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How to get a self-employed work visa in Spain

Do you want to work in Spain and would like to do it on your terms? With this work permit you have the freedom of working as an independent contractor, giving you a lot of liberties in your business ventures and personal opportunities.

If you always wanted to move to Spain and experience the Spanish job market, this visa option might be the answer for you. However, if this does not sound like something that fits your specific case, there are other options for obtaining a work permit in Spain. Below is a summary of where to find what information.

Overview of how to register in Spain as an “autónomo”

If you want to start your own business in Spain as a foreigner and be independent, you have two options to obtain your work visa and therefore make it happen. You could obtain a work visa under the entrepreneur’s law, by applying for a visa as an entrepreneur. However, for this process, you are required to have an innovative and technologically influenced business plan or prove that you have something to offer that did not exist in the Spanish labour market before. If this sounds like an option for you, you can check out our article on how to get a startup work permit.

The second option is to go through the general immigration regime and apply for a regular self-employment visa. This is also commonly referred to as “autónomo” (Freelancer). This is a good fit for you if you are going to develop any business and activity that already exists in the Spanish labour market. This could be such common things as digital marketing, accounting, or a coffee bar. You can choose to operate your business as a freelancer or create your own company.

In the following article, we will focus on this option to obtain a work permit in Spain.

Who is eligible for the regular self-employed visa in Spain

Essentially anyone can become self-employed or a freelancer in Spain. It does give you many opportunities and provides you with many liberties. However, in contrast to other work visa applications, the process starts in your country of origin and not in Spain.

This only accounts for citizens outside of the EU or EEA area, as those inside the area can enter and work in Spain freely. For the following, we will focus on non-EU/EEA citizens. Additionally, with the autónomo in Spain application, it is important to note that Spain is divided into 17 autonomous communities and several of them have their particularities in taxation and self-employed visa procedure. Therefore, when you apply for an autonomous visa, depending on the region you choose to live and work in, the rules might be slightly different.

General requirements for a self-employed visa in Spain

  • You can’t have a criminal record for the last 5 years in your country of origin or the country you have been residing in.
  • You must be 18 years old or older.
  • You must have the professional required education and training that is necessary for the type of work you want to exercise.
  • You must prove that the investment that you planned for your project is sufficient to support your business.
  • The activity that will be carried out must fall under the social security scheme for self-employed workers.
  • It must comply with the requirements established by current legislation for the opening and operation of the business activity.

Application process

The application process to be self-employed in Spain has two steps. First, you need to file the application through the Spanish Consulate in your country of residence. The Consulate will forward your application to the corresponding Immigration Office in the region of Spain where you want to carry out your business. When the Immigration Office approves your application they will notify the Consulate, and the latter will request you to come back for an entry visa. Finally, when you arrive in Spain you need to register in Spain as an autónomo.

Three important things when it comes to this application are your business plan, proof that you have sufficient funds to finance the establishment of your business, and your relevant background and professional experience.

You also need to be able to demonstrate that you will have clients once you get started on your business. You can prove it by providing a few letters of intent from your future Spanish clients that state that they will be using your professional services after your permit is approved.

1. What should be included in your business plan

For the self-employed visa application in Spain, you need to develop a proper business plan. Your application is dependent on this business plan, so it is important to take the matter to its requirements and to plan it thoroughly.

Essentially, it should be an examination of every aspect of your business. This should include:

  • The services or products that you will offer.
  • The value it will add to the market.
  • Expected expenses and income.
  • Unique features and competitive advantages.
  • Your target market.
  • The methods you will use to reach them (marketing and publicity plan).
  • The financial plan (how you will finance the establishment of your business).

2. Your funding/investment

No matter how well thought out your business idea might be, it is without saying that you always need funding to invest in your business. This implies that proving you have the money to launch your business will be another crucial prerequisite for getting a freelance visa in Spain.

The amount that you will need to prove will depend upon the type of work you will be doing – it is generally more costly to set up a new restaurant than start offering professional consultancy services. For example: If you require an office space for your local business, you have to prove that you have the funds to buy or rent it.

3. Your personal profile and CV

The third requirement is all about you and your professional profile. You must prove that you have the necessary education that is required for the tasks that you want to exercise, and it needs to be directly linked to what is needed for your business activity.

