Studying and working in Spain as a non-EU citizen


Are you a non-EU and planning to do your TEFL course in Spain? Here are some useful tips and information from our careers advisor, Regina Cárdenas.

CareersAt OxfordTEFL we have a life-long Careers Service to offer. I am the Careers Advisor in the Barcelona centre (that’s me in the photo, hard at work). I have had the chance to work with many non-EU citizens discussing job opportunities, here or elsewhere. I work closely with all of our trainees to develop a TEFL CV, send it to schools in the city, prepare for interviews, etc. I have also gone through the process myself so I have first hand experience of what it’s like to go through the process of getting those all-important papers! I’m going to explain a little about how starting to work in Spain as a non-EU Oxford TEFL graduate works…

At Oxford TEFL we have a list of schools which we are constantly in touch with and if you took your Trinity Cert. TESOL course with us I would refer you to them. We are also in touch with other schools internationally. This service, as I mentioned, is life-long, so as a graduate you would be able to contact us anytime if you need help finding a teaching job anywhere in the world!

If you want to work in Spain as a non-EU citizen there are different options to consider:

First, but probably the most difficult one, is to find a school/language centre that is willing to sponsor / help you process a working visa for the European Union. Like I said, this is pretty tough because most employers won’t process a visa for someone they don’t know yet, isn’t recommended, etc. They’d much rather just hire a native English speaker from an EU country (UK, Ireland, Scotland, etc). If you do get this opportunity, it’s still a process that needs to be done from your home country, takes a long time and may not go through. The reason for this is that employers need to justify why the position can’t be for a Spaniard (pretty obvious for a TEFL position) or if not, someone from the EU (that’s why it gets complicated).

Another thing you could do, and which worked perfectly for me, is to apply for a student visa. Find any sort of course that you’d like to do without it necessarily being an MA or in an actual university. You could even come to Barcelona and study to be certified as a yoga teacher, massage therapist, chef, etc. and get a student visa processed for it! As long as the course is offered by a school/centre recognized by the Spanish government and is worth “enough credits” (20 study hours per week), it’ll work.

There are two types of student visas:

    1. Short term (longer than 3 months, but maximum 6 months) – There are less requirements and documents needed to process this visa. It’s stamped/printed on your passport and that’s all you’d need. Once in Spain, you wouldn’t have to or be able to obtain the NIE (foreigner’s ID number) and therefore would also not be eligible to apply for a work authorization. Once the student visa is about to expire, if you’re interested in renewing it to stay in Spain for longer you’d have actually travel back home and apply for a student visa from there.
    2. Long term (more than 6 months) – This type of visa has more requirements and documents needed in order for it to be issued. Once you’re in Spain and it’s about to expire, you can renew it in Spain (not having to travel home). This visa is stamped/printed on your passport with a short validity because once you’re in Spain you have to get the NIE (foreigner’s ID number) within the first month. You’ll need everything that was handed in to the Spanish consulate in your home country to be able to process the NIE once in Spain (be sure to bring it with you!). With the NIE (once it’s processed) you’d then be eligible to apply for and obtain a work authorization, which would allow you to legally work for up to 20 hours a week, if you have a job offer. In TEFL this is pretty much a full-time schedule!


OxfordTEFL offers a course which you could obtain a student visa for. It’s called “The Developing Teacher” course. It’s a great way for you to continue developing in TEFL after you’ve completed the 4-week Trinity CertTESOL course. You can choose the duration that best suits you (anywhere between 6 – 9 months) and process the visa for it plus the month of your CertTESOL. We’d help you by sending you a letter of acceptance to the courses and the description for each one, which is what the consulate requires. The length of the process to get the student visa varies from consulate to consulate, since some are busier than others. I suggest contacting the Spanish consulate that corresponds to your location to find out more details about this.

As a non-EU citizen, finding a TEFL job in Barcelona will be more challenging for you. I’m not saying it’s impossible, you’ll just have to put a lot more effort into “selling/marketing yourself” as a great teacher that no one can miss out on hiring. Either way, you should keep your options open regarding places to go teach at, since finding a school willing to process a working visa for you is getting to be more difficult as times goes by. It’s easier to find a job on the outskirts of the city, since not that many TEFL teachers apply to find work there. Your main market will probably be with private students (1-2-1 classes). There’s lots of websites you can use and other ways to post an ad to find students for private classes.

As you can see, it’s not impossible to find a job. I know of many non-EU graduates that have been able to do so. As a graduate of the Trinity Cert. TESOL course you would have my full support during the job search. But keep in mind that you’ll have to be very proactive when looking for work. Jobs aren’t just going to fall on your lap!

At Oxford TEFL, we sometimes even hire our own graduates. Immediately after you have completed the course, provided you do well on it, you’ll be offered the chance to sign up to substitute any of the classes taught at our language learning centre (Oxford House) or take on a full class for the entire month. This will also give you an additional chance to prove yourself to be a worthy teacher to be hired full time here.

In my own personal opinion, the second option (applying for a student visa) is the best one. Take the opportunity to study something you’ve always wanted to do but never gave yourself the chance to do so, or to further develop in TEFL. You’d also have the peace of mind that you’re in Spain legally and that you are able to come and go as you please.

So, if you are a non-EU and considering studying or working abroad in Europe, go for it! There is nothing stopping you. Even I did it!

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