Working in Spain as an International Student

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This article is written in conjunction with the IE Law Society.

College is undoubtedly expensive. With payments ranging from necessities like tuition, food and rent to luxuries like a coffee at the IE tower or a ticket for Irish in Segovia, money can disappear quickly. When facing a dwindling bank account, or the opportunity for paid internships and career related employment, you may find yourself asking: 

Can I Work in Spain as an International and Non-EU Student? 

The short answer is yes. As an international student with a NIE (Número de Identificación de Extranjero) card, which any foreign student presumably has if they have not yet been deported, you can work anywhere in Spain for up to 30 hours per week. 

It is important to note that any NIE card issued after the 16th of August 2022 has “Autoriza a trabajar” printed on it, authorizing its owner to work with that document alone. If your NIE card was issued before that date, you must apply for the “Compatibility of Work and Studies.” The instructions to complete this process can be found here, under the section “Apply for the compatibility of studies and work.” However, given that NIE cards are renewed annually in the fall, this is likely not an issue for any current IE students.

The only additional step, for both cards issued before and after the 16th, is that in some cases of documented employment your official employer must file for a permit on your behalf, and a small fee must be paid. However, this will be carried out by your employer if necessary. 

The Two Main Limitations on Working 

There still remains two main limitations on working. It is made expressly clear by the Spanish government that your student visa was issued with the purpose of you being first and foremost a student. Because of this, it is expressly stated that your ability to work in Spain is a “complement” to your student visa, not a main priority. This focus on academics brings restrictions on your ability to work. 

The first of these restrictions being that all employment must be explicitly part time, and that it is strictly prohibited for any work hours to overlap with class time. Thus it is essentially illegal, a violation of the terms of a student visa, to skip class for work, to be listed as a full-time employee or to work more than 30 hours in a single week. 

The second limitation is that of the economic requirements when renewing your NIE card each year. To renew a residency as an international student, one requirement is to provide banking statements that show possession of at least 550 euros. Unfortunately, the money made while working part-time under a student visa does not count towards this 550 euro standard. With the design to keep studies the main priority of students, it is expressly stated that your part-time work in Spain cannot be your main source of income. So to fulfill this economic standard for NIE renewal, you must rely on savings, money you have made in your home country, or other sources.

Internships and Student Visas 

Fortunately, the question of internships for students has very simple answers. If your internship is curricular, you are in the clear. This applies to things like the IE Labs. Internships and programs like the labs, that take place outside of your courses but are organized and directed through IE, whether paid or not, are considered a part of your studies and no further work is required (for example, the IE Legal Clinic). Even though you are connected to a non-IE organization to do legal work, since it is a curricular activity it falls under the umbrella of your studies. Because of this, no concern about working as an international student is necessary. 

Extracurricular internships are a different case. These are internships that are sought out and acquired on your own, entirely separate from IE. They follow the same requirements and limitations of any other part-time work in Spain. So for any concerns regarding an internship separate from IE, when approaching it from a legal perspective treat it as if it was any other form of part-time work. 

An International Perspective… How Does Working in Spain Compare?

When compared to the labor laws of other nations, particularly those in the Schengen zone where you, an IE student, may have considered studying, Spain appears completely normal. The maximum of 30 hours per week for students is in fact relatively high compared to the typical 20 of other nations. The “academics first” mindset is also very typical of labor laws for students in other European countries. The only downsides of working as a student in Spain is the inability to use that money for the economic requirements to maintain a visa, thus requiring students to procure money from their home countries to maintain their residency. 

From a non-legal perspective, however, Spain seems like a great place to work when considering the amazing siesta culture. 

Additional Information 

Here, you can find additional information and contact the Spanish government directly for specific questions. 

Sources Used 

  • immigrationspain.es – Can I Work in Spain with a Student Visa? 
  • schengenvisainfo.com – Which EU Countries Allow Non-EU Students to Work While Studying & What Are the Rules? (Please note that this source on Schengen nations has not been properly updated to include the fall 2022 change from a maximum of 20 work hours per week to 30)
  • healthplanspain.com – Can You Work in Spain with a Student Visa?

Featured image courtesy of Unsplash.com

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