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Overstaying or working illegally? What can get foreigners deported from Spain

What types of offences can foreigners be deported for? Can the Spanish government expel you from the country for overstaying beyond the 90 days for example? Here's everything you need to know.

deportation from Spain
What can get you deported from Spain? Photo: Josep LAGO / AFP

Is it really possible to get deported from Spain? Can foreigners living in Spain be deported for any type of crime or is it only specific ones?

What if you’re in Spain illegally or you’ve committed tax fraud – can you be thrown out of the country?

According to Article 53.1 a) 4/2000 of Spain’s Legal Code, expulsion for foreigners may be considered for offences that they class as serious (grave) or very serious (Muy grave).

Some of the offences mentioned under the serious category include:

Overstaying your visa

The first offence mentioned under the serious infractions list is in fact being in Spain illegally. This could be not having obtained an extension for your stay, living in Spain without having a residence permit or continuing to live in Spain after your residency has expired and not having renewed it.

Working illegally

If you are working in Spain without a valid work permit or you are working without having obtained residency.

Hiding or falsifying information

Concealing or intentionally forging or providing false information given to the authorities with regards to matters such as marital status, nationality or domicile, as well as not declaring mandatory details on registration documents for the padrón certificate.

Failure to obtain a foreign ID card

Failure to apply for a foreign identity card such the TIE for those who have been authorised to stay in Spain for a period of more than six months. This must be requested within a period of one month of entering Spain or from the time that the authorisation is granted.

Not signing up for social security

If you employ someone and don’t sign them up to social security or don’t register their employment contract under the legal conditions.

Spain’s list of very serious offences or ‘infracciones muy graves’  include crimes such as participating in activities which could pose a threat to national security, being part of an organised crime ring and human trafficking. However, it also includes crimes such as hiring illegal foreign workers. 

Will I really be deported for these offences?

If you are a foreigner and you commit one of these infractions, there is a very real possibility that you could be deported.

However, this is not always the case.

A 2021 report in Legal Today, which is part of Reuters and is written by and for legal professionals, states that in recent years Spanish courts have tended to favour fining foreigners or even giving them a jail sentence, rather than expelling them.

The Spanish government states that the offender either be deported or fined, but not both. 

In the majority of cases foreigners in Spain who are convicted of a crime will do jail time – if sentenced to it – in a Spanish prison. (Photo by GEORGES GOBET / AFP)

The decisions are largely taken on a case-by-case basis and take a number of factors into consideration.

It may depend on how long you’ve been in Spain, your social and familial connections to the country or your connections to your home country, among many other things.

The Spanish government states that the following people cannot be deported if a serious offence is committed and it may only be considered in the case of a ‘very serious infraction’:

  • Foreigners who were born in Spain and have legally resided in the country for the past five years
  • Long term residents in Spain
  • Those who originally had Spanish citizenship, but lost it for some reason
  • Those who receive an incapacity benefit because of an accident that occurred at work in Spain
  • Those who receive unemployment benefits or are beneficiaries of public financial benefit for specific social or labour reasons

What consequences does deportation have?

If the Spanish courts decide that your crime is serious enough to deport you, you will have to leave the country or be forced to leave. 

This means that any type of visa or residency card you have will no longer be valid and you will lose your right to reside and work in Spain. 

You will also be banned from re-entering the country for a specific time period, depending on the crime you committed. 

What are the consequences for those who are not deported?

This will really depend on what type of offence you committed and will ultimately be down to the courts and the judge to decide. It could be jail time, just like Spanish nationals would serve, or it could be a hefty fine.

Offenders of ‘serious infractions’ such as some of the ones mentioned above can be fined anywhere from €500 up to €10,000, while those who commit ‘very serious’ crimes can be fined anywhere from €10,001 up to €100,000.

However, for the ‘very serious infractions’, you will be fined separately for each crime you commit, so will be fined for each one of the illegal workers you hire or each person you illegally trafficked into the country. This could mean that some offenders could be fined up to €750,000.

