General framework

Legislation

What primary and secondary legislation governs immigration in your jurisdiction?

The primary regulations are Organic Law No. 4/2000 and Royal Decree 557/2011, which thoroughly develop the migration regulations, including the different migration permits and visas.

Additional to these specific migration regulations, Law No. 14/2013, known as the Entrepreneurs Act, which came into force in October 2013, includes a section that establishes new migration categories:

  • the residence permit for investors, for entrepreneurs and researchers;
  • the highly qualified residence permit; and
  • intracompany transfers for executives, specialists and trainees.

The Law also provides regulations for migration permits for dependent family members to these categories.

International agreements

Has your jurisdiction concluded any international agreements affecting immigration (eg, free trade agreements or free movement accords)?

Free trade and commercial agreements are concluded by the EU; however, these do not have a direct impact on Spanish migration regulations since this competence is exclusive to each member state.

Regulatory authorities

Which government authorities regulate immigration and what is the extent of their enforcement powers? Can the decisions of these authorities be appealed?

The competent authority for applications based on Law No. 14/2013 is

the General Directorate of Migration (GDM), which is dependent on the

Ministry of Labour, Migrations and Social Security.

All remaining applications made under the regular process established by Organic Law No. 4/2000 and Royal Decree 557/2011 are handled by the respective migration office of the province where the applicant will reside. These are also ultimately dependent on the Ministry of Labour, Migrations and Social Security.

Spanish consulates are competent for the issuance of visas, and these consulates are dependent on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation, while the national police are responsible for border control, and dependent on the Ministry of Interior.

Government policy

In broad terms what is your government’s policy towards business immigration?

Because of the global economic downturn, which has mainly affected Spain’s unemployment rate, immigration policies in the past few years and at present, following the entry into force of the regulations introduced by Royal Decree 557/2011, have focused on protecting the local workforce and restricting foreign workers.

Nevertheless, the Spanish government is focused on attracting talent and investment to Spain, hence the enactment of Law No. 14/2013. This Law aims to facilitate and streamline the granting of residence permits for economic interest reasons.

The information in this chapter refers to third-party nationals, since European Economic Area and Swiss nationals and their family members, irrespective of their nationality, are able to move freely, and the requirements, documentation and timelines involved for such are different.

Short-term transfers

Visas

In what circumstances is a visa necessary for short-term travellers? How are short-term visas obtained?

Anyone who, because of their nationality, needs a visa and is planning to travel to Spain, for work, tourism or on private visits, must have the pertinent visa, validly issued and in effect, stamped in their passport or travel documentation. The countries whose nationals are subject to border-crossing visa requirements, together with the countries whose nationals are exempt from that obligation, are listed in EU Council Regulation 539/2001 of 15 March 2001, amended subsequently:

For visits of up to three months within a six-month period, no visas will be required by the following:

  • nationals of countries exempt from that requirement under EU legislation;
  • holders of diplomatic passports;
  • holders of safe-conduct documents issued by certain international intergovernmental organisations to civil servants, when Spain has agreed to eliminate visa requirements;
  • foreign nationals with refugee status and who are documented as such by a country that is a party to the European Agreement;
  • duly documented crew members of foreign passenger and cargo ships;
  • duly documented crew members of foreign aircraft; and
  • foreign nationals with residence authorisation.

Visas are requested and issued at Spanish diplomatic missions and consulates. In the absence of a Spanish diplomatic mission or consular office in a specific country, transit and visit visas may be requested at the diplomatic mission or consular office representing Spain in that country.

Short-term stay visas may be:

  • an all-in-kind short-term Schengen visa: a visa for the Schengen area for a period that does not exceed the time necessary to complete the transit or stay in the Schengen area up to a maximum of 90 days in a six-month period. Uniform visas allow one, two or several transits or visits, the total duration of which may not exceed 90 days in a six-month period; or
  • a limited territorial validity visa: valid for transit or stays in the territory of one or more Schengen states, but not for all of them. The total duration of the transit or stay may not exceed 90 days in a six-month period.
Restrictions

What are the main restrictions on a business visitor?

Foreign nationals who are obliged to apply for an entry visa under Schengen regulations, in general terms, should provide reasons for their travel and stay in Spain.

