Portail européen sur l'intégration - Commission Européenne

Navigation path

Governance of migrant integration in Spain

During the last 3 decades of the 20th century, Spain moved from being an emigration country to an immigration destination. In the first decade of the 21st century, the country experienced one of the largest increases of immigration in world, raising its foreign-born population from 2% in 2000 to 11% in 2007. The 2008 economic crisis slowed down this trend as the percentage of the foreign-born population remains somewhat stable since then; ranging between 12% and 13%. Half of these foreigners are EU citizens which mainly choose Spain to retire.


Foreign population in Spain

On 1 January 2017, 2 498 396 Third Country Nationals (TCNs) were legally residing in Spain. They represented about the 5% of the total population, according to the National Statistics Institute.

Most came from Morocco (756 796), China (203 400) and Equator (164 019). Nearly 25% of them held a valid temporary residence permit while the remaining 75% were permanent residents.


In 2016, out of the 414 692 permits issued, 90 939 were for economic activities, 41 457 for family reasons and 3 658 for humanitarian reasons. 92 963 residence permits were issued to TCNs who were family members of EU nationals.

In addition to the foreign population, Spain also counts more than 2 000 000 nationals with third country background. 150 944 people acquired the Spanish nationality in 2016 alone.

Integration Strategy

To foster the social inclusion of these populations, Spanish policymakers have so far set up 2 integration strategies. The first Strategic Plan for Citizenship and Integration (PECI I) covered the period 2007-2010. It aimed to adapt public policies in the fields of education, employment, social services, health and housing to the needs of the immigrant population; together with 9 other  objectives. The 2011 update (PECI II) identified 6 specific and 5 transversal areas of action. A comprehensive strategy against racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and intolerance also came out the same year.

The integration strategy was not updated in 2015, at the end of the period covered by PECI II. The inclusion of migrants on the workplace, non-discrimination principles and cultural diversity nevertheless continue to be the main pillars of the Spanish integration policy.

Integration Programme

Spain is not currently implementing a national integration programme for third country nationals on its own, but funds are annually earmarked through a call for tenders. In this regard, several programmes deployed at regional and municipal levels provide:

 þ language courses

 þ civic education

 þ vocational training

The region of Madrid for instance established the compulsory course Know your Laws.

In addition, the Ministry of Education, with the help of Cervantes Institutes, provides specific Spanish courses. The Centre for Attention to Cultural Diversity in Education, under the Ministry of Education, provides information and counseling for intercultural education. And preparatory civics classes are taught for the fulfilment of the Proof of Integration Efforts (Informe de esfuerzo de integración) and the Proof social ties (Informe de arraigo).


Integration measures in the framework of PECI 2007-2010 were subject to monitoring and evaluation processes performed by the General Direction of Migrations in 2011. The report was included in PECI II for which it served as basis. A mid-term evaluation report assessing the first integration strategy was also published in March 2010. It focused on the labour market integration of foreigners.

Since 2014, monitoring and evaluation of integration measures are carried out at operational level (projects) instead of strategic level.


þ Foreigners Law

The Law 7/1985 established the rights and freedoms of foreigners for the first time in Spain. It was abrogated 15 years later by the Law 4/2000, the first legislation to comprehensively address the immigration phenomenon in Spain and to introduce provisions related to the social integration of migrants. Law 4/2000 was in turn subsequently reformed by the Laws 8/2000, 14/2003 and 2/2009. Legal precepts set in the last reform found execution through the Royal Decree 557/2011 that aimed at consolidating the “legal, orderly and job market-related migration” model.

þ Asylum Law

The Law 5/1984 established the right of asylum in Spain for the first time. It was subsequently modified by the Law 9/1994 which was executed through the Royal Decree 203/1995 establishing rights and conditions for the refugee status. Law 9/1994 was derogated by the Law 12/2009 which represents the current normative frame for international protection in Spain. In 2003, the government approved the Royal Decree 1325/2003, providing for a temporary protection status in case of massive arrivals of displaced persons but the decree has never been implemented.

ý Integration Law

The is no Integration Law. The organic Law 2/2009 provides a general regulatory framework for integration.

