What Brits can expect living in Spain post Brexit

Brexit Spain

So we thought we’d enlighten you with an update from a Brexit perspective especially for those who are looking to move to Spain or are here and wonder what is going to happen to them.


Covid-19 has had an adverse effect on the entire planet and the media frenzy around it has been almost overwhelming. So much so that we’ve hardly heard a peep about Brexit, which is still going to affect hundreds of thousands of people. 

Facts and clarification

Alex Radford, Partner at My Lawyer In Spain and his team present a webinar in conjunction with Charmaine Arbouin – The British Consul of Andalucía, the Canary Islands, Ceuta and Melilla talking about how to navigate the transition period for Brexit, residency and the new TIE card. If you have the time to watch this webinar it is extremely useful but we have highlighted the parts below that we think Brits living in Spain or planning to move to Spain should be aware of moving up to the end of 2020 and into 2021. We also clarify a few misunderstandings about what certain documentation is and how to get it.

The difference between a Spanish residency and a Spanish tax residency

If you live in Spain for more than three months a year you have an obligation to become a Spanish resident.  If you spend more than six months a year in Spain, you have an obligation to become a Spanish tax resident and pay tax in Spain on worldwide assets and income. If you spend between 3-6 months a year in Spain then you are classed as a resident, but not a Spanish tax resident.

The Spanish tax year runs from 1 Jan to 31 Dec. So right now, there is still time to apply for and obtain Spanish tax residency for those who are already in Spain or intend to be in Spain for more than six months of the tax year. As long as you can show that you are in the process of applying before the end of 2020 when Britain withdraws from the EU, you will be within the timeframes currently set out. Please be advised that these may change.

With regards to Brexit, the advice is that to be protected under the Withdrawal Agreement, UK citizens living in Spain or planning to live in Spain from 1 January 2021 will need to apply for a new TIE card (that is if you don’t already have the green card size document / or green A4 document of residency). Those who have these green documents are not necessarily obliged to change to the TIE card straight away.

The process to apply for Spanish residency

Documentation wise you will need to cover a few activities, namely proof of income, proof of address and medical cover.

If you are over 65 there is an S1 form you can obtain from the social security office in Newcastle to transfer your medical rights as a UK citizen. Under 65s will require private medical insurance and to register on the census which is known as the local Padrón at your nearest town hall.  You will need proof of income so this is either the equivalent of €9000 in a bank account or a contract of employment. This could change from town council to town council so check with your local town hall. You will also need proof of your address, so a rental contract or copy of your escritura (deed title to your property) is required.

As of 6 July 2020, there is a staged process for the TIE application:

  • apply for an appointment online;
  • present the relevant documents in person at the Policía Nacional foreigners office and have your finger print registered;
  • then make another appointment online to pick up your new TIE card.

General advice

Charmaine Arbouin starts with some strong advice – do not panic! There is still time to get everything done, however start getting your paperwork in order now. There is a bit of confusion around what registering as a tax resident is. It is not the NIE which is the foreigners’ identity number. It is registering as a tax resident which before now documentation wise, looked like a green credit card size document or a green A4 document (as mentioned above). However, you will need an NIE number in order to apply for the tax residency status.

The new TIE card actually serves as a great photo ID, easy to carry around, has your finger print, you can travel through the EU with it and it gives you a bit of kudos at the immigration desk or when interacting with other Spanish institutions and authorities.

Having medical cover is critical.  If you are a pensioner, you can obtain a transfer of your UK public healthcare rights to Spain through filling out the S1 form we mentioned above. If you are working and paying into the Spanish social security system then you must provide your green health card. Otherwise you will need to provide private healthcare through an insurer. Spanish healthcare companies are surprisingly competitive and comprehensive so seek these out. Some of the big UK companies like BUPA do provide international healthcare but it tends to be over the odds expensive.

If you are intending on living in Spain, you will need to change your driver’s license to a Spanish one. If you are an EU resident this is relatively straight forward but you will have to exchange your British one for the Spanish one, you can’t have both. If you are non-EU e.g. Isle of Man, USA etc, then you will need to go through the Spanish system and sit your license again. Just beware that you cannot get your Spanish Driver’s License until you are registered as a resident so this just emphasises the need to register your residency.

Finally, your passport needs to have six months minimum on it before it expires to use it as ID for registering as a resident.

Right to reside

There has been a great deal of interest about freedom of movement as a Spanish resident (but UK national). One of the biggest bones of contention has been the freedom of movement which was a show stopper for the EU during Brexit talks and for all the reasons we enjoy today. Becoming a Spanish resident or tax resident means that you have the right to reside in Spain after the withdrawal but you are still limited to only 90 days visa free access to all other EU countries outside of Spain. This was a surprise to many people but one of the negatives for UK nationals when they voted to leave the EU.

Close family members will have a right to join you but they still need to meet the residency requirements above.

Just to close, there is a huge Q&A session that follows these points above and we would recommend investing the time to watch the whole video as it is extremely informative. Thanks to Alex and Charmaine and your teams for their informative discussions and presentation.