• Rank: 11 out of 38
  • MIPEX Score: 60
  • HEALTH 53

Key Findings

Changes in context

  • Recent major destination country since 1990's, with 15% born-abroad but small numbers of 2nd generation
  • With the crisis/austerity, ES has experienced one of the greatest declines and now lowest levels of employment in the EU
  • 2011 saw conservatives replacing socialists in the national government
  • Despite the crisis, public attitudes in ES are still very positive towards immigrants (84% of nationals think legal immigrants must have same rights than nationals, Eurobarometer 2012)
  • Responding to the crisis, the number of new arrivals has decreased and shifted from non-EU labour to family reunion of children and spouses of former labour and regularised migrants settling long-term in ES or moving on to work elsewhere in the EU

Key Common Statistics

Country of net migration since:% Non-EU citizens% Foreign-born% Non-EU of foreign-born% Non-EU university-educated % from low or medium-developed (HDI) country
UN 2010 data in 2013Eurostat 2013Eurostat 2013Eurostat 2013Note: Adults aged 18-64, Eurostat 2013Eurostat 2013

Changes in policy

  • No change in the overall MIPEX score from 2010 to 2014 (+2 overall in 2009 with Immigration Law)
  • +3 on Political participation: Ad hoc information campaigns by Electoral Census Office since 2011
  • Strategic Plan of Citizenship and Integration 2012-2014 adopted in September 2011
  • With crisis/austerity and change of government in November 2011, inaction on integration and divestment from ES national integration fund
  • -3 on Political participation: Elimination of fund creates difficulties for immigrant civil society
  • -5 on Education: less work to promote diversity in society with elimination of fund, due to austerity, and 'Education for Citizenship and Human Rights', due to electoral promises
  • Inaction on reform of anti-discrimination law and weak equality body
  • Plan to speed up naturalisations, but now new bill with citizenship without the guaranteed courses to succeed 

Conclusions and recommendations

Despite the crisis, many policies were maintained and benefited immigrants' social integration in tough times: the right to reunite with family, become long-term residents and, for those from countries with historic ties, to rapidly integrate to the ES democratic community as full citizens. In any case, inaction and set-backs during crisis may have undone some basic achievements to guarantee equal protections for all vulnerable groups in ES society without adequate replacements (e.g. labour market integration for non-EU citizens not in employment, health entitlements, National Integration Fund, consistent support in and outside school for pupils, Education for Citizenship and Human Rights). Also data and evaluations are still under-development in ES so difficult to say more about the effectiveness of many of its integration policies.

Many necessary actions would have been low-cost and ES authorities wasted some time and delayed/discouraged integration for many: e.g. equal and clear access to citizenship for all immigrants (instead created a backlog in an excessively bureaucratic procedure), voting rights and stronger consultation bodies to dialogue with affected immigrant groups and local communities, strengthening the anti-discrimination law and equality body (instead very few complaints) a bridging legal status for those exhausting unemployment benefits (instead those who involuntarily lose their jobs also involuntarily lose their legal status).

Policy Recommendations from CIDOB

  • Spain must face its greatest weakness: education. Reinforce with budget and human resources the educational system would meet the specific needs of children
  • The high degree of discretion and differences of origin established in the access to the naturalization creates a feeling of rejection among immigrants for the process. It is necessary to agree a fair, equitable and neutral regime for the country
  • The approval of the long-awaited anti-discrimination law would provide a legal framework from which effective policy may be drawn
  • The municipalities are the first level of attention to the integration of immigrants. A strategy for this level of government is essential to meet the needs of immigrants
  • Coordination and cooperation between levels of government would entail a more effective and far-reaching policy for the integration of immigrants. In this sense also the effective involvement of civil society is needed 






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Labour Market Mobility

Key Findings

Non-EU immigrants are entitled to equal treatment but little special support, unlike other vulnerable groups in ES disproportionately affected by the crisis

Potential Beneficiaries

How many immigrants could be employed?

The potential needs for labour market integration are much greater in ES than in most European countries. According to 2011/2 estimates, more than 1/3 of working-age non-EU citizens in ES are not in employment, education or training, coming out higher than the average European country. These levels are comparable to FR and GR and higher than other Southern European countries. Gender and level of education are two important variables that explain the differences in the access to employment, education or training: roughly 1/2 of low-educated women (50%) and men (43%), nearly 1/3 of high-educated women and more than 1/4 of high-educated men.

Policy Indicators

Do immigrants have equal rights and opportunities to access jobs and improve their skills?

So long as residents can keep their legal status and benefits, they enjoy the same access and general support as ES citizens to get back into jobs – if and when the ES economy recovers. Just making the Top 10, ES offers non-EU citizens with equal legal access to jobs, general training, study grants and social benefits. Basic equal access and rights are also guaranteed in other developed countries that were dependent on migrant labour, both traditionally (e.g. CA, UK, US) and recently (e.g. CZ, IT, PT). As such, newcomers quickly became integrated into ES' dual labour market, with its parallel systems of temporary contracts, informal employment and ‘bubble’ sectors such as construction. In ES as across Southern Europe, the need is great for more ambitious employment programmes in ES for groups especially vulnerable groups to the crisis, including immigrants. And yet ES policies have been largely ignoring the specific needs of these foreign-trained and newcomer workers, as targeted trainings, orientation and recognition procedures for immigrants are limited and poorly funded (like IT, IE, MT, with PT far ahead). 

