If you’ve decided to teach English and live la vita bella in Italy or la vida loca in Spain, you have to be ready for the onslaught of paperwork that will head your way, especially if you’re North American. If you plan to stay in either of these countries for more than three months and you are not a European citizen, you must apply for a work or student visa in your country of origin.
Before I renewed my European passport, I was forced to go through this process, which involved buying private health insurance and printing out my bank statements to prove I had enough money to survive in case all hell broke loose.
The people you will deal with at the embassy or consulate in your country of origin will definitely be very mean to you. I’m pretty sure when they hire people, they ask them to sell their souls. I don’t know what it is about consulate workers, but they aren’t happy balls of sunshine.
When you receive your visa and head to your destination, you must go to the police station to receive a card either called permesso di soggiorno or certificado de registro.
Many Americans and Canadians choose to travel and stay in Spain or Italy without a visa. After the three months are up, they continue working and living at their destination. This is 100% possible and fairly easy to do. You arrive, you stay, and no one checks. It may save you the initial headache by avoiding paperwork and visa costs, but you run into several problems:
1. You don’t have a real work contract.
You have no rights as an employee, because you aren’t “really there”. They can “forget” to pay you, and you can’t do anything about it. Moreover, you don’t have access to free healthcare, which is automatic if the contract is real, and you pay taxes.
2. You can’t travel.
Sure, weekend trips to neighboring countries might not be a problem, but if you go to the UK or have an officer look through your passport during a domestic flight, you’re screwed. (I had left my residence card at home and had a lot of explaining to do at the London airport customs office.)
3. You can get deported.
In the unlikely event you get caught at an airport without a visa and an expired passport stamp, you can get a huge fine, face deportation, and be prohibited from entering the EU for years.
I’ve met people who work both illegally and legally in Spain or Italy. In the end, I highly recommend you follow legal procedures and do things the right way. A bit of stress at the beginning will save you a lot of worry in the long run.