Don’t Want to Be an Auxiliar de Conversación Anymore? Here’s How to Become Autónomo in Spain.
Today I’ll talk more about life in Spain and how I legally made it work after being an auxiliar de conversación for the first four years!
It’s finally springtime here in León and everyone is so happy about it! The parks are full of people picnicking, biking, and walking, and the terrazas are full of life as people go out for tapas in the early evening. There are storks in their giant nests high up in the trees, clucking vibrantly as they gracefully fly overhead. This weekend I got to spend an entire afternoon in a large park on the outskirts of town called La Candamia watching the storks, eating picnic foods (including huevo frito chips), playing music, reading, and lying on a blanket. I can’t think of anything more peaceful than that.
Days like yesterday get me thinking about how fortunate I’ve been to be able to live and work here in Spain, enjoying simple pleasures like terrazas, paseos, vino (and free tapas), and beautiful landscapes. I can’t say that life is always dreamlike and smooth sailing over here, it’s been a lot of hard work to make it happen, and I see a lot of injustices and problems here just like any other place. There are some Spanish people who ask me, “but why here?” as they’d rather be on the first plane out of here if they could be. It’s hard to answer por qué exactamente – it’s just a place that’s drawn me like a magnet and I haven’t been able to stay away from. I’ve TRIED to go away but I came back! (2015 was a weird year.) Legally speaking, I’ve gone from a short-term student visa, renewing for three years, to self-employed, with nerve-wracking paperwork, deadlines, and holding my breath/crossing my fingers every year for approval. And every year, even when it was a really tight deadline, I’ve managed to get the letter of approval and my residency card renewed.
In the summer of 2017 my residency was up for renewal but this time I needed to switch my residency from student (as I was previously in the Auxiliares de Conversación program) to self-employed, known in Spanish as autónomo. Otherwise it would have been difficult or impossible to stay any longer!
If you’re interested in staying in Spain and you’re not doing pareja de hecho, getting married, or being sponsored by a company, becoming autónomo is the way to go, especially if you want to work with academies or private students.
You’ll need to make an appointment with your local Extranjería (foreigner’s office) well in advance. Keep in mind that you can apply within 60 days before your auxiliar visa/current TIE ends, or up to 90 days after. Before you go, there are several things to take care of:
- Download and fill out the application form EX-07.
- Make a business plan. You’ll need this to submit with your application. Here’s the template that I used, feel free to download and edit it.
- Print out some data about your financial situation, such as recent bank statements, proving you have funds to get started.
- Head over to your local Autónomos office. Probably best to make an appointment. I went all suited up in a black blazer to show my seriousness (though not required!), with my business plan and financial documents in hand. The señora in the office was extremely helpful, giving me some edits to the business plan to make it more viable before sending it off to Madrid for approval. I took care of this in early June so I could start the residency renewal process by the end of July. I got that stamped and approved business plan back in around four weeks.
- Get photocopies made of your passport. I’d make copies of all of the pages, but what they need is the main page, plus any pages with stamps.
Now it’s time to head to the “Foreignery” with your application form, stamped business plan, passport pages, and proof of funds. In Santander, I got randomly placed with the rudest lady in the office, who when I handed her the paperwork, snapped at me saying “where’s the rest of it?” when she hadn’t bothered to flip past my passport copies. Umm, it’s RIGHT THERE, ma’am. All my paperwork got scanned in, and I was told to wait for my letter of resolution – this can take up to three months. So I spent the rest of the summer in *breath holding: take two* mode, nervous that I’d be rejected and booted out of the country. Thankfully, on August 31st, my approval letter arrived!
Once that letter comes, you’ll need another appointment at the Extranjería to get your fingerprints taken. Make sure this time you select : TOMA DE HUELLAS. They’ll tell you at that appointment around when your new ID card (TIE) will be ready. Usually it’s around 45 days. So all in all, for me the process between starting with the Autónomos office and getting my official card took around 5 months.
You don’t have to wait for your official card – once you get the approval letter, you can start getting registered in the Social Security system and the AEAT tax system. Be prepared to pay your own taxes quarterly and have money taken out of your bank account each month for Social Security. Fun times!
Oh hey, as a bonus here’s my invoice template. Fun fact: teachers don’t have to charge IVA! At least for now. And if you’re a new autónomo, you can start out charging 7% IRPF (taxes) – those are taxes that are paid for you by your clients. You don’t need to charge IRPF to private students. Most of the time, you’ll only use an invoice for company clients. When it’s quarterly tax time, you’ll pay the difference that you owe – and you will likely owe something if you’re only charging 7% IRPF.
If you’re looking for more details, especially if you want to do this process from back in the States, this is THE MOST HELPFUL post that I used to do this process.