How did Spanish immigration laws change in 2022?

spain immigration reform 2022

Obtaining the right permits to live, work, and study in Spain has been a slow and complicated ordeal for many people and many years. It’s about time, then, that the Spanish government overhauled Spain’s immigration policies to make things easier for foreigners moving to Spain.

New rules were announced in July 2022 and came into effect in August 2022, containing a range of significant changes that are sure to benefit any non-European citizen wanting to immigrate to Spain.

The modifications give foreigners in Spain, legally or irregularly, more options to obtain appropriate permits for residing in Spain through newly streamlined processes. The greater flexibility afforded by the Spanish immigration reforms should also help to boost Spain’s economy by encouraging more foreigners to come and live and work in the country.

Whether you’re already moving to Spain or plan to do so in the near future, here’s everything you should know about the Spain immigration updates and how they could benefit you.


Foreign worker recruitment

Recruiting foreign workers in Spain has been simplified, making it easier for foreigners to get a work permit and immigrate to Spain for employment opportunities.

Before the reforms, it was only possible to get a work permit as an employee if the role was included in the list of ‘difficult to fill’ jobs in the Shortage Occupations Catalogue. This was a very limited list, and employers would have to request a certificate proving there were insufficient jobseekers.

Now, the catalogue will be expanded to include more professions, and will be updated every 3 months to reflect the needs of different geographical areas across the country. This means that foreign workers will have a greater chance of finding a job in a particular part of Spain.

When employers in Spain need to fill a vacancy that isn’t on the list of ‘hard to fill’ occupations, it will also be easier to hire a foreigner in their country of origin due to shortened deadlines.

Now, the vacancy only needs to be published on the Empléate portal for 8 days, before the Public Employment Service can issue a certificate within 3 days. After these 3 days, the employer can use the certificate to submit an application for a work permit to the Foreign Office.


Work permit renewals

Until now, workers who immigrated to Spain would have to get a temporary residence card for 1 year, which then had to be renewed for 2 years and then 2 years again (totalling 5 years) before they could apply for long-term residency.

Thanks to the reforms, workers will only have to renew once after the first year – this renewal will last for the next 4 years, simplifying the process and removing the burden of having to apply for another renewal after 2 years.

The renewal process has also been adjusted to make things simpler, with reduced requirements that allow more flexibility. Proving that you have worked for 3 months of the year (rather than the previous requirement of 6 months) and have been actively searching for work should be enough to renew your initial work and residence authorisation.

Additionally, it’s no longer required to apply for a different permit when switching from employment to self-employment in Spain, or vice versa. When a worker renews their initial permit, they can proceed to be either employed or self-employed without having to legally formalise it.


Self-employed work permits

While the measures previously discussed benefit foreign employees immigrating to Spain, the reforms also assist foreign self-employed workers who want to set up their own businesses in Spain or work independently (e.g. as a freelancer).

Applying for a self-employment work permit was previously a very tedious procedure, but to encourage more self-employed foreign workers to come to Spain, the government has relaxed some of the requirements. This means that applicants no longer need to provide economic evidence proving that they have the financial backing to work and live in Spain.

There is also more flexibility considering self-employment roles relating to digital work, which is becoming more relevant than ever – such as e-commerce business owners or online consultants.

As mentioned above, foreign workers no longer have to formally apply for a change of permit if they want to switch from employment to self-employment, also allowing self-employed workers to switch to regular employment in Spain if they wish without the previous hassle.


Student visas

Students are the main demographic benefiting from the new Spanish immigration rules, with many of the prior restrictions being lifted or eased. For someone on a student visa to be able to get a job, the employer would have to apply for a work permit and go through the immigration process.

Now, many students will be able to work automatically in Spain on their student visa – either on their account or in employment for someone else – without having to apply for another permit. This applies if the student is in higher education or regulated training for a specific job, or if they’re pursuing a regulated certification or professional qualification to access a specific occupation.

Not only will foreigners on student visas be able to work freely, but they will also be able to work more hours. The maximum was previously 20 hours a week while completing studies or training, but this has been increased to 30 hours a week, without limitations on income or geographical scope.

Additionally, it will now be easier for students to switch to a full-time work and residence permit after completing their studies. Before, students had to have been maintaining their student visa for at least 3 years, but this no longer applies – allowing anyone who has completed their studies in Spain to switch to a regular work permit, even if it took them less than 3 years.


Family reunification cards

For foreigners who want to immigrate to Spain and bring their families with them, the family reunification process has also been updated to reduce the economic requirements for regrouping children, depending on the child’s age and their relationship to the reunifier.

Regardless of the number of children under 18 years old that you want to regroup, to start the reunification process, it should be sufficient for you to earn a salary equal to or higher than the minimum wage (currently 1000€ a month).

If you don’t earn this much, due to working part-time, for example, then you must be able to prove that you have 110% of the Minimum Vital Income (currently 702€) to regroup a minor child. For each additional minor, you must prove that you have an extra 10%, up to a maximum of 150%.