Non-EU immigrants are relatively well-integrated into the ES labour market, experiencing the same ups and downs in employment rates before and after the crisis. 
38% of non-EU citizens are not in employment, education and training, with few accessing lifelong learning. Even long-settled non-EU immigrants end up in worse-quality jobs than the ES-born. The high-educated are 50% more likely to work in jobs below their qualifications, while the low-educated are 2 times more likely to suffer in-work poverty, with wages and benefits below their basic needs.

Dimension 1: Access to labour market

  • Non-EU citizens who can keep their legal status enjoy equal access to the labour market in ES, as in FI, PT, US (also favourable in 10 other countries)
  • All sectors benefit from their potential because of equal access to private, public and self-employment
  • With the 2009 Immigration Law, spouses and adult children gained the same opportunities to access legal work

Dimension 2: Access to general support

  • ES and Non-EU citizens should have the same access to general education, training and employment services, as in most countries
  • Non-EU citizens can also take up study grants, as in several Southern European countries
  • One potential obstacle to pursue jobs and degrees in ES is the more complicated, costly and uncertain procedure to recognise academic and professional qualifications from outside the EU as opposed to from inside the EU (see more positive elements in PT, UK, AU/CA/NZ, NL/NO/SE) 

Dimension 3: Targeted support

  • Weaker targeted support in ES than on average in Western Europe (similar to IE and MT, far below PT)
  • Immigrant job-seekers are simply informed about recognition procedures and public employment services, which are supposed to be trained about their specific needs
  • This basic information is provided in most countries
  • Most Western European countries offer systematic language programmes including job-specific courses and pay greater attention to the situation of immigrant youth and women

Dimension 4: Workers' rights

  • All residents in Spain and around the MIPEX countries, should, according to law, experience the same working conditions and access unemployment benefits and social security based on what they paid into it as workers; Voluntary return plans proved ineffective because most unemployed migrants do not see their future in their countries of origin
  • During the crisis, immigrants were affected by one major gap in rights; the 5-year-delay to access housing benefits in certain Autonomous Communities 

Real beneficiaries

Are immigrants acquiring new skills?

Only 17% of unemployed working-age non-EU were enrolled in education or training on average in the EU. In Spain the rate was even lower (around 11%) for men and women. While scores tend to be similar for equally skilled men and women, when focusing on educational attainment, the gap in access for low (around 8%) vs. university-educated (18%) men and women in ES is striking. A similar trend is present in countries such as IT, FR, BE, DE. Overall, ES scores more favourably than IT but falling short of PT.

According to 2011/2 estimates, more than a 1/3 of non-EU citizen men and women who were unemployed received some form of unemployment benefits in ES. Still, that means roughly 60% of unemployed non-EU citizens could not count on the support of unemployment benefits. Furthermore, access to benefits was significantly lower for women (28%) than men (46%). These levels of access to unemployment benefits are slightly higher than in IT, comparable to non-EU citizens in PT but significantly lower than FR.

Contextual factors

What other factors explain whether immigrants find skilled and well-paid jobs?

  • Comparatively low employment rates and negative growth, similar to other Southern European countries
  • Rigid employment protection legislation in ES as across Southern Europe 
  • Mostly former labour and regularised migrant workers
  • Large numbers coming with some exposure to Castilian 
  • Few with an educational or professional degree from ES 

Outcome indicators

Are immigrants employed in qualified and well-paid jobs?

In ES, as on average in the EU, the high-educated long-settled non-EU-born (10+ years' stay) are 10% less likely to have a job than non-immigrants with the same level of education, with similar results for both high-educated men and women. Furthermore, employment rates are nearly the same for the non-EU and ES-born low-educated (around 50%). However, the major gap emerges when gender is taken into account revealing that low-educated non-EU women are in fact 20% more likely to have a job than low-educated ES women. A similar gap between low-educated non-EU-born women and native-born women is present in countries such as GR, IT, CY.
In terms of employment quality, high-educated non-EU-born workers are more than 50% likely to be working below their qualifications. When looking at high-educated men and women separately, we find that non-EU-born women are up twice as likely to be overqualified for their position in comparison to a native-born woman. This is a trend that is visible especially in Southern Europe and Northwest Europe.
Coming out slightly lower than the EU average, low-educated non-EU-born workers in ES are nearly two times as likely to experience poverty, this finding holds for both men and women. Immigrants in ES find themselves at a slightly higher risk than those in IT and GR but lower than CY and FR.

Family Reunion

Key Findings

Despite the crisis, ES' inclusive 'family-friendly' immigration policy helped many of ES' former labour and regularised immigrants to reunite with their children and spouses; ES still welcomes every year the 3rd highest number of non-EU families who are nearly as likely to reunite in ES as on average in Europe

Potential Beneficiaries

How many immigrants are potentially living in transnational couples?

In ES the number of non-EU residents separated from their spouse/partner is one of the highest in Europe. According to 2011/2 estimates, 7% of non-EU citizen adults were likely to be living in an internationally separated couple, and thus one type of potential sponsors for family reunion. Figures are only higher in SI, BE and CY.

Policy Indicators

How easily can immigrants reunite with family?

Non-EU residents of all nationalities have been regularly able to reunite with family members in ES, ranking 1st just ahead of PT. ES' 'family-friendly' policy allows family reunion to remain an option for its small but important number of separated families. After 1 year's delay, residents with basic legal incomes and housing can reunite with most close family (though restrictions on parents since 2009). These reuniting families then enjoy the secure and equal rights to quickly and fully participate in ES society. 

