When it comes to employment opportunities in EU countries for non-EU citizens, there’s a lot of buzz surrounding the EU Blue Card – but what exactly is it?
Put simply, this is a temporary work permit allowing highly qualified workers to work in one of 25 countries in the EU Blue Card network for several years – including Spain.
Here’s what you should know about the EU Blue Card, including the way the scheme works, who can apply, and how a Blue Card could help you immigrate to Spain.
What is the EU Blue Card?
An EU Blue Card is a work authorisation and temporary residence permit that allows a foreign worker to move to an EU country, such as Spain, for employment in a ‘skilled’ role that requires higher levels of qualifications and experience.
How long the EU Blue Card is valid for depends on the rules of that country – in Spain, the standard validity period is now 3 years, raised from 12 months previously. It can be renewed if the applicant continues to comply with the conditions of the permit.
Though it seems similar, an EU Blue Card is not the same as a Highly Qualified Professional work permit or a long-term EU residence permit. While these also allow foreigners to work and live in an EU country like Spain, they offer different paths with different requirements.
The main difference is that obtaining an EU Blue Card depends on economic need – the employer must apply on behalf of the employee while they’re still living in their home country, and must prove there is a shortage of qualified candidates for the position within Spain.
In contrast, highly qualified professionals must apply for that visa by themselves and meet more specific standards than the Blue Card; foreigners wanting to apply for long-term residence must also do this themselves and meet the minimum requirements for 5 years of residency.
EU Blue Cards also come with their own benefits, which you can read more about below.
Who is eligible for an EU Blue Card?
To be able to apply for an EU Blue Card in Spain, you must be a permanent resident or citizen of a country that is not in the European Union or European Economic Area. This includes the UK, which is no longer a member of the EU.
You must also have a binding job offer or employment contract in Spain. If your employment will last for less than 3 years, the Blue Card will be issued for the period of your contract only, though you can renew it if your employment is extended.
It’s important to note that you must be a salaried employee of a company that’s established in Spain – you will not be eligible for a Blue Card if you’re self-employed or an entrepreneur.
The role must pay a salary that’s at least 1 to 1.6 times the national average in Spain for that job if there is a shortage of employees. The minimum gross annual salary has been 33,908€ since 2020, but the requirement could be higher, depending on the profession.
The position must also be included in the Immigration Office’s list of occupations with vacancies that are difficult to fill without sourcing employees from outside of Spain.
Applicants must be able to prove they have relevant higher education qualifications lasting at least 3 years or at least 5 years of professional experience working in that field.
Of course, the individual must also have valid travel documents, including a passport proving their identity and allowing them to travel to Spain, and health insurance covering their time in Spain.
It should go without saying that anyone with a criminal record, either in Spain or their country of origin, will not be eligible for an EU Blue Card.
What are the benefits of the EU Blue Card?
As a foreigner employed in Spain with an EU Blue Card, you will be entitled to the same employment rights and salary conditions as Spanish nationals. This includes limits on working hours, paid annual leave and national holidays, and sick leave.
Blue Card holders are also eligible for social security benefits in Spain, including access to welfare schemes that provide state assistance with education, health, childcare, and housing.
As Blue Cards allow the holder to bring close family members with them, you can bring your spouse and children under 18 to Spain with you, where they can also access social security benefits.
You’ll be granted freedom of movement to travel throughout the Schengen Area without an additional tourist visa (for up to 90 days out of every 180 days).
You must work in the same position for at least 2 years, but can then change jobs or employers. After residing in Spain for 18 months, you’ll have the option of moving to another EU country and applying for a Blue Card there, regardless of economic demand for your role.
An EU Blue Card may also allow you to apply for a permanent residency permit much sooner than another work visa – after as little as 33 months of living and working in the host country, or 21 months if you have obtained a B1 language certification for that country’s language.
How do you apply for an EU Blue Card?
While other visas would require the individual to submit their own application, the EU Blue Card process requires the employer to submit the application on behalf of their employee.
However, the individual must still provide the required documentation to allow their employer to complete the application, including copies of their passport, work history, and qualifications.
The process takes up to 45 days, after which you must move to Spain within 3 months of the visa being issued, and register at the local police station or immigration office for an identity card and social security number within 1 month of arriving in Spain.
Though the company offering you employment in Spain will be responsible for completing your application and securing the permit, you’ll still need to get all your documents in order and set up your new life in Spain when you immigrate for work.
If you have questions about your eligibility for an EU Blue Card or wish to discuss your options for obtaining a work visa in Spain, it would be best to speak with Spain immigration lawyers, who can offer professional legal guidance on immigrating to Spain to work.