Family reunification card renewals have also been simplified. The duration of the renewal will now be equivalent to the card held by the primary cardholder. This means that even if a couple on a family reunification card separates, as long as the main holder has long-term residency, then their partner will continue to have long-term residency as well.

A renewed family reunification card will also now allow the main cardholder and their partner to work either as a self-employed person or as an employee for the duration of the renewal, without having to go through additional legal procedures.


New arraigos (rooting procedures)

Arraigo is a ‘roots’ process helping non-European citizens to gain legal residence in Spain, with different arraigos available for exceptional situations. Several of these have been modified under the reforms, with a completely new arraigo created as well.


Labour arraigo

The arraigo laboral for rooting through employment has been amended with several new policies. Firstly, only foreigners who are presently in an irregular situation but have previously worked in Spain legally can apply.

For those who may have worked illegally, they will have to follow a different process called ‘permission for exceptional circumstances in collaboration with the labour authorities’.

The requirement for staying continuously in Spain for a minimum of 2 years (spending no more than 90 days absent during this time) still remains, but there is now an additional requirement for proof of working 30 hours a week for 6 months, or 15 hours a week for 12 months.

That said, part-time work and self-employment will also be considered from now on. Foreigners can apply for this arraigo if they have been self-employed for 6 months continuously.


Social arraigo

The requirements for obtaining residency through arraigo social have been relaxed. This is a residence and work permit for foreigners who have been living in Spain irregularly for 3 years.

Previously, regularising the situation and obtaining the legal right to work required a 1-year employment contract. Under the reforms, any duration of contract with a guaranteed minimum salary will suffice. The applicant only needs to prove that they will receive the minimum wage.

If the applicant has several part-time job offers rather than one full-time contract, this may be accepted if the sum of the working hours is at least 30 hours per week earning the minimum wage. This lowers to 20 hours per week if you have a child under 18 years old living with you in Spain.

For self-employed applicants, you no longer have to prove 400% of the Public Income Index (IPREM) – only 100% of the annual Minimum Vital Income.


Family arraigo

The family rooting process provides temporary authorisation to live in Spain under exceptional circumstances. If you are the parent of a Spanish citizen or child of a Spanish parent, you could be granted permission to reside and work in Spain for up to 5 years.

Rather than using the ‘community card’ or ‘family member of an EU citizen card’, all relatives of Spanish citizens will be covered by the arraigo familiar. This means the partner or spouse, children, and parents of the applicant will also be covered.

In the case of divorced parents of descendants, the guardian or parent would have to prove that they were up to date with paying child support and complying with agreed visits to the child if the minor does not live with them.

Ascendants over 65 years old and descendants under 21 years old no longer have to prove that they are dependent on a Spanish citizen or live with them to prove their familial relationship. Meanwhile, ascendants under 65 years old and descendants over 21 years old will need to prove that they are responsible for a Spanish citizen who lives with and/or is dependent on them.


Training arraigo

Finally, a brand new arraigo para la formación has been introduced for foreigners who have been living in Spain irregularly for 2 years, have no criminal record, and want to pursue training or higher education that will lead to a regulated qualification.

This is a 1-year permit which can be extended for a further 12 months if the training or educational course lasts longer than the initial authorisation. The course must be on the permitted training list, cannot be completely online, and must last no longer than 18 months.

You must apply for this arraigo within 6 months of applying for the course, and will be required to provide proof of enrolment within 3 months of successfully obtaining the residence permit.

If you complete the training within the maximum duration of the permit and apply for a job offering the minimum wage or above, you could switch to a work permit that will be granted for 2 years.


Updated application process

Applying for a Spanish visa will be easier than ever with the new digital application facilities. No more waiting for an appointment and travelling to the embassy for an in-person appointment – you can save time by formalising your visa with your country’s Spanish consulate online instead.

A brand new unit has also been established to help speed up immigration processing in Spain. In recent years, foreign applicants have been waiting up to 8-10 months for their cases to be resolved, when the decisions should have taken 3 months at the very most.

With the Unit for Processing Immigration Applications (UTEX) opening in 2023, the pressure on overloaded Spanish immigration offices should be eased, reducing the delays brought on by backlogs and allowing applicants to obtain much faster resolutions.


Immigrating to Spain in 2023?

If you want to immigrate to Spain, whether alone or with your family, to work or to study, it’s more straightforward than ever to create a new life in Spain.

The new measures covered in this article were first published on 27th July and came into force on 16th August, allowing many foreigners to benefit from the amended Spanish immigration laws in the second half of the year.

However, the changes are not retroactive, so any visa applications submitted before 16th August will be processed according to the regulations that were in force on the submission date.

Spanish visa or arraigo applications will be processed under the new rules for the remainder of 2022, and continue into 2023 and beyond. If you have any concerns about the most appropriate route for Spanish immigration in 2023, why not contact Spain immigration lawyers?

Our team at Manzanares Lawyers can offer professional guidance to help you choose the best option for your circumstances, and assist you throughout the application process. Email us at and we’ll respond to your enquiry as soon as we can.


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