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Employment in Madrid

With Madrid’s metropolitan area being one of the largest in Europe, after major capital cities like Paris, London, and Moscow, it is no wonder that it is a common destination for expatriates looking for new job opportunities. However, Madrid, like many business hubs in Europe, has suffered from the economic and financial crisis and does not offer quite as many employment opportunities as it used to. Nevertheless, the inflow of foreign workers has not ceased since 2001 and has contributed greatly to the city’s economic activity, not to mention the increase in its pool of human resources.

Almost 78% of those working in Madrid are employed in the service sector and in 2011 this sector represented just over 74% of the region’s total GDP. The service boom is also due to the fact that the tourism industry has been thriving again since early 2010 and represents more than seven percent of Madrid’s GDP (2015). If you are an expat with excellent Spanish skills, and are thinking of working in Madrid’s publishing business, you will be interested in the fact that Madrid is the major publishing center for the Spanish-speaking world.

The Madrid Work Ethic: Laid-Back but Efficient

Madrid offers a fairly laid-back lifestyle, which, at first glance, seems to spill over into the work ethic of the city. An expat from a different country, e.g. from the Anglo-Saxon world, might mistake this mellow mindset of working in Madrid for inefficiency when, in fact, Spanish business people require this relaxed atmosphere to work productively. The long lunch hours are a concrete example of this: aside from lunch itself, they are an environment to discuss business, settle deals, and establish contacts.

Foreigners must also adapt to local office hours: almost no businesses are open before 09:00 and close before 20:00. Although working in Madrid has become increasingly comparable to working in other parts of Europe, it is important to be aware of potential differences between your own business culture and that of Madrid.

Do’s and Don’ts

Here are some useful tips for when you start working in Madrid:

  • Do not plan on scheduling a meeting before 10:00.
  • Do not expect anyone to show up on time to a scheduled meeting: a 15-minute wait is standard.
  • Do care about how you present yourself. Conservative and carefully selected clothing is imperative for business people working in Madrid.
  • Do not launch into a topic of business immediately. Small talk is an important ritual preceding business agreements in Spain.
  • Expect your Spanish contacts to take their time when negotiating a business deal. Discussions are half of the fun involved in closing the deal!
  • Pick out a relatively expensive and high-quality restaurant when organizing a lunch or dinner meeting with colleagues and/or business partners. Madrileños are very savvy when it comes to the quality of food and wine.
  • Expect to pick up the bill and argue about who will pay when ending a business meal in a restaurant.
  • Print your business cards two-sided in both English and Spanish. Remember to present them to bosses, employees, partners, and colleagues with the Spanish side facing up.

Work Permit or NIE?

The first and foremost thing any foreign national working in Madrid needs is a Número de Identificación de Extranjeros (NIE). It also serves as a Spanish tax number. To obtain an NIE, bring the completed application form and a copy of the form, your passport, a passport photograph, and proof of your current address in Madrid to the nearest Oficina de Extranjeros (Department of Foreigners).

The time between handing in your application and receiving your NIE should take between one and three weeks, so be sure to apply for it before you start your job in Madrid. If you plan on working in Madrid as an EU citizen (or a national of Switzerland, Iceland, Norway, or Liechtenstein), you only need the NIE itself, as opposed to requiring an additional work permit for Spain. See our article on working in Spain for more details.

Expat Work Info Madrid

Visa Regulations

If you do not come from an EU member state, or from Switzerland, Iceland, Norway, or Liechtenstein, you need to apply for a work visa. Be sure to do this before actually moving to Madrid, as visas are not assigned in Spain. The requirements for a work visa may vary, so contact the nearest Spanish Embassy or Consulate.

The Spanish government granting you a visa for working in Madrid is not guaranteed. It would help your case if you already had a job when applying for the work visa.

Some companies in Madrid that hire foreigners will assign a lawyer to their case, greatly simplifying the process of entry for their new employee. If this is not the case, it is still recommended to seek the help of an attorney, which, albeit more expensive, is hassle-free and allows you more time for the actual job search.

A good location to familiarize yourself with is the Ayuntamiento (city council), where you can find forms and gather useful information on various topics such as work and social benefits. Unfortunately, large parts of their website are in Spanish only, so it helps if you have a friend or co-worker who can translate for you. The Municipal Office for the Immigrant Population may also be able to help you with such matters.

Taxation: Knowing What to Pay to Whom

To find out what the respective taxation requirements for your country of origin are, please visit the Spanish tax authority’s official website for more information. As a general rule, people earning less than 12,450 EUR annually do not need to file for taxes (impuestos). It is also helpful to contact the tax advisor of your future employer. Keep in mind that tax rates may vary from region to region!

It is possible that you may be a national of a country that has a joint taxation agreement with Spain. Check the UN Database for said agreements. For example, the United Kingdom has a double taxation avoidance treaty with Spain, which means that a foreign national from the UK pays taxes in the country they reside in for the majority of their time.

Employment Prospects — Putting Your Eggs in the Right Basket

The strongest economic sectors in Madrid are that of transportation and tourism, which is not surprising with Madrid being both a transportation hub and the most touristic city of Spain. Some professional experience in the hotel or service industry will be an advantage for anyone looking for employment in these sectors.

Since Madrid is the economic center of Spain, its financial sector is of considerable significance. Banks are among the leading employers in Madrid. The headquarters of three large multinational Spanish corporations (Telefónica, Repsol-YPF, and Banco Santander) are also situated in Madrid. Checking out their online job pages is the most up-to-date way of finding job openings.

Still Looking for a Job?

Although most business people in Madrid do master the English language, it is much easier to go about your job search in Spanish. The best way to find work in Madrid is to read the classifieds section of El País or El Mundo. Of course, there are a number of internet job sites that are helpful as well, such as Info Empleo, Jobsin Madrid and Trabajos. Check out Madrid’s community website for various employment offices around the city.

It is common practice in Madrid to send open applications to larger companies that interest you, as these do not always place ads in newspapers or on job websites, in order to avoid a large influx of applications. Always make sure that your CV and cover letters are both in English and in Spanish. Spanish CVs usually include your photo on the title page and, as an attachment, include all your important certificates, degrees, and job references. Make sure that these are translated into Spanish!

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