For such purposes, they may be asked to provide documents showing that there are business relationships or business-related activities or access cards to fairs and congresses, round-trip tickets and sufficient economic means for their stay in Spain.

They may also be asked to submit the following: the invitation of a company or authority, issued in the terms set out in the Order of the Ministry of the Presidency, documents showing that there are business relationships or business-related activities or access cards to fairs and congresses.

A business visa does not allow the holder to work in Spain, but only enables him or her to attend business meetings, trade fairs, congresses, etc. In this sense immigration legislation does not provide a complete list of the activities that may be performed. It is commonly accepted that the person may attend meetings and carry out commercial activities. There should be no evidence suggesting that the foreign national with business visitor status is performing a ‘hands-on’ job. Evidence could include having a Spanish email address, a direct phone line in Spain or a visitor’s card. The assignee cannot, in any event, work in Spain.

Foreign visitors should attest to the possession of sufficient economic means for the duration of the period that they aim to stay in Spain or, if appropriate, to be in a position to legally obtain such means.

According to Regulation (EC) No. 810/2009 establishing a Community Code on visas, a health certificate may be required for all visa applications. It is common practice for Spanish consulates to ask for this document when applications are filed for all types of visas.

Entry visas for less than three months may be extended, but not for more than three months within a six-month period.

Short-term training

Is work authorisation or immigration permission needed to give or receive short-term training?

In general, in accordance with applicable legislation, a study visa will be required to receive training programmes and work authorisation will be needed to give short-term training programmes.

It will be necessary to request a study visa in order to carry out the following non-work-related activities:

  • carrying out or extending studies at an authorised learning centre in Spain;
  • carrying out research or training activities;
  • participating in a study mobility programme;
  • carrying out non-work practical training; and
  • for voluntary work within a programme that pursues objectives of general interest.

Training courses shorter than 90 days can normally be attended on a business visitor visa.

Transit

Are transit visas required to travel through your country? How are these obtained? Are they only required for certain nationals?

Foreign travellers who need a visa to enter into Schengen territory and will remain in international transit in a Spanish airport or travel through Spanish territory will need a Schengen transit visa.

The airport transit visa (ATV) may allow transit on one, two or, exceptionally, on various occasions.

Visas are requested and issued at the Spanish diplomatic missions or consular offices.

Those foreigners staying in the international transit area of a Spanish airport, without access to national territory during stop-overs or flight connections are considered to be in airport transit.

Countries whose nationals are required to have an ATV by Spain are Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Cuba, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, India, Iran, Iraq, the Ivory Coast, Liberia, Mali, Nigeria, Pakistan, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Sri Lanka, Syria and Togo.

Holders of diplomatic passports and ordinary passport holders who are residents or holders of a valid entry visa issued by Andorra, Bulgaria, Canada, Cyprus, Ireland, Japan, Romania, San Marino, the United Kingdom or the United States will not need an ATV.

Transit visa rules are subject to continuous changes according to reciprocal agreements between respective countries or supranational organisations.

Visa waivers and fast-track entry

Are any visa waiver or fast-track entry programmes available?

Regulations do not prescribe any fast-track programmes nor premium process, and therefore all applications are analysed and solved by order of entry. Processing timing will depend on each type of migration permit, varying between 20 working days and three months.

Long-term transfers

Categories

What are the main work and business permit categories used by companies to transfer skilled staff?

The Spanish regulations, in line with EU directives, have set up temporary residence and work arrangements for highly qualified professionals holding EU Blue Cards.

Similarly, companies also use temporary residence and employment authorisation for local hires and temporary residence arrangements within the transnational provision of services framework.

Note should also be taken of Law No. 14/2013 that relaxes the requirements for companies that hire highly skilled workers locally or participate in intra-company transfers and introduces investor and entrepreneur residence visas designed to attract foreign investments to Spain.

Procedures

What are the procedures for obtaining these permissions? At what stage can work begin?

The general procedure to be followed to obtain a work permit in Spain is similar for all types of authorisations. The differences only affect the documentation required, on the basis of the type of permit requested and the place or entity filing the application, depending on the host company’s characteristics.

