Moving to Spain: Relocation Guide

Planning on moving or relocating employees to Spain? This guide is for you. The country’s diverse job market makes it the perfect place for expats in search of job opportunities across various sectors, from technology and healthcare to finance and the arts.

Expats relocating to Spain are drawn to its rich cultural heritage, Mediterranean diet, historic sites and museums, as well as a relaxed lifestyle contributing to a fulfilling relocation experience. Spain consistently ranks among the top nations for quality of living, boasting an excellent healthcare system, affordable cost of living, and pleasant environment.

Explore in this guide the types of Spanish work visa, the application process, and settling-in procedures.

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Moving to Spain: Relocation Guide
Who is exempt from a Spanish visa?

Who is exempt from a Spanish visa?

Do your employees fall into these categories? If yes, they can focus just on settle-in admin after arrival).

  • Citizens of EU/EEA countries and Switzerland

If your employee is a citizen of an EU country, they are entitled to freedom of movement to and within Spain. They won’t need a visa or residence permit to enter Spain and take up employment. The same applies if their nationality is from Switzerland.

  • Additional countries that are exempt

Spain has visa-free travel agreements with a number of non-Schengen and non-EU countries, including Australia, the USA, New Zealand, Brazil, Japan and the UK. However, if your employee is a non-EEA national looking to engage in paid activity in Spain, they will need to apply for a work visa before they can work legally in the country.

What types of work visas are there for Spain?

Employees must meet certain eligibility requirements before applying for a work visa in Spain. For instance, before applying for an employment visa, they must already have a job offer from an organization in Spain.

The relevant visa categories for employees are linked to long-term stays and are therefore all covered under the umbrella “National visa”. These visas actually only serve the purpose of entering Spain, all the rest is already decided before arrival through the authorizations of residence and work (also called work permit/residence permit and in Spanish: Permiso de Residencia y trabajo). The National visa will be issued according to the authorization that Localyze helps organize. Without the authorization/permit, neither the employee, nor their family members, can attend the visa appointments.

Work Permit in Spain

Work Permit in Spain

Employees may need to hold a work permit before they can obtain a Spanish work visa. This does not authorize travel to Spain, and they must wait until they get a visa before they can travel to the country. An essential requirement for obtaining a work permit is that the applicant must be in their home country at the time of applying for the permit, otherwise the application may be unsuccessful. The Work Permits are valid for one year and can be renewed if the correct conditions are met. After five consecutive renewals, permit holders can apply for long-term residency.

Your organization as the employer is responsible for obtaining the work permit on your employees behalf. You need to initiate the application process at the Provincial Delegation of the Ministry of Labor and Immigration in Spain. They will give you a copy of a stamped document from the ministry, which the employee will present when applying for the visa at the consulate in their home country.

Exemptions exist where foreign nationals are not required to hold a work permit to work in Spain. However, they may need to get a visa to enter the country. Exemptions include: university professors, technicians, scientists, foreign journalists, clergy, artists coming for specific performances, and volunteer workers.

Further useful resources: An In-Depth Guide for Employers On Work Visas in Spain

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​​How to apply for a work visa in Spain

Booking appointments

Booking appointments

Making appointments with the embassy or visa application center is generally free and can be done by the employees themselves. Every Spanish embassy/consulate has a different website address, price for the application, and processing time.

At many embassies, employees can only ask for a visa appointment if they have the work permit. Other embassies will let them book the appointment before — however, it is essential to attend the appointment with the work permit. 

The one nearest can be easily found as stated below:

  • Log in to the general website
  • Find the country you need the appointment in
  • Consulate or Embassy you need the appointment for
  • Submit the appointment details (personal information)
  • Visa you are applying for (example: Work Visa)

Employees will need to complete lots of documents on top of planning for a brand new future. If employees are moving with their families to Spain, then each individual must have their own application form filled out. It is important to note that many of the consulates/embassies will have their own checklists available at the time of booking the appointment.

What documents do you need to apply for a Spanish visa?

