Expats in Spain warned they face post-Brexit visas changes

Thousands of UK expats living in Spain will now find it much tougher to stay permanently in the country if they chose not to apply for residency. Pre-Brexit, the 285,000 British citizens living in Spain could live and move freely throughout the EU. However, everything changed once Brexit came into force and Britons who legally resided in Spain before 1 January 2021 were required to register their residency via the withdrawal agreement.

Before Brexit, EU membership enabled British nationals to live, work and travel freely within the EU. They didn’t require a visa and could stay for as long as they wished. However, once Britain left the EU, British nationals no longer enjoy the rights that automatically come with being EU citizens. As a result, those Britons wanting to relocate to Spain must apply for a visa in the same way non-Europeans do.

Right to stay in Spain

Britons already living in Spain before 1 January 2021 have the right to continue living there under the European Union Withdrawal Act. Both Spain and Britain agreed to allow their citizens to remain in each other’s country after Brexit. However, expats must complete the correct process to get legal permission to stay.

Any UK expats who fail to register must either leave the country or pay an extra 5% income tax, leaving it at 24% compared with EU nationals who are required to pay 19%. They will also be required to follow the 90 in 180 rule, meaning they can only stay in Spain for 90 days within every 180 days. Comprehensive border control systems mean that nobody will go unnoticed. Anyone caught trying to stay under the radar could face deportation back to the UK and a possibly ban from the country for up to three years. There is no leeway for emergencies either, regardless of the circumstances.

Visas and permit requirements for UK nationals

Following Brexit, the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) updated its advice on what visas and permits expats now need. UK nationals must present any of one of the following documents to prove residence status:

  • A residence card supplied under Article 18.4 of the Withdrawal Agreement (the TIE)
  • A temporary or permanent EU residence certificate (green certificate)
  • A residence card as a family member of an EU citizen
  • Receipt of application to exchange an EU residence certificate (green certificate) or residence card as a family member of an EU citizen for the new TIE (residence card issued under Article 18.4 of the Withdrawal Agreement)
  • Confirmation that the Immigration Office has approved your residence application

If a residency application is rejected, an individual does have the right to appeal. The outcome will either be that the person is granted residency and allowed to remain or have 15 days to leave the country.

Airlines and other travel operators will be responsible for ensuring anyone travelling to Spain has the correct documentation before departure. Meanwhile, Spanish border authorities will only allow entry if a traveller meets the entry requirements and has the power to deny entry.

Short visits to Spain: up to 90 days

With Britain no longer an EU member, Britons now follow the same rules as other non-EU residents. However, while short visits to Spain are allowed, there will be strict time limits on how long you can stay without a visa. Britons may have to display a return ticket at the border and prove they have sufficient funds for their stay. Passports must also have at least six months left on them before renewal is due.

Spain permits visits of up to 90 days within 180 days without a visa, and the days don’t have to be successive. The time limit covers the entire Schengen zone, including 26 European countries made up of EU member states and Lichtenstein, Switzerland, Iceland and Norway. Any length of time spent in any of these destinations will count towards the allowed 90 days. Anyone found overstaying could face a fine, deportation back to the UK or be banned from entering the Schengen zone for up to three years.

Moving to Spain post-Brexit

Any Britons wanting to spend longer than 90 days in Spain will need a visa. Several visas are available, including:

Spanish golden visa

A golden visa gives an individual temporary residency if their financial situation meets certain conditions. It enables people with substantial means and investors to settle in Spain and is valid for one year. During this period, it’s possible to exchange the visa for a Spanish residence permit which lasts for two years but can be renewed. It also covers residency for spouses, children up to 18 or dependent parents. A golden visa also allows you to travel visa-free throughout other Schengen locations for 90 days within any 180 days. To qualify for a golden visa, you must have made one of the following investments:

  • Own one or more properties in Spain worth at least a combined €500,000
  • Invested a minimum of €1 million in a Spanish business that offers local employment opportunities and contributes to innovation
  • Invested a minimum of €2 million in treasury bonds
  • Have €1 million in a bank account in Spain for at least five years
  • Invested more than €1 million in investment funds

Applicants must also be aged over 18 and not have a criminal record. They should also have health insurance coverage and have never been denied a visa before.

Spanish non-lucrative visa

People wanting to move to Spain who can prove they can financially support themselves could qualify for a non-lucrative visa. This type of visa is particularly popular with people looking to retire or study in Spain. There are financial minimums that applicants must meet, and the visa doesn’t allow working in the country or indeed any economic activity. Once the visa is granted, it allows you to reside in the country for 12 months. A person must have remained for at least 183 days in Spain to renew it and have paid Spanish tax during their stay. You can renew the visa twice within two years. On the third time of renewing, you will receive a permanent or long-term residency. The visa covers spouses, children and dependent parents. An applicant must have at least €27,115.20 or a regular income of at least €2,259.60. Family members will also have to prove they have €6,778.80 or a monthly income of €564.90.

Tarjeta de Identidad de Extranjero or TIE

The TIE is an identity card given to foreigners who can live in Spain under Brexit’s Withdrawal Agreement or have already received a visa. Those who have lived in Spain for under five years will receive a provisional TIE that permits them to stay for five years. People who have lived in Spain for longer than five years can get a permanent TIE that lasts for 10 years.

Expats in Europe

Thirteen EU nations, including France, Denmark, Malta, Belgium and the Netherlands, chose not to grant automatic residency to British citizens already living in the country once Brexit came into force. This means that along with expats in Spain, 100,000 more British nationals elsewhere in Europe also face the prospect of becoming undocumented migrants from 1 July 2021 if they too do not apply for settled status. In addition, anyone who didn’t complete the application process in time will likely face losing access to essential services such as healthcare.

For more information about residency in Spain for UK nationals, visit www.gov.uk/livingspain

If you are considering a move to Spain but unsure how to move forward with your finances, contact one of our independent financial advisers who has expertise in the taxes and financial requirements of living in Spain and other non-UK countries.

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