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Need info for Work/Student Visa for Spain

I am seeking info on behalf of my granddaughter. A couple of years ago, she spent a quarter studying in Oviedo. She fell in love with the city and the people, and have been wanting to go back to Spain to live and work for at least a year. While in Oviedo, she perfected her Spanish, such that people here in Oregon think she is a native speaker.

She finally made the decision to teach English in Spain (a big leap fora small-town girl), through a program called TEFL, and committed by making a down payment. She would be in Barcelona for a month attending classes (September), and then hopefully move to Oviedo to teach English.

Here’s where everything fell apart. She spoke to a representative from TEFL yesterday, who said they could help her get a work Visa, but it would be good only for Barcelona. She does not want to teach in Barcelona! Her heart is in Oviedo.

She needs to obtain a Visa on her own. After searching, she thinks she must travel to Wn. DC. for a Visa.. I can’t imagine that. So Grandma to the rescue…..hopefully.

When I called AAA, the lady told me to try Travisa. Has anyone dealt with that company? Is that the best way to get a work visa? Or could we do it on our own? If so, would we have to travel somewhere for it?

And what is the “order of documents?” Her passport is good through 2025, she committed to a language program (TEFL); she needs a Work Visa…for at least a year.

Thanks for any help or info to help her/us.

Posted by
6778 posts

Carol, my daughter is at work but I have texted her about this. She and her husband both spent a year in Spain teaching English as a foreign language before they had kids. I know they had the classes to learn everything in Madrid, but they had a choice of places (I think) and they wound up going to Valladolid. They taught four days a week for a half day, then had the option of taking classes in Spanish during the day when they were not teaching. And then they had 3 days each week for free time, which they used to travel all over the country.

Anyway, I will let you know what I found out. They absolutely loved the experience!

Posted by
648 posts

Thank you in advance, Mardee.

My granddaughter has a college degree…but not a teaching certificate.

Posted by
6778 posts

I don't think she needs one for this. My daughter also had a bachelor's degree but no teaching certificate at the time (although she did get one later after she got back to the states).

My son-in-law just got home so I asked him and he just gave me lots of information. The original training was all through ECG. The main program is based at Trinity College in England - https://www.ebcteflcourse.com/ - but in Spain, it was through EBC Servicios Linguisticos Europe. They did the one month class in Madrid, then they actually had to apply to different schools for jobs. They were offered jobs in about 3 different places (obviously you can apply where you want) and chose Valladolid. They taught at a school called International House in Valladolid. My SIL told me that once they were hired there, the head of the school applied for their work visas, so they did not have to do it themselves.

They found their own housing (they were not married at the time) so my SIL shared an apartment with a couple of Brits, and my daughter shared an apartment with 3 young women - 2 from Spain and one from Columbia and none of them spoke English, so she was quite fluent by the time she left. In fact, after she got back to the states, she got her teaching certificate and taught in a Spanish immersion grade school. They wanted her so badly that she was hired before she even got it, so it's definitely a plus to be fluent in Spanish in this country.

Let me know if you have more questions and I can ask them. There is also a lot of information on the ECG website about visas and so on.

Posted by
7633 posts

Just an observer, with no experience, but I believe most TEFL programs supply the training, and then placement in schools that they have contacts or are affiliated with, coordinating the visa process. It is essentially the school that provides most of the rationale for granting the visa, by showing the need for native English speaking instructors, a job with few qualified applicants in the country of interest.

She likely can not just "get" a work visa with no sponsor to teach independently wherever she wants to go. In the program she was working with, and the two examples given by other posters, the assignment was either predetermined, or a choice among a few. Her only other alternative would be to contact a TEFL school in Oviedo to secure a position, and then an independent TEFL program for certification. Even then, she is left to do the legwork for a visa, or pay more to have a third party do it. But without a firm offer of employment and justification, the visa won't likely happen.

