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British Embassy Madrid answers questions on Brexit

2019-04-13T13:18:17+00:00

Preparing for Brexit: a note for British people living in Spain

This note is correct as of 11 April. Sign up for alerts to gov.uk/living-in-spain for the latest information.

The British Embassy in Madrid held a Facebook Live Q&A session about EU Exit with Her Majesty´s Ambassador Simon Manley and Regional Consular Policy Advisor Lorna Geddie. Topics covered included residency, healthcare, pensions, driving, travel and moving to Spain in future, attached is a transcript of the Q’s & A’s


Residency

Our key piece of advice for all people living in Spain is to ensure that they are correctly registered as resident. That means having the green A4 or credit card-sized certificate “certificado de registro”, which you get from extranjeria or the national police. Be aware that if you just have a NIE on a white piece of paper this is not the same thing. If you are living in Spain you need to apply for the green certificate – before the UK leaves the EU if you can or during the transition or grace period of 21 months if you cannot (see below). There is no difference in validity between the A4 certificate and the smaller one. It just reflects when you received it.

You may notice that some people have the phrase “residente comunitario desde x date” on their certificate, while others have “residente permanente desde x date”. Both mean that you are registered in Spain as a resident and able to live and work here. The “permanente” means that after living here for five years you have exchanged your previous certificate for a permanent one. This is not obligatory, but it authorises indefinite residence and work in Spain, under the same conditions as Spaniards.

Being resident in Spain generally means you must pay tax in Spain. However, residence and fiscal residence are not the same thing. If you spend 183 days or more within one year in Spain you may be liable to pay tax in Spain. Be aware that the UK has a double-taxation agreement with Spain to make sure that people do not pay tax on the same income in both countries. This is a bilateral agreement between the UK and Spain and is not affected by Brexit. As a resident you have to declare your global income to the Spanish authorities, no matter where it came from, but you will only pay tax on income that came from Spain.

Applying for residency

We know there are major difficulties getting appointments at the moment. This is partly because of the volume of people applying for appointments and also because the Spanish authorities are in the process of amending the appointment system for UK nationals for once the UK has left the EU.

Our key message is not to panic. The Spanish government has been clear that any UK national resident in Spain before the UK leaves the EU will be considered legally resident, whether or not they have a registration certificate. And in both a deal or no-deal scenario you have time to get your residence documentation in order.

If the UK leaves the EU with a deal then those currently living in Spain or who come to live here before the end of the transition period (ie. 31 December 2020), will have until June 2021 to register as a resident.

If the UK leaves without a deal, the Spanish Government has also said that UK nationals already resident in Spain before the date the UK leaves will have a grace period of 21 months in which to register as a resident. You will have to prove that you were resident before the UK left, so we advise making sure you are registered on the local padrón (at your town hall) or gathering other evidence of your prior residence, such as a rental agreement or utility bills.

For more information on the current registration system visit our Living in Spain guide. We will be updating this page as soon as we have confirmed information on how the future registration system will work, so do sign up for email alerts to keep informed. Please note that you must register as a resident in the province where you live.

Registering after EU Exit

After the UK leaves the EU, whether that is with or without a deal, UK nationals will have to exchange their current registration document for a new card (known as a TIE). In the meantime, the current registration certificates will continue to be valid and all UK nationals in Spain will be considered legal residents.

Should the UK leave the EU without a deal, the Spanish government has recently published official instructions (in Spanish) and FAQs on how UK nationals will have to register their residency irrespective of whether they already have a residency certificate. While the online appointments system is not yet available we understand that all appointments will be booked on line and that there will be a new drop down option on the online appointments system for Trámite para la documentación de nacionales del Reino Unido.

In the case of those who already correctly registered, you will have to exchange your current certificate for a new card at the designated police stations.

For anyone that doesn’t already have a certificate, there will be a two-stage process. First, you will have to apply for a temporary residence certificate through extranjeria, broadly in the same way as before EU Exit but with the additional requirement of providing evidence that you were living in Spain before the UK left the EU. Once that has been granted you will then have to request the TIE at the corresponding police station.

