Work Permits & Job Opportunies

Whether as an Employee or Self Employed

Whilst every effort has been made to ensure that the information given herein is accurate, the publisher accepts no legal responsibility for any errors or omissions

Additionally, anyone, whether they are an EU citizen or from any other country, is advised to approach their own Consulate to obtain details of the most recent legislative regulations relating to their own particular situation. We would also recommend that the advice of an English speaking (or own language) Spanish lawyer is particularly advisable in completing work permit applications or if you are considering starting your own business. See General Contacts - Solicitors for a selection of legal advisors from the Gandia/Denia/Oliva area or ask the Consulate office in Alicante.

Full-Time or Permanent Job Opportunities

The Facts

Unemployment is more than 20 per cent and thousands of people are looking for work.

Unless you speak Castilian (the Spanish National language) fairly fluently you will find very few permanent contracted jobs on offer and in some areas you may find that you also need one of the other 4 main regional languages. There may be a few exceptions, largely in the entertainment field or in the regional areas that have high English speaking expat communities, or perhaps in the yachting marine or environmental engineering industries but even these are very limited.

Nevertheless thousands come here every year looking for a land of milk and honey almost all thinking that the grass is greener over here.

If that is your intent, before committing your family to this adventure (and adventure is what it is) get hold of a Spanish English language newspaper and explore the vacancies section. You will quickly see that there are very few worth while jobs on offer without language qualification. Think again before you leap.

Self Employment Opportunities

Self employment opportunities are another story. There are, I believe, many golden opportunities but not for the unwary or those unwilling to work really hard at fitting in to the Spanish way of life. The English concept of everything Spanish being manana, is very wrong, the culture is different and some ways and customs are difficult, perhaps frustrating, for the new expat but this is their country, you are the foreigner and need to fit in. The Spaniard works hard and plays hard.

Don't forget that this is their country. One hears many stupid remarks (from tourists I hope). In a restaurant I've heard but it’s full of Spanish or they didn’t understand a word I said or again on going to the Hospital, the Dentist, or just the Do it Yourself store but they don't speak English. Why should they? How many medical staff, shop keepers or plumbers in England speak Spanish?
Note! A much larger proportion of Spaniards speak English than vice versa.

1000s of immigrants return to the UK each year totally disillusioned, mainly through lack of forethought, planning and preparation before they came.

  1. Language Some people ignore the language problem, possibly OK if you are retiring into one of the many English enclaves and have a good pension to sustain you, but not if you want to work or offer your services to prospective employers or customers. Make every effort to learn Spanish, whatever your intentions, working or retirement, being able to converse, even poorly will make life in Spain much more acceptable and enjoyable. Communication leads to integration with your Spanish neighbours, a much more enjoyable life style and also leads to referrals and work opportunities. Spaniards love you to try speaking their language, they are so very friendly and don’t mind how many gaffs you make It is the trying that counts. See that all of the family take Spanish lessons. It is most important.
  2. Marketing Even being a highly skilled technician, computer wiz boy or in one of the professions is not enough, unless you are very lucky. If you come to start a self employed business there is another factor that you must consider, you need the ability to market yourself. No one is looking for you; you have to find the clients/customers. This is a skill that the majority of people lack, regardless of how well qualified they may be in their particular trade or profession. Marketing ability or lack of it is often the win or fail factor.
  3. Staying power Don't expect a Self Employed venture to take off like a rocket. It can take many months. It needs much hard work, you need to give quality and you need to build a reputation, a factor not helped if you don’t speak the language when visiting your material stockists. Lastly, you need money to sustain yourself and determination from the whole family.
    Living & Working in Spain
    [Find Living and Working in Spain at Amazon]
    If you failed in business in the UK, don’t come to Spain thinking it will be so much easier. Analyse why you failed in the UK. Change your tactics. If you bring your family it must be a united decision, unwilling partners are an inbuilt time bomb to failure.
  4. House prices have taken a battering due to the global fiscal meltdown and intense over building in many popular holiday destinations on the coast to the tune some 800,000 over subscribed homes. This does however also present an opportunity to those with the funding to be able to snap up a normally unaffordable dream home at a realistic price. My advice is to find a long established Spanish estate agent. There has been a massive input of Get Rich Quick agents, many from England. Commissions of 5 - 10% and even 20% are not uncommon; some agents even charge both the seller and the buyer, many of these have now gone out of business. Negotiate, don't accept it, try other agents. If you try hard some will agree 3%, better still tour around the area you like and try talking direct to owners with a Se Vende (for sale) notice on display. You can't expect to find a house and agent and get a good deal in a visit of just a few days. See my article on property purchase problems for some of the pitfalls you may encounter.
  5. Cost of Living in Spain Living in Spain is definitely considerably cheaper than in England whether it is buying the groceries or eating out. However to gain the real benefits you need to speak and read Spanish. Many expats even after several years still buy English packet foods, which incidentally are usually at least twice the price of local products. Learn the equivalent Spanish names of your favourite products e.g. Kellogs Corn Flakes at €2.90 over twice the cost of Copas de Maiz €0.99 and every bit as good in quality and taste, but unless you or the wife can understand the product names and descriptions you keep paying through the nose.
  6. Opportunities - Are they there? Definitely yes, but like anything worthwhile, the more you put in the easier it becomes. The more homework you put in before coming the easier it will be. Visit the region and assess the opportunities for your particular skills and if there is a market need. Read as much as you can about Spain to learn which region you like; do your homework.

