One of the questions I always get asked is “How did you find a job in Spain?” A lot of Americans who want to work in Spain ask me, hoping I’ll be able to teach them the secrets of landing a visa and a job abroad. My answer is always disappointing –  I’m a dual U.S.-U.K. citizens, so I can show up and work anywhere in Europe.


But while I’ve been here, I have met a bunch of Americans who have been able to find jobs in Spain without the proper paperwork. Every so often I get asked if I have any tips, so I finally got around to finishing my tips for how to find work in Spain without papers.


One word of caution from Cat of Sunshine and Siestas before I get going: “I think it’s important to remind people how dangerous it can be not to have them – you can face a two-year ban in the EU, not to mention having your employer fork over thousands for a fine (their problem, not yours!)”

Keep that in mind and decide if that’s a risk you’re willing to take. If you are, here’s what you can to find some paid work.

Teach private English classes. 

It might be tedious, but this is a good way to find work. There are lots of people in Spain who want to improve their English. Right now might be a tough time because of the crisis, but there are always lots of listings for people who want English classes online. Check out sites like Loquo and Mis Clases Particulares. Post flyers in your neighborhood, and let everyone know you’re an English teacher.


The main issue with private classes is that students can be flaky. Flaky students = no money for you. I once had a girl who wanted 8 hours of class a week. The first week, she came every day right on time, so I blocked out my schedule. But she turned out to be absolutely crazy and didn’t show up at all for classes…so I missed out on a big chunk of money I’d been expecting to use for rent and groceries.

Other common problems you might run into are struggling to fill your schedule, and spending a lot of time traveling and preparing classes.

Find somewhere to work that isn’t so strict about papers.



This one is harder and takes some time, but it is definitely possible. I worked at an English academy that did have a teacher or two without papers, though I’m not sure if the teacher had tricked the academy or the academy had figured out a way around it. Either way, it does happen, but you have to be lucky and work hard to find the right place. You may have to sacrifice something, like working way outside of the city or getting stuck with the worst shifts.

Depending on where you want to be in Spain, they may be stricter about papers. If you walk through the city center of Barcelona, all the bars have “NIE Required for Work” signs up in the window.

Look for language academies, bars and restaurants, or temporary summer programs for under-the-table jobs. You can also try working as a club promoter. 

Amelie from Amelie Says Hola reminded me that a TEFL or CELTA certification may help if you want to work at a language academy.

Work for an au pair/nanny program or babysit

There are lots of websites that have listings for families abroad who want an English-speaking au pair – just a quick Google search for “au pair jobs Spain” gives you tons of results. I have zero personal experience with this, so I can’t recommend any reputable sites myself. But I do have a friend in Barcelona who successfully worked as an au pair, so it can be a good option. Your family may give you free food and housing.

The downsides with this job are not having much time away from work, and having to deal with somebody else’s family drama. You might also have to be flexible on location on this one.


Photo credit: Au Pair in Spain



If you don’t want to be a full-time au pair, you can try babysitting for families in your city. I got offered a job to pick up the kids from school at lunchtime, give them their lunch, and take them back to school (yeah, that school had a 2-hour break in the middle of the day). A lot of families like their kids having an English-speaking babysitter.



Look for freelance work



A lot of the time, freelance jobs are place-flexible, so if you can find somebody to write for you’re good to go. This requires a bit of leg-work and self-discipline, but it can be a nice way to make a chunk of cash.

One word of caution: I assumed writing for magazines in Barcelona wouldn’t require papers, but I was wrong. I had to give them my NIE (a national ID number for foreigners). If you’re in doubt, ask what information they’ll need in order to pay you.

Work online

Like freelance writing,  this one is place-flexible. There are tons of jobs you can do remotely, so see if you can find a job that’s online. I work for a website, and I’ve had a couple of friends work for me from different locations and get paid via PayPal. If you can find one of these jobs, it’s a great way to get a solid stream of money. Again, you do have to be lucky to find one of these, but it does happen.

Image retrieved via

Image retrieved via



I’ve found that most people who are working without papers in Spain tend to have more than one job. It might be hard to make all your money with just private English classes, but combine that with some freelance writing and you’re good to go. Talk to everyone you know about your work situation, and something should turn up – networking is big in Spain, so go for it.

Finding jobs without the paperwork in Spain can be frustrating, but I know lots of people who have made it work. It’s tough, but with some hard work and a bit of luck you can pull it off.

Also, here’s some more general info about finding work in Spain:

Do any of you have tips for finding jobs in Spain, with or without paperwork?