Teaching English in Spain: Teaching In the Black

01 March 2021

English Teaching without a visa

Part 3 of our 5 article series on teaching English in Spain. Information on teaching "in the black", meaning illegally, with or without papers, but under the radar of the Spanish tax and immigration system.

Even without the visa there are opportunities in the still strong black money market

If you can somehow pull it off, teaching English in Spain can be a great first step into the country. Many English teachers don’t last more than a year or two, particularly if you’re teaching children. Yet many of these people are still living in Spain because they’ve gotten their papers and branched out, making connections through their fellow teachers, students, friends and roommates. They find jobs in other fields or even in English teaching related positions too. For example, a teacher I know is now doing conversation classes over the phone, another is doing voice-overs for commercials, and yet another is doing web development.

There are so many opportunities for Western expats… once you have a foot in the door and a visa in your passport. The foot in the door will take you 6-12 months in Spain to find, and the work visa will take a bit of luck. Even without the visa there are opportunities in the still strong “black money” market (which isn’t as crazy as it sounds).

If you do find yourself teaching English in the “black” (without a visa), here are a few tips:

Some employers are better than others, of course, with there being some very nice, very sympathetic bosses!

Teaching English in Schools in Spain without a Visa:

  • It’s better and more profitable to teach private classes than to teach at a private academy anyway.
  • Schools will probably not pay you very well, nor treat you with customary respect. You’ll possibly be overworked and underpaid, then burn out and quit within six months to a year. This can really tarnish your experience in Spain. It’s sad but it happens too often.
  • You won’t get paid for the time spent making lesson plans or doing student evaluations whether you’re teaching English at a private academy or not, so become efficient at this.
  • If an amnesty comes along, you’ll get your working papers! Unless your boss is a jerk of course...
  • There is almost no job security, so forget things like equality, fair treatment and severance packages. Expect to suck up the boss.
  • Some employers are better than others, of course, with there being some very nice, very sympathetic bosses!
  • Teaching English in a school can still be rewarding too however, providing teaching materials, having access to a classroom and photocopy machine (which you’ll likely use for copying materials for any private classes you run). The social aspect of working with (generally) good camaraderie and support helps make you feel less isolated during the rough spots and you’ll soon make good friends.
  • Schools, or any employer, hiring illegal workers are subject to fines if they’re inspected, so any work or classes they do give you will often keep you outside of the school/office itself (possibly doing in-business English classes). This means more unpaid commuting time.
  • Almost none of the English schools located within the city centre of any major Spanish city (Barcelona, Madrid, Seville, Valencia, etc) will have foreigners working without papers, meaning that they’re employing Brits and/or they’ll have you working in the suburbs or even the satellite cities around the city. Make sure they pay you for at least part of your transportation fees like the metro and bus fares. They won’t pay you for your time in transit commute though, so bring a good book or do lesson plans then.
  • If things go bad but your students like you, you may be able to steal them from the school, making them private students. Be careful though, this isn’t nice and could burn bridges, which, when you’re illegal, isn’t a good idea. Again, see the first tip in this list.

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