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I.  Introduction

Since the 1990’s Spain has evolved from a country of emigrants to a country of immigrants, with profound social, economic, political, legal, and cultural consequences.  The largest number of these immigrants come from Africa, Latin America, and Eastern Europe.[1]  Many of these low-skilled migrants come to Spain with a temporary or seasonal work visa.[2]  Since 2010 the flow of immigrants into Spain has decreased considerably owing to the economic crisis, high unemployment, and the financial troubles that the country is still trying to overcome.[3]

In order to adapt the immigration laws to the new immigration reality and labor market, a comprehensive immigration law was enacted in 2000—Ley Orgánica 4/2000 sobre Derechos y Libertades de los Extranjeros en Espana y su Integración Social (Organic Law on the Rights and Freedoms of Foreigners in Spain and their Social Integration 4/2000),[4] which has been amended several times and further implemented by Real Decreto 557/2011.[5]

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II.  Eligibility for Admission as a Temporary Worker

In order to qualify for a temporary work visa, the following requirements must be met:[6]

  1. The foreigner is sixteen years or older.
  2. The foreigner is enrolled in the Social Security system.
  3. The foreigner has a labor contract guaranteeing employment for the period of time authorized in the work permit issued to him or her.
  4. The vacancy for the position has not been filled by nationals and the national labor market is in need of foreign workers.[7]
  5. The foreigner is not a citizen of any European Union country, which would be governed by EU regulations.[8]
  6. The foreigner is not in the country in violation of the immigration laws.[9]
  7. The foreigner has not been forbidden to enter the country.[10]
  8. The foreigner has a certificate of good health[11];
  9. The foreigner does not have a criminal background in Spain or any other country where he or she has resided in the last five years.[12]
  10. The “no return” period agreed upon in the voluntary return program has expired.[13]
  11. The labor contract conditions meet the Spanish labor law standards.[14]
  12. The employer has the economic and personal means to fulfill the labor contract obligations.[15]
  13. The foreigner has the skills or competence needed to fulfill the labor contract obligations.[16]

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III.  Recruitment

Work offers must be posted for twenty-five days in order to recruit national workers.[17]  If there are no Spanish nationals interested in the job, the employers advertise the job offers to foreign workers for three months before the starting date of the work assignment.[18]  Business and labor union organizations are consulted and given an opportunity to render their opinion on the foreign work offers.[19]  Once approved by the government, the labor contract is sent to the foreign worker for signature before the Spanish consular office in the worker’s country.[20]

One of the ways seasonal and temporary foreign workers are hired is through a process of collective recruitment in the country of origin.  This process allows for the hiring of foreign workers upon general work offers for fixed-term work.[21]  The process was developed by the Ministry of Labor and Immigration (MLI) in consideration of the national employment situation as assessed by the National Public Employment Service.[22]  The MLI approves an annual estimate of the number and types of jobs that would qualify for the collective recruitment process in the country of origin during a certain period.[23]

Spanish authorities in collaboration with their counterparts in the foreign workers’ countries of origin participate in selecting candidates for job vacancies.[24]  Spanish authorities collect actual vacancies from Spanish employers while authorities in the country of origin provide the selection of candidates for those vacancies.  The job offers under this modality are preferably addressed to countries with which Spain has signed bilateral migration agreements.[25]  Spain has signed bilateral agreements on the regulation and management of migration flows with Colombia, Morocco, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Mauritania, Ukraine, Poland, Bulgaria, and Romania.[26]  It has also signed bilateral cooperation agreements on immigration with Gambia, Guinea Bissau, Senegal, Niger, El Salvador, Honduras, Argentina, Guinea, Republic of Cape Verde, Mali, Mexico, the Philippines, and Paraguay.[27]

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IV.  Visa Conditions

A temporary work visa allows a worker to work for up to nine months within a twelve-month period.[28]  In order to obtain a temporary work visa, the employer must secure housing facilities that are clean and in dignified condition for the prospective workers.[29]  Temporary workers also have access to social services.[30]  Temporary work should be offered preferably to countries that have signed bilateral migration agreements with Spain.[31]  Temporary work visas may be extended for nine months if the labor contract is extended.[32]

