The Fellow Document

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Survival Guide for Marie Curie Research Fellows in Spain:

The Fellow Document

(Version 1.1, September 1999)

This Fellow Document is a guide for Marie Curie Fellows in Spain with respect to social security, taxation, and administration. Some further information (e.g. about social life, etc.) is also available, but dependent of the place where you are. Most universities or research centres have offices of information for foreign students. Since the law is subject to constant change, this document will be updated regularly. The latest version can be found on the World Wide Web pages of the Spanish Group of the Marie Curie Fellowship Association.

It is important to emphasise that this document is neither exhaustive nor legally binding. The Spanish Group of the Marie Curie Fellowship Association cannot accept any legal responsibility for the correctness of this guide. Feedback is welcome on the content and usefulness of the Fellow Document (if you have any suggestion about this guide, please send it by E-mail to


The Marie Curie Fellowship Association has been created to provide a distinctive identity for the scientists past and present recipients of European Community research grants. The objectives and activities of the Association are:

  • to create a more visible identity and to increase the prestige of Marie Curie Fellows

  • to facilitate contact between Fellows during and after their Fellowship

  • to establish structural links with the research environment, including industry

  • to stress the European dimension of Marie Curie Fellowships

  • to enhance the public's appreciation and understanding of science

The Spanish Group has similar objectives at a national level, with emphasis on the two following points:

  • to enhance communication among Marie Curie Fellows in Spain and to establish a network through the use Internet facilities (electronic mailing list, WWW site) and through regular meetings in form of discussion groups, seminars and workshops to different topics.

  • to solve practical problems arising for new Fellows in Spain.

This document addresses the second objective. Although it does not pretend to resolv all potential problems, it brings together practical information otherwise scattered in different places and provides advice to guide MC Fellows during their stay in Spain.

The Information is organised as follows:

  1. Introduction

    1. History of European grant schemes

    2. Principles behind the fellowship

    3. Arrival in Spain, practical steps to take when arriving and leaving Spain

  1. First steps in Spain

    1. General Information about Spain

      1. Cultural diversity

      2. Language

      3. Brief outline of general information

    2. Residency Permit

    3. Accommodation

    4. Money and banks

    5. Kindergarten & schools

    6. Transportation

Driving-Licence and Automobile

  1. Arriving Formalities. The Contract.

3.1 The Host Institution and the Contract

      1. Arriving and Establishing Contact

      2. Find out who is responsible for the administration of your Fellowship in the host institution.

      3. Get informed!

      4. Meet the administrator and talk about your grant.

      5. If you are asked to sign the contract immediately at the meeting: Do not!

    1. The Contract

      1. The basic features of a grant contract

      2. The calculation of the grant allocation by the Spanish law

      3. Holidays

4. General Conditions for the Community Provisions on Social Security

    1. Social Security in Spain

    2. Health insurance

      1. Health and Insurance

      2. Hospitals and Physicians

      3. Maternity Insurance

    1. Unemployment

    2. Retirement and pension schemes

  1. Tax System

    1. General Rules of Taxation

    2. Introduction

    3. Tax liability: Who have to make the "Declaración de la renta"

    4. Income tax

    5. Tax allowances and relieves

  1. Introduction

A person working in Spain paid by the Marie Curie Fellowship scheme will, in principle, has the same rights and obligations as other persons working in the Spanish labour market. They will be legally employed as individuals for a fixed period with their salary based on the collective agreement between the relevant trade union and the Spanish State. A person's legal position concerning employment does not alter according to whether he/she is employed by a state organisation, public organisation, private organisation or an international (or intergovernmental) organisation when it comes to the status of the person employed. A contract stating the conditions and length of employment has to be made between the person and the organisation concerned.

Principally these arrangements will not differ from contracts in the Spanish labour market. The contract will normally state the wage and pension conditions which apply in this collective agreement. In all other aspects the research fellow will have the same status as an employee in Spain and can receive residence and work-permits in accordance with EU-rules, as long as they are employed to do research activities in accordance with the contract. However, under the 5th Framework Programme of the EC, Category 20 fellows will normally be considered in Spain as doctorate students. If they are registered as Ph.D. students at a Ph.D. programme and following the courses in relation hereto and they are here as part of their Ph.D. project they will be looked upon as students.
As the Marie Curie Fellowship programme emphasises the research activities, and the research is part of the expected outcome of the work, it can be assumed that most of those coming to Spain would be considered as working in Spain. They will then be employed as researchers on a contract with a wages in accordance with collective agreements and the correct level of wages will be dealt with in an agreement between the institution and the research fellow.
In relation to the social and fiscal regime, this division has mainly an impact on coverage of different types of social benefit. For instance, a person considered as a student would have less coverage and would not be able to use the specific tax, since this applies to researchers only.