Posted by
648 posts

Very helpful Mardee. I notice that the program is also TEFL, but the Trinity College company they used allowed them to teach outside Madrid, where they took lessons.
One more question: did they have to do “on-going, in-person” classes each month?
My granddaughter is feeling frustrated because of the requirement to do classes in Barcelona.

Posted by
1977 posts

I think Paul is right. I knew a woman who taught English in Spain and it is based on school need. Most will be in larger cities-my friend taught in Madrid.

Honestly, if she can teach in Barcelona, she could still visit Oviedo and perhaps if she likes it try to move to another city. Smaller towns won't have the need for as many teachers and to be frank, there are many Americans/British already teaching English.

I hate to sound mean, but if she wants to live in Spain that much then she may have to work in another city for a while.

Posted by
6778 posts

Paul, that's correct - that's what happened with my daughter and SIL (see post above). They had to get the job first and then the school they taught in secured the work visas for them.

Interestingly, my son-in-law just told me that they never actually got the visas. Back when they were there (about 17 years ago), the Spanish govt was somewhat "disorganized" and the school never did receive the visas from Madrid. :) Evidently it was not a problem, though, lol!

Posted by
6778 posts

I notice that the program is also TEFL, but the Trinity College company they used allowed them to teach outside Madrid, where they took lessons. One more question: did they have to do “on-going, in-person” classes each month?
My granddaughter is feeling frustrated because of the requirement to do classes in Barcelona.

Carol, all TEFL teachers have to take a month-long class in order to become certified to teach. ECG offered classes in Madrid (which is where they took the initial class) and I think 3 other cities, but she would have to do that. I'm not sure what you mean by "ongoing and in person" classes each month. Once they accepted the job offer at the language school in Valladolid, then they did not have to take any more classes (for the TEFL requirement). They did take intensive Spanish classes, which was a perk the school offered. But that was it.

Posted by
6778 posts

Also, Carol, I think you are misunderstanding the use of the word TEFL. TEFL is an acronym meaning "Teaching English as a Foreign Language." It is is not specific to any particular school or program. In order to teach English as a foreign language, you must get a TEFL certificate; hence the month-long training before teaching.

Posted by
2267 posts

I “know a guy” who got a TEFL certificate (The CELTA certification is the gold standard) and spent two years teaching English in Barcelona. “He” lived there as an illegal immigrant and earned cash under the table. For your granddaughter to get regular working permission is, honestly, almost impossible. She would need an employer to sponsor her, and that employer would have to prove that the job can not be filled by an EU citizen. It’s a level of effort that employers are unwilling to make for a job that has an endless pool of candidates and pays barely a living wage.

But there is hope! The Spain’s education system has a program called ‘auxiliar de conversacion’ which places native speakers into the school systems’ classrooms. Technically, it is a student visa and it pays only €700-€1000 per month. And after a few years of that, there are pathways to a more permanent working status — I don’t know much about those.

Posted by
6778 posts

I’m not sure that everyone is understanding what most of these TEFL certificates lead to. Most people who get them do not teach in regular schools in Spain. They teach in language schools where they are not paid a lot of money, but are given a lot of time off. There are a lot of people that do this every year and they usually do not have any problems. If you want to teach in a regular school in Spain, that is a whole different ball game. But there are hundreds of these language schools all over the place to teach English to immigrants and to Spaniards. I know a couple of people who taught school here in the United States, and retired and then went over to Europe and now they teach English as a foreign language in different countries. They have had no problem getting work wherever they go.

Posted by
2267 posts

Just to add a couple of thoughts…

September is not the best timing, as an academic year would be in full swing by the time she was done. “My friend” got his in June, partied all of his saved money in July, and August, and was ready to work on September 1.

Also, any visas are applied for at the consulate that serves the jurisdiction in which you live. I believe the whole of the Pacific Northwest is served by the consulate in San Francisco.

I don’t think the Auxiliary program requires a teacher training. But I don’t know how much choice participants get in location. Some, I’m sure, but maybe not exact.

