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WORKING IN SPAIN

NEW LAWS: How it’s now easier for foreigners to work in Spain

Spain has amended its immigration laws to make it easier for non-EU citizens (UK nationals, Americans etc) to work in the country in a bid to address some of its most pressing labour shortages. Here are the changes, the reasons why they’re being introduced and more.

spain new work visa laws
According to Spain’s Social Security Minister José Luis Escrivá, the measures will "improve the Spanish migratory model and its procedures, which are often slow and unsuitable", admitting that they have "high social and economic costs for Spain". (Photo by LLUIS GENE / AFP)

What are the new changes in a nutshell?

The Spanish government has amended its laws relating to the rights and freedoms of non-EU foreigners in the country, as a means of resolving the bureaucratic obstacles which often prevent Spain from using its migrant population to cover labour shortages.

There are three main changes: 

  • Undocumented third-country nationals who have lived in Spain for two years or more can seek temporary residency papers.
  • Non-EU students will be able to work up to 30 hours a week while studying, and to start work in Spain at the end of their studies.
  • Non-EU nationals will be able to obtain a work visa to come to Spain more easily and take up jobs in areas facing labour shortages i.e. tourism, construction, agriculture.

Why is the Spanish government introducing these changes?

Spain may have the highest unemployment rate in the EU (around 13 percent, just under 3 million people) but it is also struggling to cover thousands of job positions.

This paradoxical situation is down to a combination of factors, not least the low wages and unstable working conditions that are pervasive in Spain’s labour market. 

READ MORE: 

Couple that with an inflexible bureaucratic system which is counterproductive to Spain’s economy and labour market and you have a situation where Spaniards would rather pass on exploitative jobs and stay at home, and foreigners who are eager to work regardless of the poor conditions/pay cannot because the law won’t allow them to.

If we take a closer look at the three main changes listed above:

Undocumented migrants in Spain, those who arrive in the country without first applying for a residency or work permit, have up to now found themselves trapped in a situation where for years they can’t apply for jobs with social security and other workers’ rights, leaving them with little option but to work in the black. 

Third-country higher education students in Spain who completed a degree, Masters or Phd up to now didn’t have their residency in Spain guaranteed after completing their studies, having to instead apply for residency and renew their permit regularly, contributing to a brain drain of talent that Spain trained and then didn’t harness. Those on student visas could also only work a maximum of 20 hours a week previously.

And as for non-EU people applying for a work visa in Spain, up to now the only way for third-country nationals to be hired from overseas for a contract job was if employers could not find an EU candidate for the position or if the job was on Spain’s shortage occupation list, which is made up almost entirely by jobs in the maritime and shipping industry. In reality, there are many industries that are central to Spain’s economy that are struggling to find workers.

The Spanish government has finally realised how these inflexible laws are proving extremely damaging to its economy at a time when employers are struggling to find tens of thousands of workers for the tourism, construction and agriculture industries. 

According to Spain’s Social Security Minister José Luis Escrivá, the measures will “improve the Spanish migratory model and its procedures, which are often slow and unsuitable”, admitting that they have “high social and economic costs for Spain”.

When will these new laws come into force?

Although the new laws were published in Spain’s state bulletin (BOE) on Wednesday July 27th, the legislation is set to come into force on August 15th 2022.  

Is there anything else I should know?

When it comes to Spanish politics, what Spain says it will do and then actually does are often two very different things. 

Take for example the alleged streamlining of degree validation for highly-skilled professionals such as non-EU doctors, dentists, engineers and other regulated professions, known in Spain as homologación

People in Spain with non-EU qualifications are currently having to wait two, three, four or even more years for Spain’s bureaucratic labyrinth to get round to validating their qualifications, even though the legal deadline is just six months and there are huge shortages in their expert fields. 

New decrees have promised to address the hold-ups but in reality nothing has changed. A lawyer specialising in helping foreigners with the homologación process told The Local that “unless Spain allocates more budget to employ more competent civil servants to address the problem, nothing will change”. 

However, the latest law change is overall good news for all non-EU foreigners who wish to move to Spain for work in the hospitality and tourism sector, construction or agriculture, including UK nationals, Americans, Australians, South Africans and any other third-country nationals.

The process for applying for a work permit should be considerably easier, but they should not forget that Spain is a country with wages that are lower than other countries in Western Europe and that it doesn’t have a good reputation in terms of work conditions. 