    1. History of European grant schemes

Since the launching of exchange of scientists in the EURATOM RTD programme about 6000 researchers received EEC fellowships. The fellowship programme has undergone a number of modifications since its initiation in the 50's. They have changed not only the total number of grants per year but also the nature of the grant contract. The timetable below provides a summary of the evolution of the fellowship:

First Framework Programme 1958-1986

· direct contract between the Commission and fellows

· individual fiscal responsibility of fellows

· scale calculated since 1981 in ECU

· a correction coefficient serves to equalise purchasing power in each country

· 1985-1986 research allocations for the host institute

Second Framework Programme 1987-1991

· since 1989 readjustment of the scale to account for social security costs

Third Framework-Programme 1990-1994 : Human Capital and Mobility (HCM)

· contracts between the commission and the host institution

· the host institution signs a contract with the grant holder respecting national social and

fiscal regulations

· the general conditions define the amounts to be paid to the host institutions

· the grant accounts for differences in the cost of living in member states, salary costs

covered by the employer for hiring a researcher, and travel allowance

· the different social and fiscal contributions in the member states lead to variations in

net salaries from one country to another

Fourth Framework Programme 1994-1998 : Training and Mobility of Researchers (TMR)

· a proposal for a unique contract between the grant holders and the Commission has

been rejected by the national delegations of France, Germany and Denmark

· grants should provide income comparable to those of national researchers at an

equivalent level

· in comparison with the HCM programme the TMR gross salary has been reduced by

about 10% (cat 20) or 15% (cat 30) of gross income in many countries, but

publications and conferences have no longer to be covered by the salary

· mobility allowance has been introduced Generally speaking, the changes are towards

localisation of the contract both in terms of its administration and integration into the

employment infrastructure of the host country.

Fifth Framework Programme 1999-2002 : Marie Curie Fellowships (MCF)

· Time for Category 20 grant has been reduced to 9 months.

    1. Principles behind the fellowship

The actual amount allocated in the grant, is jointly determined by the Commission and the representative of the host country. Fellows funded under the same category and working in the same country should receive the same standardised grant regardless of marital status. The grant should be similar to the salary of local researchers of equal qualifications and experience in the host country. Furthermore, a monthly flat-rate and possibly tax free allowance should be offered as a compensation for the higher costs for living in a foreign country. Besides the aforementioned principles concerning remuneration, another principle is the integration of the fellow into the local social security system.

    1. Arrival in Spain; practical steps to take when arriving and leaving Spain

The researcher should first establish contact with the Spanish laboratory involved in the project, particularly with her/is supervisor as s/he will often know the best way to get in contact with different public and administrative persons. Usually s/he will introduce you to some person/s, generally from the laboratory, who can help you in finding accommodation, social life, etc. Afterwards you should start solving some administrative issues such as open a bank account, contact the administrative officer of your host institution to sign your contract, apply for a National Security number, chose your doctor under the national insurance scheme if it were the case, etc. This problem solving may take some time and you will probably have to queue more than once. Do not despair if some civil servant of any department is not able to give you the required information. It would be preferable, but not needed, if someone from the lab can accompany you to solve these questions –Spanish people are known to be very kind and generous in giving a helping hand to foreigners, especially if your Spanish is not yet good-.

  1. First steps in Spain

    1. General Information about Spain

Climate and geography:
The country consists of a continental territory and two archipelagos: Balearic islands and Canary islands and two cities on Northern Africa: Ceuta and Melilla. Its total peninsular surface is 493.486 km2, with 39,434 million inhabitants and a growth rate of 0.2 in 1991. Spain is the third biggest country in Europe, after Russia and France, and the second most mountainous, after Switzerland. The population is mostly concentrated on the coasts, with exception of Madrid.
Although Spain lies in the temperate zone, its rugged relief gives rise to a great diversity of climates.
The Cantabrian mountains mark the first well-defined climatological dividing zone. To the north of this range, i.e. in the narrow northern strip, where the Basque Country, Cantabria, Asturias and Galicia are situated, lies what we may call rainy Spain, with a maritime climate par excellence, with only slight variations in temperature, mild winters and cool summers, an almost constantly cloudy sky and frequent rainfall, although less so during the summer. This climate, which is typical of western Europe, favours a northern European type of


