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Citizenship Pathways and Border Protection: Spain

  2/22/2014

Summary

In the last two decades Spain has evolved from a country of emigrants to a country of immigrants.  The largest number of  immigrants have come from Africa, Latin America, and Eastern Europe.  Spain’s immigration is based on a visa system, except in cases of immigrants coming from countries with which Spain has bilateral agreements or from European Union Member States.

Naturalization is available to the holders of residence permits, provided they are well-integrated, speak Spanish, and have the required number of years in residence, which vary from one to ten years, depending on the country of origin of the applicant.

Spain has enhanced its border control operations at entry points by making use of high tech tools, such as the US electronic data interchange system, known as the Advance Passenger Information System, and an advanced surveillance system called Sistema de Vigilancia Exterior (SIVE).

Immigration System

Since the 1990’s Spain has evolved from a country of emigrants to a country of immigrants, with profound social, economic, political, legal, and cultural consequences.  The largest number of these immigrants have come from Africa, Latin America, and Eastern Europe.[1]  Many of these migrants are low-skilled and come to Spain on a temporary or seasonal work visa.[2]  Since 2010 the flow of immigrants into Spain has decreased considerably owing to the economic crisis, high unemployment, and the financial troubles that the country is still trying to overcome.[3]

In order to adapt the immigration laws to the new immigration reality and labor market, a comprehensive immigration law was enacted in 2000—Ley Org?nica 4/2000 sobre Derechos y Libertades de los Extranjeros en Espana y su Integraci?n Social (LODLE) [Organic Law on the Rights and Freedoms of Foreigners in Spain and their Social Integration 4/2000],[4] which has been amended several times and further implemented by Real Decreto 557/2011 sobre el Reglamento de Reglamento de la Ley Org?nica 4/2000, sobre Derechos y Libertades de los Extranjeros en Espa?a y su Integraci?n Social, tras su reforma por Ley Org?nica 2/2009 (Regulation of the Organic Law on the Rights and Freedoms of Foreigners in Spain and Their Social Integration 4/2000 (RLODLE). [5]

Spain’s immigration management policy is based on a visa system, except in cases of immigrants coming from countries with which Spain has bilateral agreements or from European Union Member States.[6]  The LODLE establishes a visa requirement to enter and stay for an intended purpose in the country, which is classified according to the following types of visas: transit; short-stay; residence; residence and work; seasonal residence and work; and study and research.[7]

The visa regime aims at restricting illegal migration and providing for the needs of the Spanish labor market.  Each type of visa specifies its pertinent rights and obligations.[8] 

The LODLE and its regulations provide that aliens entering Spain must do so through an authorized port of entry and must provide a valid passport or travel document that proves their identity under the terms of international agreements signed by Spain.[9]  The foreigners also must provide evidence of the reason for and conditions under which they are entering Spain, as well as evidence of financial support for their time of stay in the country or the ability to procure such funds legally.[10]  All visitors need to secure a valid visa to enter Spain, except in those cases where international agreements allow otherwise, or when the foreigner has a foreigner identity card or a return permit.[11]  Foreigners who do not qualify to enter the country under the conditions outlined above may still be allowed to enter on the basis of humanitarian needs, the public interest, or commitments undertaken by Spain.  In these cases, the foreigner will be given the pertinent documents provided for in the applicable regulations.[12]

The entry of non-EU foreigners into Spain may be registered by Spanish authorities in order to control the period of legal stay in the country.[13]

Criteria for Residence Permits

An initial temporary residence permit entitles the holder to reside and work in Spain for a maximum period of three months, which may be extended for two years.[14]  Requirements for this permit include having no criminal record in Spain, the country of origin, or another country in which the individual has resided during the last five years; being free of any disease that might affect the public health; and possessing a signed employment contract.  Within one month after notification that the permit has been granted, the applicant must apply for the visa in person at the consulate of Spain in his place of residence.[15]
Long-term residence allows for indefinite residence and work in Spain.  It is available for those who have legally resided in the country for five years.[16]
The RLODLE provides for a residence authorization for social, family, or labor ties.[17]  Residence on the basis of labor ties is granted to those who can demonstrate they have stayed permanently in the country for a period of at least two years; have no criminal record in Spain, their country of origin, or the countries they have resided in during the last five years; and have proof of employment for not less than six months.[18]
 
Residence based on social roots is mainly applicable to those who can prove that they not only have ties to Spanish residents but also have engaged in cultural and social integration programs for foreigners.[19]  For this residence permit the same requirements have to be met as for the labor ties permit, except that the continuous stay in Spain must be for at least three years and the employment contract for not less than one year.  Additionally, applicants must provide proof of family ties to other legal residents or a report issued by local authorities attesting to the applicant’s e