Find out how to get one of the most favorable work visas if you are a foreigner with higher education and a job offer as a manager or in a technical position in the Spanish territory! In this post you will discover the complete list of requirements you will have to meet, the documents to submit, and the step-by-step application process to get the work permit as a highly qualified worker in Spain.
In addition, by the time you finish this article, you will fully understand all the benefits of this residency card, how and when to renew it, and how it differs from the EU blue card.
What is a highly qualified professional visa?
The Highly Qualified Visa or Highly Skilled Professional Visa is a work permit that enables citizens from outside the European Union to live and work in Spain legally, as long as they find a job offer in a Spanish company under a qualified or technical position, or as a manager directing people.
Thus, in this case, there is no single rule that applies in all cases. Depending on how the requirements are fulfilled (which we will explore below), your professional profile may fit in the application for this work residence.
Which are, then, the labor profiles that would be eligible to apply for this work permit as a highly skilled professional?
- Managers and chief officers who manage a relatively large group of people inside a company
- Individuals who work in really technical and specialized job positions (which require prior knowledge and training)
- Non-EU citizens who finished their superior studies in a prestigious business school or university
We are talking about a two-year residency authorization that can be renewed successively until finally achieving permanent or long-term residency.
It is also worth mentioning that this visa is not aimed at freelancers, entrepreneurs or “autónomos”.
The permit as highly qualified is regulated by the law 14/2013, created to support Entrepreneurs and their Internalization in Spain, specifically in article number 71.
Therefore, the main particularity of this permit is that it is not regulated by the general immigration law, so all applications are in charge of the UGE (the Large Company and Strategic Sector Unit in Spain).
Main benefits of this visa
In addition to allowing you to live and work legally in Spain, the highly qualified worker visa also offers other benefits:
- You will be able to move freely within the Schengen Area
- Bring your family to Spain with you through a joint application
- The years under this residency count toward Spanish nationality
- You will be able to work in any region of Spain
- You can get this visa directly from Spain after entering the country as a tourist
- This card is valid in 25 of the 27 EU countries (not valid in Denmark and Ireland).
What is the difference with the EU Blue Card?
Many foreigners tend to confuse the two, but the truth is that they are two different cards.
While it is true that both work permits are aimed at professionals with qualified profiles, the visa as a highly qualified worker only allows you to work in Spain.
But that is not the only difference.
Both residences differ in terms of application requirements (although others are common); mainly regarding the salary requirement.
The EU blue card requires a salary of 1 to 1.5 times the average gross annual salary of the EU country in which you wish to work, while the highly qualified requires a salary of more than 50,000 euros per year.
University or higher qualifications are a common requirement for both authorizations.
Requirements for the work permit as a highly qualified worker
Finding a job offer in Spain is one thing, but being eligible for a highly skilled professional visa is another.
Then, how can you make sure that your concrete situation matches what the Spanish immigration law requires to successfully obtain this residence permit?
Below we will review all the main requirements and professional profiles aligned with what’s established under the Entrepreneur’s Law:
First of all, and as how we mentioned before, you should take a look at your profile at the academic level.
One of the main reasons that the Immigration Office declines applications for this kind of visas is because the applicant has not studied in a prestigious university or business school.
Therefore, if you would like to obtain a highly qualified visa, it is completely recommended to have completed a master’s degree or a Ph.D. at any university accepted by the UGE or at a popular business school.
In addition, it is essential that the tasks you are going to develop in the company are closely related to those studies.
The company you will be working for
If you have an advanced profile with a master’s or Ph.D., the next thing to consider would be the company you will be working for, another crucial factor.
Which kind of company is a perfect fit for this residence permit?
- Large business and corporate groups. There are several factors that determine that your company is considered big enough, and it should just meet one of them. We are talking about factors such as the company having more than 250 employees, that it generates more than 50M € in revenue per year, or that it has net assets valued higher than 43M€. There are other factors such as foreign investment and stock valuation also to be considered.
- You work for a Small or Medium Enterprise (SME), but the company operates in a strategic sector for the country. That is something certified by the Directorate-General for Trade and Investment. Which are the sectors that would roughly fit here? Renewable energies, communication, technologies, water treatment… just to mention a few.
- The project that the company develops must be aligned with the socioeconomic interest of Spain. Mainly, this implies that the company generates employment over time and that its activity contributes to the technological and innovative development of the country.
