At Echeverría Abogados we have been dealing with all kinds of immigration processes and procedures for years. And, undoubtedly, at few times in our history have we encountered as many obstacles in the way as in the last year, in which we have all lived under the influence of COVID-19. Not only have the procedures become more cumbersome, but many of our clients have faced real problems in achieving their life goals.

Here are some of the obstacles we have encountered in our work. Also, some of the problems that people who trust us have faced. And finally, the positive note that anything, no matter how bad it is, always leaves. Even these 12 months living with COVID-19.

Look at: COVID-19: News and Frequently Asked Questions about Spanish Immigration

The problems

1— Chaos with the appointment system

Any other sector that bases its work on face-to-face dealings with the public has undergone significant changes. And the legal procedures of the immigration processes were not going to be different. Thus, one of the main problems we have encountered has been the accelerated implementation of appointment systems.

Many immigration offices were already working with previous appointments to carry out immigration procedures, but others had to establish them at full speed. What has this led to? Well, these systems have not worked correctly on many occasions, and many people have seen their residence or stay cards expire, either because of the impossibility of making appointments for renewals, or because they did not know how to make an application electronically.

2— Layoffs and company closures

The economic crisis unleashed by the coronavirus pandemic has created a double problem for people pending their immigration procedures. Not only have some of them lost their jobs or part of their income, but they may have been left in an irregular situation because they have not paid the minimum contributions required by the law on foreigners to renew their stay. Likewise, other people who had been able to present a residency application with a job offer, have seen their residency authorization frustrated by the fact that the company or employer with which they were going to work decides to close, or put their workers on ERTE.

And although the government established an automatic extension of certain types of residency and residence authorizations, many did not benefit from this.

3— Consulates closed

As many Spanish consulates have been closed for a long period of time in a wide variety of countries, visa applications from the country of origin -for golden visas or non-profit residences, for example- have experienced significant delays that did not occur before. On the other hand, some Spanish embassies and consulates have established mechanisms for submitting visa applications electronically, which has greatly benefited our work and relieved our clients of a burden.

4— Endless waiting lists at the National Police

Especially in Madrid and Barcelona, the issuance of fingerprinting appointments has been granted in dribs and drabs, and in many cases people have applied for the renewal of their foreigner identity cards, without even having been able to get their hands on the previous card. This has caused many problems for those people who, for whatever reason, had to travel to their countries of origin, because many encountered problems at the time of entry.

Others chose not to travel and therefore not to see their families or be able to help solve the problems they had in their homeland.

5— Couples and their problems

Many couples of Spanish citizens living outside the EU have been affected by restrictions on entry to Spain. In fact, until the system of requesting authorization to enter Spain, to be made at the Spanish Consulate in their countries, was established, such entry may have been impossible.

The situations we have encountered in these cases are very diverse. In some cases the Consulates grant this authorization, in other cases they tell the interested parties to try to enter Spain and see what they are told when they do so. Finally, in other cases, perhaps the least common, the entry is denied directly by the Consulate, especially when it has not been possible to prove in a reliable way the couple's relationship.

6— Lack of legal awareness

A problem that affects all sectors of the population is that there is widespread ignorance of the law. And in the specific case of immigration procedures, of the possibility of extending authorisations obtained through exceptional circumstances (social, work and family roots), thanks to the path opened by the Supreme Court in its ruling number 702/2019 (Administrative Chamber, 5th Section), dated 27 May 2020.

In its Third Ground, it states the following:

This means that if a person obtained their residency through the social roots route, they will be able to extend their authorisation even if they do not meet the requirements of minimum contribution, minimum wage, etc. But, as usual, many people who did not have recourse to services such as ours were never able to find out, and entered into a bureaucratic confrontation that was not at all pleasant.

A big change

The computerisation of procedures, although it is true that it is a resource that is not yet within everyone's reach, the leap towards the telematic of certain processes has helped the progress of a sector that has certainly been stagnant for some time. In the last year, the number of foreigners' offices, consulates and embassies that have begun to work telematically has increased notably.

And, perhaps, this is the most positive event (or the only one) of all that COVID-19 has brought to our work.

At Echeverría Abogados, we hope that this is a trend that will be confirmed over time. And, above all, we hope that this pandemic, which seems to be slowly subsiding, will cease to be an impediment to the dreams and objectives of each and every one of us.

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