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Working in Spain
Your Guide on Jobs and Finding Work in Spain
Are you wondering what working in Spain is like? Workdays tend to be very long, because of the Spanish siesta. Lunch breaks can stretch up to two to three hours. This guide covers every aspect related to finding a job, from the initial job search and interviews, to the average salary for different occupations, and how to start a career as a self-employed worker.
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Knowing how to find a job in Spain as a foreigner is not a straightforward process. In general, integration into Spain’s job market is easier if you speak Spanish, but speaking English is generally a good asset as well.
If you plan on moving to Spain, make sure you land a job beforehand. As a foreigner it is harder to get a job in the Spanish job market if the occupation is not found on the shortage occupation list, which is produced by the Public Employment Service (Servicio Público de Empleo Estatal).
Once in the country, you will quickly discover that the well-known concept of a “9 to 5” working day is not common in Spain. Forty-hour work weeks are normal, but Spanish workers tend to start at 9:00 and work until 20:00, with a two- to three-hour break around lunch time.
The average annual salary in Spain is not very high. Workers earn on average 23,000 EUR (25,300 USD) and that is already a well-paying job. Minimum wage is about 1,000 EUR (1,100 USD) per month.
If you plan on working as a self-employed person in Spain, make sure to prepare all the necessary documents such as a business plan, proof of financial funds, and so on, to hand in with your visa application. In this section, we will also cover your social security benefits and parental leave as a self-employed worker.
How to Get a Job in Spain
A fundamental part of your move is knowing how to get a job in Spain as a foreigner. Below, you will find helpful insights on how to apply for a job, the job market, requirements, and eligibility for working in Spain, as well as tips for interviews and networking.
What are the Requirements to Work in Spain?
For EU/EEA Nationals
EU nationals are free to work and live in Spain without restrictions. If you are a non-EU national, you will need a work and residence visa to work in the country. Requirements for this include a job contract with a Spanish employer as well as other necessary documents. For more information, take a look at our section on Visas and Work Permits.
For Non-EU/EEA Nationals
To work in Spain as a foreigner, you must meet the following requirements:
- you are staying in Spain legally;
- you have a clean criminal record in Spain and in the countries where you have previously resided;
- you entered Spain legally without being denied entry or being deported;
- you have paid the fee for the temporary residence application;
- you have a work contract signed by you and your employer;
- you have the qualifications that are legally required for the position.
In regard to your qualifications, make sure they are recognized by the Spanish Ministry of Education and Professional Training. There are specific forms for recognizing university degrees and non-university degrees.
Are You Eligible to Work in Spain?
Job opportunities in Spain for foreigners are hard to come by. A foreigner is only hired in Spain if the occupation is listed on the shortage occupation list. This is published quarterly by the Public Employment Service (Servicio Público de Empleo Estatal). The immigration office also has to confirm that it is not possible to fill the job vacancy by a Spanish citizen or resident. To find out more, check out the Ministry of Labor’s website for all the conditions under which foreigners can work in Spain.
Do not forget to check if your employer is properly registered with social security. As for your job contract, make sure all the terms abide by national labor regulations. Once you have this contract, you are given a temporary work and residence permit with a duration of one year. This may be limited to your occupation and geographical area. This temporary permit only comes into effect after you obtain the work and residence visa.
What is the Best Way to Get a Job in Spain as a Foreigner?
There are many options when it comes to working in Spain as a foreigner. As a non-EU national, the first place to look is the job shortage list as those are the only occupations feasible for you to work in Spain. Once you know you are eligible to work in Spain, you can begin your job search.
Many expats tend to take up jobs in the tourism sector. Since speaking English is a good asset in Spain, a common job opportunity for foreigners is also teaching English as a second language.
Some of the most popular websites to find a job in Spain are:
- Mil Anuncios.
There may be specific platforms for your business sector, so it is also a good idea to look for empleo (employment) followed by your desired position. International platforms for job searching can also be useful, such as Glassdoor, Indeed, or LinkedIn.
Do not forget to search for multinational companies that may have offices in both Spain and your current country. These could be a good starting point to make connections and look for opportunities.
