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Four changes in the immigration law of Spain that will allow thousands of foreigners to work and reside legally in the country

Being able to work in Spain on a regular basis is going to be a little easier from now on.

About 5.5 million foreigners, more than a third of them from Latin American countries, live in Spain, according to official data. The real number, however, is more difficult to calculate.

Lost in the bureaucratic labyrinth, many enter a vicious circle in which they cannot legally work because they do not have a residence permit, but they cannot apply for it either because they cannot prove a labor relationship.

The reform of the Immigration Law that the Spanish government has just approved and that is being released mid august solves some of these dysfunctions, so it will not only make it easier for employers to hire more foreigners directly in their places of origin, but it will also seek new formulas so that those who already live in Spain can regularize their situation.

One of the main beneficiaries of the reform will be the foreign students enrolled in Spanish centers. Until now, those who had a student visa to study, for example, a degree at a Spanish university, could not work to pay for their studies. The new regulations allow them legally work up to 30 hours a week.

In addition, once they have finished their studies, they will be able to stay one more year without having to request an extension of their stay in Spain.

Almost one in four foreign undergraduate students in Spain come from Latin American and Caribbean countries, a proportion that rises to about 64% of those with a master’s degree and almost 53% of those with a doctorate.

Foreign students will be able to work while they carry out their studiesGetty Images

“Before the reform, whoever had a study permit, if he worked he did it irregularly and this did not make any sense”, explains Gemma Pinyol-Jiménez, director of migration policies at Instrategies, a consulting firm specializing in mobility, migration and diversity management issues.

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The amendments to the law allow the stay authorization, with some specific criteria, to be converted into a work authorization. And this, the expert believes, is not only positive for these people individually, “but also for the country, because it is a way of guaranteeing that those who have studied and completed third-grade training -because this is designed for the highly qualified-, can access the Spanish labor market”.

Spain wants that talent that has been trained in its universities to be able to stay, in addition to making its higher education centers more attractive and facilitating its internationalization.

Hereinafter, people who have stayed in Spain for a minimum period of two years, they can get a 12-month residence permit if they commit to regulated training for employment, a figure for which the Spanish government has been inspired by an existing model in Germany known as “duldung”.

“The idea is that people who are in an irregular situation can access the labor market by first undergoing training. Yes indeed, in sectors where it is determined that there is a need for labor”, clarifies Pinyol-Jiménez.

Rooting by training adds to the two ways by which, until now, foreigners who were already in Spain could regularize their situation.

Rooting by training will allow you to obtain a work permit
Rooting by training will allow you to obtain a work permitGetty Images

One is the social roots, for which you must prove three years of residence and, in addition, that you have a job offer. This contract will no longer have a minimum duration of one year, as was requested until now, but it must comply with the minimum interprofessional salary.

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The other is the job roots, in which it is necessary to demonstrate that there has been an employment relationship, even if the person had worked without a contract and was paid, therefore, in black.

“Many people arrive in a regular situation and then let their visa expire out of panic to try to enter the labor market. What is intended with the reform is to reduce this space in which people end up working irregularly, which in the end is a disaster for themselves, for the economy and for everyone”, interprets the consultant.

Recruitment in the workers’ own countries of origin will also be made more flexible.

On the one hand, hiring for seasonal workers is improved. From now on, these workers who go to Spain to participate, for example, in agricultural campaigns, will be able to access a 4 year license in which they can work up to 9 months per year, with the obligation to return to their countries after each period.

If these conditions are met, as a “prize”, these workers may apply for a residence and work permit for two years, renewable.

The reform improves the conditions of seasonal workers
The reform improves the conditions of seasonal workersGetty Images

But in addition, the reform wants to improve what is known as Catalog of Occupations with Difficult Coverage, that is, the list of professions for which employers have difficulty finding staff and that allow them to hire professionals at source.

“This is such an unrealistic system that, for years, the list has been telling you that what Spain lacks are soccer coaches,” jokes Gemma Pinyol-Jiménez. In addition to coaches, according to the list in Spain, only merchant ship personnel, coaches and professional athletes.

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The reform is going to take a more realistic picture of the labor market, which will be updated every three months.

One of the great novelties of the reform, and one that will mean a great improvement for the life of many foreign families in Spain, is that which concerns family reunification.

Family members, upon receiving the residence permit, will also receive the self-employment work authorization. “Until now, these people received a residence permit, but they had to wait to get a work permit, while with the changes, when family reunification is renewed, work authorization will be acquired,” says the consultant.

The reform improves the conditions for family reunification
The reform improves the conditions for family reunificationGetty Images

“The system is so crazy that it condemned people to a bad life when they could work,” a dysfunction, Pinyol-Jiménez denounces, related to the Catalog of Occupations with Difficult Coverage. “An attempt was made to maintain and respect the reality of the Spanish labor market, but it was done with an instrument that did not take a realistic X-ray of reality”.

Family reunification requirements are also made more flexible when they affect minors, people with disabilities or in a situation of vulnerability.

In addition to these four points, the amendments to the Immigration Law also rationalize the requirements demanded of self-employed from third countries, and creates a Unit for the Processing of Immigration Files, a kind of “one stop shop” to speed up and facilitate the procedures.

“The border obsession”, opines the expert, “has eaten up all the public debate on migration issues. This is the first time in years that we are talking about reforms that have nothing to do with borders.”

by Paula Rosas

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