Dimension 1: Eligibility

  • When renewing their permit after 1 year, a non-EU sponsor can also apply to reunite with their spouse/partner and children if he or she can provide for them
  • 2009's Immigration Law expanded eligibility for partners and adult children in order to recognise 'family diversity', but also limiting it for parents and grandparents in response to the recession
  • Eligibility was opened to partners and expanded for adult children in 2009 to 'recognise family diversity' (partners now allowed in 25 other countries)
  • Restrictions also placed in 2009 on parents/grandparents, as sponsors must prove either long-term residence or urgent care/humanitarian needs; Responding to recession, the goals were to encourage parents to work in countries of origin and discourage new burdens on ES' labour market and welfare state (similar restrictions in 7 other countries e.g. IT and none in 10 countries e.g. PT, SE)

Dimension 2: Conditions

  • Families can reunite when their sponsor can provide them a basic housing and legal income based on the general ES standards for families, though rules are complex under 2011 Immigration Rules
  • 'Stable and sufficient' income: Sponsors' income (salary or social security payments) must equal 150% of IPREM (minimum family income for social benefits) + 50% for every extra family member, both for the past 6 months and for the next year

Dimension 3: Security of status

  • Reuniting families should generally experience a more rights-based and secure procedure in ES than in any other country
  • There is little reason to reject sponsors who fulfil the same basic conditions for family life as ES citizens (e.g. fraud or public security threat)
  • The procedure should be short (3m) and their new status as long as their sponsor's (as in most Western Europe and traditional countries of immigration)

Dimension 4: Rights associated

  • Reunited spouses and adult children can use their equal labour market access to become financially independent and autonomous residents, since 2009 provisions on work, autonomous residence and protection against sexual violence aimed to promote family and gender equality 
  • Near-equal rights guaranteed for families and sponsors in ES as in PT, CA, NO
  • Spouses and adult children have the same right to work, education/training, housing and social security as their sponsor, as in the majority of countries
  • Family members are encouraged to quickly obtain a basic income in order to become autonomous permits 
  • Vulnerable families are protected with the right to an autonomous permit, e.g. in cases of death or protection orders for domestic violence and, after 2 years' stay, in cases of divorce or separation

Real beneficiaries

Are families reuniting?

67,177 non-EU family members reunited with a non-EU sponsor in 2013, which ranks ES among the top 3 countries in Europe (together with IT & UK). The numbers of newly arrived non-EU families has dropped significantly in recent years. The numbers in ES decreased from 104,000 in 2008 to between 90,000-73,000 during the period of 2010-2012. Fewer spouses/partners are reuniting, with their numbers dropping significantly by two-thirds from 2008 (43,000) and 2009 (26,000) to between 14,000-19,000 from 2010-2012. Children make up the majority of reuniting family members (around 3/4 today) and their numbers have remained relatively constant from 2008-2013 (around 55,000), peaking at 70,000 in 2010 and 2011. In addition to spouses and children, the small number of 'other' family members has decreased by two-thirds from around 4,800 in 2008 to between 1,000-2,000 from 2010-2013. This drop coincides with the 2009 Immigration Law's restrictions on adult parents/grandparents. 

Nearly 2/3 of reuniting families today come from 5 large nationality groups: MO (around 1/3), CN (1/10) BO, EC and PK (each around 4-7%). In 2013, family reunion was slightly more common among citizens from IN, BD, PK, GH and CN and now relatively uncommon among citizens of other major nationalities, especially the Latin American countries. Large numbers of citizens from Latin America and CN reunited in 2008 and then dropped significantly in 2009 and again in 2012/3. Numbers have remained more constant for citizens of countries from other regions (e.g. MO and PK).

Contextual factors

What other factors explain whether immigrants reunite with family?

  • Many newcomers recently settling down with family in Nordics and Southern Europe
  • Most have eligible or permanent permits to sponsor 
  • 2/3 from low-to-medium developed countries and thus more likely to reunite as newcomers

Outcome indicators

How often do immigrants reunite with family?

Non-EU families are just as likely to reunite in ES as on average in Europe and less likely today than in recent years. Out of every 100 non-EU residents in ES, around 2.2 are newly arrived non-EU family members. This is the same as the average for all EU countries (2.2) but slightly below-average for Western European countries (3.0) and recent rates in IT and PT. Non-EU family reunion was slightly more common in 2010 and 2011 (2.7) and decreased in 2012 and 2013. A family's choice to reunite is also driven by individual factors and the general context, with the economic crisis likely a major factor. A country's policies are also a – if not the – major factor for the small number of transnational families, especially for the most vulnerable groups. Non-EU families have been more likely to reunite in countries with inclusive family reunion policies, such as ES, Southern European, Benelux and Nordic countries.


Key Findings

Growing number of foreign-born pupils can legally access all types of schools in the Autonomous Communities, but many are offering them limited support to learn the language, catch up academically or learn about immigrant languages, cultures or, since 2012, citizenship education

Potential Beneficiaries

How many pupils have immigrant parents?

An important and increasing minority of pupils in ES are 1st generation born abroad, accounting for 8.4% of 15-year-olds according to the 2012 PISA survey. This is slightly above the 5-7% in most other Western European countries. This share of foreign-born pupils is much higher in traditional countries of immigration such as AU/CA/NZ. Only a very small share of pupils are 2nd generation in ES (1.5%). Similar shares of native-born children on immigrants are found in countries such as IE, IT, CZ, HU, LT, FI.

Policy Indicators

Is the education system responsive to the needs of the children of immigrants?

