There’s no such thing as an illegal immigrant with money. At least not in Spain thanks to the Government’s new strategy to revive the real estate market. The proposal is to change the immigration law to grant legal residence to non-EU citizens who buy a property in Spain for more than 160,000 euros.
Secretary of State for Commerce Jaime García-Legaz announced the project on Monday although later Prime Minister Rajoy stressed that as yet “no decision had been taken”.
There was an immediate response from other political parties, unions and immigrants’ associations, who described the plans as “strange” and “implausible”.
García-Legaz explained that the reform process would be set in motion within a few weeks and that he considered the 160,000 threshold to be “balanced” with respect to the government’s objectives.
“We can’t establish a lower price limit, because that would generate a massive demand for residence permits using a property as an excuse to get one,” he stressed.
An investment over the 160,000 limit would give the buyer the right to legal residence for a period of two years.
When questioned about the plan later on Monday Mariano Rajoy said that government’s intention was to “put the stock of unsold homes on the market at reasonable prices and not at the disproportionate prices of the past.”
“We need to sell properties to revive the construction sector. Not to build 900,000 properties a year, as they did in 2006 and 2007, but it is important because it provides a lot of people with work,” said the Prime Minister.
The measure aims to encourage investors from emerging economies such as Russia and China. According to García-Legaz there is already substantial demand for properties in Spain in these markets.
The reform will benefit investors who pay for a property outright as well as those who take out a mortgage.
Nevertheless government sources state that the measure will not imply carte blanche for access to healthcare, the job market or family regrouping.
The reform will only simplify the red tape a non-EU citizen has to go through to reside legally in Spain. At present a foreign property buyer can either maintain tourist status with 90-day visas that have to be renewed at a consulate, or apply for temporary non-lucrative residence for a minimum of six months.
The current law puts Spain at a disadvantage compared with countries such as Portugal, Italy and France which make it easier for foreigners to reside legally for longer periods.
The government stresses, though, that home owners would still have to comply with the requirements of the immigration law. These include not having a criminal record and taking out health insurance with a company authorised in Spain. The measure, therefore, “would not afford the right to public healthcare”, stressed the government. Applicants must also be able to prove the financial means to support themselves and their families for the duration of their stay.