WORK in Spain

last update: February 2014


Residence permit and work

For people who are in an irregular situation in Spain the most common way to get a residence permit is the so called “ARRAIGO SOCIAL”.

You have to already have lived 3 years in the country. Also you need to demonstrate that you have your own financial resources. This is possible with a work contract. Often people can convince their current employer, for whom they are working without a legal contract, to make them a legal work contract. You can ask people in legal offices or friends for advice and support to do this. It sometimes helps if another person calls the company/employer to put pressure on them to make a legal contract.

You can apply for Arraigo social via a working-contract, if:

  • you are able to prove that you have lived 3 years and one day in Spain

  • you don´t have a criminal record

  • you have a work contract confirmed for at least one year

  • you can prove you have family relations with other foreign residents or

  • you can prove you have integrated in Spain with a report from the Ayuntamiento of your place of residence.

What are the requirements when applying for work and residence permits for the“arraigo social”?

  • Proof that you have lived in Spain for three consecutive years and one day with an oficial document: The best way to demonstrate this is with a certificate of Padrónamiento if you don´t have this you can present a medical document or other oficial document.

  • Proof that you have not commited any criminal offenses in Spain or in your country of origin (You must provide proof of an oficial criminal records check from your country of origin that must be translated into castellano).

  • Have a confirmed work contract lasting for at least one year
    OR if you want to register as self-employed you must prove the economic viability for your project as a self-employed person
    (plan de viabilidad económica) and an outline of your project.

  • Passport valid for at least four months

  • EITHER provide a social report written by the UTS (Unidades de Trabajo Social - official institution of social workers) available from the Junta de Distrito where you are registered to prove that you have integrated.
    OR provide documents that demonstrate that you have immediate family members with oficial residency in Spain. You need birth or marriage certificates to prove your relationships.


Initially residence permits only last for one year. Therefore it is important to remember you have to renew it.

Is it necessary to have a work-contract to make the renewal? It depends:

  • If you have contributed 9 consecutive months of social security it is not necessary to have a confirmed contract when you present your documents.

  • If you have only contributed six months it is necessary to have a confirmed work contract.

  • If you have only contributed three months it is necessary to demonstrate that you lost your previous work contract for reasons out of your control. You also have to present the tarjeta del SAE which proves that you have been looking for a new work contract. Furthermore you need to demonstrate that you have a new work contract. It´s not obligated but it is helpful, if you demonstrate, that you made some educational course.

I am in the process of renewing my residency permit using the work contract route. When I am without a job, can I receive the unemployment benefit?

  • Yes, always if you fulfill the requirements for receiving the unemployment benefit.

These requirements are the same, as people with European nationality have.

Can I also apply for the Arraigo Social if I am officially registered as self-employed?

  • Yes you can if you provide proof of the economic viability of your project (plan de viabilidad económica) and an outline of your project. For this you have to go to the UPTA (Unión de Profesionales y Trabajadores Autónomos)


The arraigo laboral is not commonly used but it can be utile in certain cases.

What are the requirements to apply for residency and work through arraigo laboral?

  • Demonstate that you have lived in Spain for 2 consecutive years with an oficial document such as your empadronamiento.

  • You have to have worked for at least 6 months but you do not need a work contract when you apply.

  • Provide documents from a work inspection which prove that you have worked at least 6 months OR the court decision.

  • No criminal offences

So I have to sue the company?

Yes either you have to sue the company, as it is legally required that your employer gives you an official work contract, or you can call for a work inspection and they will provide you with documents which you can then present to apply for arraigo laboral. It is important while you are working without a contract to collect proof which you can then present to the court or in your work inspection to prove that you have been working for at leat 6 months. You can for example ask for receipts each time you are paid.

Can I apply for arraigo laboral if I have a deportation order?

  • Yes if you have all of the required documents for the arraigo and also at the same time you have to present an oficial appeal revoking your deportation order.


Empadronamiento is the Spanish word for the process of registering yourself as an official resident of a city or town. El Padrón Municipal is the name of the register where the names and addresses of all the residents of a city or town are listed. Anyone can apply for empadronamiento, whether or not they have Spanish nationality, and you don’t need any kind of permission. In fact, you hardly require any documentation at all. It’s advisable to register for empadronamiento because it allows you to access some social services and the public health system, depending on the region of Spain you are living in. Furthermore, in the future it will allow you to demonstrate how long you’ve been in Spain and this can help you to get residence or work permits.

Documentation needed for empadronamiento:

a. A document of identification (Passport, Tarjeta de extranjero, Cédula de

Inscripción or a document of application for asylum).

b. Written authorisation signed by your landlord, sub-letter etc. or else from the social services of the area in which you want to apply for empadronamiento (if the person in question goes with you to the Ayuntamiento or Junta Municipal, you don’t need written authorisation).

c. Official application form, this will be provided in the municipal office where you apply for empadronamiento

Where to apply for empadronamiento:

You can apply for empadronamiento in any Ayuntamiento or Junta Municipal.

Before applying for empadronamiento, remember the following:

a. It’s advisable that you give your real address, but you can also give another address (of a friend for example) as long as you give a valid address where you can receive mail. It is possible to apply for empadronamiento giving the address of a hostel, a shack, associations, caravans, vans, squares etc. It’s permitted and recognised by the law, although it may seem strange at first. If you are in such a situation go to Social Services so that they can authorise your application.

b. Your passport is valid to apply for empadronamiento. If there is any problem or you are asked for more documents you should make an official complaint. If they give you any trouble and you are in Madrid or Barcelona you can make an official complaint at the offices of SOS Racismo. For other regions and for addresses look at the topic contacts in Spain.

c. If you are an immigrant from outside the European Union you’re obliged to renew your empadronamiento every two years: REMEMBER THAT IF YOU DON´T RENEW IT YOU WILL LOOSE THE OFFICIAL RECORD OF THE TIME YOU HAVE BEEN IN SPAIN (and a record of the time you have been here is fundamental when applying for future residency documents). Only when you have permanent authorisation (for 5 years) and/ or you are from a European Union member state does this obligation not apply.

Where can I search for a job?

There is a public service for searching for work in Spain where you can access educational and advanced training services for unemployed people. To have access to these kinds of services you have to go to the Instituto de Empleo Público – INEM. They will give you information about the requirements you need to be subscribed and tell you where is your closest Oficina de Empleo.

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