Spain hires 300 extra civil servants to deal with foreign office backlog

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In 2021, Spain issued more than 370,000 first-time residency permits to non-EU nationals, a 31 percent rise compared to 2020 figures.

This figure represented 13 percent of the total number of residency visas issued across the EU, putting Spain only behind Poland, which granted 967,300 residency permits to non-EU nationals in 2021, around a third of the total across the EU’s 27 Member States last year.

Spain was top of the leaderboard in terms of residency permits issued for family reasons – 159,200 – 5 percent of the EU total.

As of January 1st 2022, there were 5.4 million foreigners living in Spain according to the country’s National Statistics Institute (INE). 

That means that foreign nationals now represent 11.4 percent of Spain’s population of 47.4 million.

Spain gained 49,612 foreign residents in 2021 whereas the number of Spanish nationals living in the country was reduced by 15,502.

In terms of the nationality of foreigners who live in Spain, Moroccans make up the biggest group (776,223), followed by Romanians (632,859), UK nationals in third (316,529), Colombians (315,885) and Italians (298,817). 

Spain’s foreign population stats often vary given the fact that sometimes it’s the calculations of the country’s migration offices (extranjería) that are used, whereas on other occasions it’s the tally used by town halls through the padrón census.

Other insightful data from Eurostat’s latest study include the fact that the residency permits issued on a yearly basis across the EU have roughly doubled from 1.5 million in 2011 to just under 3 million in 2021.

The huge rise in residence permits issued by Poland in 2021 can be explained by the fact that most of them are work permits for neighbouring Ukranians (790,100 of the 967,300 total). 

France was third in terms of the total number of residency permits issued in 2021 (285,200) and the Gallic nation is the EU country which issued the most residency visas for study purposes last year (90,600).

Whereas Italy was the country which saw the biggest rise in residency permits (159 percent rise from 105,700 in 2020 to 274,100 in 2021), Germany issued 41 percent fewer residency permits in 2021.