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SPAIN

What you should consider if you’re moving to Spain during the Covid-19 pandemic

Moving to a new country can be stressful, but moving to a new country during times of coronavirus can be even more difficult. Here's everything you need to know and consider before you make the move to Spain.

What you should consider if you're moving to Spain during the Covid-19 pandemic
Image: Gerd Altmann/Pixabay

Deciding on where to live

Some people deciding to move to Spain don’t actually know where they want to live in Spain and often ‘try out’ several different regions or cities before they decide on the one they want. It was not uncommon to try out Valencia for a month and then move to Barcelona or Madrid for the next month to see which they preferred. In Covid-19 times however, this isn’t possible, so you need to be sure about which city or area you want to live in.

Many regions across the country have closed their borders and even the borders between their municipalities, so simply hopping between cities and regions won't be possible. 

Finding accommodation  

Finding accommodation might actually be the one thing that is easier in Covid times than in normal times. Because of the lack of tourism this year, many accommodation options that were Airbnbs or holiday lets had to be put on the regular rental market. This drove prices way down and also meant that there was a lot more availability. This is good news, especially in over-touristed and expensive cities such as Barcelona. Earlier this year, Barcelona's mayor told citizens to “Rent out empty flats or I'll repossess them“. Here's everything you need to know about renting an apartment in Barcelona and in Madrid

Image: 495756/Pixabay 

Becoming a legal resident

Citizens of EU countries, now excluding the UK, need to apply for an NIE number in order to become a resident. There are several ways to get a NIE card, such as proving that you’re going to buy a house, proving that you have a job offer or showing that you have private health insurance and enough funds to support yourself. Here's everything you need to know about how to get an NIE number. 

Those moving from outside the EU or from the UK will need to apply for the TIE card, which you can find out all about here

Traditionally, the process of getting a NIE or a TIE has been difficult and appointments were very hard to come by. In times of Covid-19, getting an appointment has become even more difficult with limits of numbers of people in the offices and many residents from the UK trying to change their NIE for a TIE. We suggest to start trying get an appointment before you even arrive in the country, or alternatively paying a company here who can get an appointment for you and help you navigate the process.

Employment

Before you decide to move to Spain, you need to be aware that unemployment is very high right now, particularly due to the Covid crisis. Unemployment currently stands at around 16 percent, one of the highest levels in the EU. Therefore, getting a job during Covid times is going to be very difficult. If your plan is to get a job when you get here, then you need to be aware that it could take you a very long time, so you need make sure you have funds to support yourself for at least four to six months.

The best option right now is to move with a job offer already in place, have a remote job you can do from anywhere, or have clients in your home country, who you can continue working for. In the situation of the latter, you will most likely have to sign up to the Spanish autonomo or self-employed system so you can be legal and pay taxes here. You will also need to speak to a gestor or a lawyer to find out the tax implications of having a remote job.

Schools

If you’re moving with your family and have little ones in tow, you should know that despite all the current restrictions, closures and curfews, schools remain open. Kids over the age of five will be required to wear a mask and teachers have to wear them too, so it’s good to keep in mind that your kids might find it very challenging to start school during this time, especially if they’re trying to learn a new language and the same time and can’t see peoples’ mouths moving and often hear muffled words.

Like many countries, Spain closed its schools for several months during the spring and early summer, and while a return to the closures and online lessons are not on the cards currently, it’s best to keep in mind that this could be a possibility if the situation gets worse over the winter. This means that you need to be prepared to stay at home all day with your kids and put plans in place, should that situation occur. 

Image:Alexandra_Koch/Pixabay 

Making friends and discovering your new home

Making new friends could prove challenging during coronavirus times and perhaps take longer than usual. While some people might be happy to meet new faces, you’ll find that many people simply won’t risk it right now. Many clubs, expat groups and sporting activities have been cancelled, so your opportunities to meet new people might be diminished too.

Bars and restaurants have been forced closed across many regions and curfews remain in place, so there will be less chances to meet or socialise with people, as well as exploring and getting to know your new home. Find out all the latest restrictions in place here

Confinement

Spain had one of the strictest lockdowns in the whole of Europe, where people weren’t even allowed to leave the house for walks or exercise for around two and half months. The authorities have said they are unlikely to do this again, but it's not off the table. The situation could change and home confinement could become a real possibility again.

The situation was very hard on everyone and had a big toll on mental health. If you’re thinking of moving to Spain soon, you need to be aware how home confinement could affect you and your family and if you really want to put yourselves through that. If possible, you may also want to think about getting an apartment with a terrace or a house with a garden, so you’ll have access to some outdoor space, should this happen again.

