Legal requirements to move to Spain

This information does not substitute for professional legal advise, we recommend you to seek the assistance of a Spanish Lawyer.

1. Visas

EU citizens do not need a visa to enter Spain, but just a legal passport or an official ID in force. Non-EU citizens, on the other hand, do need a visa to enter Spain, except if there exists an agreement between Spain and the foreign home country, by means of which the requirement of a visa is not applicable for citizens or residents of such countries when they will be staying in Spain for up to 3 months within a 6 month period, or for a transit stay of maximum 5 days.

Applications for residence visa must be placed before the Spanish Consulate of your home country before you intend to enter Spain. Visas are handled by the Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs through its Consulate office located abroad.

There are different types of visas, which are issued depending on what is your purpose for entering Spain: studying, working, tourism, investment, etc. You should apply for your visa according to your needs. You cannot enter Spain under a tourist visa and then while you stay in Spain apply for a residence visa. For such purposes you must return to your home country in order to obtain the appropriate visa first.

You should be required to produce some specific documentation, depending on the type of visa you need. Visas-process may take a number of months depending on each case.

In general terms, there exist four types of visas:

  • Transit visa: There are two types: One given to individuals or groups of foreigners passing through Spanish ports or airports without entering the Spanish territory. One that allows foreigners to pass through Spanish territory for a maximum of 5 days.
  • Temporary stay visa: There are two types:
    • Short-duration visa: issued for foreigners who wish to stay in Spain for up to 3 months within a 6-month time period. There exist different categories, among them:
      • Group visas for short stays (for no longer than 30 days).
      • Visas to study in Spain.

    Multiple-stay visas: issued for multiple stays adding up to 90 days within six months during one year.

  • Residence visa: This should not be confused with the Residence permit, which allow you to live in Spain, after getting your residence visa. Residence visa is initially granted for 1 year, and it may be renewed for an additional 2-year period, once it has expired, you may apply for permanent residency visa, which must be renewed after five years. There are specific categories:
    • For reuniting a family: It could be given to the spouse provided that his matrimony is valid; to the descendants of the principal, provided that they are not married and are under 18 years of age, and in some other specific cases;
    • For working in Spain for at least one year , when the foreigner needs a work permit or when the foreigner is a professional who does not need a work permit such as university professors, when professionals are hired by a Spanish university, or scientists, when they are hired by Spanish Government;
    • For asylum, this is issued for foreigners with refugee status.
  • Courtesy visa: Visas for Diplomatic personnel or similar.

2. The Work permit

2.1. Work permit for European Union nationals

If you are an EU national you do not need a work permit to work in Spain, you can enter Spain and live in Spain without registering with the office for EU nationals. Notwithstanding, registering as resident in Spain is always advisable for a number of reasons such as having an employment contract in Spain.

These are only general guidelines and not definitive statements of the law, all questions about the law´s applications to individual cases should be directed to a Spanish lawyer.

2.2. Work permits for non EU nationals

2.2.1. General information

The non European Union foreigners who wish to work in Spain must obtain a work permit after having previously obtained a work and residence visa before moving to work to Spain. Please remember that application of  work and residence visa must be placed before the Spanish Consulate of your corresponding home country.

Work permits must be applied for at the Foreigners’ Office (Oficinas de Extranjeros) or at the Office of Work and Immigration (Área de Trabajo e Inmigración), or at the Central Office of Immigration (Dirección General de Inmigración), if the foreign applicant has already entered the Spanish territory under work and residence visa. If the foreign applicant is not in Spain, the work permit must be applied for before the Consular office of the foreign applicant’s home country.

Spanish immigration authorities will decide whether the work permit will be issued or not.

2.2.2.The documents you must submit at the time of work permit application

The documents you will be required to submit upon application for work permit are the following:

  • If you are to be employed in Spain:
    • Copy of your valid passport.
    • Certificate of criminal records issued by the authorities of the foreigner’s home country, except when it was presented upon application for the visa.
    • Official medical certificate.
    • Three passport-size photographs.
    • Fiscal registration number (NIE or CIF) and the Social Security registration number of the employer.
    • Offer of employment where there appear the labor conditions.
    • Full description of the job and the company activity.
    • Proof of the employer’s solvency might also be required.
  • If you are to work in Spain as self-employed:
    • Copy of your valid passport.
    • Certificate of criminal records issued by the authorities of the foreigner’s home country, except when it was presented upon application for the visa.
    • Official medical certificate.
    • Three passport-size photographs.
    • Full description of the job and the company activity.
    • Proof of the foreigner’s professional qualification or that he meets the requirements required to perform the professional activity in Spain, such as the appropriate licences to perform the activity or the registration to the Spanish Social Security system, your NIE;
    • Any other documentation the Spanish Administration requires from time to time.