The trends in school systems across ES Autonomous Communities place the country at 20th place, alongside IT and FR. All immigrant pupils have equal access to the education system, but schools only sometimes provide them with extra courses and support to catch up academically, learn the school language and learn their mother tongue/culture. A large number of pupils in need may not be reached and might not be participating (e.g. only 1/3 low-literacy foreign-born pupils receive extra out-of-school literacy courses). People may be less likely to learn about diversity in schools and in society after the elimination of the 'Education for Citizenship and Human Rights' and the ES National Integration Fund (-5 points on MIPEX education scores since 2010). 

Dimension 1: Access

  • All immigrant pupils have legal access to all types of schools, but hardly any policies exist to guarantee equal access in practice, which is a weakness in ES and most countries
  • Undocumented pupils arriving as minors have full access to all school levels, following Constitutional court judgement 236/2007 (see also e.g. FR, NL)
  • Immigrant pupils may be able to benefit from a few targeted measures to avoid early school leaving and get a second chance, depending on the Autonomous Communities
  • However they are unlikely to benefit from targeted measures to get into pre-primary education, high-quality vocational education and apprenticeships or higher education (see instead PT, AT, DE, Nordics)

Dimension 2: Targeting needs

  • Autonomous Communities generally offer basic support but few legal entitlements for immigrant pupils, parents and teachers
  • Schools can use some funding to orient new pupils/parents with interpreters or written materials and to offer basic transitional language support in either separate or mainstream classrooms (see higher-level and quality support in 12 countries)
  • Teachers do not necessarily receive the training or professional support they need to maintain high expectations for immigrant pupils

Dimension 3: New opportunities

  • As in most countries, most Autonomous Communities overlook many of the new opportunities to make schools a space for social integration
  • Few programmes aim at diversifying schools and teachers or reaching out to parents (see DK, DE, NO, SE, UK)
  • To promote the 2-way integration process, they could also teach immigrant languages and cultures to immigrants (currently for some MO and RO citizens) as well as to ES pupils (currently only in PT)

Dimension 4: Intercultural education

  • Pupils no longer benefit from a slightly favourable approach to intercultural education in ES schools as cuts to funding and the citizenship course mean that schools are free to decide whether and how to teach about cultural diversity 
  • 'Education for Citizenship and Human Rights' course was altered in 2012, suppressed in 2012 by LOMCE Law but kept in a few local and autonomous communities
  • No means to promote cultural diversity across ES after the 2012 elimination of the National Integration Fund 
  • Schools have the discretion on how to promote cultural diversity across the curriculum and school day, though few trainings are available

Policy Box

‘Education for Citizenship and Human Rights’ became mandatory in 2009. All students were expected to acquire a specific skill set and understanding on citizenship rights and obligations, diversity and global social problems. Based on evidence of changes in society, government intended to end recent problems of violence, harassment, discrimination and racism among students. The final curriculum drew on European standards (e.g. Council of Europe’s Education for Democratic Citizenship and Human Rights) and consultations with 20 social organisations, though many Catholic and conservative organisations objected to moral and sexual education. The end of the CREADE (Resource Centre for Attention to Cultural Diversity in Education) project, supported by Education Ministry, was another example of limitation of the intercultural education policy.

Real beneficiaries

Are pupils with limited literacy getting remedial courses?

OECD PISA data from 2012 shows that low-literacy 15-year-old pupils are less likely to benefit from extra out-of-school literacy courses in ES than in the average European country. Only around 1/3 of immigrant pupils with limited literacy were enrolled in such courses in ES (similar to AT). In ES, the numbers for foreign-born low-literacy pupils in remedial classes is slightly higher for the 1st generation (35%) than 2nd generation (28%) as is the case in all other countries, with the exception of FR, UK, SI. This indicator suggests that targeted support may not be reaching many low-literacy pupils in need, such as many 1st and 2nd generation pupils.

Contextual factors

What other factors explain whether the children of immigrants excel at school?

  • Foreign-born pupils with low-educated mothers are slightly more likely to be concentrated in disadvantaged schools in ES as in most Western European countries 
  • 1/2 of immigrant pupils speak a different language at home than the language at school (similar to CA/NZ/IE/UK).

Outcome indicators

How well are the children of immigrants achieving at school?

The parent’s educational background, specially the mother’s, is a good predictor of children’s performance in school. In ES, foreign-born pupils with low-educated mothers are 2 times as likely to be math low-achievers (57%) than non-immigrants with low-educated mothers (29%). Similar gaps are observed in PT, BE, DE, LU. By the 2nd generation, pupils with low-educated immigrant mothers are only 35% more likely to be low-achievers than pupils with low-educated non-immigrant mothers.


Key Findings

Since 2012, more legal and administrative obstacles to healthcare for migrant patients in ES than the majority of countries; removing these obstacles would support other measures to guarantee equally accessible and responsive services 

Policy Indicators

Is the health system responsive to immigrants' needs?

Since Royal Decree-Law 16/2012, legal migrants and especially undocumented migrants have faced significant problems with the conditions, discretion and documentation required to access healthcare entitlements. On entitlements, ES now ranks below 23 out of the 38 countries, slightly below average for Western Europe. Estimates suggest that 800,000 migrants lost their right to a health card under the new policy, while visits to accident and emergency services soared. 2015 saw government announce plans to end this policy (see more favourable provisions in e.g. IT, SE). Restoring previous entitlements would improve scores on migrant health policy for ES and also better support current changes within the health system to guarantee equal quality and accessibility for migrant patients.

Click here to learn more about how MIPEX health was developed with IOM and EU’s COST/ADAPT network through ‘Equi-Health’ project and co-funded by European Commission’s DG SANTE. 