To the south of the Cantabrian range lies dry Spain, which has extremely varied climated, always characterised by scarce rainfall and a pitiless burning sun in an intensely blue sky, occasionally crossed by shortlived, fierce local thunderstorms.
In terms of surface area, rainy Spain accounts for about a third of the country, while the other two thirds make up dry Spain.
Spain has an height average of 660 m, and almost 50% of the surface is between 600m and 1200 m. The Spanish ”meseta central” is the biggest plateau in Europe, and it is bordered by different mountain chains. The highest ones are Sierra Nevada in the South with the highest peak of the continental Spain (Mulhacen, 3.482m)., and the Pyrenees in the North, with a height average over 2000 m. The highest peak of the whole Spanish territory is the vulcano Teide in the Canary Islands, reaching 3.711 m. There are several Natural Parks and an important wild life, including bears, wolves, lynxes, and a numerous variety of birds and plants.
Spain is a democratic state with a parliamentary monarchy. The country is divided into 17 ”Comunidades Autonomas”, autonomous regions with different competences. The Spanish Constitution insures religious freedom. Most people are traditional Roman Catholic, but other denominations are active, namely in the main cities. Euro is the official currency, but as in the rest of the E.U., legal tender will only be available by 2002. Until then, the "peseta" is the money of current use. Conversion rate is 1 Euro = 166.386 Pts.

      1. Cultural diversity

“Spain is different”. Almost everyone in Europe has heard this old slogan from the sixties. But, is Spain really that different? And, also, what makes it different?

