OVER the course of 2015, Spain has introduced new laws and revised existing legislation to streamline processes, extend residency provisions, and grant rights to certain groups of potential new citizens.
We recently talked to Blanca Loring Santaolalla, who runs Loring International, a specialised immigration consultancy with offices in Malaga and Marbella, about the changes Spain has made throughout the year that should help investors who want to obtain residency as well as any foreigners who apply for Spanish nationality in the future.
This April, the Intensive Nationality Plan 2015 (known as the PIN in Spanish) was introduced. Its goal is to digitalise all applications for Spanish nationality received during 2014 and 2015 and resolve the Ministry of Justice backlog. With 200,000 cases still pending, some date back as far as 2010. The PIN has co-opted notaries and registrars across Spain, Blanca says, in an effort to cut the nationalisation process from an average of three years to less than 12 months.
At the end of July, the government enhanced the terms of the Investor’s Law, introduced back in September 2013. The original legislation created the now famous ‘Golden Visa’, which allows foreign nationals to acquire Spanish residency subject to making investments in the country.
After receiving just 530 applications in the first 15 months, the programme was enlarged to include common-law partners and other dependent family, as well as simplify the application process, lengthen renewal periods, and provide health and social security coverage for those choosing to work in Spain.
Blanca says that, in practice, applying for residency under the Golden Visa scheme is now “becoming more attractive for foreign investors, because Spain offers a program similar to, even better than, other European countries.”
A new nationality act for Sephardic Jews was introduced at the start of October, allowing descendants of Jewish families originally from Spain to claim citizenship during the next three years. To do so, however, they will have to prove links to the country and pass two tests administered by the Instituto Cervantes: the CCSE, concerning Spanish law and culture, and the DELE A2, a language exam that covers reading, listening, and writing.
In mid-October, another new law regulating the application process came into force guaranteeing that the whole process will now be managed electronically from the initial application onwards. Applicants can track their status online, via the Ministry of Justice website (link: https://sede.mjusticia.gob.es/cs/Satellite/Sede/en/inicio). A transition period, means that, for the time being, applicants may present their paperwork the traditional way, in person, if they prefer.
All those applying for citizenship will also have to do the Spanish culture and language tests at the Instituto Cervantes. The advantage of standardisation, says Blanca, is that instead of the arbitrary approach previously in place, under which applicants could be asked almost anything by a variety of institutions, this enables those interested to study for set exams, invigilated by a single public body.
However, there is still one problem facing those who want to apply for resident status on the Costa del Sol, Blanca notes: lengthy queues at the region’s police stations. The police are responsible for handling much of the paperwork, but each place works in different, and sometimes mysterious, ways. Malaga only issues appointments in person and is currently snowed under with asylum applications, while Marbella has a four-month waiting list for fingerprints. And, if your Spanish is less than fluent, you might have a challenge finding someone who can speak your language.
On paper, Blanca points out, the news is all positive, but if the various administrative bodies involved in the process do not work together in a coordinated fashion, efficiently and to fixed standards, and the government does not invest in the people and equipment required, many would-be residents could end up feeling frustrated and treated like second-class citizens.
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