READ ALSO: Can non-resident Brits in Spain get an extension on the 90-day rule and what happens if they overstay?

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Spanish government divided over proposed menstruation leave bill

Talk of abortion policy reform and proposed menstrual leave has dominated Spanish discourse this week, but it’s also dividing Spain’s coalition government.

Spanish government divided over proposed menstruation leave bill

Spain’s PSOE-fronted coalition government recently outlined proposals that have dominated public discourse in the country.

But the legislation, which would allow women over the age of 16 to get abortions without the permission of their parents and introduce ‘menstruation leave’ for those suffering serious period pains, has not only divided Spanish society but the government itself.

The proposals would make Spain a leader in the Western world, and the first European Union member state to introduce menstrual leave, and changes to abortion law would overturn a 2015 law passed by the conservative People’s Party that forced women aged 16 and 17 to obtain parental consent.

The wide-ranging bill would also end VAT on menstrual products, increase the free distribution of them in schools, and allow between three and five days of leave each month for women who experience particularly painful periods.

READ MORE: What are Spain’s abortion laws for foreign residents and visitors?

Menstrual leave

Ángela Rodríguez, the Secretary of State for Equality, told Spanish newspaper El Periódico in March that “it’s important to be clear about what a painful period is – we’re not talking about slight discomfort, but about serious symptoms such as diarrhoea, fever and bad headaches.”

“When there’s a problem that can’t be solved medically, we think it’s very sensible to have temporary sick leave,” she added.

Cabinet politics

The proposals are slated for approval in cabinet next week, and judging by reports in the Spanish media this week, it is far from reaching a consensus. It is believed the intra-cabinet tensions stem not from the changes to abortion and contraception accessibility, but rather the proposed menstrual leave.

The junior coalition partner in government, Podemos, largely supports the bill, but it is believed some in the PSOE ranks are more sceptical about the symbolism and employment effects of the proposed period pain policy.

Vice President and Minister of Economic Affairs, Nadia Calviño, said this week: “Let me repeat it very clearly: this government believes and is absolutely committed to gender equality and we will never adopt measures that may result in a stigmatisation of women.”

Yet Second Vice President and Minister of Labour, Yolanda Díaz, who is viewed as further to the left than President Pedro Sánchez and other PSOE cabinet ministers, is reportedly “absolutely in favour” of the measure to reform Spain’s “deeply masculinised” labour market.

Sources in the Spanish media have this week also reported that some PSOE cabinet ministers feel the proposed paid leave not only plays up to stereotypes of women, or stigmatises them, like Calviño says, but also places them at a disadvantage in the world of work.

Minister of Inclusion, Social Security and Migration, José Luis Escrivá, stated that while the government should seek to improve women’s employment protections, it should also seek to boost their participation in the labour market under “better conditions.”

In that vein, some feel menstrual leave could be used a form of of employment discrimination similarly to how pregnancy has been historically, and the policy would, in that sense, actually be more regressive than progressive in enshrining women’s workplace rights. 

READ MORE: Spain eyes free contraception for under-25’s

Trade unions

Trade unions are also sceptical of the menstrual leave legislation. Cristina Antoñanzas, deputy secretary of UGT, one of Spain’s largest trade unions, has echoed those in the cabinet who feel the proposals could “stigmatise women.” She added that “it does women a disservice.”

Public opinion

A survey run by INTIMINA found that 67 percent of Spanish women are in favour of regulating menstrual leave, but also that 75 percent fear it is “a double-edged sword” that could generate labor discrimination.

The survey also found that 88 percent of women who suffer from disabling and frequent period pain have gone to work despite it. Seventy-one percent admitted that they have normalised working with pain.

Cabinet showdown

The proposed menstrual leave policy will be debated in cabinet next week when the Council of Ministers debates and approves the broader abortion and contraception reforms. According to sources in the Spanish media, and many cabinet ministers themselves, it seems a consensus on menstruation leave is a long way off.