Lastly, should you choose not to take into account the above suppositions, I would suggest you are better off not moving to Spain yet.

Once you have given due consideration to these matters, please explore the rest of this site. I would suggest visiting the Site Map a link to which is always available at the top of the page on the right hand side.
Look at all the subjects relevant to your situation, print them out, there are no charges, do your homework and then come to Spain and enjoy a new way of life. We love it.

How to Apply for a Work Permit

If you are an EU citizen, you can enter Spain as a tourist, go to the INEM (the National Institute of Employment) and register as a job seeker just the same as a Spaniard. Then you look for work. Once you have found your job, you must go to the nearest Spanish Police Station which has a Departamento de Extranjeros, taking your job contract, passport, medical certificate issued by an authorized examination centre, and four photos. Fill in the application forms and wait for your permit to be granted. Along with the Tarjeta Comunitaria, you will be issued an NIE numero de identificacion de extranjeros which is your Spanish tax identification number. You must also be registered by your employer for Spanish Social Security.

Your new employer will usually steer you through the entire process and if you later change your job, your new employer will handle the paperwork.

Council of Europe Regulations

The Council of Europe regulations as of January 1, 1992 gave all EU citizens who wanted to settle and work in Spain exactly the same conditions as Spaniards. The key words of the regulations are "equal treatment" and "non discrimination."

From 1 March 2003, British Citizens and other EU nationals intending to take up employment or self-employment in Spain no longer need to apply for a residence card.

Fees are payable to obtain the various (different) types of permits, levels between 25,000 and 50,000 pesetas. (€150.25 & €300.51)

If you get a job, the employer will pay most of this. If you set up your own business, the permit will cost you about 30,000 pesetas (€180.30). Apart from these fees, any EU citizen now has access to employment in Spain under the same conditions as a Spaniard.

"Equal treatment" means that the employer has free choice of whom he hires. Of course he must also enter into a valid employment contract and must register his new employee with the Spanish Social Security system and pay into the system on the employee's account, just as if he were a Spanish worker.

Under these new regulations a Spanish Work or Residence permit is available to any family members of the EU worker. Spouses and children under 21 years of age, or who are dependent on the worker, have full rights both to reside in the country and to obtain employment, either as hired persons or as self employed.

This right applies even to family members who are not EU nationals. If a Briton working in Spain is married to a US national, for example, the non EU spouse will have full rights to residence and employment in Spain.

All of these rights, and more regarding the free circulation of workers within the European Union.are set out in EU Regulation 1612/68.

Among these rights are:

  • The children of foreign workers will have the same rights to trade school education and apprenticeship programmes run by the State as nationals of that State.
  • Any clause in the employment contract or in any trade union agreement which is discriminatory against EU citizens must be considered null and void. EU workers in other countries may vote and be elected to office in unions at a local level.
  • Article 9 of Title II of the Regulation notes that such EU workers will enjoy the same priority of access to public or subsidized housing as Spanish nationals. That is, where low cost housing is available to workers, the EU member will be able to enter his name on the waiting list under the same conditions as a national.
  • Title I of the Regulation specifically prohibits any country from applying rules that limit or put unusual conditions on the employment of EU foreigners, or that force foreigners to register with employment offices before they can obtain work, or that make any obstacles for the hiring of EU nationals who may not yet reside officially in that country.
  • Article 5 of Title I requires that any EU foreigner looking for work in another EU country shall receive the same help from State Employment Offices as its own nationals seeking work.

All of these regulations add up to non discrimination and equal treatment for all workers throughout the EU. They even mean that the foreign worker, should he lose his employment in Spain for reasons beyond his control, can have access to unemployment payments under the Spanish dole just like a Spanish worker.