  • Individual visa application form filled. Example here.
  • Individual passport photo
  • Passport original and photocopy of the main page
  • Work permit approval (NIE can be found on the top left side)
  • Work contract signed by both employee and employer
  • Certification of absence of police records (original, photocopy, translation, photocopy of translation)
  • Medical certificate (original, translation and photocopy). Example here.
  • Proof of payment of visa fee
  • If relocating with family: translated and legalized marriage certificate and/or birth certificate of child

There may be more documentation required – it is important that employees check before they arrive at their appointment.

What documents do you need to apply for a Spanish visa?

What is the NIE number?

The Foreigner Identification Number (NIE - Numero de Identidad Extranjera) is an all-purpose personal identification number and tax code that is associated with a foreigner.

How to get an NIE number in Spain

There are three ways to apply for a Spanish NIE number:

  1. Apply in person in Spain — this is usually done by EU citizens or by those who do not need a visa to enter Spain. To get a Spanish NIE number, this will include completing an application form which can be downloaded from the Oficina de Extranjeros or National Police station in Spain. Make sure to make copies of all additional documentation.
  2. Apply in person via a Spanish Consulate from abroad — this is usually done by those applying for student or youth mobility visa programmes
  3. Apply through the central institution in Spain — a majority of all cases supported by Localyze, as this is done for work and residence permits. We can take care of this if employees do not match one of the former two categories.

NIE for Non-EU citizens

All Non-EU citizens will get their NIE with their work authorization/permit. Once employees have arrived in Spain on their visa, they must file for the TIE, which is a physical card. This is both their Residency Permit and NIE.


NIE for European Union Citizens

Citizens of the EU, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland who wish to remain in Spain for a period of longer than three months must request the registration certificate, known as "Certificado de Registro de Ciudadano de la Unión".

Spanish tax/fee payment procedure

Whilst applying for a work visa in Spain, there are several taxes and fees to be paid. Most are related to:

  • Visa renewals — which are paid by the employee
  • Application fees — this includes administrative fees associated with the process. This amount depends on the type of visa and the consulate or embassy where the application is submitted
  • Initial work permit authorization – this is paid by you, the employer, at the beginning of the process
  • TIE/NIE payments which are paid by the employee

The forms that apply to you, and those that apply to the employee, will be visible in the respective steps of the process and to-do list within the platform at Localyze. Generally, most of the forms can be filled in online, which you and your employee (depending on the form) will need to print, sign and take to a bank to pay in cash. Usually the bank keeps a copy, the government official at the appointment will take a copy and the last copy will be for your records.

How to move to Spain with family

Individuals who hold a work visa for Spain are allowed to bring their immediate family members to accompany them during their stay. This includes spouses or partners and dependent children. These family members will need to hold dependent visas, which may also allow them to work or study in Spain too, depending on their specific visa category.

However, family members applying for dependent visas will need to meet certain requirements and meet certain financial and health insurance requirements set by the Spanish authorities. Full details can be found here.

Who can reunite with their family members?

Spanish immigration law recognises the right of foreigners legally residing in Spain to reunite their families. Expats who have been living legally in Spain for a year and have obtained authorization to stay for at least one more year are allowed to reunite with their family members. To do so, they must be a long-term resident in the country. Exceptions to this rule include holders of an EU long-term residence permit in another Member State of the European Union, holders of an EU blue card, or beneficiaries of the special regime for researchers.

Moving to Spain: Which family members can be reunited?

Which family members can be reunited?

  • The spouse (only one), not separated de facto or de jure, and provided that the marriage has not been entered into fraudulently
  • The person who is in a relationship with the applicant, similar to that of marriage (recorded in a public registry or proven by the applicant)
  • Dependants: the resident’s unmarried children or those of the spouse or partner, including adopted children.
  • Direct descendants over 18 with disabilities
  • Children or other persons over 18 with disabilities for whom the resident is legal guardian or representative
  • Parents of the resident, or those of the spouse or partner, over 65. Exceptionally on humanitarian grounds a residence permit might be granted for parents under 65

To apply for family reunification, employees can fill in the official form from Foreigners’ Offices or download it here. The application must also have the following attached:

  • Proof of family ties and relationships, a de facto union and, if appropriate, age and legal dependency.
  • A copy of the passport, travel document, or valid ID of the applicant and the person they wish to join them.
  • Proof of employment and/or sufficient economic means to be able to support the family, including health care cover (if not included under the Social Security System).
  • Written evidence, according to the regulations, of having adequate housing for the family’s needs.
  • If employees are applying to bring their spouse or partner to join them, a sworn statement that they do not live in Spain with another spouse or partner.