You can also visit the Ministry of Work, Migration, and Social Security, which covers all the information and procedures for working in Spain. The SEPE (Servicio Público de Empleo Estatal) is the national public service for employment, and you can also find information on job searches and job offers there.
How to Apply for a Job in Spain?
When applying for a job in Spain, it is a good idea to follow the Spanish-style CV. It should include the following information, preferably in this order:
- personal details: full name, date of birth, nationality, marital status, address, phone number (with the international code);
- photo (recommended, but not mandatory);
- work experience;
- other interests, relevant for the position, such as driving license, willingness to relocate, hobbies, etc.;
- references (optional).
Sticking to this format will avoid extra effort on the part of recruiters, and will also give your application the best possible chance. Be sure to tailor your CV to the job offer in order to best showcase your qualifications.
Languages are highly valued in the Spanish job market, so make sure to highlight this. It is also a good idea to write your resume in Spanish to ensure the language barrier does not hinder your chances.
Tips for Writing a Cover Letter (carta de presentación)
Submitting a cover letter with your application is a relatively recent trend in Spain. Even if a job posting does not ask for one, it is a good idea to include it. On that note, emphasizing your motivation to live and work in Spain will reassure recruiters that you are committed to the job.
Cover letters should not be longer than one page. A simple structure will suffice (introduction, body, and conclusion) along with your personal information. If possible, try to address the letter to the recruiter. The use of formal language is always recommended. If you write the letter in Spanish, use usted when addressing the reader, as opposed to the informal tú.
Tips for Interviews
When you get an interview in Spain, you will want to be familiar with the most common practices. Here are some dos and don’ts you may find helpful:
- Practice some Spanish before an interview. This will show commitment to integrating into the culture and an interest in staying.
- Familiarize yourself with specific expressions in the Spanish job market and your business sector.
- Dress to impress. The dress code tends to be slightly on the formal side, and a lot of importance is placed on first impressions and the way you present yourself.
- Mention contacts you may have within the company or business sector. In Spain, your network and personal connections are highly valued, especially for securing a job.
- Do not kiss female recruiters on the cheek. In a business environment, you should always use a handshake.
- Do not arrive late. You may notice punctuality to be fairly relaxed in social situations in Spain, but this does not apply to the working culture. You should aim to arrive five to ten minutes before an interview.
- Do not address the recruiter as tú. As mentioned earlier, use the formal usted, or the plural ustedes. However, if the recruiter or company culture is more relaxed, and you are asked to use the informal pronoun, it is appropriate to do so, in that case, the informal plural is vosotros.
Tips for Networking
Networking is increasingly important in the Spanish job market. When networking in Spain, it is common practice to take an acquaintance out for lunch or tapas. If you need to meet people from your business sector, you can always attend business-focused events. You will find these to have a warm and welcoming atmosphere. Aggressive sales pitches are generally not well-received.
It is always a good idea to have a business card on hand and to follow up with your contacts either through LinkedIn or via email.
If you want to know where to start networking, InterNations organizes local events in many Spanish cities. You can meet locals or other expats, who can prove to be valuable networking contacts.
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Minimum Wage and Average Salary
According to data on salaries collected by Spain’s statistical institute (INE), workers in Spain earn an average annual salary of 23,000 EUR (25,400 USD). The salary payment is divided into 14 months: twelve months in a year, plus two extra months corresponding to a Christmas bonus in December, and a vacation bonus in July.
The average salary may vary significantly by profession and region, but in general workers in Spain receive a monthly net salary of 1,200 EUR (1,350 USD). The average gross salary is just under 1,850 EUR (2,080 USD) per month, which adds up to 25,900 EUR (29,200 USD) per year.
The current minimum wage in Spain is 900 EUR (1,000 USD) per month, which adds up to an annual gross salary of 12,600 EUR (14,200 USD). If you are earning minimum wage, you can expect to meet your basic needs. However, living in the city center will be challenging, since rent and living expenses are significantly higher than outside city centers.
What is a Good Salary in Spain?
