The European tech landscape, home to thriving ecosystems in countries like Spain, Portugal, and Germany, has emerged as a magnet for tech talent from all corners of the globe.
Our experience shows that these three countries are currently Europe's top tech relocation destinations – possibly thanks to the fast-track processes they have initiated to open doors for highly skilled workers from all over the globe.
As you may know, EU/EEA citizens can freely live, work, and relocate within the EU. Importing non-EU talent to fill any vacancies within your business will be trickier. In this article, we aim to provide a comprehensive overview of the processes and considerations involved in the hiring and relocating of non-EU tech professionals to Spain, Portugal, and Germany. We’ll look at two types of visas for each country – highly skilled professionals and digital nomad (freelancer) visas.
We don’t aim to give legal advice, and any information contained in this article should be double-checked with an immigration lawyer familiar with your company and the professionals you want to hire. However, this article – and the comparison charts below – can give you a general overview of your options and how much hassle and time hiring in each country may take.
Hiring and relocating IT professionals to Spain
One of the sunniest European destinations is an attractive immigration destination not only thanks to its beaches and cultural monuments. Spain has made it pretty straightforward for knowledge workers to obtain residence permits – be it as highly skilled employees or digital nomads.
Hiring tech employees - highly skilled professional permit
The quickest way to hire tech specialists in Spain is via a Highly skilled professional permit. This permit was created in 2013 to attract highly skilled technical and IT or executive talent. The application procedure can be done in Spain, and the hiring company is the one obliged to go through it.
This permit requires that the employee:
Is being hired for a technical or executive position;
has a university degree;
is projected to earn over €40k per year or over €55k per year as an executive.
It may take a month for a candidate to receive a response to their application. If successful, the permit will be granted for one year, along with a live & work permit for the specialist’s spouse and children. Read more about the documents needed for employees who apply for the highly qualified worker status here.
Hiring IT B2B Contractors - Spain Digital Nomad Visa
An alternative option for hiring non-EU citizens in Spain is to position an employee on a digital nomad visa. This type of visa, approved in December 2022, allows people to live and work remotely in Spain while maintaining their employment or self-employment status in another country.
This visa is mainly for two types of profiles:
A worker whose company lets them work remotely from Spain; and
A self-employed person with clients outside of Spain (Spanish companies can represent no more than 20% of total income).
The requirements for granting the visa include no criminal record, sufficient experience and education, insurance, minimum income, certificate for social security, and others.
In addition to these basic requirements, the applicant must demonstrate three years of work-related experience before application or have a bachelor’s degree (or higher) from a reputable university, vocational training, or recognized business school. Read more about the Digital Nomad Visa requirements here.
If successful, the candidate will be allowed to live in Spain for up to five years (the initial remote work visa lasts for three years, with the possibility to extend for a further two), paying a reduced income tax rate of 24% (from work up to € 600,000).
The application can be made inland during the 90 days as a tourist or from a Spanish embassy or consulate in their own country. If they apply directly from Spain, they can obtain a 3-year permit (renewable for 2). If they apply from an embassy, they get a 1-year visa (that can be modified to residency later on).
Thanks to a fast-track process, the application will be resolved within 20 working days.
Relocating tech professionals to Germany
Germany offers a high standard of living and a multicultural environment, making it an ideal relocation destination for IT professionals across the globe. The country is home to many tech mega-corporations and a thriving startup scene. In addition, according to a 2023 study by Yahoo Finance, Germany is among the top 15 countries with the highest average IT salaries in the world and among the top 10 countries in Europe.
Hiring IT talent - The German EU Blue Card (Blaue Karte)
The German EU Blue Card is a residence permit for university graduates or skilled workers from abroad. It offers a simple and unbureaucratic procedure for non-EU citizens to move to Germany for work.
On July 7th, 2023, the German government loosened the conditions for receiving the Blue Card to make Germany more attractive to skilled workers. For example, IT specialists no longer need a university degree to apply for the Blue Card – it’s enough to have sufficient work experience and a completed vocational training program, e.g., a tech bootcamp.
Requirements for receiving the EU Blue Card for IT specialists (that may still be subject to change since the law is not enforced yet):
Minimum annual salary of €45,552 gross;
University degree or vocational training program recognized in Germany;
Without a degree, a minimum of 2 years experience is required.
The application procedure can be done in Germany while already working on the job (if the employer and employee sign a mutual agreement about this). The applicant’s spouse and children can join with a German family reunion visa and can enjoy the same healthcare, education, and social benefits as well as work in any occupation.
The German Blue Card is issued for the duration of the work contract plus three months. The maximum period it can be issued for is four years.
Read more about the requirements and application process for the German EU Blue Card.
