Will Labour Reform Legalise Foreign Workers in Spain?

Securing employment as a third party national in Spain has long been notoriously difficult. Because of large unemployment figures in the country, the Spanish government has only allocated work visas to individuals whose skills were specifically listed on the priority occupations list (a very small and very specific list of professions are currently included on this list). What’s more, employees recruiting staff from overseas had to demonstrate that there was not a Spanish worker available who could fulfil the position. However new reports suggest that this could all soon change. Here’s everything you need to know about the Spanish government’s plans to relax work permit rules:

Why Are the Spanish Government Relaxing Work Permit Rules?

The Spanish government are proposing that they will relax their work permit rules, allowing foreign workers to seek employment in the country. The reason for this proposal is because the Spanish economy is currently experiencing extreme labour shortages in a range of industries. These industries include construction, technology, agriculture and tourism.

It is important to note that, under the current proposal, any visas assigned to foreign workers within these sectors will be temporary. Although there is, of course, hope that this will become a permanent policy, at this stage it is only a short-term solution to a long-term problem.

Why Are These Sectors Experiencing Labour Shortages?

The construction, technology, agriculture and tourism industries in Spain were the sectors that were hit hardest by the coronavirus pandemic. The Spanish economy (which is well known as a tourism-based economy) shrunk by 11% in 2020, as a result of the pandemic. It was the hardest hit eurozone country, in economic terms.  Now that the pandemic is abating and economic recovery from its effects has begun, these industries have been left without enough workers to support that growth.

When announcing the newly proposed visa rules, the minister for Inclusion, Social Security and Migration, Jose Luis Escriva said “We are evaluating different aspects of the migration law and where there is room to improve it...it is not agile enough to respond to the bottlenecks in Spain’s labour market.”

Who Will Be Impacted by This Decision?

Initially, the government intends to allow approximately 50,000 non-EU students to work alongside their studies. This is great news for students who might not otherwise be able to fund their studies, and will give the tourism industry the boost it needs, with many students seeking bar or restaurant work, as this evening work fits best around their day-time study schedule.

Other individuals who may find it easier to secure a visa to work in Spain are  those who can prove a previous connection to Spain through residence, family or at least two years of work, even if that work was informal. So if, for example, you resided in Spain before the UK made the decision to leave the EU due to the 90 day in 180 visa rule, this might give you the basis you need to apply for a work visa in the country.

Spanish companies will be allowed to hire from abroad and will not need to jump through the hoops that they used to to prove that is not a suitable Spanish job seeker for the role. But it is important to note that this is just a draft decree at this stage, and that this draft is subject to change as it is given to different ministries and those ministries share their inputs and opinions.

It is estimated that approximately 500,000 migrants currently live in Spain without work visas, and in irregular situations. This degree should also make it easier for these migrants to secure work visas and therefore to find employment.

What Kind of Jobs Will Be Available?

The draft reform includes a detailed list of the jobs in which there are vacancies that desperately need to be filled. The four jobs at the top of this list are:

  • Delivery drivers
  • Software developers
  • Sales Representatives
  • Telemarketers

There are also huge gaps in the tourism sector for entry level roles, including employees to clean hotel rooms, wait tables, and other roles that are essential to the running and maintenance of tourism facilities. This is an employment gap that is being experienced throughout Europe.

This decision is primarily an economic one from the Spanish government, but there can be no denying that for the huge number of irregular immigrants and students already residing in the country, this decision will make life considerably easier.


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