2.2.3. Types of work permits

  • Where the foreigner is an employee:
    • Type A work permit: for seasonal or time limited work. This may entail a specific contract or a specific geographic area. Its maximum duration is 9 months, including renewal.
    • Type b initial work permit: It enables the foreigner to work in a specific profession, activity and geographic area for a maximum period of 1 year.
    • Type B renewed work permit: This is issued to those initial holders once it has expired. It entitles him to carry on various professions or activities within a maximum period of 2 years.
    • Type C work permit, this is issued to the B renewed work permit holders once it has expired. This permit entitles the foreign worker to perform any professional activity throughout the Spanish Territory.
  • Where the foreigner is self-employed:
    • Type d initial work permit: To carry on a specific activity for a maximum of 1 year. Spanish authorities could limit this to a specific geographic area.
    • Type D renewed work permit: This is issued to those d initial holders once it has expired. It entitles him to perform various professional activities for a maximum period of 2 years. Spanish labor authorities could limit this to a specific geographic area and/or a specific activity.
    • Type E work permit: This is issued to those holding the D renewed work permit once it has expired. This entitles the foreign worker to perform any professional activity throughout the Spanish Territory for a maximum period of 3 years.
  • Where the foreigner is an employee or a self-employed:
    • Type F work permit: To perform professional activities in the Spanish borders, provided their daily return to the foreign borders where they normally reside. This is issued for a maximum period of 5 years, after that it may be renewed.
    • Permanent work permit: It enables the foreign worker to perform any professional activity where he has the qualification required. The type C or E work permits’ holders may obtain this work permit once theirs had expired. It is mandatory to renew this work permit every 5 years.
    • Extraordinary work permit: this is issued to the non-EU foreign citizens who had helped to the Spanish economic and cultural progress. It enables the foreign worker to perform any professional activity throughout the Spanish territory where he has the qualification required. This must be renewed every 5 years.

You will do well having a skilled Lawyer handling your application, as they know the ins and outs of the paperwork.

3. The residence permit

3.1. For EU citizens

European Union citizens can freely enter, exit, travel and remain in Spain, and are not obliged to fulfill any residence requirements in order to live or stay in Spain for any longer than 3 months . The residence card is not any more required, as it used to be after the incorporation of Spain into the European Union. Notwithstanding, you may register as resident in Spain if you intend to reside for a long period of time in our country. Registration as Spanish resident is strongly advisable as this will entitle you to get some tax benefits in Spain.

3.2. The Residence permit for non-EU citizens

The non EU-foreigners need the residence permit to inhabit in the Spain. To enter the Spanish country the foreigner will be required to show his valid passport and the corresponding visa.

Residence permit is required in order to remain and live in Spain after a period of time exceeding 90 days..

There are different types of residence permits:

  • Temporary residence permit: It allows you to remain in Spain for a period of time between 90 days and 5 years, your residence permit may be renewed up after that limit.
  • Permanent residency permit: It is available to all foreigners who have held a normal residence permit for a continuous period of 5 years, it should be renewed every 5 years.
  • Residency permit for special circumstances such as for non-EU citizens whose asylum application had been rejected and to whom the Spanish Internal Ministry  had authorised them to remain in Spain;
  • Residency permit for reuniting families: this permit entitles the non-EU foreigner residing in Spain to apply for the Spanish residence of his closest family. The applicant must be legally residing in Spain for at least 1 year and he must have authorization for another year to reside in Spain.

The residency permit applications must be submitted personally before the Foreigners’ Office (Oficina de Extranjeros) or to the National Police Station with a foreigners’ department nearest the city or town where you are going to live, you will be required to present some documentation depending on the type of residence permit applied.

You must submit the following paperwork:

  • Valid passport.
  • Residence visa in force.
  • Proof of previous legal residence of the foreigner in Spain e.g. a long-term rental contract or receipts for rent;
  • Certificate of criminal record issued by the authorities of the foreigner’s home country.
  • Some passport-size photographs.
  • Medical certificate (certificado medico), in the cases that the applicant had not presented it when obtained his visa residence.
  • Proof of financial income to support you during the period of residence in Spain, such as pensions, work salaries;
  • Proof that your health assistance is guaranteed during your residence in Spain.
  • Marriage or divorce certificate or other papers relating to your marital status, plus a Spanish translation will be required when applying for reuniting your family.

Renewals of residency permits are available, provided that neither personal nor economic situations of the non-EU foreigner have changed, this must be applied for at least one month before the residence permit has expired, otherwise the foreigner could be fined.

Residence permits are issued by the Spanish Ministry of the Interior (Ministerio del Interior). You should carry your residence card with you at all times as it constitutes a mandatory identity card for foreign residents in Spain, it shows your fiscal registration number (NIE).

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