Dear GoMad Nomad:

These could be your peppers drying in the sun

Currently I am living in Donostia, Basque Country, with my girlfriend. At the end of the month we are likely to move to Madrid, to hunker down over winter. My problem is that neither of us have more than a tourist visa, which entitles us to only three months in Spain. I remembered that you had lived in Madrid for some time, and wondered how you stayed in the country, whether by obtaining a visa, or making occasional runs for a border, to refresh your entry visa, or some other way. I am sick of borders, fronteras, imaginary lines dividing countries.

-Moving to Madrid

And another letter:

Dear GoMad Nomad,

I am looking into teaching English in Spain, but I will just have a tourist visa so I need to do it under the table.  I have an online TEFL certificate but no teaching experience.  Do you know of any good ways of breaking into that with my limitations?

-In new territory

Dear Moving to Madrid and In New Territory:

Unfortunately you can’t just leave the country (or the EU or the Shengen zone) and return immediately. You actually need to leave for three months, because you are permitted only 90 days in a 180-day period. This applies to those from the US, Canada, Australia, Brazil, Argentina, Japan, South Korea, among others.

Fortunately, the Spanish are pretty relaxed at Passport Control and they generally don’t check your stamps very closely. Many EU and Shengen countries don’t even stamp your passport, which may complicate things or may work to your advantage, allowing you to stay extra time.

But…sometime they do check. This is a very real risk. I have a very good friend who was denied entry into Spain because he had already used his 90 days in 180-day period in Shengen countries. He was held at the airport in Madrid for three days before being allowed to return home.

I know plenty of North Americans and Australians that were living and working in Spain illegally, having left and entered multiple times even though they were over their limit. But that was before the economic crises of 2008. Friends of mine that are still teaching English in Spain say the job availability is scarce, so it might not be an optimal time to move to Spain. Read this article for more on teaching English in Spain.

Working without a work visa

Although obviously illegal, there are plenty of US citizens working in Spain without a work permit. If you’re smart, the risk is minimal. Start contacting English schools while you’re still at home to see what kind of response you get. If you’re determined to move to Spain anyhow, just do it. If you can’t find work at a private language academy, you can try to find private tutoring gigs. They usually pay 15-25 Euro per hour.

Getting an extension

I am under the impression that you can apply for an extension to add to your 90-day visa free period. But, as of 2011, this is going to require an apostilled criminal record check from your home country. Go to your local police station in Spain to apply.

Getting a work visa

To get a work visa for Spain, you have to be in your home country to complete the paperwork and take it to a Spanish embassy or consulate. Contact Spanish schools while you’re still in your home country and try and secure a job in May or June in order in order to start work at the beginning of the school year with all the official documents in hand.

The debate continues…

There is quite a debate over all this on different forums on the web. I have read and heard stories that reveal conflicting reports to all the information I just gave you. Please feel free to comment with your personal experience or any information you might have that coincides or conflicts with my views.