Dimension 1: Entitlements

  • Before Royal Decree-Law 16/2012, all residents, regardless of their administrative status, enjoyed equal access to the National Health System under Laws 4/2000 and 2/2009
  • Legal migrants now only enjoy equal access if employed, retired, unemployed with benefits or official registration
  • Undocumented migrants are no longer entitled to healthcare and are obliged to pay for it themselves, with only a few exceptions (e.g. minors, pregnant women, medical emergencies) 
  • Asylum-seekers still enjoy full access to the health system if they can obtain the right documentation 
  • As a result of Decree-Law 16/2012, some regional authorities have created additional residence requirements (to prevent ‘health tourism') resulting in uneven entitlements across ES, with free universal healthcare maintained in six regions e.g. Andalusia and Catalonia but with restrictions without exceptions in e.g. Ceuta and Melilla

Dimension 2: Access policies

  • Uneven implementation of the 2012 law has created new difficulties in providing information for service providers and health workers on undocumented migrants’ entitlements to care
  • Under 1999/2000 laws, health professionals cannot be sanctioned for treating undocumented migrants or forced to report them (similar in IT, FR, PT, US)
  • Government-funded NGO programmes inform all categories of migrants through various methods and languages about entitlements and the use of health services. Health education and health promotion are provided in the same way
  • Cultural mediators are provided to a limited extent and on an ad hoc basis, often by NGO’s receiving government support

Dimension 3: Responsive services

  • While health professionals aim to guarantee equal treatment for migrant patients, they have only started to respond to their specific health/access needs, with ES ranking 20th out of 38 on responsive health services
  • Certain health organisations tackle language barriers by providing free interpreting services, sometimes using telephones, apps or online resources
  • Intercultural trainings and tools (e.g. Immigrant Care Manual) are increasingly available
  • Diagnostic procedures are sometimes adapted to take into account a patient's socio-cultural background
  • Standards and guidelines for responding to diversity exist, but only on an ad hoc basis
  • In certain regions, migrant patients with specific health needs may benefit from targeted information campaigns and programmes, e.g. for FGM, gender-based violence and children

Dimension 4: Mechanisms for change

  • Health and integration policy in ES have the basic infrastructure in place to implement more effective measures for migrant health, similar to other leading Western European countries
  • Basic data and a wealth of research is available in ES as in the rest of Western Europe
  • National and regional strategies have made commitments on health equity and on integration, including attention for migrant health promotion, mediation, diversity management and intercultural training 
  • However, health and integration policymakers have not worked together to systematically implement these measures and make migrant health a priority for a wide range of migration stakeholders and all health service providers
  • Although ES has a tax-based National Health System, there is considerable regional devolution of policymaking and little central coordination of efforts on migrant health

Political Participation

Key Findings

Immigrants may be more likely to participate politically by going around official channels rather than through them, given ES' inconsistent policies on voting rights and naturalisation and its limited consultative bodies, funding and information campaigns

Policy Indicators

Do immigrants have comparable rights and opportunities to participate in political life?

While long-settled non-EU immigrants are just as likely as ES-born citizens to participate politically through means other voting, ES' policies to promote this are just halfway favourable, usually reaching few non-EU citizens from certain countries of origin (mostly from countries with historic ties to ES). Local voting rights are weaker in ES and PT than in most countries because non-EU citizens' opportunity to vote depends not on their integration, but the signature of a reciprocity agreement with their country of origin (most with countries with historic ties to ES). In the 2015 local elections, only an estimated 2% of all non-EU citizen adults were eligible and registered to vote (<20% were eligible and just 13% of the eligible 350,000 ultimately registered). To avoid becoming an ageing and shrinking democracy, ES can continue to support high naturalisation rates and/or try again to increase the number of countries signing reciprocity agreements. 

Dimension 1: Electoral rights

  • ES and PT, both leading new immigration countries on political participation, cannot get around their reciprocity-based voting systems that need political will for constitutional change (as in AT, DE, IT)
  • Bilateral voting agreements have been offered to several third countries, but ratified with only BO, CV, CL, CO, EC, IS, KR, NO, NZ, PE, PY and TT, because parliament deemed conditions not reciprocal enough, while reciprocity is not possible for several key countries such as BR, MX and NO 
  • Voting rights are long fought, hard won but sustainable over time, with the local right to vote in 20 countries other than ES and to stand in elections in 13 others

Dimension 2: Political liberties

  • Non-EU immigrants can actively participate in all political parties and associations in ES as in most countries
  • ES Constitutional Court confirmed (236/2007) that all residents, regardless of administrative status, enjoy the rights to association, assembly, demonstration and education

Dimension 3: Consultative bodies

  • ES' various consultative bodies (e.g. ES Forum for Social Integration since 2006) have strong powers to initiate their own reports and recommendations and to receive a response from government
  • However, immigrant representatives are not leading them or directly elected to these forums
  • These forums' role in policymaking is weaker than in Europe’s older, democratic bodies, which rely on experienced community leaders (see also BE/DE regional, DK, FI, LU)

Dimension 4: Implementation policies

  • Immigrants can get rather limited information and support to promote their civic participation 
  • Immigrants with voting rights can learn about why and how to register to vote through ad hoc campaigns by Electoral Census Office (ECO) during the 2011 and 2015 elections (similar campaigns in 18 other countries)
  • Certain immigrant associations receive funding depending on the local authorities and Autonomous Communities (see instead PT's COCAI, BE's Minderhedenforum also AU/CA/NZ)
  • National funding for civic participation is now limited after the defunding of the ES national Integration Fund

Real beneficiaries

How many non-EU immigrants are eligible to vote?

