Working in Spain or Italy: Legally vs Illegally

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If you’ve decided to teach English and live la vita bella or la vida loca in Spain or Italy, you have to be ready for the onslaught of paperwork that will head your way (especially if you’re North American).
If you are planning on staying 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 in order 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.

-TIP: Photocopy- Make several copies of documentation. If the office misplaces something, you can immediately fax or send whatever may be missing ASAP.

When you receive your visa and head to your destination, you must go to the police station in order to receive a card either called permesso di soggiorno, or certificado de registro (see picture above).

-TIP: If you don’t speak the language, bring someone with you who does. The police officers probably don’t speak English, and the receptionists aren’t much better, so if you have someone next to you who can fully explain what’s going on, you’ll save yourself a headache.

Working illegally: 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:

– 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.

-You can’t travel. Sure, weekend trips to neighbouring countries might not be a problem, but if you go to the U.K, or have an officer look through your passport during a domestic flight, you’re screwed. (I forgot my residence card at home, and had a lot of explaining to do at the London airport customs office)

-Deportation. In the unlikely event you get caught at an airport without a visa and an expired passport stamp (you have an entrance stamp over three months old), you can get a huge fine, face deportation, and be prohibited from entering the E.U for “x” amount of 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. If you have any questions about travel/preparation, don’t hesitate to contact me!

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Disillusioned 90s Kid

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         I’m turning 25 next March. When I was 16 years old, I imagined myself very differently at 25. I narrated my lavish lifestyle using my naive imagination. I was supposed to have a nice house, a ton of money, and an engagement ring. I have neither of these checked off on my list. I don’t know if I have myself to blame or if society is working against me. Most of my 20 something friends are in a similar situation and we feel robbed of what we were promised when we were kids.

         Living in southern Europe has further confirmed the fears for my generation. At this point, I don’t know who is worse off, the Italians or the Spanish? Unemployment rates are skyrocketing among young people, and we are blaming ourselves. We are highly educated. Most of us have a bachelors degree, if not a masters. When the universities came to recruit at my high school in Ontario, Canada, they all had a really nice powerpoint presentation prepared for us. Photos of smiling, multicultural campuses, students reading under the trees – it was a form of sugary propaganda. We were the fresh meat, ready for student debt slaughter. My education cost me nearly $30,000 for 4 years, and I lived at home. Two years after graduation, I’m making around €1,200 which is the equivalent of around $1,800 CAD. After paying my rent and other living expenses, it’s hard to make a dent on my student loan payments.

       Staying in Canada wouldn’t have provided me with a world of opportunities either. I would have had to move to a bigger city, rent an expensive bachelor pad, and probably work as a bartender or waitress. I prefer teaching English as a second language overseas. My former classmates opted to enter the public education system, forcing them to move halfway across the country where rent is three times higher than Ontario, and it’s really damn cold. I don’t want to come across as a brat who isn’t willing to make life changes in order to find career options. What I’m pissed off about is that our post-secondary institutions are nothing but a money making scam.

      The university brain-washing must stop. I was sold an idea that was completely untrue. My teachers and professors promoted the overpriced North American university system as if it were a godsend, when after all, I could have avoided the student loan hell and got an E.S.L teaching certificate that costs around $1,000. It would have provided me with the same amount of opportunities, especially abroad.

      Education is supposed to be the key to freedom, but it has been nothing but a heavy chain preventing me from achieving any sense of financial independence. The average cost of tuition at a reasonably sized Spanish university is around €1,000/year, while Canadian universities start at around $3,500-4000 annually, excluding textbooks. If I’m going to be unemployed or earning minimum wage, I’d like to be debt free at least, but it seems that ship has already sailed.

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Pizza, cappuccinos, and calcio!

I haven’t blogged in a few days because I had a 9 hour flight to Rome, plus a four hour train ride. Add some jet-lag to that and you’ve got a lost-in-translation mindset for a few days. Once I’m cured of my temporary insomnia I’ll be able to write real paragraphs again.