Be aware that if you are not working you are likely to be asked to provide proof of income. As set out by the EU, there is no fixed amount that you would be expected to show, it’s for the Spanish officials to make a decision based on each person’s personal circumstances. We’re aware that in Spain, IPREM is one of the threshold indicators that may be applied by Spanish authorities when considering proof of income.

If you have not yet lived in Spain for 5 years, your accumulated years will count towards the five years needed for permanent residence. So, for example, if you have already been here for two years, your TIE would be valid for three years and you would then need to apply for permanent residence.

For further information on residency see:

www.lamoncloa.gob.es (put into English, choose ‘Brexit’ tab) or http://www.mitramiss.gob.es/en/brexit/residencia/br_sinacuerdo/index.htm

Healthcare

Spain operates a different healthcare system to the UK in that it is contribution-based, rather than residency-based. In other words, access to state healthcare is based on paying into the system – this might be you paying privately, through your employer, or from the UK government. If you access state healthcare you will get a tarjeta sanitaria. Be aware that every region has their own health authority and they all issue different style/colour health cards. There is also a difference between pensioners’ and workers’ cards, so don’t worry if your card looks different to someone else’s.

Or, of course, you might be covered by private health insurance. The most important thing is to ensure that you are correctly registered for healthcare now.

These are the main ways you can access healthcare in Spain and how they will be affected by the UK leaving the EU:

Workers

If you are working and paying into social security, you can continue to access healthcare as you do now after the UK leaves the EU.

UK state pensioners

UK state pensioners resident in Spain are entitled to public healthcare as the holder of an S1 certificate.

If the UK leaves the EU with a deal:

Your entitlement to state healthcare continues as long as you live in Spain. Those who are not yet of pensionable age will also be entitled to this cover once they claim their UK state pension. Partners of S1 holders can also access healthcare as dependents, but be aware that if you are not married then the Spanish authorities may ask you to prove your relationship.

If the UK leaves the EU without a deal.

In the event of a no-deal, the Spanish Royal Decree comes into effect, which guarantees healthcare access for S1 form holders until the end of 2020. The intention of both the UK and Spanish governments is to continue with the current arrangement of reciprocal healthcare provision for pensioners, but a formal agreement has still to be negotiated.

Permanent residents

If you are not entitled to healthcare through the above options and have a permanent residence certificate (i.e. have been resident for five years and have “permanente” on your green certificate), you may be entitled to healthcare on the basis of residency. You can apply for the ‘documento acreditativo del derecho a asistencia sanitaria’ from the INSS. If you are required to present a documento de no exportación (Legislation Letter), you will need to apply for one from the Overseas Healthcare Service (+44 191 218 1999). We understand that this entitlement will not change when the UK leaves the EU.

The Convenio Especial

If you have lived in Spain for less than five years, but have been on the padrón at your local town hall for a year then you can pay into the Convenio Especial. This provides access to the state healthcare system for a monthly payment of €60 per person under the age of 65 and €157 for those aged 65+. It covers all pre-existing medical conditions but it does not cover prescriptions. It is something that early retirees may find to be the best option. This will not be affected by the UK leaving the EU.

The Convenio Especial is currently active in all regions, except Andalucia – if this situation changes, it will be updated in the Living In guide.

The EHIC

The EHIC or European Health Insurance Card is what used to be called the E111. Do be aware that you should not be using an EHIC to access healthcare in Spain if you are resident here. However, if you are resident and working in Spain you can apply for a Spanish EHIC (Tarjeta Sanitaria Europea) for when you travel to the rest of the EU. If you are a UK state pensioner covered by an S1 form, you are entitled to an EHIC issued by the UK, for use when you travel to the rest of the EU.After the UK leaves the EU

If the UK leaves the EU with a deal then EHICs (both those issued in the UK and Spain) will be valid during the transition period.

If the UK leaves the EU without a deal and there have been no other arrangements made, UK EHICs may not be valid in Spain/the rest of the EU and Spanish EHICs may not be accepted in the UK.

