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12Visas and work and residence permits5 6

EU nationals and their family members may live and work (as employees or self-employed workers) in Spain without needing to obtain a work permit. However, in general they must obtain the relevant EU citizen registration certificate or EU citizen family member residence card.

Non-EU nationals must obtain prior administrative authorization to be able to live and work in Spain.

With the approval of Law 14/2013, of September 27, 2013, to support entrepreneurs and their internationalization, new situations of visas and residence and work permits have been introduced, including the following noteworthy examples:

  • Visa and residence permit for investors:

    Non-resident foreigners seeking to enter Spain may apply for the relevant visa, provided they make a significant capital investment in the country. The following cases will be deemed to constitute a significant investment of capital:

    • An initial investment for an amount equal to or greater than €2 million in Spanish public debt instruments, or for an amount equal to or greater than one million euros in shares in Spanish companies institutions, or a million euros in investment funds, closed investment funds, capital risk funds constituted in Spain, or a million euros in bank deposits in Spanish financial institutions.
    • The acquisition of real estate in Spain with an investment of an amount equal to or greater than €500,000 per applicant.
    • A business project to be developed in Spain and deemed and evidenced to be of general interest, having regard to compliance with at least one of the following conditions:
      • Creation of jobs.
      • Making of an investment with a relevant socioeconomic impact in the geographic region in which the activity is to be pursued.
      • Relevant contribution to scientific and/or technological innovation.
  • Visa and residence permit for entrepreneurs

    Provision is made for an entry and residence visa, as well as a residence permit for one year, for any person pursuing a entrepreneur activity of an innovative nature in Spain with special economic interest for the country, obtaining a favorable report from the central government authorities.

    When it comes to issuing the relevant assessment on the part of the central government authorities, special regard will be had, on a priority basis, to the creation of jobs in Spain. Moreover, regard will be had:

    • To the professional background of the applicant.
    • To the business plan, including an analysis of the market, service or product, and the financing.
    • To the added value for the Spanish economy, innovation and investment opportunities.
  • Visa and residence permit for highly qualified professionals

    Applications for this permit may be made by companies who need to recruit foreign professionals to Spain in order to develop a professional or labor relationship, and who fall within one of the following categories:

    • Executive or highly qualified personnel, where the company or group of companies meet one of the requirements indicated in Article 71 a) of Law 14/2013 (average headcount during the three months prior to the application of more than 250 workers in Spain; annual net revenues in Spain in excess of €50 million or annual net equity in Spain above €43 million; gross average annual inbound foreign investment of not less than €1 million in the three years prior to submission of the application; companies with a stock value or position in excess of €3 million; belonging, in the case of Spanish SMEs, to an industry deemed strategic).
    • Executive or highly qualified personnel forming part of a business project entailing, alternatively and providing the circumstance alleged is deemed and evidenced to be of general interest:
      • A significant increase in the creation of direct employment on the part of the company seeking to hire.
      • The maintenance of employment.
      • A significant increase in job creation in the industry or geographic region in which the labor activity is to be pursued.
      • An extraordinary investment with a relevant socioeconomic impact in the geographic region in which the labor activity is to be pursued.
      • The concurrence of reasons of interest for Spain’s commercial and investment policy.
      • A relevant contribution to scientific and/or technological innovation.
    • Graduates and postgraduates from prestigious universities and business schools.
  • Visa and residence permit for training, research, development and innovation activities

    Any foreigners looking to enter Spain and to pursue training research, or holding an authorization to stay, wish to perform development and innovation activities at public or private entities may apply for the relevant entry visa or residence permit provided they fall within one of the following categories:

    • The research personnel referred to in Article 13 and Additional Provision no. 1 of Science, Technology and Innovation Law 14/2011, of June 1, 2011.
    • Scientific and technical personnel performing scientific, development and technological innovation work at Spanish businesses or R&D&I centers established in Spain.
    • Researchers taken on under an agreement by public or private research bodies.
    • Lecturers hired by universities or higher education and research centers, or business schools established in Spain.

