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Americans Living and Working in Spain: Your Visas Explained

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Originally Posted On: Americans Living and Working in Spain: Your Visas Explained | Right Casa Estates


So much is written about Britons hoping to make their dream of moving to Spain a reality. But if you’re an American whose fallen in love with the sun, sea and sangria of Spain and always dreamt of living and working in the country then this article is for you! What work permit options are available for you? What kind of visa will you need? This piece will tell you everything you need to know.

The fact is, getting a work visa to live and work in Spain can be challenging for anyone who is not an EU national, and that includes American citizens. But just because something is a challenge doesn’t mean it’s not possible! If you are financially comfortable then one relatively straightforward option is to apply for a Golden Visa; this is a visa that is offered to any foreign investor who invests at least 500,000 euros in property in Spain, amongst other requirements, and is an easy route into the country. If this isn’t an option for you, and you want to work whilst you are in Spain, then the two main options for you to consider are either to obtain a work permit as an employee (where you have already secured potential employment) or a work permit as a self-employed worker. Here we will detail how both of these situations could work for you:

Securing a Work Permit as an Employee

If you’re hoping to find a job in Spain then the first place to start should be the shortage occupation list. This is a list published by the Spanish employment agency SEPE and as a general rule, the only way you can be considered for a job as an American in Spain is if it is on this list. The list is currently 12 pages long, but right now the vast majority of jobs on the list are in the maritime and shipping industry (from naval mechanics to ferry staff, chefs and waiters), as well as sports coaches. The list is updated every quarter, so if your profession isn’t listed on there right now don’t lose heart: it might appear on there in the future.

If you are interested in a position that is listed on this list then when you apply for the role, if you are successful, your employer will have to declare that there was no suitable Spanish or EU candidate who applied for the position, but this is easier if your role is on the ocupación de dificil cobertura (skills shortage) list. You can, technically, get a job that isn’t on this list but this is much harder, as your prospective employer will have to really convince the Spanish civil servants in control of approving your visa that there wasn’t a local candidate available for the role (and given the current employment situation in Spain, this is unlikely to be successful). If you do manage to secure a job offer, and your potential employer is prepared to start the application procedure on your behalf with the department of Labour and Immigration, you will still have to return to the US, as you must start your work permit application from the Spanish consulate of the country that you live in.  If this is all successful, you will be issued with a work permit valid for 1 year, but this permit can be renewed quite simply provided that your work terms and conditions don’t change.

Could I Teach English or Work as An Au Pair?

Two of the most common job roles for American living in Spain are teaching work and au pair roles. Teaching English is one of the best options for living and working in Spain, as there are plenty of positions available and the pay is often attractive too. There is a good precedent for this being an easy option too, with thousands of US nationals, Australians, Canadians and other English-speakers from non-EU countries moving to Spain to teach English every year.

There are different routes to teaching English in Spain; first, it is recommended that you complete a TEFL (Teaching English as Foreign Language) course in your home country. Then you could take part in the “Auxiliares de Conversación” Programme which is run by the Spanish government and sees people from the United States, Canada, New Zealand and Australia recruited to be English language assistants in Spanish public schools. You would work alongside Spanish-speaking teachers to provide support in English. You could also try emailing language schools in Spain directly to see if they have any positions available, or are looking to sponsor any new applicants. Finally, the visa most commonly used by non-EU English teacher is in fact the student visa, which allows you to study at a recognised institution while teaching English on the side.

Less interested in teaching and more interested in working as an au pair? There is a specific au pair visa that you can apply for, allowing you to stay in Spain for one year. Applicants must be aged 17 to 30, have an au pair agreement with a Spanish host family stating salary and conditions as well as proof of sufficient finances and private health cover. Whilst this isn’t a long-term option it is a great way to get to know the Spanish lifestyle better.

Securing a Work Permit if You’re Self-Employed

If you’re thinking of moving to Spain to register as self-employed or to set up your own business then the process is even more complicated than securing a role as an employee. You have to demonstrate that you have all the relevant qualifications for the role you’re looking for, that you will have sufficient earnings when you start working in Spain (either by showing potential contracts, or contact with interested parties). You will have to present a comprehensive business plan to support your application and this will have to show that your business will be financial independent and successful within three years. Sounds simple so far? This is where things gets trickier! Once you’re happy with your business plan, not only will you have to send it to one Spanish institution but to five! These are:

Unión de Profesionales y Trabajadores Autónomos –  UPTA

Confederación Intersectorial de Autónomos del Estado Español – CIAE

Organización Profesionales autónomos – OPA

Unión de Asociaciones de trabajadores Autónomos y emprendedores-  UATAE

Federación Nacional de Trabajadores Autónomos – ATA

Your application will need to be approved by all five of these bodies before it is then sent to Spain’s Ministry of Labour and Immigration. If it is then fully approved, you will be given a one-year permit, which you can renew every year. At the end of five years, you’ll be eligible to a long-term five-year work permit. This sounds like a lot of work, and it is: so it’s well worth seeking the advice of a Spanish immigration lawyer if you’re thinking of going down this route. There is a lot of paperwork involved in the process, and just one wrong move could result in your application being rejected, so it is well worth paying for support to reduce the headache of the bureaucracy.

There is plenty of support available if you’re thinking of working in Spain, so why not seek professional advice on the right route for you to make the transition run as smoothly as possible. Interested in purchasing property in Spain, or hoping to make a real estate investment to help secure your residency in Spain? We’re here to help! Whether you’re hoping to invest in commercial or residential property, our property experts can assist you in finding the property that’s right for you.

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