Spain is a Schengen state and therefore many foreign nationals don’t need a visa for short-term visits or business trips. However, those nationals not on the Schengen visa-waiver list will need to apply for a visa prior to arrival in Spain. 

In order to live and work in Spain, some expats, depending on their nationality, must obtain a residence and work permit. European Union (EU) nationals do not require work or residence permits to live and work in Spain, although if staying in the country for more than three months they will have to register as residents.

work visa

Citizens of the EU, the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) and nationals of countries on the Spanish government's designated travel list are afforded visa-free entry and the right to a 90-day stay. It is simply necessary to have a passport that is valid for three months from the final date of travel.

Citizens of countries not on the list must apply for a Schengen visa to enter Spain for tourist or business purposes. This visa will allow for trips of up to 90 days.

Non-EU nationals wanting to work in Spain will need to obtain a residence visa and work permit. There are two main types of work permits in Spain, the Cuenta Ajena, for those who have a specific contract with a specific company, and the Cuenta Propia, for those who are self-employed or freelance workers.

The Cuento Ajena work permit application is generally undertaken by the hiring company. Once a job has been secured and a contract has been negotiated, the employer will request certain documents from the prospective employee and will submit a work permit application to the Spanish Ministry of Labour on their behalf.

After the work permit is approved, the employer will send the expat a notification of approval, which should have an official stamp. Next, the applicant needs to collect and submit all the documents required to apply for a work and residence visa at their closest Spanish embassy. Expats should keep in mind that many of these documents will need to be translated into Spanish and certified. 

If the work and residence visa is granted, the applicant can then make arrangements to enter Spain within the timeline designated by the visa. Expats are usually granted a three-month entry window.

Once an expat has entered Spain with their visa, they can pick up their work and residence permit card, a simple bureaucratic process that merely requires an application form and passport. The card must be applied for within 30 days of entry at either the Foreign Nationals Office (Oficina de Extranjeros) or at a police headquarters. 

Those moving to Spain as a dependent or non-worker only need to apply for a residence permit, and not a work and residence permit. This permit is largely linked to the validity of the work permit obtained by the applicant’s working partner.