In 2018, Spain received 344 000 new immigrants on a long-term or permanent basis (including changes of status and free mobility), 6.2% more than in 2017. This figure comprises 42.9% immigrants benefitting from free mobility, 8.7% labour migrants, 36.4% family members (including accompanying family) and 1.4% humanitarian migrants. Around 42 000 permits were issued to tertiary-level international students and 19 000 to temporary and seasonal labour migrants (excluding intra-EU migration). In addition, 64 000 intra-EU postings were recorded in 2018, an increase of 5.7% compared to 2017. These posted workers are generally on short-term contracts.

Morocco, Colombia and Venezuela were the top three nationalities of newcomers in 2018. Among the top 15 countries of origin, Morocco registered the strongest increase (21 000) and Romania the largest decrease (- 2 100) in flows to Spain compared to the previous year.

In 2019, the number of first asylum applicants increased by 100%, to reach around 115 000. The majority of applicants came from Venezuela (40 000), Colombia (29 000) and Honduras (6 700). The largest increase since 2018 concerned nationals of Venezuela (+21 000). Of the 58 000 decisions taken in 2019, 66.2% were positive.

Several measures have been taken since 2018 to promote orderly, regular and safe migration to Spain. A new provision approved at the end of 2018 regulates the collective hiring of foreigners in origin countries, broadening the scope beyond the agricultural sector.

Additionally, with the objective of building legal migration pathways and achieving greater interaction between business and education sectors of countries of origin and destination, the project “Young people as agents of change” allows Moroccan participants to improve their skills and knowledge through studying in Spain for a master’s degree related to key socio-economic sectors for Morocco.

A pilot project aiming at providing children and grandchildren of Spanish people residing in Argentina with a job-search visa was also launched in 2019. The initial selection of profiles focused on employability and the needs of Spanish companies, especially in sectors such as computing and research.

Inclusion is a key component of Spanish migration policy. A new Strategic Plan for Citizenship and Integration is currently being drafted to promote the inclusion of immigrants. This plan will consider consultations with Autonomous Communities and Local Authorities, as well as immigrant associations, trade unions and business associations. Expected to be approved in 2020, it will include measures aiming at a successful integration of immigrants, including asylum seekers and refugees.

Reactivation of the Support Fund for the Receipt and Integration of Immigrants is planned and will be used as a collaborative tool between the National Administration, Autonomous Communities and City Councils. Funds will be allocated to guarantee social cohesion and respond to the challenge of new migration.

In March 2019, the government approved the Return to Spain Plan, which seeks to foster the return of those Spaniards who left the country due to the 2008-09 economic crisis. The Plan involves several ministerial departments, regional governments, local authorities and the business sector. It comprises 50 measures with a budget of EUR 24 million for 2019-20 and includes a One-Stop Return Scheme to offer official information and help deliver documentation. Customised advice will be offered to companies and job seekers through labour mediators. Grants will be made available for returning young scientists. The Plan includes a social security contribution discount for self-employed emigrants who return to undertake entrepreneurial activities.

The COVID-19 crisis has affected several aspects of the Spanish migration system. Access to Spanish territory has been restricted for most travellers, with the exception of Spanish nationals and residents, cross-border workers, and health care workers traveling to work. Work permit procedures have been prioritised and streamlined for health care workers and agricultural workers. All procedures regarding collective hiring of foreigners in origin countries are suspended for the year 2020, which strongly affects the recruitment of seasonal workers in agriculture. Therefore, specific measures have been adopted (i.e. granting the right to work to young foreigners formerly in care, letting seasonal workers to enter. An automatic extension of residence permits, and flexibility for renewals have been introduced). The Asylum and Refugee Office has suspended interviews and several procedures carried out by the Ministry of Inclusion, Social Security and Migration have also been suspended.

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