MADRID (AP) — Spain on Tuesday eased requirements for foreign laborers without legal documents in an effort to bring thousands of workers into the official labor force and regulate jobs in understaffed sectors including the hospitality and farming industries.
The government decree reforms an existing immigration law and makes it easier for Spanish employers to hire workers from their home country. It also eases work permit requirements for workers already settled in Spain.
The Migration Ministry acknowledged that previous procedures were “often slow and inadequate”, leading to high social and economic costs for the country.
There are an estimated 500,000 people working in Spain’s underground economy.
“These measures will provide us with better tools to tackle the challenges posed by migration,” Social Security and Migration Minister José Luis Escrivá said at a press conference following the government cabinet meeting that approved the bill.
Foreign workers who have lived in the country for two years or more can seek temporary residency papers by enrolling in training courses for jobs in high-demand sectors.
International students will be able to start work in Spain at the end of their studies instead of waiting for three years. Foreign students will be also allowed to work up to 30 hours a week while studying. Foreigners who can show they have been in Spain for at least two years and have worked without papers for at least six months can also seek work permits.
Escrivá said the ministry will update a list of job areas needing workers to provide a more exact picture of the labor market. Sectors like hospitality and agriculture are traditionally understaffed in Spain and businesses often resort to migrant laborers without documents.