During the initial stage, both the assignee and company are required to compile and review all the documentation. Once the file has been completed with all the documentation required, the application is filed with the competent body. In this respect, an appointment has to be made beforehand and the company’s legal representative has to attend in person. The relevant administrative fees will accrue when the application is filed and should be paid within a maximum of 10 days in order to continue the process.

The time needed to issue a resolution depends on the competent body. In the case of the GDM, the maximum period is 30 days from the application date while government offices, that process most work and residence permit applications, have a maximum of three months, or 20 days if the application is filed under Law No. 14/2013.

Once a favourable resolution has been obtained, it is sent to the employee who should be ready to request the pertinent work visa. The maximum period to complete the application with the Spanish consulate in the country of origin or last legal residence is 30 days. The Spanish consulate will come to a decision and stamp the visa in the applicant’s passport within a maximum of 10 days. According to Law No. 14/2013, this step may be avoided if the applicant is in Spain on a regular basis at the time of filing his or her residence authorisation application. In this case, one of the requirements will be the submission of an original criminal record certificate for the past five years, duly legalised and translated into Spanish by an official translator.

After obtaining the visa or the work permit, if the file is processed under the visa exemption envisaged in Law No. 14/2013, the employee is then authorised to travel to Spain to start up an employer-employee relationship. In the case of employee work authorisations, once the employee is in Spain, he or she will be registered with the Spanish social security system. Only after entry with the proper work visa or work permit approval is the foreign national allowed to work in Spain.

For those permits that are not aimed at highly qualified staff or intra-company transfers, previous labour market test and respective authorisation by the local labour authorities will be necessary with a view to determine whether foreign workers can be hired for jobs considered not difficult to fill when the employer evidences the difficulty of filling job vacancies with workers from the local labour pool.

Period of stay

What are the general maximum (and minimum) periods of stay granted under the main categories for company transfers?

Temporary residence and work authorisation for highly qualified professionals holding an EU Blue Card

Initial residence and work authorisation for an employee is for one year and will be limited to a specific activity and territorial area. It may be renewed for periods of two years, up to a maximum of five years’ residence, when the individual can apply for a permanent residence card.

General employee work authorisation

An employee is initially granted residence and work authorisation for one year, limited to a specific activity and territorial area. It may be renewed for periods of two years.

Temporary residence and work authorisation within the transnational services provision framework

This work and residence authorisation will be limited to a specific activity and territorial area. Its duration will agree with the employee’s assignment period that must match the period of coverage included in the social security certificate of coverage, but limited to one year. An extension can be processed for another year, or for the period provided in the bilateral social security treaties signed by Spain if it is evidenced that the conditions involved are identical.

Work and residence permits under Law No. 14/2013

Permits processed under Law No. 14/2013 are generally valid for an initial period of two years. However, the validity of highly qualified professional and intra-company transferee permits will be subject to either the duration of the employment contract or the certificate of coverage, respectively.

Processing time

How long does it typically take to process the main categories?

If the application for temporary residence and work authorisation is filed with the GDM’s Large Companies Unit, the authorities have a maximum of one month to notify the pertinent resolutions as from the day following the registration of the application with the competent body for processing. This timeline is reduced to 20 days if the application is filed under Law No. 14/2013.

However, other immigration bodies have three months to notify interested parties through the procedures regulated in the applicable immigration regulations as from the day following the registration of the application for processing with the competent body. In practice, this period can be reduced or extended depending on the region or the type of application filed.

Staff benefits

Is it necessary to obtain any benefits or facilities for staff to secure a work permit?

The assignee’s initial application for residence and work authorisation need not refer to whether or not he or she holds valid international medical insurance or has suitable accommodation. However, the foreign worker asking for residence authorisation on the grounds of family unification should, at the time the application is submitted, attach a report issued by the competent bodies of the autonomous region where he or she is resident, evidencing that he or she has a suitable dwelling to attend to his or her own and his or her family’s needs.

In accordance with Regulation (EC) No. 810/2009 establishing a Community Code on visas, a health certificate may be required for all visa applications. It is common practice for Spanish consulates to ask for this document when applications are filed for all types of visas.

The health certificate should state that the applicant does not suffer any of the infectious diseases listed by the World Health Organization (WHO), mental disorders or drug addiction according to WHO Regulation 2005.