    The residency authorization for research has the following two types:

    • Residence authorization for EU research: For foreigners included in the first of the aforementioned cases who hold a doctorate or an appropriate higher education qualification that allows them to access doctoral programs, and have been selected by the research entity to carry out a research activity.
    • Residence authorization for national investigation: For foreigners in any of the cases mentioned that are not contemplated in the previous section.

    The period of validity of this authorization will be two years or equal to the duration of the host agreement or contract, if it is less. Once this period has expired, its renewal may be requested for successive periods of two years, as long the conditions continue.

  • Visa and residence permit for intra-company transfers

    An application for the relevant visa and residence permit may be made in the case of foreigners transferring to Spain under a labor or professional relationship or for professional training reasons, within a company or group of companies established in Spain, provided the following circumstances are evidenced:

    • The existence of an actual business activity and, as the case may be, of the business group.
    • Graduate qualification or the like or, where appropriate, at least 3 years’ professional experience.
    • The existence of a prior, ongoing professional relationship of 3 months with one or more group companies.
    • Company documentation evidencing the transfer.

As a general rule, the visas referred will be valid for one year and must be issued by the Spanish Diplomatic Missions and Consulates.

The residence permits also provided for will be issued by the Large Businesses and Strategic Collectives Unit and granted by the Directorate-General of Migration. A decision on the application will be made in not more than twenty working days  and will be deemed to have been approved by administrative silence.

The term of the residence permits established under Law 14/2013 will be, as a general rule, two years, and renewal may be requested for periods of two years as long as the conditions that generated the right are maintained.

In addition, there are the following administrative authorizations in place a summary of which can be found in the following table:

Administrative authorizations
Initial residence and employed work permitNon-EU nationals intending to work in Spain must obtain a special work visa and a work and residence permit beforehand.Granted to a specific geographical area and occupation, except in cases where the requirement that the national employment situation does not permit the recruitment of the worker is not applicable, and shall be for a period of one year. After the one-year period, initial permits can be renewed for a two-year period. Once renewed, a permit will allow its holder to engage in any type of work anywhere in Spain.
Residence and self-employed work permitNon-EU nationals intending to pursue a gainful activity for their own account must obtain a residence and self-employed work permit and the relevant visa.Granted for a period of one year. After this period, they can be renewed for a two-year period. Where a foreign worker has resided legally and continuously in Spain for five years and has renewed his or her work and residence permits, he or she may obtain a long-stay residence permit.
Frontier workersEmployed or self-employed work permit for workers residing in the frontier area of a neighboring State to which they return each day. Its validity is restricted to the territory of the autonomous community or city where the worker has his residence.Initial duration of a minimum of three months and a maximum of one year. It may be extended at the end of the initial period, and each successive renewal may not exceed one year.
Fixed- term employed work permitsPermitted types of work:

  • Seasonal work: Maximum of 9 months within a period of 12 consecutive months.
  • Project work or services (assembly of industrial plants, infrastructure, etc.).
  • Senior management, professional sportsmen and women, artistes in public performances, and such other groups as may be determined by legislation.
  • Training and professional work experience.
The term of the contract or activity, subject to a one-year limit (except in the case of seasonal permits, which may not exceed 9 months within a period of 12 consecutive months) Non-renewable, except in exceptional circumstances.
Residence and work of highly qualified professionals in possession of an EU blue cardGranted to those who provide evidence of higher education qualifications (understood as those deriving from higher education lasting at least three years) or, exceptionally, have a minimum of five years’ professional experience that could be considered comparable.

Holders of EU blue cards that have resided for at least eighteen months in another EU country may obtain this authorization.
Duration of one year, renewable for two-year periods, unless a long-stay residence permit is applicable.


6(We refer to Chapter 2, section 3 on the Tax Identification Number (NIF) and Foreigner Identity Number (NIE) regarding the procedure for obtaining a NIF for directors not resident in Spain).