Once he has found employment, he will then need to register for his Work and Residence Permit. Employees require a work permit called cuenta ajena, which means "on another person's account". Those seeking to work on a self-employed basis need another sort of permit, called autorzomo, or cuenta propia,meaning "on your own account".

Seeking Employment & Work Permits - Cuenta Ajena

In practice this means that an EU citizen who is looking for a job may enter Spain without any more formality than the presentation of his passport and remain as a "tourist" for up to six months whilst he looks for work. The EU job seeker should present himself at the nearest office of the INEM, the Instituto National de Errzpleo , the National Employment Institute, where he should register as a demandante de empleo, (a person looking for work.) This is exactly the way Spaniards do it.

If a job seeker is fortunate enough to obtain employment, he will then have to present his work contract and Social Security registration to the Spanish police and to the Madrid Central Government sub delegate office of the province where he intends to reside, as well as to the Delegado de Trabajo, the provincial director of the Labour Ministry, who should routinely issue his tarjeta comunitaria, his EU citizen's residence and work permit. He may also be required to appear for an interview with the National Police official in charge of extranjeros at his local police station.

Spanish authorities now ask EU work permit applicants to show only their medical certificate, pre contract of job, together with passport and four photos. Those who apply for self employed status (see below) find their applications moving swiftly through the works. A big change from Spain's former obstructive practices.

The first work permit will be for six months and renewals will be for five years. Your new employer will make the arrangements for your registration and payment into the Spanish Social Security scheme.

Remember that it is illegal to work in Spain without being registered for Social Security.

If you get a short term work permit, the Permiso A, your employer must pay €97.36 for under three months, €162.27 for a contract of three to six months, and €194.73 if it is longer than six months. You, as the worker, pay only €6.49.

If you get the normal Permiso B work permit, your employer must pay a tax of €162.27 if your wage is less than two times the minimum wage, meaning less than about €781.32 a month, or €324.55 if your salary is higher than that. Again, you as the worker, pay only €6.49. That is for the first permit. Renewals will cost your employer €64.91 and you another €6.49.

If you are applying for a self employed permit, the Permiso D, you will pay a tax of €162.27 for your first permit, and €64.91 for the renewals.

The following groups are exempt from these taxes:
South Americans, Philipinos, citizens of Ecuatorial Guinea, Sephardic Jews returning to Spain, the children of native born Spaniards, Gibraltarians and those born in Spain, even if their parents are foreigners.

Those who have found jobs in Spain should also enquire on regulations relating to "Employing Others" for a full description of their rights as workers.

Self Employment - Cuenta Propia (Autonomo)

The other sort of work permit applies to persons like plumbers, carpenters or business operators who wish to work as self employed. This is called working "on your own account" the cuenta propia. It is often called autonomo as well because the worker pays into the Spanish Social Security system under a different plan from the employee. In many cases the self employed person can choose to set the amount he wants to pay, as long as it is above a certain minimum. (Ask your Consulate for details relating to Social Security.)

Unfortunately for these self employed persons, their situation is a little more complicated but it is no more complicated than it is for Spaniards themselves. Remember that "equal treatment" means that those persons applying for self employed permits will have to go through a series of fiscal licences, opening permits and inspections just like Spaniards trying to start a business. The red tape has driven more than one Spaniard round the bend and foreigners will find the same frustrations.

European professionals who want to work in Spain are already finding it much easier to have their professional qualifications standardized to Spanish regulations and to set up their practice in Spain. Doctors, dentists, nurses, veterinarians, architects, lawyers, insurance agents and hairdressers now experience fewer difficulties when they want to render their services in Spain. Other professions also will find restrictions relaxed. With the new legislation, 120 foreign architects are already certified in Spain. The same is true for doctors and dentists, who formerly found a labyrinth of paperwork confronting them before they could practice in Spain. Now the recognition of foreign qualifications has been greatly simplified and speeded up.

Non EU Work Permit Application

Unfortunately for citizens of non EU nations, the situation has remained much the same. Such third nation citizens as Americans and Canadians still need the visado de residencies, the special visa which they must obtain from the Spanish consulate in their home country even before they come to Spain. This application form is then used to request a work permit.

There are seven classifications of these visas, so be sure you get the right one when you apply. There are visas for people who wish to retire to Spain, visas for those wishing to work (even those who are qualified in one of the professions), visas for those wanting to start a business, visas for those who have found employment, visas for top executives, visas for students and visas for teachers. Far too much detail to mention here.

First Step

You must obtain and then take a completed copy of an application form to your local consulate office. You must also take your passport and a medical certificate to be certified by the consulate. All of these are returned to you as proof of your having made an application.

