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Nationals of EU countries, Iceland, Norway and Switzerland are able to work in Spain without a visa, but for stays of more than three months they should apply for a tarjeta de residencia (residence card).

Virtually everyone else seeking to work in Spain is supposed to obtain, from a Spanish consulate in their country of residence, a work permit and, if they plan to stay more than 90 days, a residence visa. These procedures are well nigh impossible unless you have a job contract lined up before you begin them (or unless you’re married to a Spaniard). Many people do, however, work without tangling with the bureaucracy.

Perhaps the easiest source of work for foreigners is teaching English (or another foreign language), but, even with full qualifications, non-EU citizens will find permanent positions scarce. Most of the larger, more reputable schools will hire only non-EU citizens who already have work and/or residence permits, but their attitude becomes more flexible if demand for teachers is high and you have particularly good qualifications. In the case of EU citizens, employers will generally help you through the bureaucratic minefield.

Madrid is loaded with ‘cowboy outfits’ that pay badly and often aren’t overly concerned about quality. Still, the only way you’ll find out is by hunting around. Schools are listed under Academias de Idiomas in the Páginas Amarillas (Yellow Pages).

Sources of information on possible teaching work include foreign cultural centres (the British Council, Alliance Française etc), foreign-language bookshops and university notice boards. Many language schools have notice boards where you may find work opportunities, or where you can advertise your own services. Cultural institutes you may want to try include the following.

Alliance Française (91 435 15 32; www.alliancefrancaisemadrid.net, in Spanish; Cuesta de Santo Domingo 13; Santo Domingo)

British Council (91 337 35 00; www.britishcouncil.es; Paseo del General Martínez Campos 31; Iglesia)

Goethe Institut (91 391 39 44; www.goethe.de/madrid, in German or Spanish; Calle de Zurbarán 21; Colón)

Translating and interpreting could be an option if you are fluent in Spanish and have a language that’s in demand.

Another option might be au pair work, organised before you come to Spain. A useful guide is The Au Pair and Nanny’s Guide to Working Abroad, by Susan Griffith and Sharon Legg. Susan Griffith has also written Work Your Way Around the World and Teaching English Abroad.

Business hours

Standard working hours are Monday to Friday from 8am or 9am to 2pm and then again from 3pm or 4pm for another three hours.

Banks open from 8.30am to 2pm Monday to Friday; some branches also open 4pm to 7pm on Thursday and/or 9am to 1pm on Saturday.

The Central Post Office opens from 8.30am to 9.30pm Monday to Friday and 8.30am to 2pm Saturday; many suburban post offices open from 8.30am to 8.30pm but many smaller ones only open from 8am to 2pm Monday to Friday.

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Doing business

Madrid has, in the past decade, imposed itself as the financial as well as political capital of Spain, much to the chagrin of eternal rival Barcelona, which was once considered the country’s economic motor. The kind of comparison people used to draw between the two cities and Rome and Milan (respectively the political and financial capitals of Italy) increasingly seems misplaced.

Much of Madrid’s business activity takes place in the northern half of the city centre, on and around the Paseo de la Castellana. The biggest trade fairs are held in the complex of the Feria de Madrid, east of the city near the airport.

People looking to expand their business into Spain should contact their own country’s trade department (such as the DTI in the UK). The commercial department of the Spanish embassy in your own country should also have information – at least on negotiating the country’s epic red tape. The trade office of your embassy may be able to help.

The Cámara Oficial de Comercio e Industria de Madrid (City Chamber of Commerce; 91 538 35 00; www.camaramadrid.es; Calle de Ribera del Loira 56-58; Campo des las Naciones) offers advisory services on most aspects of doing or setting up business in Madrid, as well as video-conferencing facilities and an accessible business database. The chamber has an office (91 305 88 07) in terminal T1 (arrivals hall) at Barajas airport with fax, phone and photocopy facilities, and a small meeting area.

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