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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.

spain new work visa laws
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". (Photo by LLUIS GENE / AFP)

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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SPAIN AND THE US

Spain and the US to exchange more language assistants in bilingualism push    

The governments of Spain and the United States have agreed to recruit more English and Spanish-language assistants from each other’s countries as a means of bolstering bilingual education in the two nations.

Spain and the US to exchange more language assistants in bilingualism push    

Spain’s Education Minister Pilar Alegría and US ambassador to Spain Julissa Reynoso met on Wednesday to sign a memorandum of understanding which will reinforce educational cooperation between the two countries. 

The agreement had been previously signed by Miguel Cardona, the United States Secretary of Education, who tweeted: “This week, alongside [Spanish] Ambassador [Santiago] Cabañas, I signed a memorandum supporting the study of Spanish language & culture in the US, and the study of English in Spain”.

It is in fact a renewal of a memorandum between the United States and Spain which has facilitated mobility of both conversation assistants and students between the two countries in recent years.

The aim of this newest memorandum of understanding is to further strengthen student and teacher exchange programmes and promote bilingual and multicultural teaching in both educational systems.

No exact details have yet been given about how many extra language assistants will be given grants to join the programme. 

Several teacher recruitment sources suggest the current number of North American language assistants (including Canadians) heading to Spain every year is between 2,000 and 2,500. 

The Spanish government has stated that in 2023, this figure will be around 4,500, which represents a considerable increase in the number of US and Canadian citizens who can apply through the NALCAP programme, which stands for North American Language and Culture Assistants in Spain. 

According to Spain’s Foreign Ministry, the following requirements must be met by US candidates in order to participate in the programme:

  • Be a U.S. citizen and have a valid passport
  • Have earned a bachelor’s degree or be currently enrolled as a sophomore, junior or a senior in a bachelor’s programme. Applicants may also have an associate degree or be a community college student in their last semester.
  • Have a native-like level of English
  • Be in good physical and mental health
  • Have a clean background check
  • Be aged 18 – 60.
  • Have at least basic knowledge of Spanish (recommended)

NALCAP recipients receive a monthly stipend of €700 to €1,000 as well as Spanish medical insurance.

Application dates for 2023 are usually announced in late November. See more information on the NALPAC programme for US nationals here

According to The Fulbright Program, one of several US cultural exchange programmes that organises the recruitment of US nationals for Spain: “English Teaching Assistants assist teaching staff at the early childhood, elementary, middle school, high school, vocational and/or university level for up to 16 hours per week, with an additional two hours for planning & coordination meetings. Responsibilities include assistant-teaching, in English, subjects such as social studies, science and technology, art, physical education, and English language.”

READ MORE: The pros and cons of being an English language assistant in Spain

There are also currently more than 1,000 Spanish teachers working as visiting teachers in the United States, Spain’s Moncloa government has said, without adding yet how many more will be recruited in 2023.

Additionally, more than 1,000 North American students now take part in the Spanish Language and Culture Groups managed by the Spanish Education Ministry’s Overseas Education Action (or Acción Educativa Exterior, AEE).  

Canadian applicants can find out more about working as language assistants in Spain by visiting the NALCAP Canada website.

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