Assessment criteria

Do the immigration authorities follow objective criteria, or do they exercise discretion according to subjective criteria?

The immigration authorities follow objective criteria and observe legislation in force.

Moreover, there are numerous internal instructions issued by each body and it is therefore essential to be aware of the internal regulations that affect the decisions taken.

High net worth individuals and investors

Is there a special route for high net worth individuals or investors?

Law No. 14/2013 endeavours to address the lack of regulation that had existed until its implementation. It aims to attract talent and investment to Spain and has created the ‘investor visa’.

See question 17 for more information.

Is there a special route (including fast track) for high net worth individuals for a residence permission route into your jurisdiction?

Law No. 14/2013 has had a considerable impact on immigration regulations. It aims to attract talent and investment to Spain and facilitate and streamline the granting of residence permits, including work authorisation, for economic interest reasons. The process is now faster and endeavours to involve a single authority.

The beneficiaries of this regulation are:

  • investors in real estate, bonds, stock or shares in Spain; or
  • holders of a bank deposit in a Spanish bank.

The main changes are:

  • visas may be granted for up to one year;
  • residence permit resolution should be obtained within a maximum of 20 days. If no reply is received, approval will be assumed to have been granted;
  • entry visa applications should be resolved within a maximum of 10 days;
  • residence permits will include work authorisation; and
  • residence permits will be granted for two years with a possible extension of two more years.

The main requirements to apply for this type of visa are:

  • the acquisition of real estate in Spain with an investment of €500,000 or more per visa applicant. The applicant must demonstrate full ownership of the property and must certify that the property is free of liens and encumbrances;
  • the acquisition of shares in Spanish companies or bank deposits in Spanish financial entities for €1 million; or
  • the acquisition of bonds or other kinds of Spanish public debt for €2 million.

The visa will include a one-year residence permit, but if the applicant would like to work in Spain, he or she will need to apply for residence authorisation in Spain that will be valid for two years. The investor entry visa application process will take place at the corresponding Spanish consulate abroad.

Extensions or renewals of the investor visa may be obtained even if the foreigner is outside Spain for more than six months in one year as long as it is evidenced that his or her business operations are based in Spain.

Highly skilled individuals

Is there a special route for highly skilled individuals?

There are special routes if the host company, or group of companies, in Spain fulfils a series of requirements according to both Law No. 4/2000 and Law No. 14/2013:

Law No. 4/2000 requirements

Law No. 14/2013 requirements

More than 500 employees on average in the past three months

More than 250 employees on average in the past three months

Annual turnover exceeds €200 million

Annual turnover exceeds €50 million

Equity exceeds €100 million

Equity exceeds €43 million

Duration of the permit: generally one year

Duration of the permit: generally two years

Processing time: up to 45 days

Processing time: up to 20 days

Special routes also apply if the company is a small or medium-sized enterprise established in Spain and the employee holds a legalised university degree applicable to the job’s position or the company operates in one of the following strategic sectors:

  • information technology and communications;
  • renewable energies;
  • the environment;
  • waste and water processing;
  • healthcare;
  • biopharmaceuticals;
  • aeronautics and aerospace; or
  • others declared as strategic by the relevant authority.

National unemployment rates will not be taken into consideration for this type of residence permit and this may be extended to companies included in strategic sectors of activity.

Ancestry and descent

Is there a special route for foreign nationals based on ancestry or descent?

Descendants of a Spanish national of origin are born as Spanish nationals regardless of their place of birth. Foreign individuals born in Spanish territory, whose father or mother is a Spanish national, are eligible to apply for Spanish nationality. Foreign individuals over the age of 18, adopted by Spanish nationals, have the option of applying for Spanish nationality, and foreign individuals who had been under parental responsibility of a Spanish national may apply for Spanish nationality provided they do so before reaching 20 years old (or two years after reaching legal age if this does not happen at 18 years of age).

Minimum salary

Is there a minimum salary requirement for the main categories for company transfers?

There is a minimum salary requirement for foreign workers hired.

To grant temporary residence and work authorisation to highly qualified professionals, the gross annual salary must be at least one and a half times the average gross annual salary. For other foreign workers hired, salaries will have to meet the conditions stipulated in Spanish legislation.

