Access to the labour market


Country Report: Access to the labour market Last updated: 22/05/23


Asylum seekers are legally entitled to start working 6 months after their application for asylum is officially accepted, while their application is being examined.

Once the first 6-month period is over, applicants may request the renewal of their “red card” (tarjeta roja), in which it will appear that they are authorised to work in Spain with the term of validity of the document that has been issued.[1] There are no other criteria or requirements for them to obtain a work permit, which is valid for any labour sector.

Due to this, and to facilitate their social and labour insertion, reception centres for asylum seekers organise vocational and host language training.

Labour integration supportive schemes offered to hosted asylum seekers include services like personalised guidance interviews, pre-employment training, occupational training, active job seeking support.

However, asylum seekers face many obstacles to accessing the Spanish labour market in practice. Many of them do not speak Spanish at the time they receive the red card. In addition to that, the recognition of their qualifications is a long, complicated and often expensive procedure. Lastly, they face discrimination due to their nationality or religion.[2]

In March 2020, the State Secretary for Migration adopted an instruction addressed to the Autonomous Communities (which are in charge of the protection and guardianship of unaccompanied migrant children), with the aim of providing work permits to adolescents aged between 16 and 18. The measure aims at improving the situation of unaccompanied migrant children and at assuring them the access to the labour market within the same conditions as Spanish nationals.[3]

Moreover, in response to the COVID-19 situation, the Government announced in May 2020 the automatic prolongation for 6 months of the work and residence permits that would have expired during the State of Alarm declared in Spain.[4] Many NGOs asked the Government to take a further step by regularising all undocumented migrants in Spain.[5] They denounced the inadequacy of measures to ensure access to employment to migrants and refugees, especially regarding the sectors of health and agriculture.[6]

During the same month of May 2020, the Council of Ministers adopted a Royal Decree,[7] which grants a work and residence permit for 2 years (renewable for an additional 2 years) to young migrants who have arrived as unaccompanied minors and are regularly present in Spain and who work in the agricultural field.[8] Moreover, in September 2020 the Ministry of Inclusion adopted an instruction providing that, all those that worked in the agricultural field in accordance with the mentioned instruction can maintain their residence and work permit for an additional 2 years, and work also in other job sectors.[9]

During 2020, domestic workers further called on the Spanish Government to ratify the 189 ILO Convention on domestic workers to guarantee their rights.[10] In February 2021, the Government announced that it will start carrying out inspections to employers who hire domestic workers full time without having updated the professional minimum wage. Domestic workers’ groups welcome the measure as a step to guarantying them better rights.[11] At the beginning of 2022, the Labour Inspectorate launched a campaign aiming at the regularisation of salaries and contributions of part-time domestic workers, by sending more than 35,000 letters to those employers who have been identified in committing possible irregularities in the contracts[12] In June 2022, the Congress voted the ratification of the 189 ILO Convention.[13]




[1] Article 32 Asylum Act; Article 13 Asylum Regulation.

[2] Federación S.O.S. Racismo, ‘Informe anual sobre el racismo en el Estado español – 2022’, December 2022, available at:    

[3] Ministerio de Inclusión, Seguridad Social y Migraciones, Secretaría de Estado de Migraciones, ‘Instrucción 1/2020 de la Secretaría de Estado de Migraciones por la que se habilita a trabajar a menores extranjeros en edad laboral’, 6 March 2020, available in Spanish at:; El País, ‘El Gobierno facilitará el permiso de trabajo a los menores migrantes’, 7 March 2020, available in Spanish at:

[4] Gobierno de España, Orden SND/421/2020, de 18 de mayo, por la que se adoptan medidas relativas a la prórroga de las autorizaciones de estancia y residencia y/o trabajo y a otras situaciones de los extranjeros en España, en aplicación del Real Decreto 463/2020, de 14 de marzo, por el que se declara el estado de alarma para la gestión de la situación de crisis sanitaria ocasionada por el COVID-19, 18 May 2020, available in Spanish at:

[5] Europapress, ‘ONG celebran la prórroga de residencia y trabajo a extranjeros pero piden “un paso más” y regularizar a ‘sin papeles’, 20 May 2020, available in Spanish at:

[6] Cuarto Poder, ‘España prescinde del trabajo de miles de migrantes y refugiados durante la pandemia’, 9 May 2020, available in Spanish at:; Servimedia, ‘La Red de Inmigración considera un “parche” la prórroga de seis meses para los permisos de residencia y trabajo’, 21 May 2020, available at:

[7] Gobierno de España, Real Decreto-ley 19/2020, de 26 de mayo, por el que se adoptan medidas complementarias en materia agraria, científica, económica, de empleo y Seguridad Social y tributarias para paliar los efectos del COVID-19, 26 May 2020, available in Spanish at:

[8] El Pais, ‘El Gobierno dará permiso de trabajo a los inmigrantes del campo durante dos años, 26 May 2020, available in Spanish at:

[9] Ministerio de Inclusión, Securidad Social y Migraciones, ‘Instrucciones DGM 9/2020 sobre el régimen aplicable a los jóvenes, nacionales de terceros países, que se encuentren en situación regular de entre los 18 y los 21 años que hayan sido empleados en el sector agrario con base en el real decreto ley 13/2020, de 7 de abril, por el que se adoptan determinadas medidas urgentes en materia de empleo agrario, cuando finalice su vigencia’, 29 September 2020, available in Spanish at:

[10] El Salto Diario, Trabajadoras de hogar exigen al Gobierno la ratificación del convenio que dignifica sus condiciones nueve años después de su aprobación, 16 June 2020, available in Spanish at:

[11] Pikara Magazine, ‘Una victoria parcial para las trabajadoras del hogar’, 3 February 2021, available in Spanish at:

[12] El Diario, ‘La Inspección de Trabajo inicia una nueva campaña contra los salarios por debajo del SMI a empleadas del hogar’, 31 January 2022, available at:; Ministerio de Trabajo y Economía Social, ‘Nueva campaña de actuación inspectora – servicio hogar’, January 2022, available at:

[13] CTXT, ‘Una victoria histórica para las trabajadoras del hogar, 9 June 2022, available at:;  UGT, ‘Avance histórico para las trabajadoras del hogar’, 6 September 2022, available at:

Table of contents

  • Statistics
  • Overview of the legal framework
  • Overview of the main changes since the previous report update
  • Asylum Procedure
  • Reception Conditions
  • Detention of Asylum Seekers
  • Content of International Protection
  • ANNEX I – Transposition of the CEAS in national legislation