In ES, only country nationals of the countries that have signed reciprocal agreements with Spain will be able to vote in the municipal elections. Over 340,000 citizens of Ecuador, Colombia, Peru, Bolivia, Chile, Paraguay, Cape Verde, New Zealand, Iceland, Trinidad and Tobago, South Korea and Norway were invited to register in the electoral census to vote, along with more than one million members of the EU. At this point it is important to highlight that the recent naturalizations (114,000 in 2011; 115,000 in 2012 and 260,000 in 2013) will largely increase the number of people eligible to vote. Particularly of people from Moroccan, Ecuadorian, Colombian, Bolivian and Peruvian origin. In any case, over one million people of foreign origin will be able to vote in the next municipal elections, a number that is still very low when considering the over 4.5 million foreigners residing in Spain.

Contextual factors

What other factors explain whether immigrants become politically active?

  • Only 1/5 are university-educated and few from highly developed countries
  • Around 40% of ES-born engage in some form of political participation
  • Most relatively new migration in ES, arriving only in the 2000's

Outcome indicators

Are immigrants participating in political life?

Data collected throughout the 2000's suggests that the long-settled non-EU-born (10+ years' residence) are just as likely to participate politically as ES-born people. 42% of the long-settled non-EU born have recently taken part in some civic act (through a political party, association, petition, demonstration or contacting a politician), compared to 41% of ES-born people. The levels of political participation are similar for the university-educated, with native-born high-educated only being 8% more likely to be politically active, however, slightly larger gaps emerge when comparing the low-educated revealing that non-EU-born adults are 15% less likely to take part in some form of political action in comparison to the native-born low-educated adult population. Similar patterns are observed in GR, FR, BE.

The previous 2011 elections were the first ones where third-country nationals were able to vote, but their participation was hardly taken into consideration since the final number of foreigners who registered to vote was very small. One of the explanations for this low turnout was the requirements that complicate (non-EU) migrants’ political participation in Spain, chiefly: they have to legally reside in Spain for at least 5 years, they have to register in the electoral census, and mainly they have to be from one of the few countries that has a bilateral agreement. 

Permanent Residence

Key Findings

Despite ES' reputation as a 'new' country of immigration, most non-EU citizens have settled there 5+ years and become long-term residents through ES' relatively inclusive path, with many potential benefits for their social and geographic mobility 

Potential Beneficiaries

Who can become long-term residents?

An estimated 87% of male and female non-EU citizens have lived in ES for the required 5+ years to normally qualify for permanent residence, according to 2011/2 estimates. This is one of the highest levels of long-settled non-EU citizens in Europe (alongside AT, FR, IT, NL, GR, Baltics). There are slightly more long-settled men than women in ES (88% vs. 85%).

Policy Indicators

How easily can immigrants become long-term residents?

Like reunited families, long-term residents are better able to secure their future in ES than in most European countries (along with BE and SE). Despite ES' reputation as a 'new' country of immigration, the majority of non-EU citizens have been settled there 5+ years and taken ES' relatively inclusive path to become long-term residents. Temporary residents have slightly favourable chances to qualify under its eligibility rules and requirements (though income requirement restricted in 2009, -6 points). ES' slightly favourable path to long-term residence is a normal part of the integration process for most non-EU citizens, whose integration outcomes are likely to benefit from the status' relative security and equal rights. Most opted to become national long-term residents, but not EU long-term residents with greater rights to live/work in other EU countries.

Dimension 1: Eligibility

  • Immigrants' eligibility for long-term residence is similar to most European countries, following the 2009 Immigration Law
  • Former international students are better eligible for EU long-term residence. Following recent trends (e.g. AT, BE, PT), Spain opened equal chances for former students trained for its labour market to settle there.

Dimension 2: Conditions

  • Immigrants in ES benefit from relatively clear and equitable requirements to become long-term residents, despite the stricter 2009 income requirement
  • Applicants must pay a nominal fee and demonstrate an income around the level of social assistance but without counting their use of social assistance
  • These benefits are generally counted in 26 out of the 38 other countries

Dimension 3: Security of status

  • Immigrants becoming long-term residents can be relatively secure in their status in ES, ranked 5th similar to IT
  • Once non-EU residents have secured their income and 5 years’ residence, the procedure is short and simple
  • Their permit is permanent and renewed as long as they pay their taxes
  • They can live for long periods in other EU countries, but only ≤1 year outside the EU

Dimension 4: Rights Associated

  • Permanent residents and ES citizens can work, study and live together with the same social and economic rights, as in 29 other MIPEX countries

Real beneficiaries

How many immigrants are long-term residents?

In 2013, ES was home to 1,746,153 permanent residents, finding itself among the top 5 European countries with the largest number of permanent residents (together with DE, IT, FR, UK). Only 3% (or 61,537) were EU long-term residents, with the right to freely move and reside in other EU countries under certain conditions, while the other 97% (1,746,153) held a ES national permanent residence permit.

Contextual factors

What other factors explain whether immigrants become long-term residents?

  • Most on permits eligible to apply for long-term residence
  • Mostly former labour or regularised workers and their family migrants likely to settle in ES or elsewhere in EU
  • Only option to secure residence for long-settled residents from countries without historic ties to ES; given their 10-year-long wait for naturalisation in ES

Outcome indicators

How often do immigrants become long-term residents?