Temporary workers assume the responsibility of returning to their country once the labor contract expires.[33]  Noncompliance with the return requirement is grounds for denying future work requests for the three years following the first authorization.[34]  In order to establish the actual return, workers must appear in person at the Spanish consulate or office that issued their work permit to record and obtain a document to prove their return.[35]

The employer must organize the trip to Spain and back to the country of origin, assuming the costs of at least the trip to Spain, transportation to and from the port of entry, and housing.[36]

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V.  Admission Status of Family Members

Family members of temporary workers may be issued a temporary residence visa under the family reunification rules.[37]  The law specifies the family members who qualify for this visa.[38]  In order to obtain a temporary nonwork permit visa for a family member, applicants must prove that they have sufficient economic resources for the family member’s support.[39]  The temporary residence under family reunification may only be issued when the foreign worker has a permit to work in Spain for at least one year.[40]

Family members of temporary workers have access to social and assistance services, including education and housing.  These services are mainly provided at the regional level of the Autonomous Communities.[41]

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Prepared by Graciela Rodriguez-Ferrand
Senior Foreign Law Specialist
February 2013

[1] S. Gargante et al., La Discriminacion Racial, Propuestas para una Legislacion Antidiscriminatoria en Espana 5 & 13 (Ceres, Barcelona, 2003). 

[2] Philip Martin, Temporary Worker Programs: US and Global Experiences, University of California, Davis, 11–12 (Mar. 15, 2008),

[3] Disminuye entrada de Inmigrantes a Espana por Crisis, La Vanguardia (Mar. 31, 2011),

[4] Ley Orgánica 4/2000 sobre Derechos y Libertades de los Extranjeros en Espana y su Integración Social (LODLE), Jan, 11, 2000, Boletin Oficial del Estado (B.O.E), Jan. 12, 2000, as amended by Organic Law 2/2009,

[5] Real Decreto 557/2011, por el que se aprueba el Reglamento de la Ley Orgánica 4/2000, sobre derechos y libertades de los extranjeros en España y su integración social, tras su reforma por Ley Orgánica 2/2009 (RLODLE), B.O.E. Apr. 30, 2011,

[6] LODLE art. 36.

[7] Id. art. 38; RLODLE art. 64.3.a.

[8] LODLE art. 1.

[9] Id. art. 25; RLODLE art. 64.2.a.

[10] LODLE art. 26.1

[11] Id. art.4.1.8.

[12] Id. art. 64.2.b

[13] Id. art. 64.2.d.

[14] RLODLE art. 64.3.c.

[15] Id. art. 64.3.e.

[16] Id. art. 64.3.f.

[17] Id. art. 100.2.a.

[18] Id. art. 100.2.b

[19] Id. art. 100.2.c.

[20] Id. art. 100.4.

[21] LODLE art. 39.

[22] Id. art. 39.1.

[23] Id.

[24] Id. art. 39.2.

[25] Id. art. 39.3.

[26] Convenios Migratorios [Migration Agreements], Ministerio de Empleo y Seguridad Social, Secretaría General de Inmigración y Emigración, internacional/ConveniosBilaterales/ConveniosMigratorios/ (last visited Feb. 25, 2013).

[27] Gestión Colectiva de Contrataciones de Origen [Collective Management of Recruitment in the Country of Origin] Hoja Informativa No. 52, Ministerio de Trabajo e Inmigración, 5, Sept. 2011, http://extranjeros.empleo.gob. es/es/informacioninteres/informacionprocedimientos/documentos2/52.pdf.

[28] LODLE art. 25 bis.2.e; RLODLE art. 98.3.

[29] LODLE art. 42.2.

[30] Id. art. 42.3; RLODLE art. 99.3.a.

[31] LODLE art. 42.4.

[32] RLODLE art. 102.

[33] Id. art. 99.2.

[34] Id.

[35] Id. art. 99.2, last para.

[36] Id. art. 99.3.b.

[37] Id. art. 45.1, 45.2.b, 52.

[38] Id. art. 53.

[39] Id. art. 47.

[40] Id. art. 56.1.

[41] José Antonio Fernandez Avilés et al., Inmigración y Crisis Económica: Retos Póliticos y de Ordenación Jurídica [Immigration and Economic Crisis: Political and Legal Challenges] 673–77 (Editorial Comares, Granada, 2011).

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