First impressions of Bologna, Italy: Although I always go through a “sad” phase in my first few days in a new city, trying to adjust to my surroundings…Bologna is beautiful. It’s a photographer’s dream. However, for the artistically challenged like me, it’ll be hard to give it justice using my iPhone.

As for the blog, I can’t believe someone other than my mother reads it. I’ve even received a lot of questions about my travels, so I figured I’d answer them here.

Why did you leave Canada? – Canada is a fantastic country where you are guaranteed financial stability if you’ve graduated or have any form of educational training. You will get a job, and even if it’s waitressing at a local Italian eatery, you’ll be making double the wages offered in a real Italian restaurant in Italy. I originally moved to Spain, I loved it and I’m hoping to return. I was tired of being comfortable. I was born in Canada, raised in Canada, and if I hadn’t lived abroad- I wouldn’t have any stories to tell. You learn a lot about yourself when you’re stuck in sticky situations.

How can you afford this? – I live in a shared flat with another person (several people in the past). I work as an ESL teacher, and I make enough money to pay my rent, eat, travel using low cost airlines (yay Ryanair and Easyjet), and go out once in a while. An ESL teacher in Spain or Italy will make 1,100-1,300 euros for 25-30 hours a week. Private lessons (at home tutoring) pay about 25 euros an hour. This is a good option for some extra cash on the side.

Any advice for people who want to move abroad?- If you’re ok with making enough to live on, do it. You will learn a new language, meet new people, and grow in ways you never believed possible. These are experiences you cannot have living at home. Do it while you’re in your 20s and haven’t got a family or children to worry about. Just don’t fall in love here, it’s a bad idea 😉image

¿English, por favor?

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Traveling the world, meeting new people, and picking up a new language is probably the best decision you will ever make. The important thing to remember before embarking on a new adventure, may it be to Europe, Asia, South America – or wherever, is to stay safe, especially if you are traveling alone, or if you’re  a woman. Here are some tips to consider before your next backpacking trip:

1. Research – Although I really love the idea of being able to arrive in an exotic location and explore my surroundings, it’s important to have a plan before leaving home. If you don’t look into shady neighborhoods or areas better left undiscovered beforehand, you might find yourself in a potentially dangerous situation. This doesn’t only refer to dark alleys in Eastern Europe either, popular tourist destinations like Rome, Paris, and Barcelona, to name a few, have zones that you should avoid.

Being informed also means to avoid situations that may leave you in an uncomfortable situation. Missed the train at 5:00pm? Take a screenshot of the train schedules on your smartphone, or write them down – especially the first and last service of the day, so you don’t find yourself stuck in a train station at night.

2. Emergency money – Many university aged students decide to travel during the summer break, myself included. However, considering most students travel on a student budget, meaning hostels and McDonalds, one can forget how important money may be when you are thousands of miles away from home. There are tons of people who will tell you, “you don’t need money to travel!” Yes you do. If your train is delayed, you need to change travel plans, find a new hotel, or take a few unexpected cab rides, it adds up.  Moreover, in Southern Europe things aren’t organized like they are in Canada. As a Canadian, I expected my 8pm train to depart at 8pm. It was cancelled unexpectedly about 15 minutes beforehand, leaving me with no option but to spend the night in my layover city. Oh and customer service that will refund your train ticket? Yeah, no way. Having an emergency credit card is essential.

3. Language – This is obviously a hard one to master, but believe me, if you can speak even a little bit of the language of the place you are traveling to, it will help you out. I’m multilingual, but that’s because languages are my passion, but I know not everyone feels this way. Many North Americans expect everyone to speak English, but that’s not how the world works. Survival phrases may help you out in a small town where service in English is hard to find. While in Greece, a Spanish woman was able to help me out even though I can’t speak Greek, and in the Middle East, a woman was able to translate what a taxi driver was saying into French. When English isn’t an option, another language may save the day.

4. Tell your friends and family back home everything!- Tell your parents everything about your travel itinerary. Tell your friends that you are expected to arrive in London at 4:00am local time, so if they don’t receive a message because something may have happened, they can help you. Once again, if you are a woman traveling alone, have someone that you can call to check in with when you arrive at your destination, or after a late night out.