An estimated 60% of non-EU citizens were living in ES as permanent residents in 2013. Most immigrants are also permanently settled in Europe's other major destination countries (FR, IT, SE, UK). Access to permanent residence does not appear to be particular problem for specific nationality, gender or age groups, since permanent residents generally reflect ES's overall immigrant population (similar in CZ, IT, SI). This share of permanent residents strongly reflects both ES's permanent residence and to citizenship policies. 

By end of 2014 reached 77% according to Spain's Permanent Observatory on Immigration (1.6 million people) as the number of TCN in ES has also fallen due to acquisition of ES citizenship (mostly Moroccans, Ecuatorians and Chinese).

Access to Nationality

Key Findings

A clearer path to citizenship for all would lead to higher and more equitable naturalisation rates, reflecting Spain's integration realities

Potential Beneficiaries

Who can become a citizen?

Only around half of the non-EU citizens in ES have lived there 10+ years, according to 2011/2 estimates.

Policy Indicators

How easily can immigrants become citizens?

A clearer path to citizenship for all would lead to higher and more equitable naturalisation rates, reflecting ES' integration realities. ES and IT are the only two major destination countries without citizenship reforms reflecting their new realities as countries of immigration. The ES government already realised the need to accelerate this inflexible procedure, as many immigrants became eligible and backlogged in the system. Many reforming countries fast-track naturalisation for all newcomers and grant automatic citizenship for their children at or after birth or graduation. For example, PT’s more favourable conditions for citizens of Lusophone countries were made into entitlements for all speaking basic Portuguese after 6 years. 

Dimension 1: Eligibility

  • ES and IT are the only major destination countries where the general wait for naturalisation is so long and inflexible.
  • 10 years uninterrupted is the longest in Europe and the maximum allowed under European law (on average 7 flexible years)
  • For special groups, the wait is 1 year for spouses and Spanish-born children, 2 years for citizens of countries with historic ties and 5 years for refugees
  • No special entitlement exists for foreign-born children schooled in the country, unlike in CZ, PT, FR and Nordics

Dimension 2: Conditions

  • The requirements to become ES citizens are rather unfavourable for recognising immigrants' real integration efforts, especially given ES' social and economic context
  • While the procedure is free, the criteria are too vague and extensive for many ordinary immigrants to pass or even prepare
  • They can only prove their good conduct and sufficient social integration through a discretionary interview with a Civil Registry Judge, who can ask them any question about Castilian ES, their life, job and knowledge of ES
  • Since the 2009 Immigration Reform Act, applicants can ask the judge to take into account their integration report from the Autonomous Community, but it is not binding 
  • Reforming countries tend to make the requirements more simple and objective based on available free courses and diplomas (e.g. see BE, PT)

Dimension 3: Security of status

  • While the naturalisation procedure can be long and backlogged, the other elements are slightly positive for applicants
  • Immigrants are entitled to ES citizenship if they can pass the discretionary integration interview
  • Successful applicants are relatively secure in their citizenship, while rejected applicants can learn why and appeal (though costing 300€ since 2012)

Dimension 4: Dual nationality

  • The formal renunciation requirement for ordinary immigrants is also outdated for ES' diverse and mobile society. Citizens of countries with historic ties do not have to renounce.
  • As another international reform trend, these requirements are being removed, as most destination and origin countries find that dual nationality is both easy to regulate and important for naturalisation, integration and mobility 

Policy Box

The government made a huge effort to remove the backlog of over 450,000 applications through its 2012 "Intensive Plan of Naturalisation". With more immigrants eligible to apply, administrative workloads were increasing while budgets were cut. The Plan transferred resolution of applications to the Registrars of Property (similar to notaries) at no apparent budgetary cost, though not lacking in some controversy. 

Real beneficiaries

How many immigrants are becoming citizens?

A clearer path to citizenship for all would lead to higher and more equitable naturalisation rates, reflecting ES' integration realities. The ES government already realised the need to accelerate this inflexible procedure, as many immigrants became eligible and backlogged in the system. Many reforming countries fast-track naturalisation for all newcomers and grant automatic citizenship for their children at or after birth or graduation. For example, PT’s more favourable conditions for citizens of Lusophone countries were made into entitlements for all speaking basic PT after 6 years. As a new country of immigration, more newcomers are becoming eligible. The total number of naturalisations has steadily increased over the past decade from around 25,000 in 2003 to 100,000-120,000 in recent years. 92,719 non-EU citizens became ES citizens in 2012. Following the 2014 Plan, around 230,000 new citizens were naturalised in 2013 and around 95,000 in 2014.

Contextual factors

What other factors explain why non-EU immigrants become citizens?

  • 2/3 from less developed countries
  • Nearly 90% from countries allowing dual nationality
  • Large numbers of ES-speakers from countries with historic ties eligible for facilitated naturalisation
  • Many former labour migrants not planning to return to their country of origin

Outcome indicators

How often do immigrants become citizens?

A clearer path to citizenship for all would lead to higher and more equitable naturalisation rates, reflecting ES' integration realities. ES and IT are the only two major destination countries without citizenship reforms reflecting their new realities as countries of immigration. The ES government already realised the need to accelerate this inflexible procedure, as many immigrants became eligible and backlogged in the system. Many reforming countries fast-track naturalisation for all newcomers and grant automatic citizenship for their children at or after birth or graduation. For example, PT’s more favourable conditions for citizens of Lusophone countries were made into entitlements for all speaking basic Portuguese after 6 years. As a new country of immigration, more newcomers are becoming eligible. The total number of naturalisations has steadily increased over the past decade from around 25,000 in 2003 to 100,000-120,000 in recent years. Following the 2014 Plan, around 230,000 new citizens were naturalised in 2013 and around 95,000 in 2014. 

