One of the major changes established by the new Migration Act is the regularisation of immigrants. Article 17 specifies that, “The State will provide what is conducive for the adoption and implementation of measures aimed to regularize the migration status of foreigners,” which enables the Executive branch to create programmes to make it effective.
The new law introduced, in the Argentine migration legislation, the criteria of a MERCOSUR nationality for the entry of foreigners, establishing to that effect that a person only has to be a national of any Member State or Associate of MERCOSUR (Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay, Bolivia, Colombia, Chile, Ecuador, Peru, and Venezuela) to be eligible for this new nationality. In this spirit, and in the new law, were approved a series of standards aimed at regularising the status of persons residing in Argentina with irregular status, accepting and understanding that the obstacles in migration applications and formalities generate more irregularity.
By means of Decree 836/2004, the National Programme for Normalization of Migration Documents (Programmea Nacional de Normalización Documentaria Migratoria) was created. The purpose of this entity was to create a framework for new migration policies addressing the employment and integration of the immigrant population, regularisation of their migration status, and respect for their human rights. This is aligned with international conventions and consolidates MERCOSUR regional policy.
Along the same lines of Decree 836/2004, Decree 1169 of September 6, 2004 consists of a migration status regularisation programme for citizens from countries outside of MERCOSUR and its Associated States, who in fact resided within Argentine national territory on June 30, 2004. This measure favoured a great number of regularisation requests made by Asian citizens. Furthermore, during this period, Argentina suspended the “measures of expulsion or order to abandon the country, already dictated, firm, and consented, regarding foreigners whose migration status may be categorized within the terms of this current measure (…).”
As a second phase to this initiative, the National Programme for the Normalisation of Migration Documents approved Decree 578/2005 through which the emergency administration prorogued the aforementioned National Office of Migration and gave instructions to carry out the migration regularisation of foreigners, natives of MERCOSUR Member States and its Associated States. This became known as the “Patria Grande – MERCOSUR programme” and required joint work with the provincial states, municipalities and non-governmental organisations (NGOs).
The key to this programme lies in the simplification of the regularisation process: once enrolled, the applicant receives a certificate of precarious residency with which he/she can work legally (in addition to study, enter and exit the country when desired, etc.); this is followed by a second phase in which temporary residency is processed (for two years), which can later be converted to permanent residency. The Patria Grande programme, unlike other regularisation processes, is not an amnesty; it does not have limited validity. Its purpose is as a State policy and will be permanently in effect for nationals of MERCOSUR and its Associated States that reside in Argentine territory, and for those who enter in the future.