Posted by
2267 posts

’m not sure that everyone is understanding what most of these TEFL certificates lead to. Most people who get them do not teach in regular schools in Spain. They teach in language schools where they are not paid a lot of money, but are given a lot of time off.

Point well made, Mardee. These schools are for-profit companies, usually referred to as Language Academies. They’re mostly after-school or after-work programs.

To work as a regular teacher in the state school systems requires local degrees, or getting foreign degrees “recognized”, then a grueling set of civil service exams, (which is why the teachers in schools are almost never native speakers)

Posted by
648 posts

Mardee, Thank you for asking you sil about his experience teaching in Spain. I've been "mulling over" all the responses here trying to make sense of something I know/knew nothing about.
As I mentioned my granddaughter chose a "TEFL" program based in Barcelona. Through this program, she will need to teach in Barcelona...and take monthly in-person classes. I think that means, the program would obtain a student Visa for her; not a work Visa.
Also, I did not know that TEFLA could be obtained through different programs. I thought it was "one-and-done."

Schudder: Interesting about TEFL and CELTA certification. I did not know that CELTA is the "gold standard;" I did run across that acronym when I was doing a search. Do you know which certificate your friend had?
Also, I agree that September is not an ideal time to take a month-long class, but she is not ready to commit now. She will be working throughout the summer to save up more for her trip.

Our granddaughter is coming over this afternoon, so hopefully we can help her figure things out.

Heather and Paul: Thank you both for your input. Heather, I know...but truthfully I'm not sure I would want her to be in Barcelona a whole year...given. the negative publicity Barcelona has had recently on this forum.
Paul: I think I am understanding when one can get a "work visa."....certainly not ahead of time before a job.

Posted by
6778 posts

Carol, when your granddaughter comes over, you should ask her exactly what it is she wants to do. Does she want to teach in a regular Spanish school? If she does, then she will have to jump through a whole lot of hoops, and may not get to where she wants to be.

Or does she want to teach in one of the language schools that was discussed? In that case, that just takes one month of training and then she applies for jobs and whichever one she picks, her employer will get the work visa for her. It’s much easier, but of course it’s usually not permanent and the pay is not very good. Plus you have to provide your own housing. But it gives you the opportunity to travel and explore foreign places he want to see if her head and that’s why most people do that.

Posted by
2267 posts

Carol- I got the CELTA.

She won't qualify for a student visa for taking those monthly, in-person classes. You can only get a student visa when enrolled in a program that has minimum 20 hours a week in a classroom (as a student)

And I disagree (with respect) with Mardee—I'm sure it's vaguely possible for a prospective employer school to sponsor her, but it would be extraordinarily rare. It's a huge hassle and expense for an employer and the kind of thing that happens for people with specific advanced degrees and experience, and making significant salaries. Think high-level science researchers, fortune 500 executives, international lawyers... Those are the kind of workers/employers that get sponsored for visas.

*Edit to add... I don't mean to be a Debby Downer, but visa/residency stuff isn't easy. Living there illegally was easier to get away with 20 years ago, before immigration/passport control systems we computerized and globally integrated.

Posted by
5632 posts

She needs to obtain a Visa on her own.

When you get a work visa, you are in most cases sponsored by an employer. For example, when I worked in Europe, my employer applied for the visa on my behalf. My employer justified why I was uniquely qualified for the job and why the job could not be filled by a citizen. My visa was only valid for my specific job with my specific employer. I could not go and work for a different employer.

The TEFL school likely has connections with employers in Barcelona who could sponsor a visa. If she wants to work in Oviedo, she will need to find an employer there who is willing to sponsor her visa.

Posted by
648 posts

Marlee: I KNOW she wants to teach in one of the language schools; not in a regular Spanish school. She did mention the pay to us…and yes, it is not very good, at least to us old people.

