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A Guide To Visas To Work In Spain

More than just wanting to visit a different country, more and more people are wanting to truly immerse themselves in a new place. Whether it be due to warmer climate, better work conditions, higher quality of life, or family and friends.  But to really move to and live in another country, a basic need for most individuals is a stable income or a good job.

Written exclusively for Expat Network by Spanish lawyers, Balcells

If the country you have in mind is Spain, and you are a non-European citizen, then this article is for you. Spain has a good number of residence permits to choose from depending on your situation, but right now, we’re going to focus on the ones that specifically revolve around working in the country.

Regular Spanish Work Visa

The thing with the regular Spanish work visa (also known as “trabajo por cuenta ajena”), is that you cannot start the process unless you have a clear job offer from Spain, and you can only start the process from your country of origin.

Moreover, the challenging part is that the job must be part of the occupation shortage list. This list consists of jobs that can be taken by Non-EU citizens, as Spanish companies are meant to prioritize hiring Spanish citizens, then EU citizens.

Basically, this list was made to protect Spanish nationals and address Spain’s high unemployment rate.

If you would like to apply for a work permit as self-employed (“trabajo por cuenta propia”), you’ll need to justify work experience and qualifications, demonstrate sufficient economic means, and submit a business plan.

If your application is approved, you’ll need to register with social security and tax authorities.

The regular Spanish work permit lasts for a year and is renewable as long as you maintain necessary work conditions.

Here, we see why it can be difficult to obtain a regular work permit: you need to find a company that is willing to hire you, and a job position that is on the occupation shortage list.

But don’t worry – like we said, there are other ways to work in Spain, and we’re going to tell you all about them.

Highly Qualified Visa

Just before we dive into the other residence permits, it is worth mentioning that aside from the regular work permit, there is also the highly qualified visa.

Like the regular work permit, the highly qualified visa requires that a company in Spain is willing to hire you. But more than this, it must be a large corporate company.

They must be hiring you for a managerial or chief position, or a specialized position that requires specific knowledge and training. It will also be checked that they are paying you the corresponding salaries for these highly-qualified positions.

Digital Nomad Visa

The Spanish digital nomad visa has garnered a lot of talk lately as it was implemented on December 22, 2022. Like its name implies, this visa is for those who would like to live in Spain while working remotely.

You can apply for it from your country of origin, or even from Spain while on a tourist visa.

Pros and Cons

One of the biggest advantages of this residence permit is paying less taxes through the Non-Resident Income Tax Regime for up to 5 years.

If you have just moved to Spain with the digital nomad visa, and are employed by a company outside of the country, you only need to pay a flat rate of 24% of your income. This is a big deal as taxes can reach up to 48%.

You will also be exempt from wealth tax and having to declare your assets.

However, a possible disadvantage is that the majority of the digital nomad’s income, whether employed or self-employed, cannot come from within Spain.

You are allowed to make money from Spanish companies, however, this cannot be more than 20% of your total income.


To apply for the Spanish Digital Nomad Visa, you must be a non-European citizen who is: (1) employed by a company outside of Spain that allows you to work remotely, or (2) self-employed with clients or different sources of income outside of Spain.

Whether you’re employed or self-employed, you need to have had a working relationship with your company or clients for at least 3 months already when applying. You will also need a work contract for at least 1 year.

If you are employed by a company, you need to justify being a digital nomad through a work contract that explicitly states remote work. The company needs to also have been operating for at least a year before your application.

If you are self-employed, you also need to justify working remotely through a contract with one of your clients.

Other requirements include:

  • Proof of sufficient economic means 
  • Proof of sufficient experience or education 
  • Clean criminal records for the last 5 years
  • Full-coverage private health insurance in Spain
  • Corresponding application form
  • Paid corresponding administrative fees

Entrepreneur’s Visa

The entrepreneur’s visa is the one for innovative thinkers. The applicant must create a business plan proposing an innovative and scalable idea.

