Today is the first day of the three month period set by Spain’s Socialist government to enable illegal immigrants to legalise their residence in Spain.
Illegal immigrants who can prove they have been living in Spain and have been registered with the municipal authorities (empadronados) for at least 6 months, have no criminal record and can produce a contract have a three month deadline to apply for residence and a work permit. 160 Social Security offices, normally open to the public from ten a.m. to one O’clock p.m., will open in the afternoons and early evenings to deal with the flood of applications they expect to receive as from today. Applications must be handed in by the employer rather than the foreign worker.
In order to receive medical care, apply for residency or schooling, everyone in Spain has to be registered with their local “padron“, (municipal registrar). According to figures released by the municipal registers in Spain, over three million immigrants are registered with a Spanish address.
The number of immigrants with legal residence permits in Spain is 1.8 million. The difference between the two figures illustrates just how many illegal immigrants are living in Spain.
The Spanish government has designed its immigration policy in close collaboration with trade unions and private sector employers, and the only political party to speak out against this one-off measure is the Popular Party. The opposition party argues that Spain has not got the resources to give education, health and other services to unlimited numbers of immigrants. But the government claims that today’s measure will force thousands of immigrants out of illegal employment as for the first time employers will have to start paying their national health payments which will, in turn, contribute to the cost of public services which the illegal residents are already using.
It will also put an end to exploitation of immigrant workers by employers who take advantage of their illegal situation to pay poor wages and demand long hours in poor working conditions. Employers who do not legalise the situation of their employees in the next three months risk fines of up to 60.000 euros.