Family members of an EU long-term residence holder in another Member State can submit their own application, when the EU long-term residence holder applies for a residence permit in Spain. For full details, please go to the Ministerio de Asuntos Exteriores.

Can you move your pets to Spain?

As with most EU regulations, to bring a pet to Spain, employees must ensure that:

  • All pets are microchipped with an ISO 11784/11785 compliant microchip. This should be implanted before any required vaccinations
  • Rabies vaccination and antibody test — the vaccination must be given at least 21 days before travel to Spain and the antibody test must be performed at least 30 days after the rabies vaccination
  • Pets have an EU Pet Passport or certification from an authorized vet and a Health Certificate
  • Dogs in particular have had tapeworm treatment 24-120 hours before entering Spain and that this is documented in the pet’s health certificate

There are certain breed-specific regulations in Spain for dogs. It is essential for employees to check these before traveling.

Moving to Spain: Can you move your pets to Spain?

Settling in Spain

Once your employee arrives in Spain, they’re required to make contributions to the social security system and get a social security number. Below we share more information on these topics.

Taxes and fees post arrival

During the Spanish immigration process, there are several taxes and fees that may be required, plus ongoing taxes whilst residing in Spain.

  • Social Security Contributions — once your employee starts working in Spain, they are required to make contributions to the Spanish social security system. These contributions fund various social security benefits, including healthcare, pensions, and unemployment benefits. The amount varies depending on factors such as income level and employment status.
  • Income taxes — if employees are residents in Spain, they are subject to Spanish income tax on their worldwide income. This includes income from employment, self-employment, investments, and other sources. Full details of the tax thresholds in Spain can be found here.
  • Employer contributions — Employers in Spain are required to make contributions to the social security system on behalf of their employees. These contributions cover various social security benefits and are based on the employees salary and other factors.
  • Other taxes and levies — depending on the employees’ employment and activities in Spain, other taxes may apply. For example, if they buy or own a property in Spain, they may be subject to property taxes such as the Impuesto sobre Bienes Inmuebles (IBI).
Moving to Spain: employee relocation guide - taxes and fees

Income tax

In Spain, income tax can vary depending on the employee's residency status. IRPF for tax residents in Spain, IRNR for non-residents who obtain an income in Spain. If employees have an Intra-Transfer visa, then they will be subject to the “Beckham Act”.

📌 IRPF

Direct personal tax on the income of employees who are resident in Spain, according to their visa. It targets the taxpayer’s income and their capital gains and losses, regardless of where these have occurred globally. Employees will be subject to IRPF taxation if they:

  • Stay in Spanish territory for more than 183 days in a natural year
  • Main center or base of economic activities or interests are located in Spain
  • Family members, such as non-separated legal spouse and dependent children under the age of 18 are residents in Spain

📌 IRNR

This is the income tax for non-residents and directly taxes the income obtained in Spanish territory. Employees are considered “non-residents” if they do not meet the requirements for the IRPF above. The tax rates are much simpler to understand, and work under flat rates:

  • 19% for residents of the EU, Iceland and Norway
  • 24% for all other taxpayers
  • Capital gains, interest and dividends taxed at 19%

Beckham Law

The Beckham Law regulates a special tax system for foreigners working in Spain, which was created to attract highly qualified people for the purpose of improving the internationalization and competitiveness of local companies. Despite its name, the act now excludes professional athletes. The benefits of this special taxation provides the option of paying a fixed reduced tax rate of 24% for income up to €600,000 for six years. In order to qualify for this special tax system, the following conditions must be met:

  • Not having been a resident in Spain in the ten financial years preceding the year in which the change of residency is carried out
  • That the change of residency occurs as a consequence of one of the following circumstances:
  • Employment contract with a Spanish company or when the move is organized by the employer and there is a signed Employee Relocation Agreement
  • The acquisition of the status of administrator in a non-affiliated Spanish company with share participation of less than 25%
  • Not obtaining income that could be classified as being gained through permanent establishment in Spain.

