this visa after your type C has expired.
  • Other types of permits, such as the extraordinary permit (when a non-EU citizen has helped the Spanish economic and cultural progress), or a type F permit (for working at the Spanish borders, provided the worker returns daily to their own country).

High-Skilled Worker Visa (European Blue Card)

If you are a highly skilled worker, you can apply for a European Blue Card, the equivalent of the Green Card in the United States. This work and residence visa allows highly skilled non-EU workers to live and work in any European country, with the exception of Denmark, Ireland, and the United Kingdom.

Requirements for the European Blue Card

The eligibility for this type of work permit depends fully on your professional qualifications. According to the Spanish Ministry for immigration, a high-skilled worker is:

  • the manager of highly qualified staff of large businesses, corporate groups, or SMEs in strategic sectors;
  • the manager of highly qualified staff of business projects in the general interest;
  • a graduate or postgraduate from universities and prestigious business schools.

The process of applying for a high-skilled visa and work permit is similar for other workers. The process is carried out by your employer with these procedures and requirements.

Business Visa

Dependent on your country of origin, you may be able to enter Spain for business purposes visa-free. That is, only if you are from any of the countries that fall under the Schengen visa free regime. Otherwise you will have to go to your nearest Spanish embassy or consulate. Once there, you will complete the Spanish Visa application form, which is identical to all short-term visas for Spain. You will need to bring the following documents with you:

  • Spain visa application form;
  • two standard passport photos no older than three months;
  • your passport (must be valid for three months after the day you leave Spain) and copies of your passport including pages with visas and stamps;
  • flight booking confirming the in- and outbound date, as well as the booking of your accommodation;
  • work certificate (or work contract that mentions salary, date when you started working and your role);
  • letter of invitation from the company you will be doing business with, justifying your travels;
  • travel health insurance for Spain;
  • proof of sufficient financial means;
  • proof of civil status.

Costs for Spain Work Permits and Visas

According to the Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, expats looking to settle in Spain need to be aware of the following long-term work permit types and work visa costs. You will not be refunded if your application is denied. Also, consult with the Spanish diplomatic missions or consular posts to see if you are eligible for a reduction or waiver of this fee.

Type of Visa Costs (USD) Costs (EUR)
Employed Work Visa 67-190 USD 62-176 EUR
Work Visa (except from Work Permit) 79-591 USD 73-550 EUR
Entrepreneur Visa 87-184 USD 80-170 EUR

Formalities After Entering the Country

Once in Spain, you will need to register with the corresponding social security scheme, register locally, and apply for either an NIE or TIE. EU nationals need to register at the local municipal office, where they reside, get a tax number and a social security number. Non-EU nationals need to register at the foreigner’s office, get a social security number and foreigner’s identity card (TIE) that already comes with a tax number.

These steps tend to cause some confusion, so the following table breaks it down for EU and non-EU nationals:

EU nationals Non-EU nationals
Registering at the Foreigner’s office
NIE (tax number for foreigners) TIE (foreigner’s identity card, with tax number)
Social Security Number Social Security Number
Empadronamiento (registering locally)
NIE, Foreigner’s Identity Number

NIE is the equivalent of a tax number in Spain. It is mandatory for all foreigners wanting to carry out formalities in Spain, such as opening bank accounts or signing utility contracts. You can apply for an NIE at the Consular Post, or Comisaría, of the district you are moving to. You will need to provide the following documents:

  • Form EX-15 (with instructions in English to complete the form)
  • a copy of your identity card or passport;
  • proof of your interest in applying for a NIE – economic, professional, or social.
TIE, Foreigner’s Identity Card

All non-EU nationals wishing to stay in Spain for longer than six months need to apply for a TIE at the Foreigner’s Office. Aside from your personal information and residence status, this physical card also holds the NIE, so non-EU nationals only need to apply for the TIE. It should be renewed every five years, and it is mandatory that you carry it with you and present it to the authorities whenever requested.

To apply for a TIE, you will need to present:

  • two copies of the form EX-17, filled out and signed;
  • your passport with your date of entry stamp into Spain;
  • three recent standard passport photographs;
  • visa, when applicable;
  • proof of payment of the fee (16 EUR/18 USD).

If you are a family member of an EU citizen, you will be given a specific type of TIE, the tarjeta de residencia de familiar de ciudadano de la Unión (form EX-19).

Registering Locally: Empadronamiento

Every foreigner needs to register at the municipal registry, Padrón Municipal, where they are residing.

You will need to provide:

  • your personal information: name and surname, gender, place of residence, nationality, date and place of birth;
  • your residency or ID card;
  • your NIE;
  • your qualifications.

