As a result, for the first time in five years the population of Spain has seen a rise. On January 1, 2017 the figure stood at 46.53 million, a 0.19% increase from the previous year, according to numbers released by the National Statistics Institute (INE).
Immigrant arrivals in Spain peaked in the early 2000s, during the economic boom derived from the real estate bubble. But the influx ended abruptly in 2009, the last year when immigrant arrivals exceeded departures. And it was not just foreigners who went back home – a lot of Spaniards also decided to go abroad in search of job opportunities.
The United Kingdom is still the favorite destination of Spanish emigrants
At the height of the crisis, in 2013, Spain lost a quarter of a million inhabitants this way. Since then, immigration has started to pick up speed again while emigration slowed down.
In 2015, more foreigners settled in Spain than those who left, but the number of emigrating Spaniards resulted in net emigration, even though it was by a small margin.
Last year, for the first time since 2009, the trend was reverted: net migration was positive, showing a figure of 89,126 people. The data for 2016 shows the most intense immigration since 2008: 417,033 new arrivals.
Of these, 85% were foreigners, while 15% were returning Spaniards. In 2016, 354,461 foreign nationals settled down in Spain, while 241,795 left.
The main country of origin is Venezuela, where a profound political and economic crisis has pushed nearly 30,000 people out of the country and into Spain. Just under 2,000 returned to Venezuela last year, leaving a net figure of 27,674 in favor of Spain.
Even so, the Venezuelan community remains small (63,491 individuals in 2016), as the country has not traditionally been an emitter of migrants to Spain.
The main country of origin is Venezuela, where a profound political and economic crisis has pushed nearly 30,000 people out of the country and into Spain
The second most important country of origin for immigration last year was Morocco, with 21,386 net arrivals. There was also significant immigration from Colombia last year (16,809).
The largest foreign communities living in Spain by far remain Romanians (678,098) and Moroccans (667,189).
Also last year, 150,739 foreign-born residents acquired Spanish citizenship.
After Venezuela, Morocco, Colombia and Romania, the fifth country in terms of net migration was Italy, with nearly 15,000 arrivals. While more British nationals come to Spain, many Spaniards choose to move to the UK, making the net migration figure smaller.
Spaniards prefer Britain
There are still more Spaniards leaving than coming back. In 2016, 86,112 Spaniards emigrated, while 62,572 returned. And despite fears over Brexit, Britain was their preferred destination. For every three Spaniards that moved there last year, only one came back.
In terms of favored destinations, after Britain, Spaniards chose to move predominantly to France, Germany and the United States.
A new joint report by Britain’s Office for National Statistics and Spain’s National Statistics Institute (INE) has found that that 121,000 (40%) of British residents in Spain were aged 65 and over in 2016, and that this number has more than doubled since 2006.
Drafted as the first document in a new series on British nationals living abroad and EU citizens living in the UK, Living abroad: migration between Britain and Spain also found that there were 116,000 Spanish citizens resident in the UK between 2013 and 2015 with around half of these aged 20 to 39 years old. And 78% of Spanish citizens working in the UK worked in the following sectors: public administration, education and health, banking and finance, distribution, and hotels and restaurants.
English version by Susana Urra.