This means the idea shouldn’t exist in Spain yet, and it must contribute to the country’s economy by creating job or investment opportunities.

Pros and cons

Although creating a viable business plan might be difficult, the great thing about Spain’s entrepreneur visa is that it does not require an investment or capital amount at the time of the application.

Plus, although your business should project more job opportunities for Spanish citizens in the future, it’s fine if you start the business solo.

You can also apply for this visa from within Spain, and do a joint application with your family.


Before even checking your business plan, authorities will first go over your professional profile. They’ll check your CV to see your education, previous work experience, and skills.

Overall, they’ll check if you have what it takes to actually execute your business plan.

Your business plan must be detailed and backed with supporting data. It must show that there is a market for your new product, that you have enough funds or funding, and that it will lead to socio-economic growth in Spain.

Other requirements:

  • Proof of sufficient economic means
  • Clean criminal records for the last 5 years
  • Full-coverage private or public health insurance in Spain
  • Corresponding application form
  • Paid corresponding administrative fees

Golden Visa

The Spanish golden visa is one of the fastest ways to obtain Spanish residency and work in Spain. All you need to do is invest a minimum of 500,000 euros in Spanish real estate.

Pros and cons

Aside from investing in real estate, you also have the option to buy shares worth more than 1 million euros from a Spanish company, or invest 2 million euros in Spanish public debt.

Of course, this visa option comes with its taxes and administration fees, so keep in mind that the investment is not the only thing you will be spending on.

With this visa you will be able to live and work in Spain. However, you are not required to live in the country to keep this visa. All you have to do is visit Spain once a year.

Plus, if you are in the country for less than 183 days a year, you are not considered a tax resident, and therefore will not be required to pay resident taxes.


To be able to apply for the Spanish golden visa, you must have already completed the investment, and validated it. Depending on your investment, there are different documents required to justify it.

Other requirements:

  • Proof of sufficient economic means for the applicant, and, if you are doing a joint application, any additional family members
  • Document that validates the investment
  • Clear criminal records in the last 5 years
  • Full-coverage private or public health insurance in Spain
  • Corresponding application form
  • Paid corresponding administrative fees

Student Visa

Last but not least is the Spanish student visa. Although it’s not technically a work visa, the student visa does allow you to work while studying. Thus, it is a great option for those who would eventually like to work in Spain.

Pros and cons

The student visa allows you to work a maximum of 30 hours per week. This means that you can find an internship while studying and even get paid for it.

After completing your students, you can modify it to a work permit or to a residence permit for an internship.

The residence permit for an internship can be as short as 6 months long, and the application process can be done fully online. Furthermore, to have a residence permit for an internship, the company doesn’t need to abide by the occupation shortage list.


Before applying for your student visa, you should have already applied for your studies. Thus, you will need to present your enrollment letter at the visa application.

Moreover, if you are applying for a short-term student visa, you will have to present roundtrip tickets between Spain and your country of origin.

Then, if you are applying for a masters or postgraduate degree, and received your degree outside of Spain, you will need to validate this degree and your university studies.

Other requirements:

  • Proof of sufficient economic means
  • Clear criminal records in the last 5 years
  • Medical certificate that states you are healthy 
  • Full-coverage private and public health insurance in Spain
  • Corresponding application form
  • Paid corresponding administrative fees

Facing Spanish Bureaucracy

Now, it’s no secret that Spanish bureaucracy can be a whole challenge in itself. Aside from not having the best reputation for working quickly, there are also a lot of requirements, and each consulate or immigration office can have its personal preferences.

That’s why your best option might be to hire a Spanish immigration lawyer, who can analyze your exact situation, determine the best approach to take, and guide you through the entire process step-by-step.

A whole new world and experience awaits you in Spain once you get over the hurdle of obtaining a residence permit. Are you ready for it?

To assist you in planning your move to Spain download our Guide containing all the information you will need to make the move: