Finding a job in Spain

Unfortunately the Spanish job market is far from buoyant at the moment and any expat living in Spain can expect high competition no matter what the sector. Job searches can last up to six months, and sometimes even beyond that. Unless you’re looking for a work in catering, retail or teaching a working knowledge of Spanish can be an important requirement.

Be aware that with job opportunities are so scarce some companies might be reluctant to employ an expat over a Spanish citizen and there are several restrictions and regulations surrounding foreign employees.

Salaries are also distributed less evenly in Spain then in other nations; the average worker will receive significantly less than their boss.

A lot of people are employed on a word of mouth basis, so connections can be incredibly useful. Utilise any and all you might have!

This might sound pretty dire but don’t be put off, just be prepared for some setbacks.

Work Permits

To get a job in Spain it isn’t necessary for an EU citizen to have a work permit.

A non-EU national must apply for a work permit, and this involves proving that they have the skill set employers are requiring. With competition for work so fierce, some companies, particularly smaller companies, just won’t consider a non-EU citizen. Non-EU nationals must also acquire an activity-dependent residency permit.

There are several main types of work permit, and each requires the applicant to meet different criteria. Contact the Spanish embassy or consulate for a detailed explanation of what permit you will need and how it can be obtained. The process can be notoriously slow, as long as six months in some cases, so get the ball in motion early!


Although Spanish salaries are generally quite low, (averaging 12,000-18,000 euro’s a year) the cost of living in Spain is below average for an EU nation.

Rather than being paid monthly, in Spain salaries are often distributed over 14 payments. This means that before Christmas and summer the normal salary is generally doubled.


The jobs might be few and the wages might be low, but when it comes to the allocation of holiday time Spain is amazing. It is law for any contracted employee to receive a full month of holiday time a year on top of any national and regional holidays. And it gets better. If a holiday happens to fall on a Tuesday or Thursday it is usual for employees to be given Monday or Friday as an extra day off.

Working hours

In Spain working hours can vary dramatically between employments. In summer there is an abridged work schedule used by some companies in which the working day runs unbroken from 8 am to 3 pm. However, a common distribution of work hours is from 9 am until 7.30 pm with a three hour siesta in the middle. Over the last few years this siesta break has been significantly shortened in some employments, with the employees finishing the work day earlier instead.

Top Tips for Finding work in Spain

Here are some tp tips for expats looking for work in Spain.

Be prepared in advance

Explore the job market before you move, see what career options most suit you and your qualifications. Be aware that you may need to re-qualify or retrain to be applicable for the position you want. See if there are any skills you possess which are in demand. Make yourself marketable by knowing your market!

Refine your CV, and get it out there

CV’s are often formatted differently abroad, make sure yours is up to date and formatted correctly for the Spanish market. Get your CV circulating through as many avenues as possible – utilise connections, new neighbours, local amenities etc. Put your CV on job sites and clearly present yourself to your target employers. Ensure you clearly state when you are available to start, and be realistic about how long it will take for you to be in a position to commit yourself to a contract.

Ensure That Appropriate Work Permits are in Place

Where possible get any and all paperwork out of the way prior to searching for work.

Embrace New Career Opportunities

When beginning a new career abroad you have to be aware that you may not be able to start work at the level you previously occupied. You may have to take a pay cut or demotion and re-work your way up the career ladder. You may even have to rethink what type of work you wish to do. Don’t be disheartened. The skills you used in your old job might not be in demand in Spain, but maybe they could be differently applied or you could discover new ones!

It’s Not What You Know, It’s Who You Know

Starting a new life abroad can be difficult, stressful and lonely. In general the quicker you get to know people the sooner you’ll settle in. Join clubs, or fitness classes, get out and about, socialise. Don’t be afraid of rejection, for every person who tells you to get lost there’ll be someone else who won’t. Hold a party, get to know you’re neighbours and take advantage of every useful contact you meet. Children are great for bringing people together (as long as they’re reasonably well behaved of course). Help your child make friends by signing them up for clubs, and help yourself make friends by dropping them off and picking them up. Joining an expat forum can also be an excellent way of meeting people who’ve been in the same position as you, and they can be an invaluable source of comfort and advice.

Useful job sites