Work Permit as an Employee in Spain (“Por Cuenta Ajena”)

work permit as an employee

As you may know, non-EU citizens have different options in order to legally work in Spain. The highly qualified visa, the entrepreneur residence permit… But, in this case, we are going to focus on the work permit as an employee or “por cuenta ajena”. It is for sure one of the work residencies more suitable for the vast majority of foreigners. Are you ready?

If you would like to start working for a company in Spain, then the “cuenta ajena” your work permit. You will first need to find a job offer in Spain while you are in your origin country. And this is really important. You cannot apply to this visa from Spain. 

Conversely, there is another type of work permit, the highly qualified visa, which you can get while in Spain. 

Click here if you would like to learn more about the residence permits you can get as a tourist in Spain

It will be your new employer the one starting the procedure and signing the application document. 

We are talking about a 1 year-permit that can be renewed for 2 years the first time and 2 more years the second time. From then you can get the permanent residency in Spain.


The requirements that must be met in order to get the work permit as an employee are the following ones, which can be analyzed at different levels:


  • The company from which you receive the offer must be registered on the social security and up to date with its tax duties
  • It must have been operating for a minimum of one year or to demonstrate the real need to hire a foreigner worker
  •  The number of workers and conditions. For example, if the 50% of workers in the company work part-time, the application will be denied, as it can be understood that the company is hiring a foreigner just to not pay a full-time salary to a national. 
  • The job contract you will be getting must be for a minimum of 1 year. Furthermore, a necessary condition is that this contract does not have any start date, as that must depend on the attainment of the work permit. We recommend you to include that in an additional clause within the application procedure. 
  • It must be a 40-hour per week contract. 
  • Paying, at least, the minimum legal wage.
  • It must respect the national situation of unemployment (more on this in the upcoming section)


  • You must be over 16 years old in order to get the work visa por as an employee
  • Many times, having related studies to the job position you will be developing is required
  • You can’t have any criminal background records registered (neither in Spain nor in your country of origin)
  • Having a health insurance contract is required
  • You will need to pay the corresponding fee

Do you have any doubt? Ask anything to our immigration lawyers:


In order to hire a foreigner, the first step is to submit to the Regional Government a document that accredits and demonstrates the need to hire a worker which is not a Spanish citizen; or the insufficiency of workforce within the company. 

Nevertheless, there are a few exemptions defined by the 40 LOEX article, meaning that the following ones can get a work permit as company workers without taking into consideration the national situation of unemployment:

  • Citizens from Chile and Perú
  • EU-citizens
  • Those who get their working residency through the arraigo procedure
  • Individuals born in Spain

But what does it really mean to respect the national situation of unemployment? To put it simply, that not all job offers are suitable for this work permit procedure. 

Every 3 months a catalog with job positions which are difficult to cover are published. The first thing you must do is reviewing that catalog and checking if the offer you have is inside that list. This is what is called the shortage occupation list

Another option for the employer would be going to the Generalitat and stating what the company exactly needs. After defining which is the profile you would like to hire (for example saying: “we need a graphic design engineer”), the regional government will send candidates so the company can interview them. 

If non of those applicants was hired, then the company can hire the foreigner; provided that she meets all the requirements. 

This means that the Spanish Immigration Law first favors Spanish nationals so they can find a job easily. Then, if none of them applied or none was suitable for the company needs, the spot is open for foreign workers. 


The process to get the work permit as an employee works as follows. 

First of all, you need to find a job offer int he country. Once you have that done, the employer (or a legal representative) must initiate the administrative file in Spain. 

He or she will need to submit the initial application to the Generalitat de Cataluña or to the UGE if the company has more than 500 workers. 

After that, the employer will receive the resolution. If it is favorable, you will be able to get your visa in your origin country (not in Spain). You will have 30 days to go to the Spanish consulate to solicit the visa.

Make sure to bring the favorable resolution that the employer got (signed by her), your health insurance contract and criminal records. 

It will take from 3 to 4 months until you get a positive response. 

Once you obtain it, you will have 90 days to come to Spain with your visa. Once inside, you must obtain your residency card.


In case you obtained your residence authorization through arraigo familiar or arraigo social, things will be different. 

That is due to the fact that, as this authorization implicitly has a work permit, you don’t need to realize the whole procedure we talked about before. 

You are allowed to work in Spain straightaway. 


As we have previously mentioned, the work permit as an employee or por cuenta ajena allows you to live and work one year in the country with the option to renew and extend your stay. 

But, how to do it exactly? Which are the main conditions to renew the permit?

First of all, it is a crucial requirement to have been contributing to the social security for a minimum of 6 months. That time period does not have to be recorded consecutively, but it must total 6 months. And that will be counted since the last time you entered Spain.

Furthermore, you must be listed on the social security at the renewal moment or collecting the unemployment benefits. 

You will need to accredit that the same contractual relationship that enabled you to get the work permit is still alive. For that, you must bring the job contract and your TIE. 

If the administration does not respond, silence will be considered as a favorable response. 

When should be done? 

Between 60 days before and 90 days after the expiration of your residency card. 

Can I change my job?

During the initial residence and work authorization, you can change your job position or the company you are working for. But be careful. When the renewal moment comes, you can’t change from cuenta ajena to cuenta propia (work permit as a self-employed) in order to bring your relatives to Spain. 

What will the renewal allow me to?

The renewal will allow you to live an extra 2 years in the country (the same as the following one). You will be able then to work in any job position throughout the whole Spanish territory.


Getting a work permit in Spain “por cuenta ajena” can be difficult sometimes. Making sure that you know and meet the right requirements is crucial in order to guarantee a successful application. 

While it is true that there are other residence permits that also allow you to work, often the regular work permit is the only alternative.

That is why relying on experienced immigration lawyers for the process can be really useful. 

We have been helping more than 1.000 clients with their immigration needs in Spain, and now it is time that we help you out. 

Get in touch with our lawyers and let us guide you step by step:

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work permit as an employee

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