Saturday, June 7, 2008

Some options for non-Europeans to live and work in Spain for a year

The EU continues to debate new laws and regulations for combatting illegal immigration in Europe. The bad news is that Nicolas Sarkozy, who will take on the EU presidency for six months starting on July 1, seems determined to use his term to pass through some tough anti-immigration laws. The good news is that Spain opposes many of Sarkosy's proposals, and it appears that Zapatero is maintaining his generally "friendly" attitude towards immigrants. However, there's no doubt that certain changes will come about that will make life more difficult for illegal immigrants in Spain and throughout Europe.

So what does this mean if you're a non-European who wants to live and work in Spain? If you just want to come to Spain for a year, you can probably "risk" being an illegal immigrant. The chances of being caught are pretty slim, as long as you don't get into trouble with the police for some other reason. While the Spanish police sometimes do random ID/passport checks on the streets, they generally target people who look South American or African. I do know some British people who've had their IDs checked, but obviously it wasn't a problem for them as they were EU citizens.

The more likely way they would catch you is at the border. Even then, it's unlikely. If you're clean and reasonably well-dressed, and you're carrying a U.S., Canadian, or Australian passport, for example, they usually just stamp your passport without even really looking at it. But there's always the chance that they could examine your passport entry and exit stamps and see that you have been in Spain for too long. If you don't want to risk any problems, just don't leave Spain once your initial 90-day legal period in the EU has expired. In other words, take advantage of your weekends and puentes in the first three months to travel outside of Spain, and then commit yourself to spending the rest of the year in Spain. There are enough great places to visit in Spain that you really don't need to leave the country!

Another option for North Americans who want to work in Spain for a year is to apply to be a North American Teaching Assistant. I know of two programs: one is with Fulbright España for one-year teaching posts in Madrid and the other is through the Ministerio de Educación for one-year teaching posts in different cities and towns in Spain. The Fulbright program pays much better than the Spanish Ministry of Education's program. However, if you want to live and work legally outside of Madrid, you'd have to apply for the Ministry of Education's program. The pay is not very good, but you get to stay in Spain legally for almost a year and can thus travel freely throughout Europe.

It's too late to apply for the 2008-2009 schoolyear for either program, but if you want to work legally in Spain, it's worth keeping these teaching programs in mind for the 2009-2010 schoolyear.

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