Spain has much to offer people who want to live and work in the country long-term. The nation scores high marks among OECD countries for work-life balance. Not only that, but it boasts year-round sunshine, excellent culture, and a vibrant food scene, making it highly appealing to expats from around the world. In fact, around 5.5 million residents were born in another country, with 45% coming from South and Central America, 30% from other EU countries, and 25% from the rest of the world. This includes retirees, students, professionals, families, and more.

Who needs a work visa in Spain

If you want to live and work in Spain, there are two main branches of authorities that you will be dealing with: the immigration authority under the Secretary of State for Migration (La Secretaría de Estado de Migraciones), and the labor and employment authorities under the Ministry of Labor and Economy (Ministerio de Trabajo y Economía Social).

Fortunately for EU, EEA, or Swiss citizens, moving to Spain is simple, and they can live, work, and study in the country without restriction. However, most non-EU/EEA citizens, also called third-country nationals, need a work permit and must secure an employment contract before they can apply for one. UK citizens who wish to come to Spain to live and work post-Brexit will also need a residence and work visa.

Work permit exemptions

Some people don’t need to obtain a work permit to work in Spain, however, they may still need a visa to enter the country. These include university professors, technicians, and scientists. Others who benefit from this exemption include those moving to Spain to develop scientific or cultural programs, foreign journalists, artists coming for specific performances, clergy, and trade union officials. If you are joining a family member who has a Spanish work permit, you may not need a visa.

Rules for volunteers

If you are a citizen of a country with short-term, visa-free, entry to Spain, you can enter the country to do volunteer work without a permit. However, you must respect the limits of the visa-free entry agreements that Spain has with your country; for example, 90 days for US citizens.

Required documents

When you arrive in Spain, to stay long term, you must apply for a residents permit (Tarjeta de Residencia – TIE) and a Foreigner’s Identity Number (Número de Identificación de Extranjero – NIE) through the local Foreigner’s Office (Oficina de Extranjeros) or police within 30 days.

Keep in mind that everyone working in Spain, whether they are a paid employee or self-employed, must register with the General Social Security Fund (Dirección General de la Tesorería General de la Seguridad Social – TGSS). If you are an employee, then your employer will do this for you, but if you are self-employed, it is your responsibility.