Advice on Getting a Job in Barcelona as a Foreigner

Moving to Barcelona is a dream but finding employment here can be a nightmare if you don’t have the facts and specifics.

I’m often asked for advice on getting a job in Barcelona. People wonder how our family ended up moving abroad. And the truth is, we had my husband’s job as the vehicle which got us here and helped support our family’s life. We are expats. But what do you do if you’re someone that dreams of moving to this city but worries about finding employment?

My husband, who has a career in Human Resources sees outstanding resumes cross his desk every day. And unfortunately they usually end up where all the others do – in a big pile. “Years ago a strong resume and a firm handshake could get you far, but these days it barely gets you through the interview door,” he says. No matter where in the world you live or are dreaming of moving to, the job market will be competitive and difficult.

So you must be prepared and won’t get very far just by winging it, right?

I’m simply amazed (and in awe!) at how many people move abroad with no job. I’ve met more families here in Barcelona than I can count who just decided one day to pickup and move overseas – without any real plan for employment. Wouldn’t we all love to be this free-spirited?? (And have that much saved up in the bank!)

They decided they needed a change and chose Barcelona to fulfill their next dreams. Not a bad decision, I must admit. But after the first few months of the “honeymoon phase”, the awe and excitement does wear off. And it comes time to begin thinking about how to financially support your Barcelona lifestyle.

Everyone’s situation will of course vary based on your profession and the type of visa you get. But generally speaking, these are some of the specifics you need to look out for.


Advice on Getting a Job in Barcelona as an Expat

How to Apply

This article will cover the specific documentation you need in order to legally work in Barcelona as well as some language and cultural things to be aware of. In terms of the formality of actually applying for a job, I also felt that was important to cover – since some “critical” elements of applying for a job in other countries simply aren’t important here.

Once you find the job you wish to apply for, it is important to send both your resume and CV in your first language as well as Spanish. This should be done regardless of if the job itself requires Spanish language skills or not. It is a fairly simple courtesy that will never hurt, and can only help!

You’ll also need to include in your CV your marital status, place of birth and a professional passport sized photo as part of your ‘personal’ section. If you have a family it’s normal to say how many children you have, and also give other relevant details like whether you have a driving license. These things are never normally included in a CV when applying for a job in the U.S!

If you’re applying in English, for an English speaking job, then of course it’s most likely that you’ll be interviewed in English. But if your job will involve even a little Spanish, the interview might be used as an opportunity to check out your language skills. Best to practice in advance.

More on Language

I should start by saying the advice in this article is geared towards English-speaking foreigners who have an understanding or proficiency in Spanish. Although Catalan is the primary language spoken in Barcelona/Catalunya, you’ll get by just fine knowing Spanish.

Locals of course prefer you speak Catalan, but let’s be honest – it’s a language that is only used here, in the country of Andorra and one tiny village in Italy. So don’t let that intimidate you, to start.

Your best bet if you DON’T have any knowledge of Spanish, is to try and find a position at one of the giant international companies here such as Nestle or Google. That’s for someone with a corporate background and skill set of course. Otherwise, you may be limited to hotel jobs in Barcelona, or to bars and restaurants (waitressing, dish-washing, food delivery).

In addition, perhaps a nanny job for a family will suit you. This could include living accommodations with the family (definite bonus!) plus weekly pay. Not to mention you’ll receive a real immersive experience learning the local language while teaching English to the family.

One last option for finding employment if Spanish is not your strong suit is teaching English online to students in other parts of the world. Check out this article from Teachaway about 8 Amazing Companies to Teach English Online with.  In Barcelona, there are many British English language teachers but not as many American ones; sometimes employers have accent preferences. Getting an ‘English as a second language’ teaching certification (ESL) boosts your chances of being hired.


From a cultural standpoint, there are some definite things to be aware of. In Barcelona, the Catalan people are quite proud of their work and are known to put in a full day’s worth, unlike the majority of the workforce in Spain. They tend to view work as a necessary evil and anxiously await the nearest lunch break or bank holiday.

That being said, however, Catalans tend to be very lax in their work attire and a sundress with sandals in the summer for women is perfectly acceptable. Men are also permitted to wear a much more casual outfit than suit and tie. Khaki pants and a golf shirt is fine, unless your day includes more formal meetings with clients. When we moved here, my husband brought all his tailored corporate suits – and they are still sitting in his closet wrapped in plastic!

While the Catalans do value their work, they don’t typically get into the office in the morning until after 9am. Which is late for someone from the U.S. who typically arrives no later than 8:30am. The Catalans also don’t leave their places of work until about 6:30pm, sometimes 7:00pm. So clearly the hours are different here and something a foreigner will need to get used to.


Now onto the less exciting but equally important part of finding employment in Barcelona – documents! Anyone that’s lived here as a foreigner for more than one month will quickly complain about the amount of bureaucracy Barcelona entails. Just applying for a child’s bus card can take up to a week’s time! So staying organized and knowing exactly what’s needed will help save lots of time!

Social Security Number (Numero de Seguridad Social)

Whether you are an EU citizen or not, everyone that wishes to work in Spain will require a Social Security Number. Why? So they can pay the appropriate taxes to the Spanish government, duh! To get a Número de afiliación a la Seguridad Social, you will need to fill in Form TA.1 in Spanish and take it to your nearest local office of the General Social Security Treasury or Tesorería General de la Seguridad Social.

NIE (Numero de Identidad de Extranjero)

This number is also useful for paying taxes and opening a bank account for your salary. The process of getting a Spanish NIE number is not actually super difficult but you’ll need to apply at your local police station and bring a series of documents with you (yes, more friekin documents!) such as the original and photocopy of your passport, a photocopy of your employment letter, a completed Form EX-18 (original and photocopy as well!) and completed Form 790 authorizing 10.71 euro payment for the NIE.


This certificate basically means you are registered with Town Hall as a resident permitted to live in Barcelona. For this, of course, you need to be able to provide a current address in your name. For this appointment, you must go to your local Ayuntamiento, or City Council (getting an appointment can sometimes take weeks so do not put this one off!). Other documents you will need to bring with you for the empadronamiento appointment are passport, work contract, utility bill in your name, birth certificate (original and photocopy as well as translated in Spanish), and NIE.

Health Card (CAP)

While the job you are applying for may already provide some sort of private health coverage, you must still register with the Spanish public health system and receive a CAP Salud card. You must go to your nearest health centre (centro de salud) and ask to sign up. Just show a valid NIE or ID and they will provide you with a doctor where you can go any time you get sick. Your tarjeta sanitaria Spanish health card will arrive by post in a few days.


First off, you must be at least 16 years of age to get legal approval to work in Spain. EU/EEA (European Economic Area) and Swiss citizens are allowed to work in Barcelona without requiring a Spanish work permit. People coming from any other country, however, typically need a Spanish visa along with the NIE.

To get a work visa for Barcelona, a company or employer must officially hire you first. They then arrange a work permit on your behalf through the Dirección Provincial de Trabajo, Seguridad Social y Asuntos Sociales. Once you have a work permit, then you can take the next step and apply for a Spanish work permit.

The application for the permit should be sent to the Foreigner’s office (Oficinas de Extranjeros) or to the provincial office of the Ministry of Labour (Delegación Provincial del Ministerio de Trabajo) if you are already in Spain. If you’re not in Spain yet, you should send your application to the Spanish Consular office in your country.

The documents you must present when applying for work visa authorization are a copy of your Passport, a criminal records check, official medical certificate, 3 passport photographs, NIE and the employer’s Social Security registration number, offer of employment, and lastly a description of the company and their activities.