Schudder: wow! Now more confused than ever. She is bringing her computer with her when she comes over, so hopefully between the 3 of us, we can make sense of what is required…. As well as a program that fits her needs. Thanks for the links.

Posted by
1 posts

To obtain a work visa for Spain, your granddaughter will need to apply at the Spanish consulate or embassy in the United States with required documents, which may include her passport, job offer letter, proof of financial means, and other supporting documents. She can also consider using a third-party company like Travisa for assistance with the visa application process. It's important to plan ahead and follow the specific requirements of the consulate or embassy. Good luck!

Posted by
10285 posts

3 choices
1. Language assistant program offered for recent university grads where she is placed in a public school to do conversation 15-20 hours a week. Fluency in Spanish. Per Scudder's description.
2. TEFL schools with placement help into a private school, in which case the employer applies for her visa. This she does once in Spain. Luckily for her, with Brexit, the playing field is leveled, but the Irish can still do the job without the pesky visa.
3. Finally, if she is the only one to possess an extraordinary skill needed by a Spanish company, the company will not only obtain her visa but they will also pay for the move and a lot of other perks. This is for high-level executives.
So you have no visa to apply for from the US, just research, as you are currently doing.

Posted by
6778 posts

Bets, I believe that Carol's granddaughter is looking for option 2 - the TEFL private language school (which is the same option my daughter and son-in-law chose to do for a year). And I agree with you about the process for this option.

Carol, you're right - there is really nothing she can or needs to do about a work visa now - that happens after she finds a job. The biggest thing she needs is to find a school that offers the TEFL training and certificate. I would suggest she check into that - my daughter and her husband researched schools extensively before they chose ECG.

And I disagree (with respect) with Mardee—I'm sure it's vaguely possible for a prospective employer school to sponsor her, but it would be extraordinarily rare. It's a huge hassle and expense for an employer and the kind of thing that happens for people with specific advanced degrees and experience, and making significant salaries.

Scudder, this is something that happens very frequently. Again, I'm not making this up - my daughter and SIL went through the process and worked for a year doing this. And it's not a huge hassle for these language schools - they make money by hiring teachers to teach English and have everything set in place. It does help to be a citizen of an EU country but Americans find jobs there every year.

Posted by
648 posts

Just wanted to give an update following our conversation with our granddaughter on Saturday. Our concerns were that she may have second thoughts about her choice of a TEFL program, since that particular program would limit her language teaching to Barcelona. We were willing to “bail her out,” if necessary.
But for now, she feels comfortable with her choice. She does have an advisor…so she wrote down questions she had about the program to ask her advisor.

As grandparents, we walk a “fine line,” between interfering and allowing her make informed decisions. It’s much easier to be supportive while she is still here, rather than be in Spain and overwhelmed and alone.

Thank you all for your input. I did change the title of my post to include “student” Visa.

Posted by
6778 posts

Carol, as noted above, even if she is limited to teaching in Barcelona, the TEFL teachers get a lot of time off (in lieu of decent pay :)) so I'm sure she would have many opportunities to visit there.

Posted by
2267 posts

Mardee, I don't doubt that you're faithfully conveying the experiences as shared with you. But the notion that working visas are offered to easily to get for language academies, and regularly offered to entry-level teachers doesn't add up. It completely contradicts my extensive recent research into pathways to visas and working permissions in Spain for US citizens, as well as contradicting conversations I've had with language teachers in Spain with whom I maintain contact.

I did take a look at the EBC link you shared—their program for non-EU offers only a student visa by enrolling in a 20/hr per week Spanish course (the minimum classroom time to maintain a student visa). A student visa holder can then work 30 hours per week—up from 20 just in the last year. But 30 hours of contact time is a lot for a language teacher, where 20-25 hours is considered full-time work. Then, they're offering all that for rates that just don't make sense—TEFL and 32 weeks of Spanish at 20hr/wk for under €3,000 when separately and legitimately that would run over €6,000. I don't know what their deal is, but it definitely doesn't add up.