Immigration Observatory

Foreign residents in Spain exceed 5.8 million for first time

News - 2021.4.13

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The Standing Immigration Observatory, attached to the Secretariat-General for Inclusion Goals and Policies and Social Forecasts of the Ministry of Inclusion, has published its report on the Statistics on Foreign Residents in Spain in 2020, with a view to providing a global vision of the migratory phenomenon in Spain

The report provides, on the one hand, a socio-demographic profile and, on the other hand, evidences how mobility restrictions have led to less growth in this population compared with previous years. The target population of the study exceeds, for the first time, 5.8 million foreigners and includes both those with valid resident's permits and those residents that fall under the EU free movement regime with a registration certificate.

The impact of the pandemic and the imposition of restrictions on international mobility can be seen in the statistics, updated at 31 December 2020, since the number of foreign residents has posted the smallest year-on-year increase since 2016. At the end of 2020, 5,800,468 foreigners were resident in Spain, 2% more than a year earlier, compared with cumulative growth in the last ten years of 19%.

As in previous years, growth is mainly due to the increase in citizens under the EU Free Movement Regime, with 100,930 more people (up 33%), compared with 36,190 (up 1.6%) under the General Regime. 61% of foreign residents fall under the first regime.

Nationalities and socio-demographic profile

In this statistical breakdown, it can be seen that 15 nationalities account for almost 75% of all foreign residents in Spain. Eight of them are European Union (EU) countries, particularly Romania, the United Kingdom and Italy. The most numerous groups of countries from outside the EU include Morocco, China, Venezuela and Ecuador. Particularly noteworthy is the colony of Venezuelans, the only nationality outside of the EU that has grown in the last year, with an annual increase of more than 50%, easily exceeding the 6% rise in the British colony (to 381,000), the next highest among the countries to post the largest annual increase, despite COVID-19 and Brexit.

The socio-demographic profile of foreign residents highlighted in the study by the Secretariat-General for Inclusion Goals and Policies and Social Forecasts is highly heterogeneous. The average age of the foreign resident population stands at around 40 years of age and there are more men than women. However, there are much older groups from EU countries, such as the British population (average age of 54) and, to a lesser extent, among the Germans (49 years of age), while there are other much younger populations, such as Pakistanis and Moroccans (33 years of age).

Regional concentration

The statistical analysis made also highlights the regional concentration of the foreign population. Two thirds of foreign residents live in four autonomous regions: Catalonia, Madrid, Andalusia and the Region of Valencia, and seven provinces alone (Madrid, Barcelona, Alicante, Malaga, Valencia, the Balearic Islands and Murcia) account for 57% of the total. However, when taking into account the percentage of foreigners out of the total population, Almeria, the Balearic Islands, Lleida, Girona and Alicante have the highest proportion of foreign residents among their inhabitants.

In contrast, Ceuta, Palencia and Soria are the provinces with the smallest numbers of foreign residents, with less than 10,000 people from other countries in each province.

The report is also accompanied by an interactive factsheet where you can select the figures by country, regime, age and sex.

Residents with study permits

The Standing Immigration Observatory also published the statistics on foreigners with a study permit at 31 December 2020, which is also accompanied by an interactive factsheet.

Among this group of foreigners, the strong impact of the health crisis can be felt even more intensely. At 31 December 2020, the number of foreigners with a valid study permit amounts to 35,344, a net annual decrease of 40% (23,931 fewer foreigners). There had been no previous drop in the annual number of stays for studies since 2012, which clearly shows the strong impact of the health crisis stemming from COVID-19 on this type of mobility. Furthermore, in absolute terms, the figure for valid permits is at the lowest point of the whole decade.

56% (19,875) of study permits correspond to women and 80% to those under the age of 30. The average age of foreigners with a study permit is 27. By nationality, the largest group is Chinese students, with 12% of the total, followed by the United States, Colombia and Morocco.

Non official translation