Coaching Column: Paperless But Not Powerless


Column – by Sam Mednicklogo_500px


Hi Sam,

I’m embarking on my sixth year living in Barcelona and I’m still struggling with visa issues. Until now, I’ve managed to find part-time jobs teaching English, handing out flyers, doing event promotions, bar tending, waitressing (under the table)—you name it, I’ve done it.

It was fine at the beginning, but now that I want to set up a life here, I’d like a stable job with a steady income. I’ve found a way to get a visa, but it’s probably going to take another year until it’s sorted. In the meantime, I’m going a little crazy with these odd jobs and don’t want to wait a year to start making more money. I know you can’t speed up the visa process, but any thoughts as to how I can make a good living even if I’m not yet legal, would be greatly appreciated!

Illegal Alien

Hi Illegal Alien,

Welcome to the expat club—the one where you often don’t feel like a real person living in this city and where you’re constantly trying to convince a local to marry you. It’s not easy and I know some people who have been here for 10 years and are still not legal. So, the fact that you have a ‘visa in progress’ is a huge feat and, once that comes to fruition, it’ll undoubtedly change your experience. That said, I understand your frustrations and there are definitely things you can do to improve the situation until you become legal.

Work for a company based in another country

One thing that many people do is work for a company based in a country where they are legal. It might seem counter-intuitive to look for work outside of Spain, but today, living in such a mobile world, we can work from anywhere. Many companies have offices in Barcelona or employees based here. If there’s an organisation you’re interested in working for, ask if they have an office here. If they don’t have one and you’re feeling bold, ask if you can set one up. Barcelona is fast becoming the hub for start-ups and tech companies as well as other industries (humanitarian work and NGOs), and many organisations might be keen to jump on the bandwagon.

Start your own business

This will enable you to combine something you care about and earn an income. It’s not as much of a sure-bet as working for an established business, but it allows you to register somewhere where you are legal and can pay taxes, while giving yourself a chance to create a stable income stream and do something you’re passionate about, rather than ‘bits and pieces’ around the city. Have a look at December’s column if you want a few tips about starting your own business.

Talk to friends

Something else you can do, which is often quite helpful, is to talk to friends who have their own businesses or have been in the city for a while. The key to this city is knowing people and you never know what helpful information and insights you might be able to gather from your network.

Most importantly, hang in there! The solution is within reach so, in the meantime, take the opportunity to get as many of your ducks in a row as possible. Reach out to companies in Barcelona who are open to hiring you once you are legal. Foster relationships and create connections with those who you might want to work with once you have that ever-so-handy and powerful little plastic card!

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