It’s important for employees and your organization to know that there is a time limit on opting for this special tax system. The Tax Authority must be informed within a maximum of 6 months after registering with Spanish Social Security or signing the documents, making it possible to retain the Social Security legislation of employees' country of origin.

Social Security in Spain

Spanish “Seguridad Social” is the public system in Spain that provides social protection to residents and workers in Spain. This plays a crucial role in providing social protection to support residents and workers in Spain. It helps to ensure access to essential healthcare services, financial assistance due to involuntary unemployment and income security in retirement.

Once employees and organizations start making contributions to Social Security in Spain, employees will have access to the benefits through the system. Access to all benefits are subject to meeting certain eligibility criteria set by the Spanish authorities. The level of contribution is based on the employee's salary. Organizations are required to pay around 30% of the worker’s salary and the employee contributes around 6.35% of their pay.

To get a Social Security number in Spain, employees will need to download and complete the TA-1 form. This form is only available in Spanish, so they may need assistance from a Spanish speaker. As well as the TA-1 form, they will need the following documentation:

  • ID or passport plus photocopy
  • Rental contract, employment contract and photocopies of both
  • NIE/TIE
  • Visa 

To apply online, employees can download a digital certificate from the Real Casa de la Moneda website and then proceed with filling out the TA-1 online and submit with the NIE number.

Banking

If employees are planning to live and work in Spain, it is important to open a Spanish bank account. The type of account employees open is dependent on their residency status. To open a bank account, it is easier to go into the bank of your choice in person with their ID, Passport, and NIE. They may require more information such as proof of address, country of origins tax code, and more.

Moving to Spain: Finding an accommodation in Spain

Finding an accommodation in Spain

Having accommodation arranged is typically a requirement for obtaining a Spanish work visa, although the specific documentation and requirements may vary depending on the type of visa. The minimum period for renting a property in Spain is typically 6 months.

Typical payments and requirements for renting a property in Spain include:

  • Current month’s rent
  • Deposit which is normally kept in escrow. It is the equivalent to one month’s rent for unfurnished and two months for furnished.
  • Bank guarantees — this is a possible requirement for renting. It means having to pay a deposit for 3-6 months rent in a third-party bank account during the lifetime of the lease. 
  • Agency commissions — if employees rent through an estate agent, they will have to pay a commission that is usually 10% of the annual rent, plus 21% tax.

All rental properties must have a certificate of habitability, which guarantees the house or flat is fit to be lived in. This document is also essential for signing up for utility services, such as electricity, water, and gas. All properties must also have an energy certificate.

Setting up utilities in Spain

Whether employees have decided to rent or buy a property, they need to sign up for utility services such as electricity, water, gas and a telephone line. The certificate of habitability is for this purpose. Employees will also need their NIE, passport, bank details and lease details to apply for utility services.

Registration with the Padrón Municipal de Habitantes (“empadronamiento”)

The certificado de empadronamiento or padrón is a document that states where you live in the country. This is a legal requirement for anyone planning to reside in Spain for more than six months per year. To be registered is to be ‘empadronado’ and employees will be given the certificate. Registering themselves is completely free. Employees need to do this because:

  • It’s a proof of having a valid address
  • It helps the government keep track of demographic changes and to decide how to allocate resources across regions, municipalities and communities
  • To prove that they are not a tourist or temporary resident if they need to open a bank account or handle any other administration.

Which country's driving license is valid in Spain?

If employees hold a valid driving license, they can drive in Spain for up to 6 months from the date they acquire their visa. After this period, they may need to exchange their foreign driving license for a Spanish one, depending on their country of origin.

  • For EU/EEA nationals — they can drive in Spain without needing to exchange it for a Spanish one. However, if they become a resident in Spain, they may voluntarily exchange their EU/EEA driving license for a Spanish one.
  • For non-EU/EEA nationals — they may need to exchange their foreign driving license for a Spanish one after 6 months. The specific requirements and procedures for exchanging can vary depending on their country of origin and the regulations in place at the time of the application.

To check the current regulations and requirements with the Spanish traffic authorities, go to the Dirección General de Tráfico website.

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