First, we can consider Spain as a very diverse country with much more to offer than sun and beaches. In fact, Spain is one of the biggest countries in the European Union (only the unified Germany and France have a bigger surface), and a rich cultural diversity exists inside of its borders. In this text, we will to present Spain, and attract you to come and work in Science in Spain. Yes, Science too.
In merely 100 Km, the weather, the countryside, the cities, the people, the gastronomy is absolutely different. It happens quite a lot of times when traverse Spain. The topical South, hot, with the constant presence of the Islamic heritage in the monuments and in the phenotype of the people, the universal Andalusia, in fact has all these things, and, of course, many others. How many of you know that only a few Km away from Seville, in Cadiz, which is in the middle of the hottest area of continental Europe, there is a small group of mountains called the Sierra de Grazalema, which has the highest rainy measure of Spain?. Even higher than in the green North and comparable to many places in the United Kingdom. Something similar occurs in the mountains between the dry Extremadura and Seville, where the pigs with which produce one of our national treasures, the Iberian ham, pata negra, are grown. Just in the East of the same Andalusia, in Almería, you can find a real dessert, a place that you have probably seen in many of the spaghetti-westerns. Surprised? This is only one example; we will give you some more, but you can discover them yourself by coming to Spain.
Two big cities, with equivalent populations and importance, are Madrid and Barcelona. Madrid is the capital, a modern city that has rapidly developed during this century, especially during the last 50 years. It is the real crossroad of the country, an open place where people converge from all different regions, and now, many people from all the European countries who come to work and study. Madrid is the highest capital in Europe, 700 m above sea level, which provides it with a continental weather, dry and hot in the summer, cold in the winter. The winds blowing from the mountains in the near vicinity clean the atmosphere of the industrial agglomeration, something already known since the Medieval Ages: King Philip II built the famous monastery in these mountains where he wanted to finish his days: El Escorial. And Velázquez, the great painter of the XVIIth century born in Seville, moulded it in his series of portraits of the Royal family. Madrid, obliged to him, exhibits his major works as part of the masterpieces that from the permanent collection of the famous Prado Museum -known as one of the most important art museums in the world. More recently, Madrid has been complemented with more modern collections found in the Thyssen Museum and the CARS (Queen Sofia Arts Centre): many experts say that Madrid only needs one piece of Leonardo da Vinci to reach the highest place in the pictorial ranking. Neighbour to El Prado, you can find the oldest Botanical Garden in the world.
The historical rivalry with Barcelona, the biggest city in the European Mediterranean coast, is one of the motors that contribute to development in Spain. Barcelona traditionally cumulated a lot of industry, and was the classical way of mixture between Europe and Spain after the decadence that started at the end of the XVIIth century. The rich Barcelona, mixture of gothic tradition and modernist architecture (Gaudí, of course), the cosmopolitan population in constant contact with Paris and France in general, and through them with Europe, supposed the cultural influx in the last two centuries, a modern equivalent of the Santiago’s route in the Medieval Ages.
Although it is true that in Madrid and Barcelona there is a large industrial concentration, and the great majority of the research centres in Spain, it is also true that Spain is one of the more decentralised countries of the European Union. The dispersion of the relatively small Spanish industry, with the classical big industrial poles of Catalonia and the Basque country, was transformed in the recent democratic system started in 1975-77 in a country with a decentralised administration divided in 17 autonomic regions. Many efforts are developed now by these regional administrations, which results in an emergent decentralised economical activity. For example, even in classical agricultural communities, as are both Castilles-Leon, North of Madrid, and Castille-La Mancha (birth-place of Don Quixote and Sancho Panza, since Miguel de Cervantes was born in Alcalá de Henares, near Madrid) South of the capital and Extremadura. And if it is true that both Madrid and Barcelona have close to four million inhabitants, cities like Valencia, Bilbao, Seville, Malaga, Saragossa have populations ranging between half and one million, with important and diverse economical activities.
But maybe, many of you have first or only visited Spain to go to the famous beaches of the Mediterranean coast. In fact, diversity is so important in Spain that the large and open beaches of the south (Malaga, Granada, Almeria), compared to the small and closed in the Costa Brava or in places in the Comunidad Valenciana and Murciana, have little or nothing in common. But the differences are so subtle, but yet so clear, as the taste of the different fishes that you can try in Andalusia, Comunidad Valenciana, Catalonia or Murcia.
Absolutely Mediterranean, of course, “by their four sides”, as we say in Spanish, are the Balearic islands: Majorca, Minorca, Ibiza and Formentera. Have you visited them? Them? Yes, they are really different, one from each other. This Autonomy is one of the favourite places for tourists, but for all of them, those looking only for sun, incredible beaches and fun, but also for those, at least as many as the first, who look for peace and silent beaches: to sum up, a real way of life. Palma de Majorca, the capital of this region, has been traditionally considered as one of the best cities to live in Spain, lined with unaffected elegance and art de vivre. The north of the island, chosen by Chopin or Robert Graves, with snows in the Puig Major, contrasts with the south, more similar to Minorca and Ibiza (the island in which there is no space for another small hill). It is really difficult to find beaches with clearer blue waters than in these four islands, undoubtedly one of the roots of the economical boom experimented in them since thirty years ago, and today the biggest in Spain.
The other islands of Spain are the volcanic Canary islands in the Atlantic ocean. This archipelago hides, again, an incredible diversity. The islands more in the East (Lanzarote, Fuerteventura), in front of the Sahara, are desert and lunar, but the ones more in the West (from Tenerife to Hierro, Gomera and La Palma) are exuberant as in the tropical films. The two big islands, Tenerife and Gran Canaria had developed services, including, of course, universities, and one of the most famous and top research centres in Spain: the astrophysical observatory, a European project. Good weather, strong personality, warm people,... What else do you need to go and work there?
In both Castilles, and in Extremadura, Spanish splendour still resonates in the old cities and villages full of History and Art. In Leon and even more in Burgos, the typical Spanish gothic style cathedrals, more rustic than those in France, and as unforgettable as the strong and tasty gastronomy, one much more cultural richness. Extremadura confounds its roots in the Roman Empire, with Mérida and its theatre, and many expressions of the Romans in our country, as important as the aqueduct in Segovia (Castille-Leon). The dry province of Badajoz contrasts with Cáceres, the wet and incredible province that surrounds the capital city of the same name, which is one of the best preserved in Spain. Again in Castille, cities as Toledo, Salamanca, Segovia and Ávila exhibit centuries of History in each stone. And the stoic and peaceful countryside, described by the Argentinean novelist Arrieta as “sullen and untroubled as a monk’s soul”. Salamanca has also one of the oldest universities in Europe, originally founded in Palencia, and the academic life is both, the heart and the blood of this city tilted on its students.
In the North of Spain we can travel through different relics of Gaelic roots: from the mild Galicia, shellfish and melodic voices over a mixed scenario of sea and soft green mountains, trough the more severe Asturias and Cantabria, till the industrial Basque Country. The small farms and agricultural properties, old industries and the spiritual presence of the large amount of immigrants, going from Galicia, Asturias and Cantabria to almost every corner of earth of earth. Santiago de Compostela, an old and marvellous city, the pilgrimage for Christians coming from all the world, in confluent ways perfectly established since close to one thousand years, to reinforce and renew the deep Christian sentiment of our country. There you will encounter another of the oldest and more traditional universities in Spain, represents the double face, contoured by modern cities: La Coruña and Vigo. The old Oviedo and the industrial Gijón represent one of the more traditional rivalries in Spain, both cities in Asturias, a place that has produced an incredible number of Spanish figures. Santander and San Sebastian are the elegant summer residence, with particular ways of life, including, of course, gastronomy, based, of course, in the excellent quality of the fish and shellfish, there. As everywhere in the North, climb the mountains, and experiment the differences and the similarities between this little villages in the mountains, many of them mainly isolated, with those in Castille, at the other side of the mountains, or with the white-villages in Andalusia and the rest of the South. Bilbao is one of the traditional industrial capitals of Spain, immersed now in a big process of re-definition and host of the new Guggenheim museum.
The North leaves the sea in Navarra, the small villages and farms, and, of course, Pamplona and its universal feast: the Sanfermines, immortalised by Hemingway, maybe the best known popular feast of Spain, even more than the Fallas of Valencia, the horses of San Juan in Minorca or the Tamboradas in Castuera (Aragón), were the cinema director Buñuel was born. Navarra, the western Pyrenees, has a lot of common things with Aragón, and in the borders between these two regions was born and grew the most important Spanish scientist in the History, and one of the most actual all over the world: the neurohistologist Santiago Ramón y Cajal, the only Spanish scientific Nobel Prize with the Asturian biochemist Severo Ochoa. The universal painter Francisco de Goya was another of the gifts from Aragón to Spain and to the rest of the world. The roots of Aragón rest in places as Jaca, in small villages in the middle of the mountains, overlooking the plains which extends trough Saragossa till the mountains surrounding Teruel, one of the coldest places in Spain. A similar disposition can be observed in the inner Catalonia, away from the Mediterranean Sea and from Barcelona.
La Rioja is another small and prosperous region, lovely small and historical towns and villages in the middle of a sea of wheat dancing under the blow of gentle and refreshing winds. These wheat fields surround the vineyards of one of the famous Spanish wines: Rioja. Conserving the strong character of the typical Spanish grape, Tempranillo, the mixture with other types has opened the world markets to this production, as with our Ribera del Duero, for example. If you consider vegetables a gastronomic feast, then come to Murcia. Murcia, in the south, is a succession of fruit gardens, and the production is extensively known all over Europe, as happens with the oranges and citric products in the Comunidad Valenciana, another region, as the first, selected by many people to live because of its mild and temperate weather. In fact, if in December you see from the aeroplane that the mountains in Alicante are white, think of the flowers of the almond-trees and not of the snow.
And we have come back to the South, the same place where we started our tour. South for us starts on the North African coasts, in Ceuta and Melilla, the two small and old Spanish cities, long time unknown to most of us. They explain many things, and perfectly combine with the famous Andalusian cities: who has never heard something about Granada, Seville or Cordoba? Places where, again, the remote and mixed history is present in the normal life of powerful cities, with big and old universities. The music -flamenco-, the eternal presence of the Spanish horses and the bulls -toros de lidia, although they also exist in Salamanca and Extremadura, for example- in the fields -dehesas, maybe the more typical ecosystem of Spain-, the character of this happy people -and its strong and nice accent when the speak our language- have been representative of our country. We have the prove: imagine in the Spanish myths incorporated to the Western culture, as Don Juan, or Carmen, for example, both coming from the South.
Of course, it is not easy, outline Spain in a few words but we hope we reach more or less accomplished. But it is true that the diversity here is huge, and everyone can find the ideal place to live. Look for a work in Spain, then: it is your choice.
You can find much more information about many other aspects of Spain at

