The Argentine government plans to legalize the labor situation of some 700,000 illegal immigrants hailing from neighboring countries that belong to or are associated with Mercosur.
Argentina boasts a population of slightly more than 1 million documented and undocumented aliens, including an estimated 940,000 from Paraguay, Chile, Bolivia and Uruguay, a 2002 census conducted by the National Immigration Office showed. The new immigration policy entails a streamlined paperwork process for Mercosur citizens who live in Argentina and want to be legalized.
Those wishing to take part in the program must prove that they are citizens of a neighboring country, show a health certificate and have no police record in Argentina or elsewhere.
Immigrants who are approved stand to receive residency permits that are good for one year and renewable for one more; they may eventually become permanent residents and citizens, as long as they can prove they are legally employed.
The immigrant-legalization plan embraces citizens of Chile, Bolivia, Paraguay, Brazil and Uruguay, although Peru may also be included through its recent incorporation into Mercosur as an associate member or by a special agreement with Argentina.
Deportations of undocumented immigrants are to be suspended until the new regulations enter into effect, high-ranking government officials.
The new policy is in keeping with recent Mercosur legislation, which allows foreigners to enter member countries as long as they are citizens of bloc nations.