The internal guidelines of the GDM establish that the salaries of highly qualified professionals transferred to large companies must be at least one and a half times the average gross salary published by the Spanish Institute of Employment in the latest annual survey of labour costs in the Spanish Classification Code assigned to the company.

In addition to this limitation, the GDM has established certain minimum salary levels internally:

  • for transnational workers, in the case of management personnel, this minimum is equal to twice the average gross annual salary and may in no event be less than €56,159, while in the case of highly qualified personnel, the limit is one and a half times the average gross annual salary and may in no event be less than €28,079; and
  • for highly qualified workers holding a Blue Card and who are hired locally, the minimum is equal to one and a half times the average gross annual salary and may in no event be less than €42,119.

If processed under Law No. 14/2013, there are minimum gross annual salary requirements for highly qualified professionals based on their job position:

  • for directors and managers: €54,142; and
  • for technicians and scientists: €40,077.

If the applicant is under 30 years old, there is a reduction coefficient of 0.25; therefore, the minimum gross annual salaries are €40,607 for directors and managers, and €30,058 for technicians and scientists.

Intra-company transferees must observe the minimum salary indicated in the applicable collective agreement for the professional category or group applicable to the job position they will undertake in Spain during their assignment period.

Resident labour market test

Is there a quota system or resident labour market test?

The situation of the local employment market is taken into account in respect of the work to be carried out by the foreign workers to be hired. This approach is strictly applied, when applicable.

For the purposes of determining the national employment situation, the Spanish Public Employment Service (SEPE) prepares a catalogue of positions that are difficult to fill for each province or region on a quarterly basis.

The specific definition of a job to be included in the catalogue of jobs that are difficult to fill takes into account the level of specialisation required to perform the activity. The classification of a job as difficult to fill makes it possible to process initial temporary residence and work authorisation abroad.

The local employment situation will be taken into account with a view to determining whether foreign workers can be hired for jobs considered not difficult to fill when the employer evidences the difficulty of filling job vacancies with employees from the local labour pool.

In this respect, it will be necessary to submit a specific offer for the job with the SEPE, which will advertise the offer so that workers living in Spain can apply.

Within 25 days of the submission of the offer, the employer should inform the SEPE of the results and, if appropriate, should issue a certificate evidencing that there is an insufficient number of applicants in order to fill the vacancy with foreign workers.

Similarly, initial residence and work authorisation will be rejected if, within the 12 months immediately prior to the application date, the employer has eliminated the positions that it had planned to cover through dismissals considered unfair or null and void.

Shortage occupations

Is there a special route for shortage occupations?

As part of the regular migration process for work and residence permit applications based on Royal Decree 557/2011, it is necessary to perform a market labour test. This mandate can be avoided if the job position to be covered is included within the National Catalogue of Occupations of Difficult Coverage (NCODC). The NCODC is published on a quarterly basis for each province.

If the applicant’s job position fits within any of the positions included in the NCODC for the corresponding province, his or her application will be exempt from the labour market test. Labour market tests apply to all work and residence permit applications except to those that are filed under Law No. 14/2013 or to applicants who will file a highly skilled workers EU Blue Card application for an employer that is eligible to be processed by the Large Companies Unit.

Other eligibility requirements

Are there any other main eligibility requirements to qualify for work permission in your jurisdiction?

Depending on the kind of residence and work authorisations, some of the conditions to be met are as follows.

Temporary residence and work authorisation for highly qualified professionals holding EU Blue Cards

In order to apply for this type of work authorisation, in addition to other requirements, the following conditions must be met:

  • an employment contract should be signed that guarantees the worker an ongoing activity over the duration of the temporary residence and work authorisation;
  • the conditions laid down in the employment contract should conform to those established by current legislation and the annual gross salary specified in the employment contract must be at least one and a half times the average annual gross salary;
  • the foreign professional must have the skills and, if appropriate, legal qualifications required to exercise his or her profession (higher education or, exceptionally, at the discretion of the immigration authorities, evidence of a minimum of five years’ professional experience, which may be considered comparable to that qualification, connected with the activity for the performance of which authorisation is granted); and
  • the local employment situation permits the hiring of foreign workers.
Employee work authorisation

