Tuesday, January 8, 2008

How to become legal in Spain

I’m told there was a time when non-Europeans could get their working papers to teach English in Madrid. Unfortunately, that time has come and gone. It’s now incredibly difficult to find a place that can and will sponsor you for a working permit as an EFL teacher, particularly in a place like Madrid.

The basic problem is that Spanish companies can only be approved to offer jobs to non-EU passport holders if one of two conditions is met:

1) the non-EU applicant meets all of the requirements specified in the job offer/description and no equally qualified Spaniards or Europeans have applied for the job; or

2) the job is listed in the government’s catalog of difficult-to-cover jobs, published every trimester.

In the first case, the problem is that any English language academy that advertises jobs looking for native English speakers will have plenty of applicants from the UK as well as non-Europeans lucky enough to have an EU passport via a parent or grandparent. The only hope is that an academy specifically requires, for example, speakers of American English. Or that the academy is unable to attract legal workers due to a bad location, bad salary, or other unattractive conditions.

The second option is much easier, but it won’t get you a legal job teaching English – at least not for a year or so. Most of the jobs in the catalog are for cleaning, working with the elderly, cooking, etc. If you can find a Spanish friend to request permission to hire you as, for example, their housemaid, you may be able to get your initial working papers. Some people do this and simply work as an English teacher, getting paid under the table, and forking over the money for taxes to their sponsor. (You don’t actually work as a housemaid – as long as the taxes are paid, apparently nobody really cares.) After a year, you can apply for different jobs in the same province.

Another option is to find someone who can create a job specifically for you – for example, if you are a 28-year-old tri-lingual Canadian with five years of work experience in New York, a company could post a job offer seeking a person in the age range of 25-30, educated at a Canadian university, with experience in the North American corporate world, and fluent in Spanish, English, and French. Chances are, not many EU passport holders will fit the bill. After advertising the job unsuccessfully for a few weeks, the company can request permission from the government to offer the job to you.

Two important things to remember for all three of these potential routes to gaining legal working status in Spain:

The more people you know, the better your chances. Meet as many Spanish people as you can, and let them know that you’re serious about staying in Spain. You never know who might be willing to help.

– If you plan on going for legal status, be careful about overstaying your 3-month limits in Spain. In the past (or so I’m told), you only had to hand in a photocopy of the first page of your passport when applying for a work visa – so they didn’t know or care if you had been in Spain illegally for 3 years. When I applied for my visa, I had to turn in a photocopy of every page of my passport, and I was advised that my application would likely be denied if I had been in Spain illegally. Fortunately, I had recently acquired a new passport, so it wasn’t a problem.


Katie said...

Dear eslhell and jbs,

Sorry, I'm not sure if you've said your names in your blog, I'm new to your site. I'm looking for any advice as far as getting started in a TEFL career. (Although I must say, with a name like "ESL hell" I'm not sure how much positive info there is to give me! haha)

I will graduate from college in May of this year with a double degree in Spanish and English. I have an (unpaid) internship this semester teaching ESL and I love it! I've also studied abroad in Madrid, Spain for a semester and I'm dying to go back. (Actually, I'm headed back to Madrid over my college's spring vacation with resume/cover letter in hand to meet with some of the TEFL certification program directors fact to face.

Any advice would be greatly appreciated. I love your site, it's very helpful!


leahb said...

This information is very bad. It is not true that you can't get a teaching job without legal status. Many GOOD academies will hire you without papers, I know of 2 that I work for now. Plus there is so many private classes out there. So don't listen to this person! It's not true, you will find a job no problem!

musica said...

Hello leahb,

Thanks for visiting my blog! I think you misread my post. I never said you couldn't get a teaching job without legal status. In fact, I taught for many years in Spain through academies and private classes, much like you. This post is referring specifically to working papers, which give you the right to work legally in Spain. Non-EU passport holders who want to teach legally in Spain need working papers, which are hard to come by.

Ella Surtida said...

Yeah this is true to non-EU people.

Sabuz said...

I'm staying outside of Spain but I want to make my papers in Spain. One of my Spanish friend told me that he will sponsor me. But now what types of documents do I need to apply ?