The applicant must then send this certified application form together with copies of all relevant documents to the Spanish employer who is willing to offer him a job. Always retain additional copies of all application documents.

It is the potential Spanish employer who then has to apply for the work permit to the provincial office of the Ministry of Labour (Provincial del Ministerio de Trabajo). The position being applied for must have been advertised to EU citizens thru the INEM before it can be given to a non EU citizen. Permits are only issued when it has been demonstrated that there is not an EU citizen available for the job. There are several processes to acceptance.


There are exceptions to these stringent conditions depending on type of work, qualifications, the particular region of Spain etc, as well as for a person seeking to be self-employed.

For more detailed and up to date information I recommend that all would be applicants enquire at the nearest Spanish Consulate office in your their country of residence.

Working Hours

[Shop at]

It is also worth mentioning that in many parts of Spain, particularly in the south, the working day is split. Commencing at 8am to 1pm then breaking for the hottest part of the day and recommencing work from 4 or 5 until 8 pm. It makes a very long day, unusual to the normal UK workforce.

I advise those with serious interest to purchase one of the many books published describing Spanish law. I found You and the Law in Spain by David Searl published by Santana Books most helpful (the link will take you through to Amazon's site)

Papers / Documentation

This list is not exhaustive, but indicates the sort of documentary evidence that may be requested:

Solicitud Licencia de Apertura de Ayuntamiento
Application for the Opening Licence from the Town Hall
Solicitud Licencia Municipal
Application for the Municipal Licence
Solicitud de Apertura de la Dirección Territorial de Trabajo y Sanidad y Seguridad Social.
Application for the opening from the Territorial Directorate of Employment, Health and Social Security
Alta como Autónomo en la Seguridad Social
Certficate of enrolment as self-employed in the Social Security
Alta Licencia Fiscal
Business Licence
Solicitud Autorización de la Conserjería de Turismo y Transportes
Application for authorisation from the Council for Transport and Tourism
Concesión de la Jefatura de Costas.
Authorisation from the Coastal Authortities
Solicitud Autorización de Manipuladores de Alimentos
Application for authorisation as Food Handler
Solicitud Autorización del Ministerio de Transportes, Turismo y Comunicaciones.
Application for authorisation from the Ministry of Transport, Tourism and Communication
Proof of professional/educational qualifications, recognised under Spanish/EU law.

SME (PYME) Information

Further information (in Spanish) from the the Ministerio de Economa PYME (Pequeña y Mediana Empresa) website, or Tel: 900 190 092
Paseo de la Castellana, 162 - 28046 Madrid or INEM c/Espartinas, 10 Tel. 91 520 6000. Fax 91 577 53 47

State Benefits

Persons merely looking for work are not subject to any formalities but would normally be expected to support themselves while doing so.

Unemployment benefit may be transferable to Spain for a limited period and health cover may be obtained using form E111, or in some cases E106, otherwise, Spanish benefits are not usually payable to non-Spanish nationals who have not previously paid contributions in Spain.

Social Security Offices (Institutos Nacionales de Ia Seguridad Social)

ALICANTE: Calle Churruca 26, Tel: 96 590 31 00

BENIDORM: Avda de I’Aiguera, Tel: 96 586 70 62

DENIA: Calle Marques de Campo 52, Tel: 96 578 00 22

GANDIA: C/ Plus Ultra 32 & Avda Reptlblica Argentina 93, Tel:96 286 1948/96 28673 38

VILLAJOYOSA: Calle Constitución 10, Tel: 96 589 01 94

Spanish representation in the UK

Spanish Embassy
39 Chesham Place
Tel: 0207 235 5555
20 Draycott Place
Tel: 0207 589 8989
63 North Castle Street
Tel: 0131 220 1843
Suite 1A Brook House
70 Spring Gardens
Tel: 0161 236 1262

[Practical Hints
to Living in
Spain - Gandia - Valencia]

General Information
Emergency services, natural hazards & daily life
Language & Education
The languages of Spain and the education system
Health Care
Registration, english speaking doctors, A&E, hospital etc
Property Matters
Property purchase & residency, pitfalls and property for sale
Currency Transfer
Better rates from foreign exchange service companies
Telecomm, water, gas & electricity service & supply issues
Useful Contacts
Recreational, consular, medical, travel & service contacts
Sports & Leisure
Sports, leisure & tourist information and contacts
Cars & Driving
Motor vehicle useage and ownership in Spain
Working in Spain
For those wishing to work or run a small business in Spain
Spanish Taxation
Introduction to Spanish taxes and where to get help
Hospice Appeal
Please help the Franciscan Brothers