In order to apply for this type of work authorisation, in addition to other requirements, the following conditions must be met:

  • the immigration body involved will ask for a certificate from the SEPE, setting out a list of the unemployed who meet the conditions of the job vacancy. The SEPE will issue a certificate, stating whether it is possible to submit the work authorisation file (at present, Spain has a very high unemployment rate and this type of work permit is difficult to obtain); and
  • the employee is hired by the Spanish company and registered with the Spanish social security system.
Temporary residence and work authorisation within the transnational services provision framework

In order to apply for this type of work permit, in addition to other requirements, the following conditions must be met:

  • the temporary assignment must be on account and under the management of the foreign company, under a contract between the foreign company and the recipient of the provision of services established in Spain. This arrangement applies when a temporary assignment of workers is involved, from work centres established outside Spain to work centres in Spain of the same company or another company of the group to which it belongs or when dealing with the temporary assignment of highly qualified workers for the supervision or provision of advice on work or services that companies located in Spain are to carry out abroad;
  • the employee is resident on a stable and regular basis in the country where the assigning company is based;
  • the foreign employee’s professional activity in the assigning country must be habitual in nature and must have been carried out for at least one year and the employee must have been working for the company for at least nine months; and
  • the employee will continue to be subject to social security legislation in the home country if there is an applicable social security arrangement. In the event there is no bilateral social security agreement or the agreement does not allow contributions to continue in the home country, the employee will have to be registered with the Spanish social security system and the home company will have to be registered with the Spanish social security and Treasury.

Certain work and residence permit requirements, such as length of service and salary, among others, have been relaxed under Law No. 14/2013.

Third-party contractors

What is the process for third-party contractors to obtain work permission?

For a third-party contractor to obtain work authorisation, he or she should apply for either temporary residence and work authorisation within the transnational services provision framework or intra-company residence authorisation according to Law No. 14/2013.

The transfer may go ahead provided that it is on account of and under the management of the foreign company in the performance of a contract between both parties, and the company receiving the services is established or operates in Spain.

Recognition of foreign qualifications

Is an equivalency assessment or recognition of skills and qualifications required to obtain immigration permission?

In order to request work authorisation, it will be necessary to show that the worker has the skills and, if appropriate, the professional qualifications legally required to carry on the profession.

In order to prove professional qualifications, the immigration authorities are, at present, asking for university degrees, duly translated and legalised, and only in exceptional cases is professional experience taken into account. Moreover, Law No. 14/2013 introduces this exemption in general terms if the employee has at least three or five years’ experience, for intra-company and local company employees, respectively.

Extensions and variations

Short-term to long-term status

Can a short-term visa be converted in-country into longer-term authorisations? If so, what is the process?

Holders of short-term visas, or nationals of countries that are visa-exempted, who are on regular stay in Spain, are eligible to convert their tourist or business status to a work and residence authorisation.

The conversion is possible only under Law No. 14/2013 and in compliance with all additional requirements set out for these cases.

Long-term extension

Can long-term immigration permission be extended?

Extensions will depend on the type of residence and work authorisation, for example:

  • initial one-year temporary residence and work authorisation for highly qualified professionals with an EU Blue Card may be renewed for two two-year periods, until long-term residence is obtained;
  • initial one-year employee residence and work authorisations may be renewed for two two-year periods, until long-term residence is obtained; and
  • the duration of temporary residence and work authorisation within the transnational services provision framework will agree with the employee’s assignment period up to a one-year limit, which may be extended for another year or for the period envisaged in the international social security treaties signed by Spain if it is evidenced that conditions are identical.

Visas granted according to Law No. 14/2013 will be valid for one year. Residence authorisations will be valid for a period equal to the term of the contract or certificate of coverage, but limited up to two years and may be extended for a further two years.

Authorisation for studies, student mobility, non-employment training or voluntary services

Authorisation may be extended annually when the interested party evidences that he or she continues to meet the general and specific conditions envisaged in his or her initial application to stay in Spain.