What determines a good salary in Spain will depend on several factors, such as your qualifications, the cost of living in your city, and your overall lifestyle. To get a good sense of what a good salary is, consider the cost of living (including rent) for a single adult in these major cities.
The average cost of living per month (including rent)
Generally, if you wish to live comfortably in Spain, your net salary should cover this average expense and also allow you to save up. For reference, highly skilled workers typically make between 1,990 and 2,120 EUR (2,230 and 2,380 USD) per month.
The Most In-Demand Jobs and How Much They Pay
Below is a list of some common occupations and their average annual salary in Spain. In general, jobs in IT are in demand in Spain, but any job that requires English proficiency is also a good option for expats.
Average Gross Annual Salary
Self-employment in Spain may be a good option if you want more freedom in your career, but you should not expect many benefits to come with it. Whether you plan on opening a retail store, starting a small company, or working as a freelancer, it is better to know in advance how to be self-employed, and how to avoid common mistakes.
This section covers all the requirements for registering your business, what social security benefits to expect, and maternity and paternity leave for self-employment.
How to Be Self-Employed in Spain
There are different formalities depending on the type of self-employment work you wish to take. Here is an overview of the formalities required to set up a business as a self-employed worker in Spain:
- all economic activities must be registered with the tax agency (hacienda) and social security (seguridad social);
- you can handle most formalities online by obtaining the single electronic document, documento unico electronico (DUE).
- if you wish to open an establishment or retail store, you need a license from your city council, ayuntamiento, and a construction license if you plan to restore a building;
- you need to inform the autonomous community of the launch of the workspace (if you hear about the need to legalize a libro de visitas before a labor inspection, know that this is no longer mandatory).
In general, expect a lot of paperwork when first trying to set up your business. This guide provides an overview of the procedures required to begin your career as a self-employed worker in Spain. You can also find a complete list of documents and procedures online.
DUE: The Fastest Way to Set Up Your Business
You can set up your business online by applying for a Documento Unico Electronico (DUE), which is an electronic document that contains all the information about your business.
This process is faster than the traditional way of applying in person at social security and tax offices, but it may still be time consuming as it requires filling out many forms. You can find step-by-step tutorials on all the formalities at Punto de Atención al Empreendedor(PAE), the service centers for entrepreneurs. These will include filling out your personal information, communicating your type of activity, and completing your tax declaration.
H5 Required Documents and Steps to Apply for a DUE
When applying for a DUE you will need:
- Número de Identificación de Extranjero (NIE);
- Non-EU citizens will also need a residency and self-employment visa;
- to register with the Impuesto de Actividades Economicas (IAE), the taxation on economic activities;
- the code of your financial activity, according to the Classificación Nacional de Actividades Económicas (CNAE);
- the address and other details of your place of residence (square meters of the facility, postal code, telephone);
- an estimation of your earnings (for the Social Security Scheme registration);
- a bank account for direct debits of the RETA (Special Regime for Self-Employed Workers).
This process directly notifies social security and the tax agency of the start of your business.
Alternatively, you can process the forms with the social security and tax agency yourself. You will need to register the start of your economic activity at a tax agency office by presenting Form 036 or its simplified version (Form 037), which most autónomos (self-employed) opt for.
You must also register with the social security as a Régimen Especial de Trabajadores Autónomos (RETA), also known as the Special Scheme for Self-employed Workers. We will cover RETA further in this guide.
One of the advantages of being an autónomo is the reduced steps and formalities involved in setting up your business since you do not need to register as a legal entity, or support the costs of creating one.
How to Set Up a Company in Spain
You can find all the information you need in the Portal PyME. In general, to start a company in Spain you will need to:
- register the company name (check the list of available company names);
- apply for a CIF (tax identification code) at the tax office, or Delegación de Hacienda;
- open a bank account in your company’s name (the minimum deposit will depend on the type of business).
What are the Top Self-Employed Jobs in Spain?
In general, jobs that require language skills are popular among expats. A popular freelance job is teaching English, but there are many other sought-after positions for remote work as well, such as freelance writer, designer, digital marketer, developer, etc.
You can rely on popular websites for freelance work, such as Upwork or Freelancer. These sites allow you tosearch for a job in the area that best matches your skillset.