Do you have any doubts so far? Ask anything to our lawyers here and get an instant answer:
The tasks you will be performing at the company
Finally, the last part: your work inside the company. It is not enough that you have a skilled profile or that the company is aligned with the socio-economic development of Spain. Your concrete tasks also matter, and in a deep sense.
There are two main options here.
The first situation is that in which you are going to execute a managerial position in a company operating in Spain. This is, if you are a large corporate employer.
On the other hand, you do not hold a managerial position, but the concrete tasks you perform are regarded as highly skilled. In this case, the job description that you are going to send to the competent authority is really important.
It must clearly state how those specific tasks are regarded as advanced. There is no specific guideline here, but dealing with hundreds of clients worldwide has taught us how to specifically prepare this documentation.
Therefore, if you would like to make sure you successfully obtain your residence permit as a highly-skilled professional after the application, we would really recommend that you let us help with all the required forms.
Your earnings: the salary requirement
If you go through the Immigration Law regarding work permits and highly qualified professionals, you will now find clauses related to the minimum amount of money you should be earning in the country for your application to be successful.
And this is really important.
How much should you be earning? It depends:
- If you get a job offer as a manager/director, a minimum of 54.000€ per year is required.
- If you are a scientific or intellectual professional, that amount gets reduced to 40.000€ per year.
Finally, you must take into consideration that the variable part of your salary won’t be considered for the total amount.
However, there are some cases in which your annual salary may be lower than the established if you meet certain requirements, being able to enjoy a 25% reduction coefficient of the legal base to be applied:
- If the application comes from an SME (small and medium-sized enterprises) belonging to a strategic sector that must be accredited by a favorable report from the Directorate General of International Trade and Investment
- That the highly qualified professional application is from a person under 30 years of age.
Only by fulfilling these two previous requirements will you be able to apply for this visa with the criterion of the reduction of the established remuneration base.
Finally, there is also the possibility that your company will pay you part of your salary in kind. In this sense, if your job offer includes part of the salary in kind, it cannot represent more than 30% of your total salary.
You are hired by the university or by the government
Finally, we wanted to address this additional situation, one that does not fit any of the before-mentioned cases.
You do not necessarily need to have a job offer from a company to obtain a highly qualified visa. You can also have an offer by a public institution such as a University or the Government to be eligible too.
If you have a job offer from any of those institutions to conduct research for them, and operate as a teacher or a technician, you can also apply for this special type of residency.
Other general requirements for successful application
Presenting the right documentation is not enough. There are certain requirements you will also need to meet:
- You must be over 18 years old.
- This work permit is for non-European Union citizens, as EU nationals do not need to apply for a regular residence permit.
- You will need to present your background check, therefore you cannot have criminal records (neither in Spain nor in any other country). Access a complete guide on how to request this certificate here.
- Having contracted social security insurance that offers full coverage in Spain (whether it is from a public or a private institution) is also mandatory.
- You can’t be residing in Spain in an irregular situation.
Required documents to apply for the highly skilled visa
As with all the residence permits in Spain, there are some documents that are common to any visa and some specific ones.
In order to apply for the highly qualified work permit you will need to submit the following documents to the immigration office:
- ID photo (passport type).
- Passport (original) and a copy. You should bear in mind that the passport cannot be more than 10 years old.
- Document proving that you have sufficient funds.
- A document certifying that you have paid the required fees.
- A description of the job you are going to develop in Spain. Here is when stating how qualified the job position plays an important role.
- Applicant’s resume (CV).
- It also helps to provide an advanced degree from a prestigious university or prestigious school, if the applicant possesses it.
How to apply for the work permit as a highly-skilled worker step by step
Now you know which is the documentation you will need to present and what requirements you should meet.
The next question is: how to do it? How can I get my work permit in Spain?
First of all, and perhaps the most important thing, you must have a job offer in Spain. Once a company in the country has an interest in you, you can start with the process.
Then, you will need to get a residence visa (a regular residence permit). And you have two options here.
In the one hand, you can apply while residing in Spain, provided that you hold a regular situation in the country. On the other hand, you can also apply while being abroad (in your origin country). In that last case, the application must be summited to the Spanish Consulate of your country. The processing of your application can last up to 10 days.
You will need to submit this application form.