If appropriate, it will also be necessary to evidence that he or she has passed the tests or fulfils the requirements associated with the continuity of his or her studies or that he or she has made progress on the research conducted. This requirement may be evidenced through the performance of studies or research in the territory of another EU member state within the framework of temporary programmes promoted by the EU itself.

Exit and re-entry

What are the rules on and implications of exit and re-entry for work permits?

There are two basic implications:

  • once a residence card has expired and while the renewal of the pertinent work authorisation is being processed, in order to re-enter Spain, the interested party will need to apply for re-entry authorisation; and
  • continual absences from Spanish territory may lead to the loss of residence.
Permanent residency and citizenship

How can immigrants qualify for permanent residency or citizenship?

Immigrants who have lived legally and continuously in Spanish territory for five years are entitled to long-term residence.

Similarly, foreign nationals who evidence having lived continuously for five years in the EU as holders of an EU Blue Card qualify for long-term residence authorisation provided that during the two years immediately prior to applying, they have resided in Spanish territory.

A foreign national may apply for Spanish nationality after having been married to a Spanish national and having resided in Spain for one year.

In order to obtain Spanish nationality on the grounds of residence, foreign nationals must reside in Spain legally for 10 years, continuously and in the period immediately prior to their application.

There are cases in which the residence period required may be reduced, for example:

  • to five years when the immigrant has been declared a refugee; and
  • to two years when the immigrant is from Latin America, Andorra, Equatorial Guinea, the Philippines or Portugal, or of Sephardic origin.
End of employment

Must immigration permission be cancelled at the end of employment in your jurisdiction?

Foreign nationals leaving the country before the end of their residence authorisation have to submit a letter of cancellation to the immigration authorities.

In any event, once the foreigner’s ID card expires or entitlement to it has been forfeited, foreigners with such cards are required to deliver the document to the immigration offices or police station corresponding to their place of residence.

Employee restrictions

Are there any specific restrictions on a holder of employment permission?

Initial employee residence and work authorisation is limited to a province and job. Initial residence and work authorisation within the transnational provision of services framework will be limited to a specific territory, occupation and only for the company for which the transfer was arranged.

In practice, the GDM has redefined its criterion and authorisations for highly qualified personnel holding a Blue Card and hired locally are issued for the whole of Spain.

Under Law No. 14/2013, there are no territorial or occupational restrictions.

Dependants

Eligibility

Who qualifies as a dependant?

Spanish legislation considers the following family members dependants for the purposes of obtaining residence authorisation linked to the worker’s authorisation, enabling them to live in Spain:

  • spouse, provided that the marital ties are in effect at the time of application. If either spouse has been married before, such marriages must have been dissolved through the relevant judicial proceedings before the date of application for residence authorisation;
  • cohabiting partners or persons with whom there is an analogous relationship of affectivity. Spanish legislation considers that there is a relationship provided that it is legally recognised in the country of origin through its registration in the relevant public register or the validity of an unregistered relationship is evidenced through a public document;
  • children of the spouse or couple, including adopted children, provided that they are under 18 at the time of application and, if over 18, they have a disability and are dependent. When only one of the spouses is the parent, he or she should have custody; and
  • parents and grandparents to the first degree or their spouse or partner, when it is evidenced that they are in the foreign national’s charge, are over 65 and there are reasons evidencing the need to authorise their residence in Spain.
Conditions and restrictions

Are dependants automatically allowed to work or attend school?

Residence authorisation on the grounds of family unification held by the spouse and children involved when they reach working age will allow dependants to work without any need for further administrative formalities.

An application for family unification may be filed when the foreigner involved is authorised to reside in Spain for at least one year and has requested residence authorisation for at least another year, except for ascendants who will only be eligible for family unification once the applicant has obtained his or her long-term residence authorisation.

According to Spanish regulations, all children between the ages of four and 16 have to attend school, even if they do not hold the relevant residence authorisation. Dependent spouses are automatically entitled to work if their file has been processed under Law No. 14/2013.

Access to social benefits

What social benefits are dependants entitled to?

Depending on the type of work and residence authorisation, and provided that the applicant is registered with the social security, his or her dependants will have the same rights to access the Spanish healthcare system.

Other requirements, restrictions and penalties

Criminal convictions

Are prior criminal convictions a barrier to obtaining immigration permission?

