How to Get Working Papers in Spain

Get a Work Visa in Spain. Not Easy, But Not Impossible.......

A typical waiting room for a visa appointment in Barcelona

By Regina Winkle-Bryan

As an American living in Spain, I need a visa, green card, working papers, or residency to live here legally. Many fellow Americans and Canadians have asked me how I got my papeles, or working papers, and my answer to them is always, ‘not easily’.

Here are some things to remember if you are going to start the process of getting legal in Spain.

        • It’s a catch 22. You need a job to get working papers, and you need working papers to get a job. Good luck trying to wrap you mind around that one.
        • It’s HARD.Do not underestimate the many levels of hell that you will have to go through to get legal. It is very complex. It is very time consuming. It is very expensive. If you are lucky enough to have an employer to pay for it all, then count your lucky stars.
        • Get a lawyer. I tried to get legal on my own. Big mistake. Save yourself a whole lot of time and heartache and call an attorney who specializes in immigration.
        • Take up meditation. This will come in handy when you are asked to wait for long periods of time. Deep breathing exercises will help you through all the stress.
        • Get a  book. When you tire of meditating, you may want a good book to fall back on. I recommend Pagan Spain by Richard Wright which got me through my latest visit to the Spanish government offices. Take a number, take a seat, and dig into a good hour of reading time.
Parking Lot Turned Immigration Office in Barcelona, Spain

Parking lot turned into an immigration office in Barcelona

If you’re from a EU country, then as of July 2012 things got a bit more difficult for you, too! Sorry! Take a look at this post by Nick Snelling on the subject: New Regulations

More: Update – I used to recommend a lawyer in Barcelona here, but after my last experience with him, I can no longer recommend him. What I can say is that there are many lawyers in Barcelona and across Spain to help you with this process. Shop around. Find one that won’t charge you for the first consultation. It is not uncommon that they charge you the first half of their fee up front and the second half when the process is complete. Because the visa situation has become more complex as Spain has gone further into economic crisis, I would not try to go this process alone. Get professional help. During one of the steps in my long visa process I had to have something translated by a sworn translated. I used Marisa Martinez. She told me that Maria Garcia de la Torre is a good immigration lawyer, but I have not used Garcia’s services. Her email is: / tel: +93 325 1606. Another good resource is this site.

Finally, I love this video about dealing with red-tape in Spain. This will give you an idea of what to expect:

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  1. Kirsten Carpentier
    Posted February 10, 2011 at 10:34 am | Permalink

    Great post!! Made me laugh and want to cry a bit for you, too!

  2. java
    Posted May 30, 2011 at 7:24 am | Permalink

    now u can fix them all with 8 or 10,000 euros

  3. admin
    Posted May 31, 2011 at 11:47 am | Permalink

    what do you mean by 8 or 10,000?

  4. Posted April 25, 2012 at 2:17 am | Permalink

    What a nightmare… It’s a little easier for us Europeans but I’m currently doing some research to help some non-EU students. Thanks for the info!

  5. admin
    Posted April 26, 2012 at 12:52 am | Permalink

    Yes, it really is difficult. However, I am from the States and have heard that it’s much worse, and even more expensive, to try to get a green card in the US.

  6. Posted August 3, 2012 at 8:55 am | Permalink

    It is so difficult! Even after getting married, I had to have my father-in-law sign a statement saying he would cover any costs, just in case, and they had to take out an insurance policy on me. It was cheap, thank goodness.

  7. admin
    Posted August 4, 2012 at 10:34 am | Permalink

    Yes, the laws have changed just last month. Seems a bit harsh for people who want to get married. Basically it’s hard to marry someone if he or she is the Spanish party, and doesn’t have a job. Seems wrong on a lot of levels.


  8. Posted June 12, 2013 at 12:10 am | Permalink

    I did pareja de hecho back before it was a legal “marriage.” We were grandfathered into the system when the law changed while the paperwork was being processed, thank goodness, or I’d be back in America right now! My partner is in the military, so we got to skip over financial questions, interview, etc. It’s the only time I’ve liked what the Novio does!!

  9. admin
    Posted June 13, 2013 at 8:53 am | Permalink

    that IS lucky!

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