Be Legal While Teaching in Spain


August is here, and summer is almost over. In the TEFL community, that means it's a new school year and possibly country-hopping time. Or you're a newly certified ESL teacher about to take the plunge. If you are, congratulations, you've made a fantastic decision and about to have a life-changing experience. The peak hiring season is just around the corner in Spain, which begins in September and ends in October.

In this post, I will stress the importance and benefits of coming to teach English in Spain legally.


If you are from the U.S: It is best to plan a year ahead and secure your student visa appointment. Your best option is the Conversation de Auxiliares (North American Language and Culture Assistants Program) or enroll in a Spanish course. While I'm not on this program or in Spanish classes, I haven't heard of a person being rejected or not getting the job as long as you meet the requirements. Unless you only intend to stay for the maximum 90 days and teach online, please rethink about coming to Spain to teach English without a visa.

If you are from Canada: You can apply for a two-year working holiday visa. From what I've heard its reasonably easy to get as long as your not completely broke. I was going to establish myself in Canada for a bit and go this route if my British passport didn't go through.

If you are from England: Well this should be an interesting year because technically the "Brexit" deadline has passed. From what my previous Academy boss told me, from his understanding, the Spanish Tax Office is not supposed to give out new tax/social security numbers. The golden ticket for being able to sign work contracts here in Spain. Luckily, I got all my papers together before this deadline. Essentially, it's looking like new British ESL teachers who have never lived here are in the same boat as Americans. I will need to network and read posts on the facebook groups to see if new British teachers run into trouble. Then again, the Spanish have a particular and funky way of getting paper pushed through the bureaucracy.

If you're an American questioning why it's important to be legal while teaching English this post is for you. I will explain all the benefits of being above board and teaching long term here in Bilbao, Pais Vasco or Spain.

  1. Residents get free Health-Care and Social Security. Additionally, if you are sick long term or have any injury that prevents you from working, they force you to go on the Baja. You don't work until you can prove you are well again. I believe you still get 60% of your wage while on the Baja and not working. If you come on a student visa, you can register for private insurance that is still relatively inexpensive. If you renew your student visa each year and stay legally for 3 years, you will be eligible for non-permanent residency. After five years you can apply for permanent residency. Then if you are still here after 10 years, you can apply for Spanish citizenship. When you are with the Conversation de Auxiliares Program, you are also given medical insurance according to Spain's Ministry of Education website. If you happen to find love between these three years, you might find yourself married. In this case, you will get resident status after filing the paperwork.

    • There are some particularly interesting facts about healthcare in País Vasco. Bilbao has one of the best hospitals in the E.U and is home to the top medical school, University of Cruces. The Basque country is ranked for its highest spending on public healthcare per person in the world. (


2. You can set up a Spanish bank account. You will not be able to open an account without an N.I.E number. Why is it essential to have a local bank as an ESL teacher in Spain? It is a super-easy way to get paid for classes. In Spain, the banks have an application called Bizum that works like Venmo for transferring money without additional charges. You can also set up reoccurring payments for local phone plans, gym memberships, rent, and bills. Showing reoccurring payments for rent will also help when you file taxes. It also a financial time-stamp for how long you have lived in Spain. If you're lucky and your city has Ciaxi bank, go here. Their policies are very expat and student-friendly.


3. Paid vacation and holidays: Most contracts will have a bi-annual "bonus" in August and December. Usually, academies will shut down all of December and two weeks in April for Semana Santa (Easter). Additionally, any national, local, or bank holidays. There are too many to count.


4. Be able to sign up for your towns gym. After registering on the Padron and have your Impadremento, you will be able to sign up. Most if not all cities have a gym, similar to a YMCA. These gyms are very affordable. I only pay 30 euros a month and have access to a complete gym and pool. I have an entire post in the works about how being active abroad is essential.


5. Be able to get a local phone data plan. While you can always get a pay as you go, it has been awesome having a local phone plan. Depending on the company, you will also save in the long run. I was getting shafted when I was on pay as you go. Right now, I use Yoigo. I pay 26 euros for 30 gigs of data and have unlimited local calls. It has excellent service too.

screen shot from company website.

screen shot from company website.


6. You have nothing to fear about your living situation. You can rest assured that your landlord or roommates can't blackmail you because of your legal status. Your legality and living arrangement is especially important if you teach online. If your roommates are disturbed by your work, they could potentially kick you out at any point. If you want to ball out and get a place to yourself, you won't have any problems with the "Inmobiliaria" (real estate company). To work with an Inmobiliaria, you will need to have your documents.

screen shot from Where I have found ads for places to rent in Spain.

screen shot from Where I have found ads for places to rent in Spain.


7. Proper and fair working conditions. Schools and academies that only hire people with their papers have to follow the working laws of Spain. If something goes fishy, you have the legal right to do something about it. Think about it, if a business is hiring or you are under the table, money is being pushed around in mysterious ways to cover this up. Spain has been increasingly cracking down, and there have been more investigations and academies getting heavily fined or shut down. Hence, another reason why it has become harder each year to work under the table in Spain.


8. At the end of the day, it's illegal to work and stay in Spain/E.U longer than 90 days. If you are caught, it's upwards to 5,000 euro fine and a five-year ban to all E.U countries, come here legality and never have to worry about the “what if.”


  • Possible feature reason: If you stay for three years or get residency, the E.U is not far away from passing a basic living wage. Not exactly what this will entail or what plans the E.U has thought of, but it's entirely possible. If this gets passed, I believe it will have a significant impact on teachers. It could potentially allow teachers who are residents and only have contracts from September to June to not have to worry about the summer months. I imagine you will only be able to collect this living wage if you are legally living in the E.U.

Be curious. Be courageous. Be chivalrous.