5. Hold on to your passport- Under no circumstances should you give your passport to another person. If you are entering a nightclub and they ask to hold on to it, say no and leave. If you are at a hotel and they ask for photocopies, provide them with one, or wait for them to do it in front of you. Many hotels will want to take your passport and give it back to you a day later, say no.

6. Instinct – If something feels wrong, maybe it is. If you meet someone you aren’t entirely comfortable speaking with, stop talking. If you don’t want to go out with other English speaking travelers at your hotel or hostel, don’t. You don’t have to make any apologies for your behavior. Don’t drink too much when you are around unfamiliar people in a foreign country.

Perhaps you’ve heard of Couch Surfing. It’s  a website where people offer their couches, bedrooms, or apartments free of cost as a form of accommodation. It can be a great way to meet people your own age from other parts of the world. Although all users have reviews and must be verified, it’s important to be cautious. I had a guy obsessively message me over 30 times before my arrival. Let’s just say I didn’t take him up on the offer.

I hope some of these tips will be useful!

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Five things you should know before moving to Spain

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Alright, so you’ve decided you’re ready for a big change, un cambio bastante grande, and you are heading off to Spain, or, are planning to do so anyway. Spain is a hotspot for people for people like myself, meaning English teachers. Considering the fact that Spaniards speak English muy mal, English speakers have a pretty good employment rate. Seriously, if you speak English and it’s your first language, you are already halfway there. In terms of other employment info, I would suggest you stay away unless you are entering the tourism sector, as Spain’s current unemployment rate is something crazy high like 26-27%.

1. Visa Problems

I am Canadian and European. Meaning I’m an E.U national, so I’ve got half the headache. If you are North American or belonging to any of the countries outside of the Schengen Area (Google), you need a work or study visa. This visa must be attained in the country of origin. Before I applied for my new Polish passport, making me a Canadian citizen only, I had to apply for a student visa in Canada. This process took about 2 months after I provided the information to the consulate. I’m not sure how it works for Americans, but my friend had a similar experience in terms of waiting time. When you arrive in Spain, you MUST go to the local police station and get your fingerprints taken so they can give you a special card. This card must be with you at all times (especially when traveling), otherwise, you’re going to have some explaining to do, especially in customs offices in England or Ireland.

2. It’s not sunny like you see on postcards

The further north you go, the colder it gets. I lived in Valladolid, which is about 2 hours north of Madrid, and let me tell you, I froze my ass off some nights. It does go below zero degrees (Celsius obviously), and the winds are STRONG.  I travelled to the south in December (Granada), and the snowy mountains left me with a nice Canadian frostbite. If you are anti-winter, perhaps choose a city like Barcelona.

3. Your nights out will change

Spanish people eat supper at 10pm. They eat these amazing appetizer sized dishes called tapas, and you usually go from bar to bar at night, trying different specialties, and you eat STANDING UP. It’s really hard to balance your beer in one hand, and your fried octopus in the other, but hey, it gets easier. For those who are into the nightlife scene, get ready to leave at midnight and come home at 6am. If you try to leave earlier, your Spanish friends will make fun of you.

4. Spanish people aren’t rude. Most of the time it’s a language barrier.

If you can’t speak Spanish, and the waiter/bartender/bus driver/ can’t speak English, how jolly is the conversation going to be? If you’re intimidated by someone speaking in a language you don’t understand, it’s really hard to come across in the right way. In major cities, most people will speak English, or at least, they will be able to take your order. However, in smaller cities, they don’t. So make an effort to say something in Spanish, or be patient.

5. They have a great healthcare system.

If you work in Spain, you are automatically entered into the healthcare database. Hospital visits, regular visits, many prescriptions, and even invasive procedures will be FREE. Even if you aren’t working in Spain, many times you can still go to emergency for free. I was in the hospital for 4 days and was treated very well by the staff.

 

This was a boring list in terms of all the amazingly fun things to do in this great country, but they are all things I wish someone had told me before I left. If you are still debating about your move, my advice is: YES, GO. NOW.STOP.HESITATING.

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