Hiring IT B2B Contractors - freelancer visa and residence permit in Germany
As IT specialists quality as a profession that benefits the German economy, they can apply for a freelancer visa and residence permit. To do this, they must prove that clients are interested in working with them (you must write a letter of intent proving that you plan to hire them).
Other requirements the candidate must follow to qualify for a Germany freelance visa:
They must prove that they have sufficient means to live comfortably (minimum €9,000 per year);
They must have legal residence in Germany (they must find accommodation and register their address at a local registration office);
If they are over 45, they must have an adequate pension plan.
The application should be done in the candidate’s home country via the local German embassy. Once the visa is granted (after 3-4 months), they can enter Germany and start freelancing. The visa is valid for three years.
Freelancers or the self-employed must pay 14% to 45% income tax, depending on their earnings. Freelancers do not have to pay social security in Germany.
Read more about the documents required to apply for a German Freelancer Visa.
Relocating tech professionals to Portugal
Around 7% of Portugal’s residents are expats, and this number is growing every year. The country has a relatively low cost of living, universal healthcare, a strong community for digital nomads, and of course – the perfect climate. Add friendly conditions for hiring tech professionals to the mix, and we won’t be surprised if you choose to establish your business in Portugal.
Hiring IT employees - Portuguese Tech Visa (Skilled worker visa)
The Skilled worker visa is the best residence permit if you want to hire a candidate in Portugal with a contract that’ll last over a year. Tech visas fall within the category of High-skilled worker visas, allowing companies registered in Portugal to bring skilled employees from non-Schengen countries to live and work in Portugal.
Portuguese companies wishing to join the Tech visa-certified companies list must:
Be free of social security or tax authorities' debts;
Not be in the restructuring phase.
Steps for enrolling in the program include:
Create an Agency for Competitiveness and Innovation (IAPMEI) account for your Portuguese company;
Apply for Tech Visa certification, submitting all the necessary documentation;
If your application is successful, your company will receive certification and can start hiring qualified workers.
The certification is valid for two years and can be renewed before the end of its validity period.
To apply for a visa or residence permit through this program, companies must ensure foreign talents comply with these requirements:
Are third-country nationals not holding a permanent residence permit in the EU;
Are at least 18 years old;
Have no criminal record and fulfill all tax obligations where applicable;
Have completed a Bachelor’s degree or equivalent (level 6) or level 5 (tertiary level education) with at least five years of experience in specialized technical roles;
Be proficient in English, Portuguese, Spanish, or French.
The candidate must have a minimum monthly wage equivalent to 2.5 times the social support index (480.43€), which currently amounts to 1201€ per month and 14 413 € per year.
The Portuguese government has put a recruitment ceiling of 50% for the Tech Visa program. However, companies based in remote or peripheral areas can recruit up to 80% of their workforce.
Applicants can expect a decision on their application within 20 working days or more, depending on if additional documents are requested. The Tech visa is valid for two years and renewable for successive three years. Employees can also have their family members join them under the family reunification program.
Learn more about the requirements and the application process for the Portuguese Tech visa.
Hiring IT B2B contractors in Portugal - Digital Nomad Visa
Since October 2022, Portugal has issued Digital Nomad Visas, allowing remote workers and freelancers from non-EU states to obtain residency there. To get the visa, one must show a monthly income of at least €3,040 from all their sources and at least €36,480 in their savings account. In addition, the applicant needs to have at least one year of arranged accommodation in Portugal.
The visa offers a friendly tax regime, with 0% tax on global income and 20% tax on income earned in Portugal.
The application is processed within 60 days. Read more about the Portuguese Digital Nomad Visa requirements here.
Self-employment visa, or Independent Worker Visa, is another option to hire professionals as B2B contractors who run their own businesses.
High-Skilled Worker Visa - comparison by country
Where to apply
Bachelor's degree or higher
University degree or vocational program + 2 years experience
Bachelor's degree or higher, or a technical course + 5 years experience
>€40k/year or >€55k/ year for executives
20 working days
20 working days
Duration of the work contract + 3 months (4 years max)
2 years, renewable for 3 years
Family member residence permit
Spouse & children
Spouse & children (via family reunion visa)
Spouse & children (via the family reunification program)
Digital Nomad Visa - comparison by country
Where to apply
In Spain or embassy/consulate
Bachelor's degree or higher or vocational training; or 3 years of work-related experience
14% to 45%, depending on income
20% tax on income earned in Portugal, 0% on global income
20 working days
3 - 4 months
3 years, renewable for 2 years
1 year (possible to extend to residency)
Possession of funds
Min. €25,000 for main applicant + €9,441 for each additional family member