Step-by-step guide on how to obtain your self-employed visa in Spain

  1. Make an appointment at the closest Spanish embassy or consulate in your home country. Additionally, you can confirm the application cost and double-check which papers you need—as well as which ones of them need to be translated and apostilled.
  2. Compile all required paperwork. Get them translated, if needed, by a recognized translator and apostilled by the appropriate authorities.
  3. On the day of your appointment, (in-person) visit the Spanish embassy or consulate and turn in your paperwork. Additionally, you must pay the application fee, it is usually charged in the local currency in cash, by card, or money order.
  4. The Consulate will transfer your application to the corresponding Immigration Office, e.g. if you wish to work in Barcelona, it will be the regional Immigration Office in Barcelona that will study your files.
  5. Now you have to wait if your application was successful or if it got denied. Usually, a resolution is obtained in three months. You may be required to provide more documentation. If so, send them over as soon as you can to avoid having to wait longer for the result of your application.
  6. If your application is accepted, the Immigration Office will notify your lawyer or the Consulate, and you will get a letter from the Consulate requesting that you pick up your passport and self-employed work permit. With this, you can work as a self-employed person in Spain.
  7. Once your visa is issued you can finally travel to Spain to start working on your business.

After your travels to Spain and entering the country, you must register in your municipality (a process known as “empadronamiento“) and make an appointment to have your fingerprints taken in order to obtain your residence card (TIE).

Here is a list of the required documents for your application on how to register as a freelancer in Spain. However, always make sure beforehand to check the requirements, as these can vary and also change over time.

What documents do you need to apply for a regular self-employed visa?

For your application, you need the original and copies of all documents:

  • EX-07 application form.
  • Your original passport copy of all the pages.
  • Professional and academic certificates to prove that you have the appropriate qualifications needed to conduct your business.
  • Your criminal background certificates from the countries where you lived in the last 5 years.
  • A medical certificate that states that you do not suffer from any contagious diseases.
  • Your business plan together with all the necessary documents and licences for your business activity.
  • Proof that you have enough funds to start your business in Spain.

How to register in Spain as an autónomo

After your application has been granted and you have entered Spain, there are a few more steps that you must take. After these steps, you can freely work as a freelancer and conduct your business.

1. Open a Spanish bank account

Importantly, in order to register with Spain’s social security system, you must first have a Spanish bank account. This is because, in Spain, social security contributions are automatically withdrawn from your account. To set one up, you will usually need your NIE number, evidence of identity, proof of address, and papers proving your employment status. Once you have your Spanish bank account, you can finally conclude the last step and register with the Spanish social security authorities.

2. Register with the Spanish tax authorities as an autónomo

Furthermore, you must register with the Spanish tax authorities to pay your taxes. When registering with the Spanish Tax Authority (Agencia Tributaria), you must choose the applicable code for your business from the list of Economic Activities (epígrafe IAE). During this process, you will be required to provide detailed information about the type of business you operate and its location.

3. Register with the Spanish social security system

Once you’ve registered with the Spanish Tax Authority and opened up your Spanish bank account, you can register in the social security system through a special regime for self-employed people called RETA (Régimen Especial de Trabajadores Autónomos). You should do this within 30 days of your arrival in Spain. The inclusion in the public Social Security system offers autónomos a variety of social security benefits, including the inability to work because of common sickness or an accident unrelated to work.

4. Obtain your residence card – TIE

Once you have entered Spain and carried out the steps you need to make an appointment here, enter your municipality (If you live in Barcelona, enter Barcelona), and select the option: “Toma de huella”. This means get fingerprinted. Once you have selected this, you can choose a Police station that has available appointments and select one. If you are not sure what the difference between the NIE and the TIE number is, you can have a look here for clarification. Once you have successfully had the appointment, you need to wait around 40 days to pick up your card.

How long is your self-employed visa in Spain valid

This residence and work permit is valid for one year. After that, you have the opportunity to extend it for another 4 years. Then after 5 years, you are eligible for long-term residence permit.

If you have completed all these steps, congratulations, you are now a freelancer in Spain.

Can I have a company on a self-employed visa in Spain?

Yes, you can choose to run your business as an autonómo or to create a company. We highly recommend talking to a corporate lawyer to evaluate the pros and cons of each option.


If you want to work independently and be a freelancer in Spain, this self-employed visa is the right option for you. It gives you the opportunity to not only live in Spain but also to enjoy the freedom of working on your own terms. Remember that to have a successful application process, you must be thorough with all the required documents. Always make sure that you have included everything in your application. Additionally, your business plan is a very important variable of your application and good planning and execution of it is essential for a successful application. Make sure to register as an autónomo once you have entered Spain and then you can enjoy your new opportunities as a freelancer in Spain.

This article is written in collaboration with Mara Pelzer, a member of the Legal Support Team at Klev&Vera.


Anna Klevtsova

Anna holds an LLM in International Human Rights Law, and is a Certified Lawyer with the Bar Association of Barcelona. With more than 20 years of legal practice in International Law, Anna specialises in business set-up, investment transactions, and immigration strategies.

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