Visas and Work Permits 8 min

Work permits and visas in Spain: an employer’s guide

Written by Sally Flaxman
November 13, 2023
Sally Flaxman


share to linkedInshare to Twittershare to Facebook
Link copied
to clipboard

If you’re hiring an employee in Spain or relocating an existing employee, the employee must have the right type of visa to work in the country. 

The process of organizing a Spanish work visa for a team member is not easy, though. It can be challenging to navigate the complexities of Spain’s visa system and stay up-to-date with local laws. If you fail to comply with Spanish labor and employment laws, you can receive fines, and penalties, or even land in legal trouble.

To save you the hassle of handling everything yourself, you can partner with an employer of record that can simplify the process for you. Remote’s Mobility team can work with you to streamline the entire visa and relocation process for all employees wishing to live and work in Spain. 

In this guide, we’ll explain the basics of work permits and visas in Spain, and show you the various steps you may need to take to acquire them (depending on the employee’s status). We’ll also discuss how you can use Remote’s mobility services to relocate employees quickly and compliantly. 

Why is immigration compliance important in Spain?

With its attractive way of life and the strong economic hubs in Madrid and Barcelona, Spain is a desirable location for both workers and businesses. However, its work permit and visa requirements can be ambiguous. If you, and the employee, fail to comply with relevant legislation, there are serious risks involved, including fines, penalties, ongoing scrutiny, and reputational damage.

These risks are only growing, too, especially as trends shift towards remote work and governments start to reassess their existing policies. For example, there are many instances of individuals on tourist visas overstaying in countries. 

If an employee is found working in Spain on the wrong type of visa (or without a visa at all) is illegal. This is why it’s crucial to ensure that team members have the right paperwork while working abroad.

Who needs a work authorization check in Spain?

Anybody who is a non-citizen of Spain, EU, and EEA member states needs a work authorization check to live and work in the country.

Spanish citizens are, by default, eligible to work in Spain (even if they currently live abroad), as are permanent residents. Citizens of EU and European Economic Area (EEA) member states can also live and work in Spain without the need for a visa or work permit, as can citizens of Switzerland. The current EU and EEA member states are:

Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Iceland

Nationals of other countries can also live and work in Spain, but they will require a work permit (which is typically issued along with a residence permit). To obtain this permit, they will also need to acquire a long-stay visa.

A global employment service like Remote can make it easier for you to relocate or hire international employees as you can run employee eligibility checks quickly, easily, and effectively. Our mobility team will assess the employee’s information, check work eligibility, and issue the right visa, in full compliance with the country’s rules and regulations.

Getting a work permit in Spain

Non-citizens of Spain only need a work visa or work permit if they are citizens of a country outside the EU.

How is the Schengen Visa applicable? 

The Schengen Visa allows holders to visit Spain or any Schengen member state for up to 90 days.

On its own, though, it does not allow holders to work (or study) in Spain. It is generally designed for tourism or personal purposes, such as visiting family or friends.

Note that the employee can not enter Spain on a Schengen Visa and then apply for a long-stay visa. Any such applications using this approach will be rejected outright.

How is the European Union Blue Card applicable? 

The EU Blue Card is a work and residence permit for skilled workers from outside the EU/EEA who are citizens of a non-EU country. It allows holders to live and work in the issuing country, and travel freely to other EU/EEA countries.

To check the eligibility criteria and application process to apply for an EU Blue Card for an employee in Spain, visit the European Commission website.

Note that, in May 2023, the Spanish government made several major changes to its existing policy. Blue Cards are now issued for an initial three years (up from one), while holders of higher vocational training certificates are now also eligible to apply.

What are the eligibility requirements to get a work permit in Spain?

  • For the employee to receive authorization, their job role must be included and classed as ‘difficult to cover’ in the State Public Employment Service’s occupations list. This list is published every quarter.

  • Otherwise, you must prove to the Public Employment Services that the role cannot be filled by a Spanish citizen.

  • The employee must also have a clean criminal record.

You can learn more about acquiring the initial residence and work authorization on the ministry website.

Note that Remote can assist you throughout this entire process, from checking the employee’s eligibility to assisting you with the application form while applying for a work permit.

To learn more, check out our dedicated guide on relocating employees below.

Get your Remote Relocation Guide

Learn how to simplify your planned relocation with this walkthrough guide. We outline the key steps for you and your employer to enable a compliant, efficient, and hassle-free move.

Relocation Guide download

What are the long-stay visa types in Spain?

All work visas that allow an individual to stay and work in Spain for more than three months can be considered long-stay visa types.

For work-related matters, there are three different types of long-stay visas:

Highly qualified professional (HQP) visa. This visa is for individuals with a qualified job offer in the country, as well as graduates from prestigious schools and universities. It allows you to live and work in Spain for up to two years.

Standard work visa. This visa type enables an individual to live and work in Spain for at least one year, provided they have a work contract of that duration (at a minimum).