Therefore, their reasons for moving to Spain shouldn’t just be for a job, as this is a country which excels in many other fields (quality of life, weather, culture, people, nature) but generally not work.

READ MORE: The downsides of moving to Spain for work

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WORKING IN SPAIN

Spain’s public and regional holidays in 2023: How to make the most of them

2023 will be a good year for long weekends and bank holidays. Here’s how to plan ahead and turn Spain's national and regional holidays into extended breaks without using up your annual leave.

Spain's public and regional holidays in 2023: How to make the most of them

People in every region of Spain will enjoy 14 public holidays in 2023, 8 of which are national holidays that can’t be omitted or replaced from the calendar. 

What’s more, 4 of these 8 fall on Monday or Friday, which give you the option of taking a three-day weekend without having to book out any leave from work. 

Two others fall on a Tuesday and a Thursday, which means that by taking one day off from work you can have four days off in a row. 

Spain’s public holidays in 2023 are:

  • Friday April 7th: Good Friday (Viernes Santo)
  • Monday May 1st: May Day (Día del Trabajo)
  • Tuesday August 15th: Assumption of Mary (Asunción de la Virgen)
  • Thursday October 12th: Spain’s National Day (Día Nacional)
  • Wednesday November 1st:  All Saints Day (Día de Todos los Santos)
  • Wednesday December 6th: Constitution Day (Día de la Constitución)
  • Friday December 8th: Immaculate Conception (Inmaculada Concepción)
  • Monday December 25th: Christmas Day (Navidad)

Spain’s official national holidays list is missing two key dates: Three Kings Day (which falls on Friday January 6th and is a holiday in all of Spain’s regions) and New Year’s Day. 

Because January 1st 2023 falls on a Sunday, not all regions are making Monday January 2nd a holiday; so far only Andalusia, Murcia, Aragón, Asturias and Castilla Y León.

Everyone in Spain will also get at least 2 days off for Easter. Apart from Friday April 7th (which is a holiday across Spain), Maundy Thursday 6th will be a holiday in every region except Catalonia and the Valencia region, which instead have Monday April 10th off. In the Balearics, La Rioja, Navarre and the Basque Country it’s a holiday on Thursday, Friday and Monday, which equates to five days off in a row.

It’s worth noting as well that the December 2023 puente (how Spaniards refer to ‘bridging’ the days between official public holidays and the weekend to maximise time off) has two public holidays on a Wednesday and a Friday and can therefore be turned into a five-day holiday by just taking one day of leave.

That means that overall in 2023, pretty much everybody in Spain will have at least 7 puentes to enjoy, and they will only have to take 3 days off in total from their annual leave to enjoy all of them. 

So apart from Spain’s public holidays and the differences in New Years’ and Easter holidays that we’ve covered above, what other regional holidays can residents in Spain look forward to?

Well, each region has at least its own specific holiday to celebrate its region and heritage, many of which fall on Mondays and Fridays, allowing for even more long weekends. 

Keep in mind that there are also festivos (holidays) in specific provinces, cities and towns and even islands, such as in the Canary Islands, where each island enjoys its own day off.

Spain’s regional holidays in 2023 are:

Andalusia: Tuesday February 28th (Andalusia Day)

Aragón: Monday April 24th (Aragón Day)

Asturias: Friday September 8th (Asturias Day)

Balearics: Wednesday March 1st (Balearics Day)

Canary Islands: Tuesday May 30th (Canaries Day)

Cantabria: Friday July 28th (Cantabria Day), Friday September 15th (La Bien Aparecida)

Castilla-La Mancha: Wednesday May 31st (Castilla-La Mancha Day), Thursday June 8th (Corpus Christi)

Castilla y León: Tuesday July 25th (Saint James Day)

Catalonia: Monday September 11th (Catalonia Day), Tuesday December 26h (San Esteban)

Madrid: Monday March 20th (San José Day), Tuesday May 2nd (Madrid Day)

Valencia region: October 9th (Valencia Day)

Extremadura: Tuesday February 21st (Carnival Tuesday), Friday September 8th (Extremadura Day)

Galicia: Wednesday May 17th (Galician Writing Day), Tuesday July 25th (Galicia Day)

La Rioja: Friday June 9th (La Rioja Day) 

Murcia: Friday June 9th (Murcia Day)

Navarre: Tuesday July 25th (Saint James Day)

Basque Country: Tuesday July 25th (Saint James Day)

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