In order to obtain an entry visa, if the age of the applicant means that they can be held criminally responsible, it is essential that they have no previous criminal convictions in Spain or any of the countries in which they have resided in the previous five years for the offences envisaged in Spanish legislation. Criminal records or a police clearance certificate are required for visa applications.

Penalties for non-compliance

What are the penalties for companies and individuals for non-compliance with immigration law? How are these applied in practice?

Infringements may be considered minor, serious and very serious.

Some of the most serious infringements are, inter alia, as follows:

  • the foreign national is in an irregular situation in Spain because his or her stay has not been extended, he or she lacks residence authorisation or such authorisation expired more than three months previously, provided that the interested party has not applied for renewal within the envisaged time frame;
  • the foreign worker is working in Spain without having obtained prior work authorisation or administrative authorisation before working, when there is no valid residence authorisation;
  • the foreign worker has not been registered under the pertinent social security system when employee residence and work authorisation has been requested or his or her employment contract has not been registered under the conditions used as a basis for the application when the company is aware that the worker is legally in Spain and authorised to start the employer-employee relationship;
  • encouraging a foreign national’s irregular stay in Spain when his or her legal entry was accompanied by an express invitation from the infringing party and he or she continues in their charge after the time permitted by his or her visa or authorisation. The penalty is adjusted taking into account the personal and family circumstances involved;
  • the owner of a property agrees to register a foreign national in the municipal register when it is not the foreign national’s real home address but a property used for such purposes. There will be a fine for each person improperly registered; and
  • the hiring of foreign workers without previously obtaining the corresponding residence and work authorisation. Each foreign worker hired will be considered an infringement, provided that the situation does not constitute an offence. This is considered one of the most noteworthy of the very serious infringements.
Penalties

Infringements are penalised as follows:

  • minor infringements with fines of up to €500;
  • serious infringements with fines of €501 to €10,000; and
  • very serious infringements with fines of €10,001 to €100,000.
Language requirements

Are there any minimum language requirements for migrants?

In order to renew temporary residence and work authorisation, the foreign national’s integration efforts will be assessed, evidenced through a positive report from the autonomous region of his or her place of residence.

The report will, at the very least, refer to the foreign national’s active involvement in training aimed at knowing and observing the constitutional values of Spain and the EU and learning the official languages of his or her place of residence.

Medical screening

Is medical screening required to obtain immigration permission?

The only medical requirement in applying for a visa will be to submit a health certificate issued in the home country by the healthcare services provider designated by the Spanish diplomatic mission or consulate.

In the event that there is no need to apply for a visa, immigrants may be required upon entry to undergo medical screening by the competent Spanish healthcare services to prove that they do not have any illnesses that may have serious public health repercussions in accordance with the International Health Regulations of 2005.

Secondment

Is there a specific procedure for employees on secondment to a client site in your jurisdiction?

The current situation remains more or less the same. The only option for this type of assignment is to obtain temporary or transnational work authorisation. Alternatively, an intra-company transfer could be arranged under Law No. 14/2013 requirements.

Update and trends

Key developments of the past year

Are there any emerging trends or hot topics in corporate immigration regulation in your jurisdiction?

Key developments of the past year40 Are there any emerging trends or hot topics in corporate immigration regulation in your jurisdiction?Minimum salary level for highly qualified professionals

In May 2019, the Large Companies Unit published new criteria to interpret Law No. 14/2013. The most significant update is the adoption of minimum salary figures applicable to highly qualified professionals, as discussed in question 20.

Residence permit for students

Holders of student cards are allowed to apply for a residence permit while they search for a job, for up to 12 months, by means of the 17th Additional Provision of Law No. 14/2013. Applications for this permit must be submitted during the 60 days prior to expiry of the student card. In the event that the individual receives a job offer, he or she must apply for the corresponding work permit.

Residence permit under an internship agreement

Foreigners who have obtained a higher education degree in the two years prior to the date of application, or who are carrying out studies leading to a higher education degree in Spain or abroad, may participate in an internship programme by signing an internship agreement or internship contract to improve their knowledge, practice and experience in a professional environment. The duration of such permit is between six months and one year for internship agreements, and up to two years for internship contracts. This permit may be extended once.