Have you been considering coming to Madrid to study Spanish and to have a once-in-a-lifetime experience? If that’s the case, you may just have thought to yourself, “What happens if I really like the city and want to stay?” This is certainly a valid question, as some Americans do decide to make Madrid their home and stay for many years, if not forever. On the other hand, perhaps studying abroad for several months or a year is out of the question economically if you’re not working to support yourself. Whether it’s to answer one of these questions, or just to satisfy your curiosity, in this post we’re going to discuss what opportunities Americans have to work in Madrid and what obstacles they may face in doing so.

American working in Madrid

Get Your Documents Together

If you’re fortunate enough to have a Spanish parent, grandparent, or spouse, you can apply for residency and eventually Spanish citizenship, in which case, after all the paperwork, you’re set to live and work just like a local. If you don’t have any Spanish relatives, keep in mind that Spain is part of the European Union and holding a passport from another EU member state will grant you full residency in Spain. Although Spanish citizenship can only be passed down from a grandparent at the most, not all EU countries have the same laws regarding this. Italy, for example, allows for Italian citizenship to be passed down for an unlimited amount of generations, provided that a) it is always done so through a male and b) you can prove it. So, you just might want to take a look at your family tree and see if anyone can lend you and hand.

If you don’t have any recent European descendants and you’re going to be in Spain for any length of time, do yourself a favor and get a student visa. According to the Schengen Treaty — of which Spain is a part of — American citizens are permitted to be in the Schengen countries for a period of up to ninety days as a tourist. Thus, if you’re only planning on staying for a limited time, a visa may not be necessary. However, if you’re going to be studying in country for more than three months, be sure to apply for a student visa. Obviously, this will not give you permission to work, but you will be residing in Spain legally, something you won’t want to forego. Unfortunately, obtaining a working visa directly is virtually impossible and generally not worth the time. There are some exceptions, however. The best way to clear up any doubts is to speak to a lawyer.

Celta certificate

What Can I Do for Work?

The vast majority of Americans who live in Madrid work as English teachers. In light of the current economic situation, as a native speaker, teaching English will typically generate more income than many other jobs that may be available. What’s more, even if you only have a student visa, you’ll certainly be able to tutor students after school or perhaps even find a company that is willing to employ you. In most cases, experience isn’t even necessary. Nonetheless, it’s not a bad idea to get some sort of teaching qualification, such as a CELTA Certificate, which will greatly increase your employment prospects.

Another teaching option available is the program offered my the Ministerio de Educación which places North Americans in public and charter schools as language teaching assistants. Although the application process can be somewhat involved, you’ll find that you will be provided with steady work for the school year. Despite this, however, you may find that the program requires a lot of time and it may be difficult to study while working. For more information take a look at the Ministry’s website.


Getting Papers

As an American, if you’re dream is to live and work in Madrid, you’ve undoubtedly been told that it’s impossible. This is not entirely accurate. Many Americans over the years have been granted full residency and work permission through what’s called Arraigo Social. In order to be eligible, among other requirements, you have to live in Spain continually for a period of three years and have a job offer from an employer of no less than a year’s duration. Although the requirements are rather straightforward, the process can be lengthy, it often taking a year for the government to communicate their decision. Also, despite meeting the requirements, being denied for bogus reasons is not unusual. In such situations, it’s important to keep a particular Spanish expression in mind: El que la sigue, la consigue — or as we say, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.”

Whether you’re interested in spending a short time in Madrid to study Spanish and experience the city, or planning a life-long move, don’t let anyone dissuade you — just do it.