Investment work visa. This type of permit helps investors to do business in Spain for two years if you apply from within the country, or one year if you apply from abroad.

The employee work visa. The employee work visa is for individuals who want to work under contract for a specific employer. In this case, the employer is responsible for processing their application. Note that if the job title that an individual has been offered in Spain is not included in the country’s specific list of high-priority jobs, the visa application may be rejected

Self-employed work visa. This visa is for individuals who want to work in Spain as self-employed sole traders or freelancers. This visa is also for those individuals or entrepreneurs who want to start a business in Spain.

How do you get a work visa in Spain?

For the employee to receive a work visa, they first need initial residence and work authorization as an employee. This is a legal status issued by the Ministry of Inclusion, Social Security and Migration that confirms the employee’s right to work in Spain.

As the employer, it is your responsibility to obtain this authorization on the employee’s behalf. You can submit the application online, or in person at one of Spain’s registered immigration offices. You will need to provide a completed application form, as well as copies of the employee’s:

  • Passport

  • Professional or academic qualifications (if relevant)

  • Signed employment contract

You will also need to provide proof that you are a legal employer in Spain and that you are already registered as such in the Spanish social security system. If you don’t have a local entity in Spain, then it becomes necessary to open your own entity there or work with an employer of record who can establish a legal entity on your behalf.

Once you have acquired initial residence and work authorization, the employee must begin their long-stay work visa application within one month.

They will need to apply in person at their local Spanish embassy or consulate, and submit:

  • A signed and completed application form

  • Passport photos

  • Their original passport, and copies

  • Copy of the initial residence and work authorization (or EU Blue Card, if applicable)

  • Copy of the signed employment contract

  • Clean criminal record

  • Medical check

In most cases, it should take between two weeks and a month to receive the visa. You can learn more about the work visa application process here.

The above is a simple, high-level overview of the visa process, which is often even more complex and time-consuming. To make your life easier, we recommend working with a specialized partner like Remote, who can make it simple for you to manage the visa process. Our expert Mobility team’s relocation services can guide you through the process of obtaining work permits, sponsorships, and compliance, from start to finish. 

Does Spain offer a digital nomad visa?

Yes. The Spanish government introduced a dedicated digital nomad visa (DNV) in December 2022, allowing remote workers to live and work in Spain for up to one year. 

Note that the employee can only obtain a DNV if your company is not registered in Spain. Therefore, this option may be more suitable if the employee wishes to relocate to Spain, but you don’t have a legal entity or presence there.

To obtain a DNV, the employee must also:

  • Have worked for you for at least three months

  • Earn at least 200% of the national Spanish minimum wage

  • Have a clean criminal record

Why use an employer of record to hire in Spain?

As outlined, the employee needs to be eligible to work in Spain. However, you must also be able to compliantly employ them there.

This means that you must either own a legal entity in Spain or use an employer of record (EOR). This is the case regardless of whether you’re hiring a Spanish/EEA/EU citizen, a permanent resident, or a temporary resident on a work visa.

If your long-term recruitment strategy is to hire exclusively in Spain, then the former may be worth your while. However, as a foreign business, this can be costly, time-consuming, and inefficient, especially if you later decide to start hiring in other countries.

This is why it’s generally advisable to use a trusted, reliable EOR instead. To learn more about what EORs are and when to use one, check out our in-depth guide below.

link to How to use an Employer of Record in Spain
18 min

How to use an Employer of Record in Spain

Learn how to use an EOR in Spain and find out how an employer of record platform like Remote can make it easy to hire globally with full compliance.

As you can see, there’s plenty of administrative work to do if you want to hire a non-citizen or relocate an employee to Spain. Spanish immigration laws are complicated, and the processes involved in obtaining work permits and visas for employees in Spain can be long-winded.

To make the process as quick and smooth as possible, and to address any potential hiccups, partner with a global employment service like Remote. As well as helping you manage the employees’ onboarding, taxes, and payroll, Remote can also support you with their relocation process. Specifically, our Mobility team can:

  • Offer expert guidance and advice on work permits and visas, sponsorships, and eligibility

  • Perform pre-employment checks and conduct a right-to-work analysis to establish who needs a work permit.

  • Handle the paperwork and make sure all the required documents are in place as part of the application process

  • Ensure compliance with changing immigration laws and regulations, thereby reducing legal risks for the employer and employee.

  • Renew and extend work visas on time and verify that documentation is in order.

To learn more about how you can make the entire relocation process easier with Remote, book a consultation with one of our friendly mobility gurus — and get the process started today.

Hire, pay, and manage relocation for your global team

Create an account with G2’s top-ranked multi-country payroll software and start onboarding your first employees in minutes.

Get started now
Remote is the G2 top-ranked multi-country payroll software

Subscribe to receive the latest
Remote blog posts and updates in your inbox.