Coming to the Costa del Sol to Work

This guide was written by Manzanares Abogados S.L. (info@manzanaresinternational.com) in collaboration with Guides.Global (office@guides.global).

It was written on 09 May 2016. The law and practice in Spain change all the time. Our guides are updated as frequently as possible - typically every three years - but may be out of date.

Our guides are prepared by professionals from many countries. They are, of necessity, both brief and general and can take no account of your personal circumstances. They are intended to be a good introduction to the subject BUT ARE NO SUBSTITUTE FOR PROPER PROFESSIONAL ADVICE, which our contributors will usually be happy to provide upon request.

The advice and opinions contained in the guides are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Guides.Global.

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The scope of this guide

This guide covers the visas you'll need to work in the Costa del Sol. It does not cover the visas you will need to start a business in the Costa del Sol - for this, see our Guide to Coming to the Costa del Sol to Run your Own Business.


Whether you just want a summer job in the Costa del Sol or you wish to to settle down and work on the country for good, you'll need a visa. Unfortunately, work visas in Spain are not very easy to obtain.

Short term visits to work in the Costa del Sol

For the purposes of this guide, by “work”, we mean working in paid employment on the Costa del Sol. This does not include coming to Spain for business purposes (e.g. meeting clients or to discuss business opportunities). For that, see below.

To come to Spain for short-term employment (less than one year) you need a short term work visa.

This must be obtained, in advance, from the Consulate of Spain nearest to where you live.

To apply for a visa you must have a written offer of employment (such as short term contract, training contract, or management contract).

Whether it is easy or impossible to obtain such a visa depends upon what you want to do by way of work.

It is relatively easy to obtain short-term visas to work in areas where there is a labour shortage. This includes harvesting olives during the short harvest period, from mid-September to mid-October.

Short-term visas for office work in Spain are extremely hard to obtain.

The national employment must allow for the foreign worker to be hired, or there must be proof of the worker being in certain circumstances. See this web page (in English) for more details.

How long does it take?

Obtaining a short-term work visa is theoretically doable in a month, but I highly recommend that you start the process at least three months in advance. Delays happen often.

Coming to the Costa del Sol to do business

People wishing to visit Spain to meet clients and/or discuss business are allowed to do so as tourists.

Long-term visas to work on the Costa del Sol

These visas are very difficult to obtain. There is a high level of unemployment in Spain and the government wishes to protect local jobs.

However, there are some exceptions. Every year the government produces a list of job categories in which it considers there are shortages. These are, in the main, highly skilled jobs requiring high level qualifications. You can view the current list here (select 'Malaga' from the drop-down list for information on the Costa del Sol). Malaga province, where the Costa del Sol is located, is mainly in need of naval workers.

If you have the required qualifications and a written offer of employment you may be granted a visa in this category. It will last for either one or two years and is renewable provided there is still a recognised shortage of labour in the field.

How long does it take?

Around three months for the standard working permit - for the highly skilled jobs it can take only 10 working days.

Permenant settlement on the Costa del Sol

There are many different categories of settlement visa. The rules can be confusing. worse still, the rules do not contain all the 'rules'! There are various requirements in the rules that are no longer followed in practice; and there are 'unofficial' requirements with which you will have to comply despite the fact that they are mentioned nowhere in the immigration rules.

There are five main groups of visas allowing permanent settlement in Spain: settlement to join existing family members, settlement to work, settlement to engage in business, settlement based on investment in Spain and settlement on retirement or for people who are 'not economically active' (not working, basically).

If you have been living and working in Spain for at least five years your temporary long-term work visa will be converted into a permanent work visa.

Taking legal advice from an immigration expert is highly recommended. It is almost certain to save you both money and time. It could also open your eyes to some possibilities you had previously not considered.

Expats' Tips

Have you got experience working in the Costa del Sol? Tell us about it by emailing office@guides.global.


Getting a visa to work on the Costa del Sol is tricky, but in some cases it is possible. See a specialist immigration lawyer to increase your chances.

Other guides of interest

 Description Link 
Immigration, Visas & Residence in the Costa del Sol
This guide gives details of the immigration rules in Spain. It covers immigration for settlement when joining relatives, immigration to work or do business, immigration based on investment in Spain and immigration for retirement. It also covers short term visits to Spain.
golden visas in the Costa del Sol
Starting a Business on the Costa del Sol
This guide covers all the basics for a foreigner wanting to start a business on the Costa del Sol.
Starting a Business in the Costa del Sol
Cultural Differences on the Costa del Sol
This guide is about some of the main cultural differences you're likely to come up against on the Costa del Sol.
cultural differences in the Costa del Sol

You may also want to read:

 Description Link 
Jobs for foreigners on the Costa del Sol
Job listings targeted towards foreigners
Jobs for foreigners

Readers' Comments


Further information?

We hope you have found this guide useful. If you need any further help, please contact us.

Manzanares Abogados S.L.

09 May 2016


This guide was co-authored by John Howell (Email: John.Howell@Guides.Global or John@jhco.org. Web: www.jhco.org or www.Guides.Global)

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