þ Nationality Law

The Spanish citizenship regime was set by the Law 51/1982. This reform of the civil code established jus sanguinis as the core principle ruling the acquisition of nationality and a general requirement of 10 years of residence for naturalisation. It also identified “privileged” groups of foreigners (emigrants and their progenies, citizens of former colonies and Sephardic Jews). This general framework was later modified and complemented by the laws 29/1995, 36/2002, 40/2006, 52/2007, 12/2015 and 19/2015. The 2 last amendments respectively facilitated the naturalisation procedures for Sephardic Jews and introduced language and civic tests.

þ Anti-discrimination

Article 71 of the Law 4/2000 established the Spanish Observatory of Racism and Xenophobia under the General Secretary of Immigration and Emigration at the Ministry of Employment and Social Security. The Observatory currently has 3 main functions, according to the Royal Decree 703/2017:

  1. collect and analyse information on racism and xenophobia
  2. promote the principles of equal treatment and non-discrimination, along with the fight against racism and xenophobia
  3. collaborate with different public, private, national and international agents relevant in the prevention of racism and xenophobia.  

The Law 62/2003 and the Royal Decree 1262/2007 defined the functions of the present Council for the Elimination of Racial or Ethnic Discrimination, under the Ministry of Health, Social Services and Equality.

Public authorities

The main institution responsible for the governance of immigrant integration at national level is the General Secretary of Immigration and Emigration at the Ministry of Labor, Migration and Social Security. Its General Directorate of Integration and Humanitarian Attention is in charge of the functional coordination of relevant actors while, under the latter, the Sub-Directorate for Integration and Institutional Relations develops and manages procedures for the reception and integration of immigrants. The General Secretary closely works with the Permanent Observatory on Migration which conducts research on migration-related topics. 

All the different phases of integration are managed according to a model of multi-level governance that includes: the public administration, regional governments (autonomous communities), local entities (town and city councils) and the civil society (trade unions, employers’ organisations, NGOs and immigrant associations). Cooperation among the different levels of governance is backed by 3 entities:

  1. the Inter-Ministerial Commission on Aliens, in charge of coordinating different departments and the General State Administration
  2. the Sectoral Conference on Immigration, aimed at coordinating actions and competencies of the general administration and regional governments
  3. the Forum for the Social Integration of Immigrants, which represents the main channel of participation for NGOs and associations in integration policies.

In addition, each autonomous community has its own integration plan, regulating integration policies in its territory.

Civil society

The Spanish Forum for the Social Integration of Immigrants is a consultative body established in 1994. It proposes, informs and channels actions to promote the participation and integration of immigrants in the Spanish society. The Forum holds at least 2 ordinary plenary sessions per year, in addition to ad hoc extraordinary sessions. Its members are representatives of immigrant associations, social stakeholders and public authorities. They participate in at least one of the 3 commissions of the Forum (Education and social awareness; employment and equal opportunity; multiculturality and social cohesion).

Civil society actors play a remarkable role in the integration of migrants, beyond the implementation of regional and local policies. They often create their own projects and supply a wide range of services, including legal assistance, language training, health care, after-school programmes, adult education and home rental mediation.

During the implementation of the PECI I, non-state actors managed 1 082 projects aimed at immigrant integration for a total budget of € 110 995 587.


Non-profit organisations and local authorities can apply for financing through several funds. At the moment the EU’s Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund (AMIF) is the most important one in terms of budget. Coordinated by the General Secretary of Immigration and Emigration, the total AMIF allocation for Spain is € 372 093 877. Out of the € 40 788 805 earmarked for 2016, € 9 898 195 were dedicated to integration. One of the main national integration priorities for the fund is to draft and implement a new integration strategy based on needs analysis that includes evaluation indicators (Spanish AMIF programme).

At the national level, the General State Administration allocated an initial budget of € 1 284 335 576 for the period 2011-2014 to several ministries. This budget was partially managed by the Reception and Integration Support Fund which was dissolved in 2012, following drastic budget cuts.

In addition, other national and private funds are made available for service providers to carry out projects aiming for a better integration of the migrant population.

Public funding Private funding

Autonomous Regions

Fundación LA CAIXA


Other stakeholders

ý Implementing Integration Programme

þ Providing integration services AND campaigning

þ Campaigning

þ Publishing Research and Statistics