October 30, 2013

In a recent push to attract new investors, skilled workers, and major companies to Spain, the Spanish authorities have set forth new, more lenient, immigration guidelines for certain business professionals and employers. These changes came into force on 1 October 2013, and offer fast-track processing times and fewer document requirements for certain types of employees, as well as easier access to certain company designations for more companies.

In addition, the Spanish Instituto Nacional de Estadistica (the National Statistics Institute, or INE) recently announced their annual revision of national salary rates for each work industry. Due to the continued economic downturn in Spain and surrounding countries, the salary thresholds to certain job industries have been lowered in turn.

What’s Changed?

Traditionally, a company may be eligible to enroll in the Spanish Ministry of Labor’s Unidad de Grandes Empresas (“Large Business Unit”) if they meet certain investment and presence requirements in Spain. Among other benefits, a company registered with the Large Business Unit is eligible to sponsor work and residence permit applications for their foreign employees on a fast-track basis and without the labor market testing requirements that accompany a standard, non-Large Business Unit work permit application.

Essentially, the recent changes accomplish their goals to attract specialized foreign talent and international company investment to Spain’s economy in two ways:

  1. Bringing forth new work permit categories that will fall under the rules, regulations, and benefits of the Fast-Track process; and
  2. Lowering company requirements to qualify for the Large Business Unit classification.

These changes aim to make the work and residence permit application processes faster and easier for Intra-Company Transfer, Investor, Entrepreneur, and Highly Qualified/Managerial applicants.

As these changes are still fairly new, the authorities have yet to confirm complete document requirement lists for the new permit categories or if there will be any changes to the document requirements of already-existing permit types.

Unidad de Grandes Empresas and Decreased Processing Times

Under the new law, a company must meet the following reduced requirements to enroll in the Large Business Unit:

  • Net turnover of EUR€ 50 million OR more than € 43 million of equity in Spain;
  • A company stock value of at least EUR€ 3 million;
  • More than 250 employees in Spain in the preceding three (3) months of the work permit application filing date;
  • An average gross foreign investment in Spain of at least EUR€ 1 million in the previous three (3) years; or
  • The company is in a strategic sector.

Processing times for Large Business Unit applications have also been reduced from 30 business days to 20 business days. Please note that it may take several weeks for the Spanish immigration authorities to meet these new stated processing times while they continue to learn the new guidelines.

New and Revised Fast-Track Categories

A mentioned earlier, the primary objective of this new law is to encourage foreign investment and attract highly skilled workers to Spain. Thus, Spanish authorities have implemented the following changes that will allow more applicants to apply for Spanish work and residence permits on a Fast-Track basis:

  1. Intra-Company Transfers – while a vast majority of the ICT category will remain the same, applicants now only need to demonstrate at least three (3) months of work experience with the affiliated company, rather than the nine (9) months previously required.

  2. Investor Category – foreign nationals deemed to be making a “significant investment” in Spain’s economy. “Significant Investment” is defined as:

    • Buying Spanish  government bonds in excess of at least EUR€ 2 million;
    • Purchasing at least EUR€ 1 million in Spanish stock or cash;
    • Buying Spanish real estate worth at least EUR€ 500,000; or
    • Starting a business that is of “general interest” to Spain (i.e. creates jobs, betters the economy, or contributes to the science and technology sectors).

    Please note, the Investor Category Permit application will be filed, adjudicated, and issued by the Spanish Consulate Generals abroad. All the other new and revised fast-track permit categories will be filed at the Spanish Immigration Office.

  3. Highly Qualified Professionals and Managers – companies will be able to apply for a work and residence permit under the fast-track process for an employee who is highly qualified and/or who holds a managerial position if one of the following conditions is met:

    • If the company meets the requirements to enroll in the Unidad de Grandes Empresas registry;
    • If the company can provide proof that that assignment will increase the number of job in Spain, provide a positive socio-economic impact for Spain, or is making considerable contributions to science and/or technology; or
    • If the employee holds a Bachelor’s degree or Post-Bachelor’s degree from a prestigious university or business school – please note that the list of qualified universities and business schools has not yet been released.

  4. Entrepreneur Category – designed for foreign nationals who demonstrate proof that they intend to start a new business in Spain. The company should be considered innovative, help create jobs for Spanish nationals, and be able to obtain pre-approval from the relevant Spanish government agency.

  5. Researcher Category – designed for researchers whose studies will help with scientific and/or technological innovations. Please note, that the specific parameters for this category have not yet been released.

Minimum Salary Decreases for Blue Card and Fast-Track Applicants

As a result of the aforementioned INE annual report, the minimum salary thresholds for non-EU nationals applying for either an EU Blue Card or via fast-track processing have decreased by approximately 0.9%. The Clasificación Nacional de Actividades Económicas (National Classification of Economic Activities, CNAE) sets the new minimum salary rates for foreign employees as follows:

  • Intra-Company Transfers
    • Highly-Qualified Employees: EUR€ 28,001.24
    • Senior Managers: EUR€ 56,002.48
  • Local Hires, Fast-Track Application Process
    • Highly-Qualified Employees: EUR€ 28,001.24
    • Senior Managers: EUR€ 56,002.48


Employers should primarily take note of the new changes that came into force at the beginning of October this year. These considerations should have two components: (1) If your company has any entities in Spain that may be eligible to register with the Unidad de Grandes Empresas (Large Business Unit) under the new relaxed rules, and (2) If any of your employees will be able to apply for work and residence permits under the new fast-track guidelines.

Your Pro-Link GLOBAL Immigration Specialists and our Correspondent KGNM Office in Spain are happy to assist your company with these assessments.

In addition, employers should keep in mind that the minimum salary thresholds decreased for Intra-Company Transfer, Fast-Track, and EU Blue Card Applicants in August. The full report from the INE can be found here.

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Caveat Lector | Warning to Reader

This is provided as informational only and does not substitute for actual legal advice based on the specific circumstances of a matter. Readers are reminded that Immigration laws are fluid and can change a moment’s notice without any warning. Please reach out to your local Pro-Link GLOBAL specialist should you require any additional clarification. This alert was prepared by Pro-Link GLOBAL’s Knowledge Management team. Pro-Link GLOBAL worked with our PLG | KGNM Correspondent Office in Spain to provide you this update.

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