Self-Employed Benefits in Spain
You will find there are not many benefits associated with being self-employed in Spain. If you are registered with social security as a self-employed person (RETA), and you pay the necessary contributions, you are entitled to public healthcare, just like any other employee. This applies to you and your family members, but only if you all live at the same address.
You are also entitled to a state pension while working as an autónomo. If you have made contributions in another EU state, these will also count towards your pension in Spain, and vice-versa.
Aside from having your personal assets at risk in case of debt, one main disadvantage of being self-employed is the high taxes. As a self-employed worker, you are taxed as an individual and therefore pay taxes according to your level of income. This means the higher your profit (or income), the higher taxes you will have to pay. This is different than small companies, which have a fixed rate of 25% on the first 120,000 EUR (135,180 USD) of profit.
As a self-employed worker, you are also entitled to temporary leave for medical treatment and pregnancy, as well as maternity and paternity leave.
As with most countries, the business culture in Spain varies depending on the company size and industry. There are some peculiarities about Spain’s working culture that are worth noting, and that you may find unusual.
For example, the working culture in Spain is still rooted in hierarchy, especially within family-owned businesses, government enterprises, and other traditional industries. However, this structure has been changing in recent years. You can also expect to find some gender disparity when it comes to positions of power. Only 37% of managerial positions are occupied by women, but this number is still above the European average.
What are Working Hours like in Spain?
Workdays in Spain are typically Monday to Friday, and the working hours established by the Spanish labor law are 40 weekly hours. However, you may find the work schedule unusual. It is common for workdays to start at 9:00 and end around 20:00. There is a long lunch break, typically lasting three-hours, which can go from 13:30 to 16:30 or 14:00 to 17:00. After this break, you will resume work and end your day at around 20:00.
You may have already heard of the popular siesta, the Spanish mid-day nap. This established tradition means that the country will temporarily shut down for around three hours during the lunch break. Most businesses and services will be closed during this time. Nowadays, this is no longer a general rule, and you will typically find establishments open throughout the day, especially in big cities.
What Is the Workplace Dress Code?
In accordance with Spanish culture, Spain’s workplace dress code is conservative and, in some cases, still regarded as an indication of professional status. Of course, this will largely depend on each company’s culture, but, in general, the dress code in Spain is similar to that of other European countries. An attire is considered business appropriate if it is not too revealing, too loose, or too flamboyant.
If the business setting is more formal, both men and women should wear dark-colored business clothes. Women are not expected to wear suits. Keep in mind that importance is still placed on appearance, so do your best to look professional and to pick up on clues regarding the dress code from your professional environment.
Social Security and Benefits
Generally, if you are doing any kind of paid work or wish to have access to the benefits of social security, you need to be registered at the social security and pay monthly contributions. You will be issued a número de afiliación de la seguridad social, which is the equivalent to the social security number in Spain and a social security card. Foreigners can get a social security number in the same way as nationals.
Everyone legally residing in Spain is entitled to social security benefits if they are:
- workers employed by others;
- self-employed people;
- work partners of associated work cooperatives;
- civil servants or military personnel.
How to Get a Social Security Number
If you are going to be working for a Spanish employer, you do not need to worry about applying for a social security number, because your employer will complete this process for you. It is their duty to notify social security of the start and end dates of your professional status in the company, and of any changes such as medical leave, or maternity or paternity leave.
However, if you are not employed by others, you should get acquainted with the procedures to obtain a social security number and to pay your contributions yourself.
How to Apply for Social Security as a Self-Employed Worker
As a self-employed worker, you must notify social security of your professional situation. Self-employed workers have to register with Régimen Especial de Trabajadores Autónomos (RETA), the Special Regime for Self-Employed Workers. The RETA corresponds to the official form TA.0521. You must apply 60 days before starting your economic activity.
As of October 2018, you can no longer apply for self-employment in person. Instead, you must register online by creating a username and password at cl@ve, social security’s online platform.
You will need:
- your Número de Identificación de Extranjero (NIE, Foreigner’s Identification Number) or Tarjeta de Identidad de Entranjero (TIE, Spanish Resident Card);
- your certificate of registration for the Impuesto de Actividades Economicas (IAE, Business Activity Tax).
