Confusion as Spain relaxes immigration rules

11th April 2005, Comments 0 comments

11 April 2005, MADRID - Spain's government has relaxed the rules for an amnesty for illegal immigrants, a move expected to bring hundreds of thousands of new applications for legal residency

11 April 2005

MADRID - Spain's government has relaxed the rules for an amnesty for illegal immigrants, a move expected to bring hundreds of thousands of new applications for legal residency

Already more than 300,000 have applied for legal residency and work permits under a special programme which ends on 7 May.

The Socialists wanted to bring illegal immigrants in from the black economy and make them pay taxes and social security.

According to the previous rules, an immigrant hoping to be granted residence and work papers had to prove, by means of a specific 'enrolment' document, that he or she was registered as living in a Spanish municipality prior to August of last year.

The new rules announced on Monday will allow immigrants to use other documents to establish residence.

However, exactly what documents will be accepted – utility bills, school enrolment papers or others - was yet to be clarified, leading to confusion.

The change was announced by the labour minister, Jesus Caldera, after he met with union and business sector leaders who had been pressing for the changes.

The move is likely to provoke anger from the main conservative opposition Popular Party which has claimed the amnesty is opening the flood-gates to too many illegal immigrants without proper controls. They believe this could let in criminals to Spain.

The Socialists have argued Spain needs more immigrants as the country's birth rate is declining and there will not be enough Spaniards to pay for pensions by 2050.

Since the process began in early February, some 313,000 undocumented immigrants - mostly from Latin America, North Africa and Eastern Europe - have applied, in conjunction with their employers, to receive the amnesty.

In order to be granted residence and work permits, a candidate must demonstrate that he or she has a contract for employment in Spain for at least six months. For agricultural and domestic workers, the period is three months.

The rate of applications to date had indicated that the previously mentioned estimate of 800,000 applications would not be met.

However, the change announced on Monday was considered likely to bring the eventual number closer to that previous estimate.

[Copyright EFE with Expatica]

Subject: Spanish news

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