Long-term transfers

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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.