Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Vivamus convallis sem tellus, vitae egestas felis vestibule ut.

Error message details.

Reuse Permissions

Request permission to republish or redistribute SHRM content and materials.

Spain's Highly Qualified Work Permit Changes

A city street in madrid, spain.

​In 2009, the European Union (EU) adopted a directive that established the EU Blue Card, a highly qualified work permit recognized throughout the EU that was designed to attract foreign workers and give member states flexibility with implementation. While there have been follow-up directives in the years since, the EU Blue Card and local highly qualified work permits have coexisted throughout EU countries, including Spain, for years.

"The highly qualified professional category responds to the need to attract talent to the different European Union member states, because the population is getting older," said Pamela Mafuz, an attorney with Baker McKenzie in Madrid.

Recent changes to the Spanish Highly Qualified Work Permit have made it more widely available, while new requirements for the Blue Card have made it easier to use.

Two Permits for Highly Qualified Workers in Spain

In Spain, there are different requirements for the Spanish Highly Qualified Work Permit and the EU Blue Card. It's important for both employees and employers to be aware of the options available when applying for work permits, as well as the recent changes to the permits. 

"The possible pool of potential applicants has been extended, given that non-EU nationals with either a level of education equivalent to level 1 of the Spanish Qualifications Framework for Higher Education or at least three years of relevant professional experience can now qualify for this permit," said Paz de la Iglesia Andres, an attorney with DLA Piper in Madrid.

New legislation has removed the size and turnover requirements for companies, she noted. Therefore, the permit is now available for small- and medium-sized companies without any previous labor market tests being necessary. It's now also possible for companies to sponsor this permit for their employees based on a six-month contract; previously, a one-year contract was required.

Blue Card Requirements

The new regulations have split and defined the two kinds of highly qualified work permits in Spain. For the new requirements for the Blue Card, a non-EU national must have a minimum salary of 1 to 1.6 times the average salary for the position and at least five years of work experience in their sector, unless they are an information and communication technology professional, in which case they should have at least three years of experience. 

"The processing of this Blue Card was [previously] full of obstacles, was slower paced and did not have the benefits of the local highly skilled professional category," Mafuz said. 

What Do the Permits Allow?

There are some changes to what the new permits allow. Permits will be issued with a three-year validity or, if the contract is under three years, validity equal to the duration of the employment contract plus three months. In the last two months of the permit's validity, some workers will be eligible to renew it for an additional two years, which allows for a pathway to long-term EU residency and citizenship. Citizenship can be acquired in Spain after five years.

Employees based outside of Spain who hold an EU Blue Card will be able to work in Spain for up to 90 days without having to acquire a Spanish work or residence permit. This flexibility is beneficial to Spanish companies, which will be able to move staff around within the EU more easily.

Spanish employers, no matter the size and turnover, will now have easier access to highly skilled employees who are not immediately available in the Spanish labor market. "This will allow companies to address labor and skills shortages while strengthening competitiveness," de la Iglesia Andres said. 

Katie Nadworny is a freelance writer in Istanbul. 


​An organization run by AI is not a futuristic concept. Such technology is already a part of many workplaces and will continue to shape the labor market and HR. Here's how employers and employees can successfully manage generative AI and other AI-powered systems.