In any event we always advise taking out fully comprehensive health insurance when you travel as EHICs do not cover everything, for example if you needed to be brought back to Spain/were on a cruise.

Pensions and benefits after EU Exit

If you are living in Spain and currently receiving a UK state pension or other benefit this will still continue, whether the UK leaves the EU with or without a deal.

If the UK leaves the EU with a deal and you work and pay social security contributions in Spain, you will still be able to add your UK social security contributions to these in order to work out your final pension entitlement. Also, in a deal-scenario, UK state pensions will continue to be uprated (ie. increased in line with inflation). Both these things apply to people who have not yet reached pensionable age, as well as those who are already drawing their pensions, as long as they are correctly registered as a resident here in Spain.

If the UK leaves the EU without a deal, the Spanish government has proposed that they will take into account periods of work carried out in the UK before the UK leaves the EU when calculating your Spanish pension entitlement for the next 21 months, as long as the UK does the same. Once a formal agreement is in place, we will update the Living in Guide. The UK government has also agreed to uprate UK state pensions for 2019-20 and hopes to continue to do so beyond this, but again this is dependent on a reciprocal deal being reached.

If you are currently claiming unemployment benefit anyone who is eligible for unemployment benefit remains covered for healthcare; even after that has finished. Please see here for further information: http://www.seg-social.es/wps/portal/wss/internet/FAQ/48581/49207?changeLanguage=en

Travel

There may be some changes to travel rules after the UK leaves the EU in a deal or no-deal scenario, so it is worth keeping an eye on travel advice at gov.uk

If the UK leaves the EU with a deal, nothing will change until the end of 2020. In the meantime you can continue to travel freely in the Schengen area with your UK passport. What happens after 2020 will form part of the next phase of negotiations between the UK and the EU.

If the UK leaves the EU without a deal, there will be new travel rules. An important change is that you must have at least 6 months’ validity left on your passport from the date of travel. If you last renewed your passport early, extra months may have been added to the normal 10years’ validity and these will not count. Do use the passport checker on gov.uk to make sure your passport would be valid for travel.

If the UK leaves the EU without a deal, the European Commission has said you will not need visas for short stays in the Schengen area. You will be able to stay, visa-free, for up to 90 days within a 180-day period. If you are resident in Spain then your “Schengen clock” starts when you leave Spain. Be aware that the 90-day rule applies to the whole of the Schengen area, not individual countries (ie you can’t spend 90 days in France, followed by 90 days in Germany in a 180-day period). We know this is something that concerns many people who have holiday homes in Spain, but are principally resident in the UK. Staying longer than 90 days in the Schengen area may continue to be an option, however you would likely need to get a visa or temporary residence permit before you travel. We’ll update our Travel Advice and Living in Spain page once further information is available: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/advice-for-british-nationals-travelling-and-living-in-europe

https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/spain/entry-requirements

If you are resident in Spain, we recommend travelling with both your UK passport and your residency document.

If you are currently resident in Spain, but decide to move to another country after the end of the transition period (or after the date the UK leaves the EU without a deal), you would have to comply with the immigration requirements of the individual country. If you are considering this, we would advise contacting the country’s embassy or looking at the relevant living in guide or country entry requirements on gov.uk. This is because the citizens’ rights part of the Withdrawal Agreement protects UK nationals’ right to residency in the country they are currently in at the end of the transition period, but not to onward freedom of movement ie the right to move to another country under EU rules. This will form part of the next phase of negotiations.

Work

Being registered as resident in Spain means you have the right to live and work here.

For anyone that habitually employs British people from the UK (ie who are not already living in Spain), for example, to work in a language school, future recruitment may be a concern. If the UK leaves the EU with a deal, UK nationals will continue to have the right to move to and work in Spain according to the current EU rules during the transition period, so to the end of December 2020. The rules that will apply to UK nationals who wish to move to Spain to take up a job after that date will form part of the future negotiations.

