Spain is one of those effortlessly charming places that pulls you in with its delicious ham and ubiquitous wine, crazy tomato fights, and no pasa nada attitude. If you’ve ever visited and thought: “Man, I wish I could live here,” you’re not alone.
While it’s easy to enjoy the Mediterranean sunshine and a sweet afternoon nap, finding a job and relocating here is not so much.
As someone who’s lived in Spain for two years and done a variety of jobs, from party promoter to sales manager, juice maker, and boutique salesperson, I’ve seen it all.
If you’ve got serious intentions to make the move, then read on.
How to get a job and move to Spain:
1. Do you need a permit?
When it comes to figuring out whether you need a job or a permit first, it’s a kind of a “chicken or egg” situation.
Here’s the simple answer:
If you hold a passport from one of the European Union countries, along with Norway, Iceland, and Switzerland, you’re automatically allowed to hop on a plane and come over. Working in Spain for EU citizens is completely legal and doesn’t require a special permit.
Many EU citizens move to Spain before they have a job and apply on the spot. In fact, some come for vacation and fall in love with the country so they never end up going home.
If you’re here for longer than 90 days, you should get yourself a national identity card (NIE), regardless of what country you come from.
If you come from a non-EU country, you’ll have to do a little more paperwork and it’s a good idea to secure a job before moving.
Citizens of the United States, Canada, Japan, and these countries can come in on a visitor status for up to 90 days without a special permit.
Other countries require an entry visa meaning that you’ve got to get your papers right or they won’t let you on the plane. Here is a list of countries which require a visa.
If you come from Australia and are between 18 and 30 years old, you can apply for a working holiday visa and have the most productive vacation of your life.
If you’re one of the 1,000 lucky Canadians aged 18-35 who fit the quota for the year, you can come to Spain on working holidays, as per a youth mobility program between the two countries.
Once you’ve locked down the job, your employer will need to apply to get a permit for you (just a gentle reminder to be nice to your HR officer, as the bureaucracy they deal with is too real).
2. Six ways to find a job in Spain
Get ready because finding a job in Spain can be a wild ride. While the country has almost recovered from the financial crisis that began in 2007, finding a position you enjoy that also pays well can be tough.
There are a few ways to approach your job search.
- Walk around with your CV in hand.
If you’re coming from North America, this can seem like an intimidating and downright strange way to look for a job. After all, isn’t this why we have the internet, so we don’t have to go do things in person?
If you rely on e-mail and online contact forms in Spain, you’ll be waiting at home forever. People generally won’t give you much attention until you show up in person and prove your existence.
What many expats do is print out a stack of CVs and walk around. In Barcelona, for example, you’ll see many “salesperson/waitress wanted” notes posted on window shops and bar doors.
While this process may be exhausting and discouraging at times, the benefit is that it gives you the chance to make a great first impression. This is something that you can’t do over the web.
The types of jobs you can find are usually in the service industry, ranging from retail to cooking, and hospitality (receptionist, wait staff, tour guide, pub crawl guide, party promoter).
- Do seasonal and odd jobs.
Some popular seasonal jobs are bartending where English speakers are in demand, especially in the central areas. The best months to find such jobs are May and June, as tourists flock to Spain from all over the world.
A popular seasonal job is to be a party promoter. The bonuses of the gig are that, in most cases, you can make uncapped commission and get to party. The downsides are that this gig will be over at the end of September at best, so don’t expect to build a career out of it.
Expect these jobs to pay in cash.
- Start a freelance teaching/tutoring business.
If you’re a native speaker of English (most popular), French, German, or can teach a skill such as playing piano, you might want to start your own business.
What people do in this case is print flyers offering their services around town and wait for clients to come to them.
“What about taxes?” you might ask. Great question. In this case, you need to apply for an autonomous permit and pay taxes monthly to the government.
- Go to a staffing agency.
If you’re looking to build a career in Spain rather than bounce from one gig to another, going to a recruitment agency is a great idea.
You’ll meet with a recruiter who will suggest a position based on your experience and interests and connect you with the company.
In Barcelona, for example, you can land a position at one of the many startups that look to create a highly international environment and grow quickly. Some of the most popular positions up for grabs at startups are engineers, data scientists, sales professionals, account managers, and technical writers.
- Do a short-term volunteer gig.
Organizations such as Worldpackers and Workaway let you volunteer all over the globe in exchange for free meals and board. You’ll find plenty of places in Seville, the Balearic Islands, Tenerife, Barcelona, and Galicia where you can bartend or do a photography gig for a few weeks.
You don’t need a special work permit. You can do these volunteer projects on a “visitor” status.
- Search on Facebook.
While we tend to think of Facebook as a place to watch cat videos and waste time, it’s actually very helpful for job hunting in Spain.
Join expat groups in your area. You’ll see job postings and the chances of finding something international that suits your taste is quite high.
3. Assembling your documents
If you want to work in Spain, you need two major documents:
- NIE (Número de Identificación de Extranjeros)
which is a unique identification number you are assigned. In order to obtain one, you have to make an appointment which can be tough in large cities like Barcelona.
The cost of obtaining an identification card is between 10 and 20 EUR.
Once you manage to schedule an appointment, make sure to bring your passport, work contract, and a filled-out application.
Tips: if you live in a major city, try booking your appointment in a small town nearby. Show up at least 30 minutes in advance, as people start to line up. Bring a copy of everything, just in case. The NIE office will not make photocopies for you.
Any employer (unless you hand out fliers on the street) will need your NIE in order to give you a job, so get it done ASAP.
- Social security number
This is your individual taxpayer number. Once you have your work contract, bring it along with your NIE and passport to the office nearby. This process is slightly easier and faster than getting a NIE.
4. Celebrate, you’re done!
While it may seem like a hassle to get a job in Spain, the benefits definitely outweigh the inconvenience.
The Spanish attitude towards enjoying life is unlike any other. Dining with friends and family for hours, playing guitar at quiet plazas, and enjoying homemade wine will help you achieve a work-life balance.