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The steps and requirements to hire a foreign worker in Spain

The Local Spain
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The steps and requirements to hire a foreign worker in Spain
Hiring an EU national in Spain is far easier than doing so with third country national. Photo: Pau BARRENA/AFP

If you need to hire foreign staff in Spain, there are several factors and steps to the recruiting process that you should be aware of in order for it be done legally, from the work permit to the contract.


Employment is regulated in Spain by the convenio colectivo, a set of rules which regulate working hours, number of holiday days, salary, as well as sick pay, maternity and paternity leave, and how to terminate a contract.

Many of these rules are the same for Spaniards and non-Spaniards alike, but there are a few extra steps and requirements you need to know about in order to hire a foreign worker in Spain.

You can read more about the requirements for hiring a Spaniard in Spain in the article directly below, which includes a lot of the same information with regards to hours, holiday days, pay, and so on, as it does for foreigners.

EXPLAINED: What you need to know before hiring a worker in Spain

Different types of foreigners

Employment contracts for foreign workers in Spain are regulated by certain rules, informed mostly by immigration law, and were most recently amended through Royal Decree 629/2022 in July 2022.

First things first, when hiring a foreign worker in Spain you must consider that there are different types of foreigners in the eyes of the law.

If your potential employee is a foreigner who is an EU citizen, a citizen from the European Economic Area or Switzerland, then they can legally access the Spanish labour market with the same rights as Spanish nationals -- simple.


So, what does this mean in practice? Basically, if you want to hire a non-EU worker, you'll need to get a work permit for your future employee.

There are essentially three main situations you could find yourself when it comes to hiring a non-EU worker in Spain. You could want to hire:

  • Non-EU/EEA/Swiss workers not in Spain.
  • Non-EU/EEA/Swiss nationals who are in Spain with another permit - work, residency or otherwise.
  • Non-EU/EEA/Swiss workers who are already in Spain, but in an irregular immigration situation. 

READ ALSO: What are the types of work contracts in Spain and which one is the best?



Types of work permits for foreigners

Each of these situations is subject to a different legal procedure in order for your employee to be able to work and live legally in Spain.

In all cases, in order to obtain work and residence authorisation, it is necessary to have an employment contract that complies with certain requirements regarding duration and salary, among other things (more on that below).

In some cases it is the employer who must initiate the work permit application, while in others it is the employee who must take the initiative.

These are essentially two types of permit:

Autorización de residencia y trabajo por cuenta ajena (residence and work authorisation as an employee) This is by far the most common route, and is used to manage hiring at origin, allowing the employee to reside for a specific period of time in Spain for the purpose of their employment. This authorisation is initiated by the employer.

Autorizaciones por circunstancias excepcionales de arraigo (authorisations due to exceptional circumstances) This is a far less common way of hiring a foreign worker, and are temporary residency and work rights granted to people at the request of the interested party, that is, the employee, in exceptional circumstances. You can read more about this HI 37 permit here but generally speaking these are for carers, parents, and the spouses of Spanish nationals.



What are the requirements for hiring a foreign worker?

As for what an employer needs to do in order to hire a foreigner, there are certain general requirements that must be met, such as that the company is up to date with its obligations to the taxman and social security payments.

Labour market situation - in the case of the standard work permit, Spain's domestic employment situation must be such that the hiring of non-residents in Spain is deemed necessary. That is to say, the employer must accompany the non-EU work permit application with a certificate from Spain's Public Employment Service showing that there are no suitable and available workers in the domestic labour market, and that the employer can therefore only recruit from abroad.

This used to be fairly hard as  apart from the no EU candidate requirement, the other alternative was that the potential non-EU recruits' jobs had to be Spain’s shortage occupation list, made up almost entirely by jobs in the maritime and shipping industry.

But the Spanish government has realised that it has shortages in far more industries, from waiters to construction workers, and has no reportedly made it easier to recruit all types of non-EU workers.

READ ALSO: How it's now easier for foreigners to work in Spain

Equally, high-ranking and highly qualified employees can more easily be employed thanks to the EU Blue Card. These are workers who perform only senior management activities on behalf of the company that hires them, and nobody else. The same applies to highly qualified workers who have essential knowledge or specialisms. 

The situation for foreigners in regulated professions (dentists, doctors, lawyers, engineers etc) is far more complicated, as they need to have their non-EU qualifications recognised before being able to legally work in Spain, a bureaucratic fiasco that has more than 40,000 high-skilled foreign workers waiting for up to seven years.

READ MORE: Homologación - How Spain is ruining the careers of thousands of qualified foreigners

Salary - for standard work permits, the salary must be at least equal to the minimum wage (SMI). Note that Spain's SMI is due to be increase in January 2024.

Contract - you must offer a fixed-term contract of more than 90 days and less than five years. The contract must clearly state the agreed remuneration, in number and payments per year. If the contract is part-time, the remuneration must be equal to or higher than the SMI for full time and in annual calculation.

Age - The minimum age of the worker, in case of authorisation for residence and work as an employee, is 16 years old.



The application

If all these criteria are satisfied and made clear in the prospective contract, you must file EX-03 form and the necessary documentation (including the contract signed with the employee) to the competent administration, which is usually the immigration office in the province where the services or work is to be carried out.

You can find the EX-03 form here.

The application can be submitted electronically or in person, and the deadline for a decision is three months. The duration of the permit is one year from the date it is granted, extendable for four years.

READ ALSO: Spain's next minimum wage increase: What we know so far


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