Some requirements may vary by autonomous region. Moreover, some may allow you to register online and deliver your papers through the mail, while others may require an appointment, or cita previa, and for you to hand-deliver the application forms. Always check with your municipal registry office for the correct procedure.

Social Security Number

Generally speaking, if you are doing any kind of paid work or internship, you need a social security number, whether you are an EU national or not. Check our guide on working in Spain to see how you can apply.

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Self-Employment Visas for Spain

If you plan on being self-employed or an entrepreneur in Spain, the procedure to apply for a self-employment visa is similar to the process of applying for an employed work visa, but with some differences as to therequirements and application forms you will need.

Application Process and Form for Entrepreneur Visa

If you plan on embarking on an entrepreneurial journey in Spain, then your chosen activity needs to be innovative and of special interest to the country. If that is the case, then the first step to getting a self-employment visa for Spain is to put in a request (autorizacíon) for a visa at the diplomatic mission or consular office in your country of residence.

You cannot be in Spain when requesting this authorization or visa. You need to bring the form EX07, and pay two different fees in advance. You can download these from the Spanish general secretary.

  • Modelo 790 código 052, epígrafe 2.1, autorización inicial de residencia temporal; (Initial temporary residency authorization)
  • Modelo 790 Código 062, epígrafe 1.5, autorizaciones de trabajo por cuenta propia; (self-employed authorizations)

You will also need:

  • list of authorizations or licenses required for the professional activity;
  • proof of training or qualification for the professional activity;
  • accreditation of sufficient economic investment;
  • defined business plan, indicating planned investments, expected profits, and job creation (when applicable).

These organizations can certify your qualifications, investment, and project of the activity:

  • Federación Nacional de Asociaciones de Empresarios y Trabajadores Autónomos (ATA);
  • Unión de Profesionales y Trabajadores Autónomos (UPTA);
  • Confederación Intersectorial de Autónomos del Estado Español (CIAE);
  • Organización de Profesionales y Autónomos (OPA);
  • Unión de Asociaciones de Trabajadores Autónomos y Emprendedores (UATAE).

This should be processed within three months. Once your autorización has been granted, you can apply for the visa.

Requirements for Self-Employment Visas

Once you have obtained the authorization, you have one month to apply for the visa. This is also done in person at the diplomatic mission or consular office, and you will need to bring the following documents:

  • passport;
  • criminal record from your country of origin or the country you have been living in the past five years;
  • medical certificate;
  • proof of payment of the corresponding fees.

The consular office then has one month to approve or deny your application. Once your visa is approved, you have one month to collect it in person. This visa will allow you to stay in Spain for three months. In this period, you will have to apply for a work permit and carry out all other formalities after entering the country.

Types of Work Permits for Self-Employed Workers

  • Type D initial work permit allows you to carry out a specific activity for a maximum of one year, which could be limited to a geographical area.
  • Type D renewed work permit allows you to extend your initial work permit for two years, and work in various activities. The Spanish government permit could also limit this permit to a geographical area.
  • Type E work permit is issued after the renewed work permit expires. It allows you to work in any professional activity for a maximum of three years.

A permanent work permit can be granted after the type E permit expires. Even though it is permanent, you still have to renew the permit every five years.

Costs Self-Employment Visas

The costs for an entrepreneurial visa depend on where you originally come from. US citizens and Canadians pay the highest fee of 100-170 EUR (108-184 USD). Citizens from any other country only pay 80 EUR (87 USD).

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Residency Permits: Temporary and Permanent

Are you wondering how to apply for a temporary residence permit and how to become a permanent resident in Spain? The main requirement to obtain the latter is to be a temporary resident for five uninterrupted years.

Temporary residence in Spain means, you are planning on staying longer than 90 days, but less than five years. Even if you do want to stay for five years or longer, you will only be able to get permanent residence after five years of living and working in Spain.

How to Apply for a Temporary Resident Permit

For EU/EEA Nationals

As mentioned above, EU/EEA nationals do not need work permits or visas to enter, live, work, or study in Spain. In fact, they are free to roam the country for three months without having to register with local authorities. The only thing EU/EEA nationals need to do if they want to work in Spain is get a NIE or Número de Identidad de Extranjeros (foreigner’s tax identification number) and register at the local municipal office, where they are living. After being in the country for three months, it is mandatory to register as temporary residents. The application process for a temporary resident permit is very straightforward for EU/EEA nationals.

Required Documents
  • Valid passport or identification document.
  • Two copies of the official form ex-18, filled out and signed.
  • NIE (Número de Identidad de Extranjeros)
  • Empadronamiento (local municipal registry): you will have to have registered with the local Padrón Municipal where you are residing, before applying for the temporary residency.

