Legal Considerations For Non-EU Students When Teaching English In Spain
I have my English teaching job to thank for helping me grow my savings as a full-time student abroad. It was the best deal I could get at that time: I worked flexible hours, prep work for classes was not too demanding, and I was still able to dedicate enough time and energy on my coursework. For many international students in Spain, teaching English is a very attractive option to earn money and get some experience working abroad.
But before you start looking for teaching jobs, have you taken a look at the regulations for teaching English in Spain on a student permit? The Spanish bureaucracy is a pain, and the least that we foreign students need and want is to get ourselves into trouble. Here are some things you need consider before signing any contract and working as an English teacher in Spain as a non-EU student.
WHAT THE LAW SAYS
As a non-EU student, the conditions of your legal stay in Spain is governed by the rules under estancia por estudios. Unfortunately, unlike in other European countries such as the UK and Denmark where foreign students are automatically allowed to work part-time during term time and full-time during the summer break, the estancia por estudios granted to international students come with zero provisions for work. This means that you’ll have to apply for an autorización de trabajo or a work permit if you'll be getting any job with a contract in Spain.
TYPES OF WORK PERMIT FOR NON-EU INTERNATIONAL STUDENTS
There are two types of work permit available for non-EU students: cuenta ajena, meaning you’re employed by a company, and cuenta propia, meaning you’ll be self-employed. Most people won’t even bother to go the self-employment route because the paperwork can suck the life out of you. I’m still yet to meet someone who’s done this, so if you know anyone, I'd love to have a chat with him or her and be enlightened!
For those international students who are lucky enough to be offered a work contract and a legal sponsorship by an English academy, you’ll be applying for the cuenta ajena work permit and will have to talk to your employer to discuss how to go about it. Some of them may have had previous experience sponsoring a non-EU English teacher, in which case you can relax a bit as they're most likely familiar with the requirements and how the whole process looks like. Otherwise, you may have to do your own research and be a bit more proactive.
Either way, your employer will act as your legal representative and will be in charge of submitting the necessary documents to the foreign office on your behalf. You can proceed to apply for the cuenta ajena work permit in one of two ways.
UNDER A CONVENIO DE PRACTICAS OR TRAINING AGREEMENT
This means that your work as an English teacher will be considered as training/internship and should be related to your current studies. If you’re studying anything related to teaching, philology, or foreign languages, then this can be an option.
The convenio de practicas has to be signed by all parties (student, university, and employer) and must contain specific information related to the internship and the student’s study degree. You can find more information about what a training agreement is here and a sample here.
UNDER A CONTRATO DE TRABAJO COMO ESTUDIANTE OR STUDENT WORK PERMIT
For those of you who are studying something completely unrelated to teaching but would like to work as an English teacher to earn extra or try your luck entering the Spanish labor market, then you’re most likely to go this route.
Your employer will be asked to submit the following documents on your behalf:
- a letter of compatibility with your studies (meaning that your work does not conflict with your coursework) issued by your course coordinator or the university student office; the letter should include your full name, passport number, your course of study and the academic year you're enrolled in, and a statement about your class schedule and obligations and how the work you're applying for won't get in the way of your studies
- an application form that your employer will give you
- copy of your passport with all the pages
- copy of of your foreigner card (TIE, or tarjeta de identidad de extranjero)
Once you’ve prepared all your documents, you’ll have to schedule an informational session with the extranjeria online (you can click on this link to be directed to their page) by following the steps below. (All Spanish government websites don't offer an English translation, so I'm doing the work for them!)
HOW TO BOOK FOR AN INFORMATIONAL SESSION WITH THE SPANISH FOREIGN OFFICE ONLINE
Choose your province and the option información in the drop-down menu called tramites disponibles.
- Then a window will pop up with some information, click entrar, then fill out this form with your details:
- Choose NIE from the drop-down menu and type in your foreign ID number (numero de identidad de extranjero)
- In the Nombre y apellidos box, type in your given name, family name, and middle name, in that order
- In the Año de nacimiento box, key in your date of birth
- Under Rellene el código de la imagen, type in the Captcha codes in the box
- Then in the next window, fill in the Captcha code again and click solicitar cita. The system will then generate the earliest possible time for you. Do note that you're only allowed to book this session one day in advance, so go online and reserve your spot early in the morning (around 9am) as the places fill up quickly.
WHAT TO EXPECT ON YOUR INFORMATIONAL SESSION
Show up at least 5-10 minutes before your scheduled session. A member of the foreign office will then advise you on what documents to bring and will schedule a date for your final appointment. This second appointment is when you'll have to submit all your requirements.
Make sure to double (or even triple!) check that you've got a complete set of documents and that you've photocopied them all. If you want to know why, just watch this funny video of how it's like to deal with the notorious Spanish bureaucracy.
To be fair, I found the foreign office people in Bilbao (where my experience in Spanish bureaucracy start and end) to be accommodating and helpful. But as much as they're all friendly and nice, they still gave inconsistent information... so just beware of this tendency and make sure you do your research on the process and the requirements.
WHAT HAPPENS IF YOU WORK UNDER A CONTRACT WITHOUT A WORK PERMIT?
Big academies would often insist on providing a work contract for their teachers, just because they're also most likely to be checked on. The law requires them to enroll (darse de alta) their employees in the social security system (seguridad social) and pay contributions (cotizar) on their behalf.
If you don't have a valid work permit and you show up in the system as paying contributions working as an English teacher, there's a slight chance that they can find you out. It’s highly unlikely that you’ll be deported or blacklisted, but your employer would have to pay tens of thousands of euros as penalty for hiring teachers without legal papers. Better not risk it!
SOUNDS COMPLICATED? HERE’S A COMMON WORKAROUND.
Spain’s got a habit of making the process more difficult than it should be, and most international students who are just looking for a side hustle won’t be so keen on subjecting themselves to such bureaucratic torture!
It’s not surprising then to see international students taking on part-time jobs giving private English classes to children and teens. Although not entirely legal, I've never heard of a case where a student's been checked and fined for doing this, so long as the classes are private and that there's no written and binding contract between parties. What’s more, you get to choose when to work (more or less!) and won’t have to feel guilty about not studying enough.
There you go! I hope this post has provided you with useful information to avoid any trouble when working in Spain part-time as a non-EU student. I'd love for you to share your thoughts, experiences, and questions about side hustling in Spain as a teacher in the comments section below.