The following are the most common types of visas that can be obtained for Spain. The type of visa you will use to teach English in Spain will depend on your nationality and perhaps other factors. Research is extremely important when deciding on which type of visa one will get and you should speak to a TEFL Advisor to discuss your specific questions and concerns.
The first thing is to understand what are all the different types of visa. Please refer to our article, What is a visa and do I need a visa to teach English abroad?
Here are the main visa options for teaching English in Spain:
This is most common option for Americans and graduates of International TEFL Academy looking to teach English in Spain legally. Those who plan to study in Spain at a recognized language school, university, etc. may be eligible to legally work in Spain while studying. Typically, a student visa must be processed before departing for Spain. Contact a Spanish Consulate for more information on recognized “study abroad” programs and what is required to obtain a student visa. Read more about How to apply for a Student Visa to legally teach English in Spain.
Getting a Student Visa to Teach English in Madrid or Barcelona: If you are interested in teaching English in Spain and want to learn Spanish, check out International TEFL Academy's Madrid Student Visa Program, which enables you to enroll in a year of part-time Spanish lessons and receive a Student Visa that enables Americans and other non-European Union citizens to work as full-time as English teachers. Participants also receive personal job placement assistance on the ground in Madrid. We have a similar options in place for teaching English in Barcelona - check out our Barcelona Student Visa options which allows for a language study other than Spanish. You can compare the two cities and their Spain Student Visa Programs here.
Cultural Ambassadors Program
Operated by the Spanish Ministry of Education, Culture and Sport, the Cultural Ambassadors program recruits and places native English & French speakers from the U.S. & Canada as assistant language teachers in elementary and secondary schools throughout Spain. The program, which is also known as the North American Language and Culture Assistants Program- or the auxiliares de conversación (“conversation assistants”) in Spanish, recruits up to 2,500 Americans & Canadians to teach English (and in the case of some Canadians, French) in Spain each year. Participants in this program will receive the appropriate work visa to work as an English teacher. Read more about the Cultural Ambassador Program.
This type of visa is very uncommon for non-EU English teachers to receive in Spain as you need an employer to sponsor you in order to obtain one. The majority of private language schools will not be willing to sponsor their English teachers as it is quite an expensive and long process. Work visas are only typically given to those teachers working in public schools through the Ministry of Education program or international schools.
Working Holiday Visa
A working holiday visa is a permit that allows people with certain nationalities to legally work, and sometimes study, in certain countries around the world. Working holiday visas typically have restrictions and requirements, such as age limits (typically between 18 and 30 or 35), the need to prove one has sufficient funds, and more.
Take a look at International TEFL Academy’s Working Holiday Visa Holiday Chart to see if you qualify (Americans do not). As of October, 2016, citizens of Australia, New Zealand and Canada may be eligible to work in Spain on a working holiday visa. Please contact the Spanish consulate in your country to learn more about applying for a working holiday visa.
Citizens from the European Union nations are able to work legally in Spain without getting a visa. However you will need to register for a Residence Permit at the local Foreigners’ Office and apply for a tax number, known as an “NIE,” which you will need for official paperwork, taxes, etc. Typically, your employer will assist you with these matters, including your application for social security.
General information about work permits throughout the EU can be found at: http://europa.eu/youreurope/citizens/index_en.htm
In the past, tourist visas were the most common for English teachers who are not citizens of European Union (EU) nations, including Americans, to work as English teachers in Spain. However, times have changed and at this time, International TEFL Academy does not currently recommend that Americans or others teach English in Spain on a tourist visa.
NOTE: If you are planning on teaching English online from Spain for less than 90 days (the typical length of a standard tourist visa in Spain), then using a tourist visa may be a viable option.
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- Teaching English in Spain - Country Profile
- Teach English in Barcelona or Madrid Through ITA's Spain Student Visa Option
- How to apply for a Student Visa to legally teach English in Spain
Editor's Note: This article was originally published in November 2012. It was most recently updated for accuracy on January 8, 2020.