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Spanish residency before and after Brexit

With Brexit taking place on January 31st, 2020, the United Kingdom has converted into a third country outside of the European Union. The exit of the UK was regulated by the Withdrawal agreement which came into force on February 1st, 2020 and which assumed an 11-month transition period, ending December 31st, 2020. This date marks the milestone in the regulations of various aspects – let us review those related to the residency rights of British nationals in Spain

One of the key aspects of the Withdrawal agreement is the protection of the residency rights of those British nationals residing in Spain before the end of the transition period ending December 31st, 2020. All those nationals and their family members maintain their residency rights and benefits equal to those of other EU nationals legally residing in Spain. 

On the other hand, those British citizens who arrive to Spain after January 1st, 2021 are no longer covered by the Withdrawal Agreement and are subject to general visa regulations for foreign nationals in Spain, as the agreement between UK and EU does not include free movement of people. 

Considering the above, as of January 1st, 2021 all British nationals residing or willing to reside in Spain are divided into two groups:

1. Those covered by the Withdrawal Agreement.

2. Those NOT covered by the Withdrawal Agreement, and who are subject to general visa/residency regulations for foreign nationals coming outside of the EU.


GROUP 1 – British nationals covered by the Withdrawal agreement are those legally residing in Spain before the end of the transition period.

As of July 6th, 2020, following the agreement between all EU countries, Spain has introduced a new procedure to obtain a new TIE card (Tarjeta de Identidad Extranjero which is a Foreigner’s Identity card) - a residency permit document unified between all EU countries, which expressly mentions its holder’s status as beneficiary of the Withdrawal Agreement

Those UK nationals who at this point did not possess a green EU registration residency certificate would apply directly for the new TIE card. The ones in the possession of the green residency certificates could exchange them to the new TIE cards, although the procedure is voluntary, as the green residency certificates remain valid also after the end of the transition period.

As we have passed the transition period, we can distinguish the following sub-groups within the Group 1 - British nationals covered by the Withdrawal Agreement:

1. Those legal residents in the possession of the green EU registration certificates or family member residency cards, who have not yet exchanged those to the new TIEs, can continue exchanging those, by making corresponding appointments in the National Police. Although the exchange is not obligatory but is recommended by both the Spanish government and the British Embassy in Spain, as the new TIE explicitly mentions the status of the beneficiary of the Withdrawal agreement and with its biometrical features provides to its holder various benefits, including the ease of carrying out administrative procedures and even crossing borders within the European Union.

2. Those effectively residing in Spain before the end of the transition period, not in the possession of the EU format residency cards, who have applied for Spanish residency and the new TIE cards BEFORE the end of the transition period on December 31st, 2020. By law, the applications can be reviewed and resolved within the period of up to 3 months, during which time the applicant’s status in Spain is legal until the application is resolved. We have addressed the procedure and the requirements in this article.

3. Those effectively residing in Spain before the end of the transition period, not in the possession of any document confirming legal residency in Spain, who have NOT submitted their Spanish residency and TIE applications under the terms of the Withdrawal Agreement BEFORE the end of the transition period on December 31st, 2020. Our interpretation of the current law is that such applications can still be submitted within the period of 3 months from the arrival date to Spain, subject to being able to provide sufficient proof of effective residence in Spain PRIOR to the end of the transition period (December 31st, 2020) and subject to being able to justify a reason of not submitting the application before the end of the transition period. We believe those applications will still be governed by the same procedure and requirements as described in the previous point, however it will very much depend on the interpretation of the law by each provincial Foreign office responsible for the application. We have requested a confirmation from the Malaga Provincial Foreign office and will post further updates once this confirmation is received.


GROUP 2 – British nationals arriving to Spain after January 1st, 2021 who are no longer covered by the Withdrawal Agreement and are subject to general regulations for foreign nationals coming outside of the EU.

The general rule is the allowance to spend maximum 90 days in every 180 days - for this no special visa is required. It is important to note however that the 90 days are counted combined for the whole Schengen territory, so one needs to keep an eye on the overall number of days when visiting various countries within the Schengen area.

Those UK nationals willing to reside in Spain longer than the period stipulated above will require a residence permit. There are many different types of residence permits for non-EU citizens, depending on each personal situation and objectives, and the requirements for each vary. Generally, the full working permit will become much more difficult to obtain, and for those who do not require working, the one to target will be the Non-Lucrative residence permit, the requirements for which we have covered in this article. Other permits may include Investor residence such as Golden Visa which we have addressed here. There are more types of visas and residence permits, which can be enquired about in the Spanish Embassy or your nearest Spanish Consulate in the UK.

The main difference in the procedure is that the residence application will have to be initiated in the Spanish Embassy or Consulate in the United Kingdom and once approved – the applicant will be issued a visa allowing to enter Spain within 30 days and finalise the procedure by applying for the relevant TIE card in the National Police based on the place of residence in Spain. 

We at Malaga Expat will continue being at your disposal for any type of assistance associated with the local paperwork procedures in Malaga, Spaincontact us for more information and to learn how we can help you! 



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