Spain prepares to implement means-testing for non-Spanish nationals

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Expats in Spain could face rigorous income tests as the country launches a crackdown on migrants as it continues to battle a crippling economic crisis that’s refusing to loosen its stranglehold.

At the end of July, Spain’s centre-right government approved plans for “proof of income” and other tests.

Sources close to the Mariano Rajoy administration claim that 1 billion euros will be saved by making EU citizens adhere to strict criteria if they intend to stay in the country from more than three months.

Moving forward, non-Spanish nationals will have to prove that they have a job or if they are out of work that they have sufficient funds to support themselves. The jobless will also need to have health insurance, it has been reported.

Failure to produce the correct documentation could result in residency applications being rejected.

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To date it has not been unveiled how the new regulations will affect those currently living in the country.

However, some commentators have highlighted they may be rolled out to existing expats following the release of a ministerial order released on 9 July, which stated that foreign residents should not be “an unreasonable burden on social services.”

Spain’s government is justifying the measures by drawing on a 2004 EU directive on free movement which gives member states the authority to define “without prejudice to national border controls” – meaning EU countries can restrict entry to other citizens of other member states.

The income testing is likely to be welcomed by most Spaniards as debt-riddled Spain is facing unprecedented cuts to social services and healthcare, unemployment is almost at 25 per cent, and a full sovereign bailout looks increasingly likely.

Indeed, many would argue that the government has been ‘priming’ the electorate for this. Recently, for instance, the Health Minister, Ana Mato, said she believed that 700,000 foreigners had moved to Spain to obtain free medical care, effectively branding many expats at best ‘health tourists’… or at worst ‘scroungers.’

Of course, under European laws any EU citizen is entitled to receive medical attention in any other member state – but Spanish health and social services are claiming that their resources are running short because of this agreement.

For their part, the UK Foreign Office says: “This change simply brings Spain in line with many other EU countries. The British Embassy has issued guidance in English for British expatriates in Spain via its website. We understand the new rules will affect a relatively small number of expatriates.”

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