Once obtained, it will grant you residency for one year. What happens next? How can you still work and live in Spain?
Once that year ends, you can apply for residence authorization. It takes 20 days of processing, and it will grant you residency for 3 years. You can find the document to do the application here.
You can renew this authorization, provided that the original conditions are still met, for up to 5 years.
Can your employer apply for this work residency for you?
Yes. If you are in a regular situation in Spain, your employer can initiate the procedure for you.
Where should you apply and submit the required documents?
The Large Business and Strategic Sectors Unit will be the institution in charge of validating that you truly hold a highly skilled job position. This unit is part of the General Direction of Migrations.
Therefore, you will need to submit your resume and job description to them.
If you meet their specific requirements, you will get what is called an “authorization of residence for highly qualified professionals”. That could be then submitted to the Immigration Office to get, finally, your Spanish residency.
Can you include your spouse and children in your application?
As you may know, when you apply for a Spanish residence permit you can do a joint application. This means that the main applicant can also obtain a residence permit in Spain for their family (spouse and children).
In the case of the highly skilled professional visa, both spouse and children must submit the same application as they would if they were family members of an investor, including the same documentation that would be necessary in that case.
How to manage the process if you already have a job and you are simply moving to Spain to work for the same company
Let’s say that you already hold a job position as a highly qualified worker in your country. But the company you work for wants to relocate you to Spain.
In that case, you should apply for an intra-corporate transfer visa. The process and requirements for the application are completely different, as it has its own nuances. Furthermore, it has preferential processing, if you are eligible, you will be able to obtain that residence authorization faster than any other permit.
And that applies both to individuals working on a multinational that are transferred from one country to another (Spain); and individuals who are transferred from another company inside the same group.
Renewal of the highly qualified visa
As we have already mentioned above, this residence authorization is valid for three years.
In this section, we will explore what you should keep in mind in case you want to renew this visa after the end of those 3 years and hence continue living in the Spanish territory.
In this sense, it is important that during the whole validity of your initial authorization you have worked for the same company and fulfilled the same functions that originated the granting of the residency card.
Once the card expires, you must initiate the renewal procedure within 60 days prior or within 90 days after the expiration of the card
However, it is more advisable to renew within 60 days before the card expires, since the Large Business Unit has the power to sanction you if the card expires.
The following are the 2 main requirements you must meet for the renewal:
- Proof of compliance with the requirements that gave rise to the initial authorization. For this purpose, the UGE will check in the SILCON platform contributions 1 and 2 (contribution base and time contributed to Social Security) to verify that you have effectively received the minimum salary established.
- Provide all the necessary documents that can prove that the employment relationship is maintained and that you are still working for the same company, under the same conditions, with the same salary, with the same functions, and the same position.
What happens if I change the company associated with my card?
Although it is not very common, in some cases the foreigner changes the company she was been working for (but performing a similar position), or the company transitions into a merger or acquisition that generates a new corporation.
What should you do in those cases?
In that case, and if you want to keep your card as highly qualified you must communicate the change to the Large Companies and Strategic Collectives Unit under the terms established in the seventh additional provision of Law 14/2013 of September 27.
But apart from that, if you wish to continue to be the holder of the authorization, you must submit a new application.
This application would grant you a new initial authorization with its full duration (2 years) if the requirements to be considered a highly qualified worker continue to be met.
Likewise, a new initial authorization is also requested and issued in the case of a change of company when both companies belong to the same corporate group.
However, in this previous case, the residence authorization would be renewed for the remaining period of time left, provided that an absorption or merger of companies takes place (established in article 44 of the workers’ statute).
From student visa to highly qualified professional work visa
Finally, there is something you must also consider. Because, if you have been studying for one year in Spain with your student visa you can get your work permit as a highly qualified worker.
The requirements in terms of the job position are still the same, but the legal procedure is a bit simpler.
Let us help you obtain this working visa!
After reading this post, you may still have some doubts regarding your particular case. In that case, we will be glad to answer them. You just need to send us an email at [email protected] and we will solve all your doubts as soon as possible!
On the other hand, maybe you need help applying for the highly skilled work permit and/or preparing the documentation in the right way. We can help you!
We have helped over 1000 clients get their residence permit in Spain and that is what we specialize in. Therefore, if you would like to successfully apply for this visa and get it FAST, let us be in charge of everything. We will eliminate all the hassle for you!