Still, ES has far to go. In recent years, non-EU citizen men and women have been less likely to be naturalised in ES than in other Western European countries. Only an estimated 1 in 4 non-EU-born adults had naturalised by 2012, a relatively low level in Europe and similar to GR and IT. Also, ES' naturalisation rates are relatively inequitable. Rates are significantly lower for men than for women and for nationals of countries without historical ties to ES, including for nationals of major refugee-producing countries.

Evidence base

What do we learn from robust studies?

ES' residence and citizenship policies are crucial in shaping foreigners’ decisions about whether or not to naturalise. In fact, they appear even more crucial than whether or not dual nationality is allowed by country of origin, which creates a major potential cost for naturalisation (González-Ferrer & Cortina Trilla 2011).


Key Findings

The non-reporting of discrimination is the norm across Europe and a greater problem in ES, with a poorly informed public, below-average laws and the weakest equality body in the developed world 

Potential Beneficiaries

Who said they experienced racial/ethnic or religious discrimination last year?

Slightly lower than the European average, around 3% of people in ES recently felt that they had been discriminated against or harassed based on their ethnic origin (2.6%) and/or religion/beliefs (0.8%), according to the latest comparable data from 2012 (Eurobarometer). Similarly low experiences of religious discrimination were reported in CZ, GR, PT, LT, SK.

Policy Indicators

Is everyone effectively protected from racial/ethnic, religious, and nationality discrimination in all areas of life?

ES has weaker anti-discrimination laws and equality policies than 28 out of the 38 countries, nearly 20 points below the average for Western Europe. Non-EU citizens are poorly protected from multiple and nationality discrimination in all areas of life, despite being a disadvantaged group disproportionately suffering from the crisis' social and economic effects. These are issues of national interest in such a large country of immigration as ES. Furthermore, ES' equality body, created in 2009, has the weakest powers to inform and support potential victims than any other body in existence in the 38 countries. Nothing has really changed since 2007, despite promises of reform. This weak mandate undermines the effectiveness of antidiscrimination laws and government’s broad equality commitments. As a result of these relatively new and weak laws and policies, only around 1 complaint is filed for nearly every 3,000 potential victims of racial/ethnic discrimination in ES.

Dimension 1: Definitions

  • Legal definitions only go halfway to protect the public against discrimination in ES, ranked 27th 
  • Wide range of actors cannot discriminate against a person on the grounds of race, ethnicity or religion
  • Victims are not clearly protected against discrimination based on multiple grounds (see 8 other countries) in 30 countries or based on their nationality (see 22 MIPEX countries)
  • Gaps also emerge on discrimination based on assumed/associated characteristics

Dimension 2: Fields of application

  • Non-EU citizens are strongly protected in all areas of life against racial, ethnic and religious discrimination but not nationality discrimination (unlike 16 countries, e.g. FR, PT)

Dimension 3: Enforcement mechanisms

  • Potential victims in ES can benefit from slightly favourable mechanisms to enforce the law, though their powers are just average when compared internationally
  • Victims in need should benefit from free court-appointed lawyers, interpreters, equality NGOs and class actions, as in the majority of countries
  • But situation testing, statistical evidence and the full range of sanctions are not yet used

Dimension 4: Equality policies

  • Council for the Promotion of Equality and Non-Discrimination, operational only since September 2009, has the weakest powers to help victims to access justice across the country
  • Their assistance to victims stops at advice and investigations
  • In other countries, equality bodies can initiate alternative dispute procedures (15, e.g. Nordics, IE), claims for victims in court (8, e.g. BE, NL, SE), or its own proceedings and investigations (16, e.g. AT, FR, NL, SE, UK)
  • Countries such as BE, CA, FR, NL, SE and UK also provide networks of regional/local anti-discrimination bureaus
  • Under ES equality policies, public authorities are supposed to inform the public of their rights, promote equality through their work and coordinate this through specialised units 

Real beneficiaries

How many racial/ethnic and religious discrimination complaints were made to equality bodies?

The network of centres acting as the Assistance Service for Victims of Racial or Ethnic Discrimination in ES (formed of 7 NGOs lead by the National Equality Body) reported assisting in 376 cases on the grounds of ethnic or religious discrimination in 2013. It must be noted that in 2013 the Network of centres was only active between 15 March and 31 December. 

Contextual factors

What other factors explain whether potential victims report discrimination cases

  • <1/3 general public know their rights as discrimination victims in ES and other Southern European countries, one of the lowest levels of public awareness in the EU
  • Low levels of trust in police and justice system in Southern Europe
  • Most are newcomers who are not yet naturalised, therefore less likely to report discrimination incidents

Outcome indicators

How many complaints were made last year for every person who said they experienced racial/ethnic and religious discrimination?

The Network of centres acting as the Assistance Service for Victims of Racial or Ethnic Discrimination in ES receives approximately 1 complaint for every 2,882 potential victims of racial or ethnic according to EU-wide surveys. While non-reporting is the norm in across Europe, this level is fairly high and comparable to the situation in countries such as HU, IT, LT. Countries with the highest levels of reporting are FR, NL, IE, SE.



New results of MIPEX

We are pleased to announce that the new results of MIPEX (2014-2020) will be published by the end of 2020. MIPEX 2020 will include 52 European and non-European countries: Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, EU28, India, Japan, Mexico, US and much more. Stay tuned!