South African journalist
Chené Koscielny, Director of the 2021 International Talent Monitor, explores the newly opened Barcelona International Welcome Desk.
Until now one of the biggest headaches for international researchers, entrepreneurs, university students, investors, and highly qualified individuals settling in Barcelona has been the amount of red tape involved in the landing process.
However, the launch of the Barcelona International Welcome Desk on November 22, 2021, promises to remove some of the obstacles in the path of internationals planning to live and work in the city or those who have recently arrived.
The Welcome Desk was initiated by the City Council and Barcelona Activa, the local business development arm of the city, who actively supports entrepreneurs and new businesses.
The result was a collaboration between the city council, the Spanish government delegation to Catalonia, Barcelona Global and the 22@ Tech Network.
The creation of the new support service – in English – has been actively supported by Barcelona Global, whose mission it is to make the city more attractive for international talent and investors.
The organization’s biannual survey – The International Talent Monitor (ITM) – has shown, after 5 editions, that administrative procedures were one of the key concerns for international talent coming to live in the city.
Barcelona Global has therefore lobbied to make this project happen by maintaining a constant dialogue with the City Council.
What is the message to Internationals?
“Internationals moving to Barcelona no longer need to rely on expat blogs for information about official procedures. We offer a contact point with comprehensive information in all issues related to landing in the city,” said Monica Madrigal, Head of Business Landing Services at Barcelona Acitva.
“We want to send out a ‘Warm Welcome’ to international talent.”
Why does Barcelona need a Welcome Desk?
Through the ITM – which measures how internationals feel about the city – Barcelona Global has identified administrative procedures as one of the biggest problems faced by internationals.
In fact, levels of unhappiness with administrative procedures have shown a consistent decline from 3.7/7 in 2017 to 3.3/7 in 2019 and to an all-time low of 2.9/7 in 2021.
To get the full picture of how internationals rate the city, read the 2021 ITM report.
Senior business executives, for example, have described having to wait nearly 8 months for a NIE or having to pay individuals in a parallel system to secure appointments with city officials on their behalf.
“Barcelona Global has always argued that easing the administrative burden would facilitate the recruitment of the international talent the city needs. This initiative will help to open up the city to foreign talent,” said Cristina Valiñani, Barcelona Global Projects Director.
What does the new Barcelona International Welcome Desk entail?
The aim of the Welcome Desk is twofold, according to Madrigal: To support internationals who move to Barcelona with individual procedures, as well as to offer support to those who want to start a business or work for themselves.
3 types of services:
- Information about practical issues related to living in the city for example, education, healthcare, permits needed to reside in Spain, mobility, taxation issues, etc. The new desk also refers to services offered by Barcelona Activa for starting a business, investing or working in Barcelona, such as the Centre of Entrepreneurs, Porta22 Centre for Professional Development or the Business Landing Service for international companies.
- Expert advice – this is aimed at individuals who need customized advice in three areas related to international mobility: immigration, taxation, and labor issues (social security, pension schemes)
- Formalities – related to a list of municipal procedures chosen by the support team as important for internationals arriving in the city, including:
- The empadronament – registration in the municipal register of residents
Residents’ on-street parking card
- T-16 public transportation card for children and teenagers
- Pet registration before the municipal register
- IdCat digital certificate
- Library card
- Gaudir Més program – discounts, free entry at leisure venues for residents
- Registration as a self-employed
- Incorporation of a limited company
- Municipal permits for new economic activities in the city
Consult the full list of services.
Who is the Welcome Desk aimed at?
The desk is meant for internationals who fall into one of the groups identified by Spanish law as international talent, including investors, entrepreneurs, scientific researchers, highly qualified professionals, and university students. It also includes the families of these individuals.
For example, an individual, living abroad who has just signed a contract with a company in Barcelona and is looking for practical information about how to start his or her life in the city.
“We will advise multipliers – universities, research centers and companies – in Barcelona to inform the international talent recruited by them of our service,” said Madrigal.
It is important to note, she added, that the Barcelona International Welcome Desk is a welcome office for new persons arriving in the city and is not intended to provide a differential service to internationals already established, who have access to the same services as locals.
How does it work?
First individuals must fill in an online form, whereafter they’ll be contacted for a meeting – either online or in person – to assist them in English, or one of Barcelona’s official languages, Spanish or Catalan. They will then receive personalized help from the expert support team.
Where is the Barcelona International Welcome Desk?
The Welcome Desk is in the Media TIC Building in Poblenou at Carrer de Roc Boronat, 117, 08018, Barcelona. An appointment is needed.
What role did Barcelona Global play?
The fruition of the Welcome Desk is a clear example of the important work done by the organization behind the scenes to push for private-public partnerships to boost the city’s international competitiveness, said Valiñani.
“The Welcome Desk is a step in the right direction, and Barcelona Global will continue to work to make Barcelona the best city in the world for international talent.”
For example, this year’s ITM also showed high frustration levels with the lack of digitalization in administrative processes – rated at 3.7/7 – with internationals expecting higher efficiency from a city that calls itself a leading digital startup hub. Moving more of the process online is the next step, said Valiñani.
Barcelona Global was also a driving force behind the creation of the Barcelona International Welcome website in 2019 which created a central point of information for internationals moving to the city.
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