Depending on your status, there may be other requirements:

  • salaried workers: a contract from the employer or other proof of employment;
  • self-employed workers: proof of registration with the registry of economic activities, or censo de actividades económicas, or other proof of professional status;
  • students: registration with your education establishment, proof of a private or public healthcare coveragevalid in Spain, and a formal declaration that you have means to support yourself;
  • pensioners: proof of healthcare coverage that is valid in Spain.

If you do not fit any of these categories, you need to at least show proof of healthcare coverage that is valid in Spain and that you have sufficient means to support yourself and your family.

For Non-EU/EEA Nationals

A temporary residency permit is the same thing as a long-term visa. In the previous section we already covered all work-based visas. If you are not eligible for any of the work-related visas, you will need a non-lucrative visa.

Non-Lucrative Residence Visas

As a non-EU national, you will need a work and residency visa in order to work in Spain. When applying for a visa you will need to state the purpose of your stay, so they can correctly process your application.

Golden Visa (Investors Residency)

Purchasing property over 500,000 EUR (540,000 USD) will grant you a Golden Visa, which allows you to live in Spain.

The required documents to apply for a Golden Visa are the same as for other visas. But there is one exception: You will need to provide proof of purchase. Such proof can be the certification of domains, the charges of the Land Registry, as well as the deed of sale.

You can find more information on investing in Spain on the website of the foreigner’s office.

Study Visa (Research Work)

If you wish to study, research, or do other non-labor activity in Spain, you will need to follow the same procedures to obtain an authorization for a visa and then apply for the visa.

At the government’s Portal de Inmigración site, you can find all the information on the formalities for studyingstudent exchangevoluntary work, or other non-labor activity in Spain.

Alternatively, you can also apply for a visa for residence only, which will not allow you to carry out any professional activity. You can find all the information on residence visas and permits on the official immigration website.

Family Reunification: Family, Spouse and Fiancé Visas

For EU/EEA Nationals

If you are an EU/EEA or Swiss National, and your family is too, then you are allowed to bring them immediately with you when moving to the country. They do not need visas or residency permits, as they are themselves EU/EEA or Swiss nationals.

For Non-EU/EEA Nationals

Are you wondering if you can bring your family with you? The answer is: not yet. Only foreigners who have lived in Spain for a year and have renewed their initial residence authorization, are allowed to reunite with their families.

Luckily, there are exceptions to this rule. Your family members can join you immediately in Spain if you hold one of the following residence permits:

  • an EU long-term residence permit from another EU member state;
  • an EU Blue Card;
  • Entrepreneur Visa;
  • Study/Research Visa.

Which Family Members Can I Bring?

According to the Spanish immigration law you are allowed to reunite with your spouse or any person with whom you have a similar relationship with such as fiancés/fiancees, civil partners, and even unmarried partners (pareja de hecho) fall under that category. In short: spouses and fiancés are included in Spain’s family visa application process.

You can also reunite with your children, if they are under the age of 18, or, if they have special needs, up until the age of 21. This can also apply to parents and parents-in-law, if they need assistance.

How to Apply for Family Reunification

If you are one of the lucky ones who can take your family immediately with you, then you will need to apply for your family’s residence visa at the Spanish Embassy in your home country.

Are you already in Spain and want to reunite your family? Then you have to go to the local Foreigner’s office with the following documents:

  • original and copy of your own passport;
  • copies of the passports of your family members;
  • copy of your own residence permit;
  • proof of the family relationships (marriage certificate, birth certificates);
  • copy of employment contract;
  • proof of financial means to support your family;
  • proof of health insurance;
  • proof of accommodation for you and your family (rental contract, certificate of property purchase).

Once the application for family reunification is approved, your family has to go in person to the Spanish Embassy in their home country to apply for a residence visa. This has to be done within two months of receiving the family reunification certificate. The documents they will need to bring with them are the same as for regular visa applications.

Retirement Visa

Retiring in Spain is very popular; it is always sunny, the healthcare system is excellent, and the infrastructure good. To retire in Spain, you will need to prove that you have health insurance for Spain, receive a monthly retirement settlement from your home-country, and have enough financial means to support yourself.

You can find more information on how to obtain a non-lucrative retirement visa and the application process on the website of the foreigner’s office.

Residence without Work

Living in Spain without working is possible. For this, you need to apply for a non-lucrative residence permit (residence without work permit). One of the requirements is proof of sufficient financial means for you and your family members for the period of time you wish to stay, as well as full healthcare coverage.

