When I came to Spain in 2019, only a few months before the first lockdown, little did I know what an ordeal it would be to register as a freelancer (or self-employed). In principle, it should be a very simple procedure. And I made the mistake of taking it for granted. What happened was, something that eventually turned out to be possible to do in only a couple of days had become a really frustrating experience that lasted for more than a month. The only positive side was the support and the good advice I had received from fellow Oxinity partners. Therefore, I am taking this opportunity to share my experience here, hoping that it will be useful for newcomers, or anyone who is intending to register as autonomo in Spain.
There are three things you need in order to register as autonomo in Spain:
If you are a foreigner living in Spain, you probably already have an NIE or a TIE. If you don’t, do get hold of it as soon as you can. The Persona Fisica is a digital certificate that you generate online, however, you still need to visit a public office (most probably your local municipality) before you can proceed online. You need this certificate to carry out any admin related services in Spain. When you receive it, do not be surprised that you can download it on your computer but you can’t actually open it! You will soon find out that it is already registered in all the government websites you need to access.
The last step, that is opening a bank account, may sound relatively easy. You can even open a bank account in Spain as a non-resident. However, the decision of which bank to choose can be difficult if you do not know much about how banks operate in Spain. Also, like myself, you might encounter some unexpected obstacles on the way. So let me break it down for you again. Four things to consider before you choose a bank account in Spain are:
Most banks in Spain charge customers annual fees. One tip is to open an online bank account. Most of the big names have online accounts these days, which offer the same services as a physical account but are free of charge. For example, BBVA’s new online account is a good one. This was my first choice; however, I was not able to complete the online identification process because an NIE does not include a picture. And when you go to the branch, they do not offer you the same account, you have to open a physical account which charges at least 100 euros per year.
You might also want to think about accessibility when choosing your bank. Foreigners usually prefer online international banks that do not charge commission for foreign money transfers, but these banks might not have many ATMs or branches. On the other hand, the advantage of having an international bank account is that they operate in English.
One final point to take into account is whether your bank is supported by the social security system in Spain, which cooperates with certain banks only. This is crucial because you will need to pay your contributions as autonomo to the social security. At the bottom of this page, I have included for your information the list of banks supported by the system. ING is a good choice, it has very low costs, it is supported by the system and they have very good customer service. The downside is they only operate in Spanish.
So, you got your documents and bank account ready and now you can register as autonomo. There are still a few more steps to complete, such as generating your social security number, but with your NIE/TIE and the Persona Fisica, you can now do all the rest online! If you have a good grasp of the Spanish language and the administrative system, it is perfectly doable. However, many foreigners find a ‘gestor’ who will do the registration process and maintain the accounting side of the business for them. After going through so many obstacles with the first steps, I personally decided not to take any more risks and did the same. If you want a piece of mind, this is what I recommend to you, too.