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For members

WORKING IN SPAIN

NEW LAWS: How it’s now easier for foreigners to work in Spain

Spain has amended its immigration laws to make it easier for non-EU citizens (UK nationals, Americans etc) to work in the country in a bid to address some of its most pressing labour shortages. Here are the changes, the reasons why they’re being introduced and more.

NEW LAWS: How it's now easier for foreigners to work in Spain

What are the new changes in a nutshell?

The Spanish government has amended its laws relating to the rights and freedoms of non-EU foreigners in the country, as a means of resolving the bureaucratic obstacles which often prevent Spain from using its migrant population to cover labour shortages.

There are three main changes: 

  • Undocumented third-country nationals who have lived in Spain for two years or more can seek temporary residency papers.
  • Non-EU students will be able to work up to 30 hours a week while studying, and to start work in Spain at the end of their studies.
  • Non-EU nationals will be able to obtain a work visa to come to Spain more easily and take up jobs in areas facing labour shortages i.e. tourism, construction, agriculture.

Why is the Spanish government introducing these changes?

Spain may have the highest unemployment rate in the EU (around 13 percent, just under 3 million people) but it is also struggling to cover thousands of job positions.

This paradoxical situation is down to a combination of factors, not least the low wages and unstable working conditions that are pervasive in Spain’s labour market. 

READ MORE: 

Couple that with an inflexible bureaucratic system which is counterproductive to Spain’s economy and labour market and you have a situation where Spaniards would rather pass on exploitative jobs and stay at home, and foreigners who are eager to work regardless of the poor conditions/pay cannot because the law won’t allow them to.

If we take a closer look at the three main changes listed above:

Undocumented migrants in Spain, those who arrive in the country without first applying for a residency or work permit, have up to now found themselves trapped in a situation where for years they can’t apply for jobs with social security and other workers’ rights, leaving them with little option but to work in the black. 

Third-country higher education students in Spain who completed a degree, Masters or Phd up to now didn’t have their residency in Spain guaranteed after completing their studies, having to instead apply for residency and renew their permit regularly, contributing to a brain drain of talent that Spain trained and then didn’t harness. Those on student visas could also only work a maximum of 20 hours a week previously.

And as for non-EU people applying for a work visa in Spain, up to now the only way for third-country nationals to be hired from overseas for a contract job was if employers could not find an EU candidate for the position or if the job was on Spain’s shortage occupation list, which is made up almost entirely by jobs in the maritime and shipping industry. In reality, there are many industries that are central to Spain’s economy that are struggling to find workers.

The Spanish government has finally realised how these inflexible laws are proving extremely damaging to its economy at a time when employers are struggling to find tens of thousands of workers for the tourism, construction and agriculture industries. 

According to Spain’s Social Security Minister José Luis Escrivá, the measures will “improve the Spanish migratory model and its procedures, which are often slow and unsuitable”, admitting that they have “high social and economic costs for Spain”.

When will these new laws come into force?

Although the new laws were published in Spain’s state bulletin (BOE) on Wednesday July 27th, the legislation is set to come into force on August 15th 2022.  

Is there anything else I should know?

When it comes to Spanish politics, what Spain says it will do and then actually does are often two very different things. 

Take for example the alleged streamlining of degree validation for highly-skilled professionals such as non-EU doctors, dentists, engineers and other regulated professions, known in Spain as homologación

People in Spain with non-EU qualifications are currently having to wait two, three, four or even more years for Spain’s bureaucratic labyrinth to get round to validating their qualifications, even though the legal deadline is just six months and there are huge shortages in their expert fields. 

New decrees have promised to address the hold-ups but in reality nothing has changed. A lawyer specialising in helping foreigners with the homologación process told The Local that “unless Spain allocates more budget to employ more competent civil servants to address the problem, nothing will change”. 

However, the latest law change is overall good news for all non-EU foreigners who wish to move to Spain for work in the hospitality and tourism sector, construction or agriculture, including UK nationals, Americans, Australians, South Africans and any other third-country nationals.

The process for applying for a work permit should be considerably easier, but they should not forget that Spain is a country with wages that are lower than other countries in Western Europe and that it doesn’t have a good reputation in terms of work conditions. 

Therefore, their reasons for moving to Spain shouldn’t just be for a job, as this is a country which excels in many other fields (quality of life, weather, culture, people, nature) but generally not work.

READ MORE: The downsides of moving to Spain for work

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