Doing Business In Spain

Visa Information

Spain is one of 15 member countries of the Schengen Convention, an agreement whereby all the then EU member countries (except the UK and Ireland) plus Iceland and Norway abolished checks at internal borders in 2000. As of 1 January 2007, the EU is made up of 27 countries. For detailed information on the EU, including which countries are member states, visit
EU, Norwegian, Swiss and Icelandic nationals need no visa, regardless of the length or purpose of their visit to Spain. If they stay beyond 90 days, they are required to register with the police (although many do not). Legal residents of one Schengen country (regardless of their nationality) do not require a visa for another Schengen country.
Nationals of many other countries, including Australia, Canada, Israel, Japan, NZ, Switzerland and the USA, do not need a visa for tourist visits of up to 90 days in Spain, although some of these nationalities may be subject to restrictions in other Schengen countries and should check with consulates of all Schengen countries they plan to visit. If you wish to work or study in Spain, you may need a specific visa, so contact a Spanish consulate before travel. If you are a citizen of a country not mentioned, check with a Spanish consulate whether you need a visa.
The standard tourist visa issued by Spanish consulates is the Schengen visa, valid for up to 90 days. A Schengen visa issued by one Schengen country is generally valid for travel in all other Schengen countries.
Those needing a visa must apply in person at the consulate in the country where they are resident. You may be required to provide proof of sufficient funds, an itinerary or hotel bookings, return tickets and a letter of recommendation from a host in Spain. Issue of the visa does not, however, guarantee entry.
Coming from Morocco, you are unlikely to get into Spain’s North African enclaves of Ceuta or Melilla without a Spanish visa (if you are supposed to have one), and passports are generally checked again when you head on to the peninsula. You may well be able to board a boat from Tangier (Morocco) to Algeciras and certainly to Gibraltar but, again, passports are generally closely checked by the Spaniards at Algeciras and you could be sent back to Morocco.
Extensions & residence
Schengen visas cannot be extended. You can apply for no more than two visas in any 12-month period and they are not renewable once in Spain. Various transit visas also exist. Nationals of EU countries, Iceland, Norway and Switzerland can enter and leave Spain at will and don’t need to apply for a tarjeta de residencia (residence card), although having one can make things like opening bank accounts easier.
People of other nationalities who want to stay in Spain longer than 90 days are supposed to get a residence card, and for them it can be a drawn-out process, starting with an appropriate visa issued by a Spanish consulate in their country of residence. Start the process well in advance.
Non-EU spouses of EU citizens resident in Spain can apply for residency too. The process is lengthy and those needing to travel in and out of the country in the meantime who would normally require a visa should ask for an exención de visado – a visa exemption. In most cases, the spouse is obliged to make the formal application in their country of residence.

Business Etiquette

Relationships & Communication
The Spanish prefer to do business with those they know and trust. 
It is important that you spend sufficient time letting your business colleagues get to know you.
Once you develop a relationship, it will prevail even if you switch companies, since your Spanish business colleagues' allegiance will be to you rather than the company you represent. 
Face-to-face contact is preferred to written or telephone communication. 
The way you present yourself is of critical importance when dealing with Spaniards.
It is best to display modesty when describing your achievements and accomplishments.
Communication is formal and follows rules of protocol. 
Avoid confrontation if at all possible. Spaniards do not like to publicly admit that they are incorrect. 
Trust and personal relationships are the cornerstone of business. 
Spaniards, like many societies, are concerned that they look good in the eyes of others and try to avoid looking foolish at all times.
Business Negotiation
Spaniards place great importance on the character of the person with whom they do business. 
Hierarchy and rank are important. You should deal with people of similar rank to your own. 
Decision-making is held at the top of the company, since this is a hierarchical country. You may never actually meet the person who ultimately makes the decision. 
You may be interrupted while you are speaking. This is not an insult, it merely means the person is interested in what you are saying. 
Spaniards do not like to lose face, so they will not necessarily say that they do not understand something, particularly if you are not speaking Spanish. You must be adept at discerning body language. 
Spaniards are very thorough. They will review every minute detail to make certain it is understood. 
First you must reach an oral understanding. A formal contract will be drawn up at a later date. 
Spaniards expect both sides to strictly adhere to the terms of a contract. 
Business Meeting Etiquette
Appointments are mandatory and should be made in advance, preferably by telephone or fax. Reconfirm in writing or by telephone the week before. 
You should try to arrive on time for meetings. 
The first meeting is generally formal and is used to get to know each other. Do not be surprised if no business is actually conducted during the first meeting. 
Agendas are often used but not always needed to be followed too strict. 
Make sure all your printed material is available in both English and Spanish. 
Not all businesspeople speak English, so it is wise to check if you should hire an interpreter. 
Several people may speak at once. You may be interrupted while you are speaking. 
Decisions are not reached at meetings. Meetings are for discussion and to exchange ideas. 
Most Spaniards do not give their opinion at meetings. Therefore, it is important to watch their non-verbal communication.
Dress Etiquette
Business dress is stylish yet, conservative. 
Dress as you would in the rest of Europe.
Elegant accessories are important for both men and women.
Business Cards
Present your business card to the receptionist upon arriving. 
Have one side of your card translated into Spanish. 
Hand your card so the Spanish side faces the recipient.

General Business Hours

Generally, Spaniards work Monday to Friday from about 9am to 2pm and then again from 4.30pm or 5pm for another three hours. Shops and travel agencies are usually open similar hours on Saturday as well, although many skip the evening session. The further south you go, the longer the afternoon break tends to be, with shops and the like staying closed until 6pm or so.
Big supermarkets and department stores, such as the nationwide El Corte Inglés chain, open from about 10am to 10pm Monday to Saturday. Shops in tourist resorts sometimes open on Sunday too.
Many government offices don’t bother opening in the afternoon, any day of the year. In summer, offices tend to go on to horario intensivo, which means they can start as early as 7am and finish up for the day by 2pm.
Museums all have their own opening hours: major ones tend to open for something like normal Spanish business hours (with or without the afternoon break), but often have their weekly closing day on Monday.
Pharmacies have a wide variety of opening hours. The standard hours follow those of other shops. In the bigger centres you will find several that open 24 hours a day. Some have extended hours, say 8am to 10pm, usually on a rota basis. To find out where late-opening pharmacies are in the cities and bigger towns, pick up the local paper.
As a general rule restaurants open their kitchens for lunch from 1pm to 4pm and for dinner from 8pm to midnight. The further south you go, the later locals tend to go out to eat. While restaurants in Barcelona may already be busy by 9.30pm, their Madrid counterparts are still half empty at this time. At lunch and dinner you can generally linger quite a while after the kitchen closes. Some, but by no means all, places close one or two days a week. Some also shut for a few weeks’ annual holiday – the most common period for this is during August.
Bars have a wider range of hours. Those that serve as cafés and snack bars can open from about 8am to the early evening. Those that are more nightlife bars may open in the early evening and generally close around 2am to 3am. Some places combine the two roles. As the bars close the clubs open (generally from around midnight or 1am to around 5am or 6am).