STAFF REPORTER OVER 41'000 foreign citizens living in the Balearics are expected to renew their residence permits this year, double the figure that applied for them in 2009.

The surge in activity has been attributed to tightening up of laws governing the presence of foreigners in the region which came into force on 11th December last year.

Speaking at the Foreigners' Office in Palma yesterday, Central Government delegate, Ramon Socias introduced a new website which people intending to renew their permits could access through the internet.

He described the site as a very “useful tool” which will make renewal application much “easier and more comfortable.” Socias said that using the internet would mean less journeying to and from the Foreigners' Office in Palma, one of the government departments which is most under pressure in the Balearic Islands.

Last year, an average of between 7'000 and 8'000 users a month sought assistance at the Foreigners' Office, but from the beginning of this year, the figure has risen to closer to 8'000.

The website has in fact officially been operating for a couple of weeks now and the numbers of people opting for electronic access as a means to renew their residence permit has apparently burgeoned. In January 2009, 10'600 requests for information from the Foreigners' Office were sent by email whilst last month, this figure and soared to 21'600. The added incentive to use the website is that it is appropriate for applications from all parts of the Balearics, not just within Majorca.

Socias explained that the new web site and its facilities had been designed by people working for the Foreigners' Office and that no expense had been necessary to contract out the work to independent specialists.

He also pointed to the sensitivity with which applications were handled by the staff. They realise, said Socias, that many applications for residence in the Balearics are made by people who have had to leave their country of origin in search of a better life.

The more than 41'000 applications expected this year will be from people who have already been granted a temporary residency term of five years.