This web page has links to the "Boletín Oficial del Estado" B.O.E., Foreign Affairs Ministry "Ministerio de asuntos Exteriores", all the Spanish universities and many others about Spanish wines, gastronomy, Flamenco, etc.

      1. The Language

The official language for the whole country is Spanish, in some ”Comunidades” a second language is also official: Catalan in Catalonia, Galician in Galicia, Basque in the Basque Country, and Valencian in the Valencian Comunity.

With 400 Millions of native speakers, Spanish is the second most important language in the world, and the third most spoken one. Spanish is therefore a key language in many countries, mostly located in South and Central America but also in Africa (Equatorial Guinea) and Europe

(Spain, where it was born) as well.

In Spain, it is possible to learn Spanish in several public and private language institutes during the whole year. Many Universities and other private centres offer intensive Spanish courses, mostly in summer.
The Spanish Culture Institute "Instituto Cervantes" is responsible for spreading the Spanish language and the culture associated to the Spanish speaking countries. Through the Instituto Cervantes it is possible to obtain some information about Spanish courses. Its delegations are spread out in different countries around the world. For further information you can contact the headquarters in Spain:
Instituto Cervantes

C/ Libreros, 23

28801 Alcala de Henares (Madrid)

Tfno. +34 91 8856100

Fax + +34 91 8830814

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