You may then begin making monthly contributions to social security. For self-employed workers, the minimum contribution to social security is 280 EUR (310 USD) per month. You can make these payments either at local financial entities or through the social security website.
In general, it is recommended that you hire an accountant to deal with social security contributions and taxes, as it will help avoid mishaps with legal procedures.
What Are Social Security Benefits in Spain?
Paying contributions will give you access to several benefits from the Spanish social security. Benefits include:
- temporary disability;
- risk during pregnancy and breastfeeding;
- maternity and paternity;
- caring for children affected by cancer or other serious illnesses;
- permanent disability, and permanent non-disabling injuries;
- family benefits (such as the care of a minor, adoption, large families, single parents, and mothers with disabilities);
- unemployment benefits (SPEE);
- benefit for the cessation of activity of self-employed workers;
- social services (IMSERSO or competent bodies of the Autonomous Communities with transferred competences);
- mandatory insurance of old-age and invalidity;
- school insurance.
Here, a complete list of the benefits (compensations) you are entitled to if you pay social security in Spain.
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Maternity and Paternity Leave
The right to maternity and paternity leave in Spain means you are temporarily excused from working if you become a parent or a guardian, and that you are entitled to maternity and paternity benefits (a monetary compensation).
If you plan to have children in Spain, you are entitled to parental leave, which includes pregnancy, surrogacy, adoption, fostering, and guardianship. Mothers also have the right to healthcare before, during, and after birth, as long as they are registered with the Sistema Nacional de Salud (SNS).
Who is Entitled to Maternity Leave?
In general, you are entitled to maternity and paternity leave if you have paid contributions to social security. This is known as contributory leave and it applies to all workers, whether they are traditional or self-employed.
Mothers are entitled to maternity leave if they have paid contributions for 180 days in the seven years prior to giving birth, or 360 days of contributions throughout their working lives. Mothers who are under 21 years of age do not need to have paid contributions to benefit from maternity leave. If they are at least 21, but under 26 years of age, they only need to pay contributions for 90 days within the seven years before childbirth, or 180 days of contributions throughout their working life.
If you are working but have not paid enough contributions, you are still entitled to maternity leave and benefits,under what is called non-contributory maternity.
Who is Entitled to Paternity Leave?
Men are entitled to paternity leave if they have paid contributions for 180 days in the seven years prior to being a parent, or 360 days of contributions throughout their working life. It is worth noting that Spain aims to give mothers and fathers the same leave period. Although this has not yet been achieved, the leave period that fathers receive in Spain is still high when compared to many other European Countries.
How Long is Maternity Leave and What Are the Maternity Benefits in Spain?
Here is an overview of the maternity and paternity leave and benefits in terms of duration.
Contributory maternity benefits
16 weeks (compulsory for the first 6 weeks after birth);
This period is extended in the case of hospitalization of the newborn, or, in special cases, multiple births or adoptions. In these cases, the period is extended to two weeks per child. If the child is disabled, it is extended up to 18 weeks.
Contributory paternity benefits
In the case of multiple births or adoptions, this period is extended by two extra days for each child from the second child one onwards.
Benefits for high-risk pregnancies
These benefits apply during the time your contract is interrupted and end when you give birth.
Benefits for risk during breastfeeding
These benefits apply during the time necessary for the mother and the child to be healthy. They end when the child is 9 months old, when the mother returns to work, or when she stops breastfeeding.
Non-contributory maternity benefits
These benefits have a duration of 42 days or 56 days in special cases.
Contributory maternity and paternity benefits constitute 100% of the regulatory base (base reguladora). Non-contributory maternity benefits provide 100% of what is indicated on the Indicador Público de Renta de Efectos Múltiples (IPREM, the Spanish national index for the granting of subsidies and benefits).
How to Apply for Parental Leave?
If you are working as an employee, your employer has to notify social security of your parental status on your behalf. If you are self-employed, you will need to inform the social security office nearest to your place of residence. You can find a complete list of application forms for parental leave on the social security website.
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