Categorized | Money, Work

Working in Spain

Posted on 05 April 2012 by American expat!

 Working in Spain as an American citizen is harder than you think

On the other hand, it’s also easier than you think.

What do I mean by that? First, if you plan on coming here and finding a company that will sponsor you with a work visa, you can forget it. Unless you are already working for a company in the US that has an office in Spain, you won’t get a work visa. Even if such an unlikely thing were to happen, you would have to return to the US and wait 8 months to one year to process said visa, since they must be issued in the country of the citizen and not in the country offering the job. The reason why you won’t get a work visa is that there are plenty of native English speakers with the same skills you have who are EU citizens and can legally work in Spain already – the British.

On the other hand, if you are planning to teach English, there are a mountain of jobs waiting for you. Based on what I hear from others, many language schools are happy to pay you under the table. If you are uncomfortable with that sort of arrangement, you can always go freelance and give private or group lessons on your own. This such a common practice because so many people here do not speak English and the globalization of business is making it an extremely desirable skill. So most teachers will take on private students of their own at one time or another, whether the teacher has a NIE (equivalent to a SSN) or not- Though you really do want to get yourself a NIE, because you need it for nearly everything.

Another option that will allow you to work is through a student visa. You can work legally on a student visa for 20 hours.  If you are planning to learn Spanish anyway, this will be your best bet.  There are no fewer than 20 Spanish language schools of varying in prices with a variety of classes, schedules and course lengths (note: you generally get what you pay for with Spanish language schools) and all of them will help you get a student visa.

Note that you have to apply for the visa  at the closest Spanish embassy to you while you are in the US after you have paid the school and have the paperwork. Plan at least four months and many trips to the Spanish embassy to receive it.  Once you get to Spain you’ll want to talk to a employment lawyer to see exactly which steps you need to take for authorization to work on a student visa. But don’t worry, there are plenty and they aren’t too expensive.

Also note that there is no way to expedite anything in Spain. (See my many posts regarding work and work ethics here, and do not miss this youtube short about a freelancer doing battle with the system!).

You can always come here on tourist visa –which is for three months and you automatically have one if you have a US passport–to check things out while you figure out what to do. I’m not advocating overstaying your visa, but I will say that I know more than one American that has lived here without any sort of residency for over five years and only leaves the country maybe once a year.

Once you have figured out your strategy, there are plenty of places to look for jobs.

  • As a rule, always check, kind of the local version of Craiglist, first. You will use this site to look for everything from jobs, to apartments, to vehicles to – well just about anything. There is an English version and you can search for any term in the job listing category you want.
  • Check out the job page for this site.
  • Look at the job listings under the Barcelona Professionals Group on LinkedIn (you have to join first, both LinkedIn and the BCN Professionals Group to see the job listings).

Otherwise, get to know people and meet their friends and colleges. You will find that others will be happy to introduce you to others and most socializing takes place in public rather than in private homes, so before you know it, you will have a circle of like minded people to network with.


8 Comments For This Post

  1. Spanish classes Says:

    Hi there, i just wanted to drop you a line to say that i thoroughly enjoyed this post of yours. I know that I am just a stranger to you but I figured you might appreciate the appreciation Take care and keep blogging.

  2. Spanish_expat Says:

    Thanks for reading and reposting! So wonderful to have another sister on the journey be well!

  3. Andrea Says:

    Thank you so much for all of the helpful information. My boyfriend and I are considering making a temporary move to Barcelona and looking at all of our options first. The Linkedin groups are great and I’m already loving! I’m so happy I found this blog.

  4. Americano Says:

    Hey, I’m a student who is looking to live in Barcelona for the summer as part of a study abroad program. What options are available to me in regards to teaching English in Barcelona? I speak Spanish fluently.

  5. American expat! Says:

    You could work for one of the many language schools, you could offer private 1-1 lessons, you could arrange your own group lessons…there are plenty of options for you. It helps to have some kind of certification as some schools require it.

  6. Scuber Says:

    Hi. I am an American Citizen married to a Spaniard, and we plan to relocate to her hometown of Valencia within the coming year. I just stumbled upon your blog and truly appreciate the insights you have provided. Keep it up!

  7. Sarah Says:

    Thanks for all the awesome work. All the info you’ve got here is super clear and well organized and I’m really appreciating it. I wish I’d found you earlier in my move to Spain!
    I just wanted to comment that I’ve been finding it actually really hard to get hired for the 20 hours I can work legally on my student visa. My understanding is that the company has to vouch for you to the social security office and verify that 1) the work is in line with your studies, 2) you’re the most qualified person for the job, over EU citizens, which is nearly impossible, and also they’re technically supposed to apply for a permit through the CNP which is costly and time consuming. The second I say I don’t already have a social security number, even if I emphasize I don’t have it *yet* and all you have to do for me to get it is xyz!!, the company goes running, even if they’ve practically already offered me a job. I’m surviving on 1 on 1 classes and babysitting, but I’d way rather work a real job and not spend so much time and energy constantly searching for my own clients. Have americans on a student visa really been able to get those 20 hours a week before? How?? Am I doing something wrong?

  8. American expat! Says:

    I had a friend here on a student visa who then taught at the University (Esade I think). She had a Masters in Economics and taught in English, and was uniquely qualified for teaching her subject. She taught other classes and was involved in research projects too, all at Universities. She also had a job teaching business English for Airbus in Madrid over Skype. So yes, it can be done. A lot of it is relationship based, because as I am sure you already know strangers here are the last people to expect any effort from.

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