Medical Visa

Spain’s medical tourism is booming. And it is no wonder because the healthcare system is one of the best in Europe. If you want to go to Spain for medical procedures, you do not need a special visa. Patients can travel on a regular tourist visa.

Please be aware, that you will need to pay for health procedures yourself, as public healthcare is only available to people living in the country.

Requirement and Fees for a Temporary Resident Permit

Before you can complete the application for a temporary non-lucrative resident permit, you will need an initial authorization (autorizacíon) with its own set of documents and application forms. Only after getting this initial authorization, you will be able to apply for a visa. Keep in mind that you will not be issued a visa if you are already in the country, so make sure you do it before you move by applying in person at the Spanish Diplomatic Mission or Consular Office of the country where you legally reside.

You will need to bring a printed application form corresponding to your situation, which you can get for free either at the official website for foreign affairs or at Spain’s Diplomatic Missions or Consular Posts abroad.

In general, all official documents need to be in Spanish and previously legalized by Spanish authorities. Be sure to check all the necessary procedures for the legalization and translation of your documents.

You will need to bring:

  • your passport;
  • criminal record from the country where you have lived in the past five years;
  • two standard passport photographs;
  • medical certificate;
  • copy of your work contract, stamped by the Immigration Office;
  • proof of payment of the visa application fee.

After this, the diplomatic mission has one month to respond to your application. Once it is approved, you will have one month to collect your visa in-person. When you have your visa, you have three months to enter Spain. From there, you have one month to apply for a work permit and register with the social security to carry out all the formalities after entering the country.

Fees for non-lucrative Visas

The requirements and fees for a temporary resident permit or non-lucrative visa, depend on the type of visa you need.

Type of Visa Costs (USD) Cost (EUR)
Schengen Visa (except from work permit) 89-140 USD 83-130 EUR
Residency (non-lucrative) 79-591 USD 73-550 EUR
Family Reunion 79-591 USD 73-550 EUR

How to Obtain Permanent Residency in Spain

 For EU/EEA Nationals

In general, you can become a permanent resident in Spain after working in the country for five years. This duration is not affected by temporary absence (under six months per year), compulsory military service, or a one-year absence for exceptional reasons, such as serious illness, work, or vocational training, among others. You will lose the right to permanent residence if you leave the country for more than two consecutive years.

You may obtain permanent residency in under five years if you:

  • retire after having worked in Spain for the last year, or have lived there continuously for three years;
  • stop working after no longer being able to work, and have lived in the country for two consecutive years;
  • stop working due to a work-related injury or illness, regardless of how long you have lived in the country;
  • start working in another EU country as a cross-border worker, but have worked for three consecutive years in Spain.
For Non-EU/EEA Nationals

As a non-EU national, the permanent resident visa requirements for Spain are pretty straightforward. You have to have lived in Spain for at least five consecutive years. Once you have, you can start the application process for permanent residency, or residencia de larga duración. Just like EU nationals, this will allow you to work and reside in Spain indefinitely, but maintain your nationality and passport.

Alternatively, you could also apply for a long-term residence for the EU, which would allow you to live and work in Spain, as well as in other EU member states, in the same condition as other European citizens.

Required Documents and Application Process for Permanent Residency in Spain

To apply for the standard long-term residence, you need:

  • two copies of the application form EX-11, filled out and signed;
  • your passport, travel title, or registration card;
  • TIE (foreigner’s identity card);
  • payment of the long-term residence fee (22 EUR/25 USD);
  • if you have children, you will need proof that any minors in your care attend a school, such as a report issued by the authorities or school;
  • if you are married, you will need to take a copy of a marriage certificate;
  • a criminal record from your country of origin, and the country where you have lived in the last five years(Spain);
  • employment contract and/or proof of financial means;
  • proof of accommodation, proof of address (local registry).

To obtain the permanent resident permit, you have to apply at the municipal registry office closest to you and take along the required documents.

To apply for the long-term residence in Spain and the EU, the same requirements apply, except for thefollowing documents:

  • two copies of the application form EX-11, filled out and signed;
  • your passport, travel title, or registration card;
  • proof that you can support yourself and your family;
  • proof that you have access to health insurance;
  • proof of payment of the fee required for permanent residence (22 EUR/25 USD).

Types of Permanent Residence Permits

Permanent Resident Benefits

One major benefit of being a permanent resident in Spain is that you can live and work in the country under the same rights and conditions as Spanish citizens. This means that you can stay in the country indefinitely, change jobs, and move to other regions like any other national. As a permanent resident, you get to keep your original nationality and passport, while enjoying the benefits of living and working freely in Spain.

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Updated on: March 31, 2020
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