If the UK leaves the EU without a deal, Spain’s general immigration rules will apply to any UK national who wishes to move to Spain in order to work once the UK has left. Further information about the general immigration regime can be found here (in Spanish).

Driving

If you are resident in Spain we recommend that you exchange your UK driving licence for a Spanish one as soon as you can. Not only does it protect your right to drive in Spain, but across the EU. You can currently exchange your UK licence for a Spanish licence without having to take a driving test.

The process for exchanging your licence is relatively straightforward. While you do not have to take a driving test, you do have to take a brief medical and this needs to be completed before your appointment to exchange your licence. You will need to physically hand in your UK licence and this gets sent back to the DVLA.

We are aware that there are currently delays getting appointments to exchange your licence in most provinces, although you can exchange your licence anywhere in Spain, it doesn’t have to be where you are resident.

If the UK leaves the EU with a deal then you will have at least until the end of the transition period to exchange your licence under the current rules. In the event of a no-deal the Spanish authorities have given nine months to exchange your licence. In other words, in any scenario your UK licence will continue to be valid and exchanged under the current rules for nine months after the UK leaves the EU.

Your Spanish licence will be valid in the UK if you go back for a visit. However, if you are in the process of exchanging your UK licence for a Spanish one the situation is a little more complicated. The temporary paper licence you will have in the meantime won’t be valid in the UK. You can only drive in the UK with a full Spanish or UK licence, so you should take this into account when exchanging your licence/planning travel.

Education

If the UK leaves the EU with a deal, UK nationals who are resident in Spain by the end of 2020 will continue to be treated on an equal basis to Spanish students in terms of eligibility for student support if they wish to go to a Spanish university, even if that is after the end of the transition period. Likewise, UK nationals will be able to continue to participate in the ERASMUS scheme for the academic year 2019-2020.

In the event of a no-deal, the Spanish authorities have confirmed that students studying A-levels, for example at a British school in Spain, will be able to continue to use these qualifications to apply for a university course in Spain for the academic years 2019-2020 and 2020-2021.If you are already enrolled on a university course, we would advise checking with your university about whether your rights will be affected after the UK is no longer in the EU. Anyone currently on an Erasmus+ programme this current academic year should be able to complete their course and stay in Spain – both the UK and the EU have expressed their desire to avoid disruption. You can find more information on the European Commission site. If in doubt, keep in touch with your home university. Whether UK nationals will be able to participate in future Erasmus programmes in the event the UK leaves without a deal is, as of this moment, still unclear.

Anyone who came here as a student and is correctly registered as a resident will be able to stay and work after their studies have finished.

Citizenship and nationality

Dual citizenship (or dual nationality) is allowed in the UK ie. You can be a British citizen and a citizen of other countries. However, Spain does not recognise dual nationality, except with a select number of countries, named in its constitution. We do not actively lobby other member states to change their domestic rules on accepting dual nationality, as it is a matter for other member states to decide for themselves.

Acquiring a new nationality is a personal decision and we recommend you consider getting professional advice about the implications of taking out Spanish citizenship, before initiating what can be a lengthy process. You can find further information about the process and its requirements here. Be aware that you must have 10 years continuous residence to be eligible.

All British citizens automatically retain their citizenship irrespective of how long they are absent from the UK. The only way to lose citizenship is due to criminality, national security reasons or if the person specifically wishes to do so and applies to the Home Office to renounce their British citizenship.

Children can be holders of both a Spanish and UK passport at the same time. Children born in Spain to British parents are considered Spanish nationals to the Spanish Authorities. However, they are also entitled to a British passport as they are British by descent. You can find further information on British child passports here.

Pets

If the UK leaves the EU with a deal, there will be no change to the current rules on pet passports during the transition period. What happens after that is still to be negotiated.

The rules around travel with pets will change if the UK leaves the EU without a deal. Visit this page for advice on taking your pet to and from the UK and an EU country. In both a deal or no-deal scenario, we recommend pet owners who intend to travel with pets contact their vet 4 months in advance of travel to get the latest travel advice.

Voting

The Government is committed to scrapping the rule that prevents British citizens who have lived abroad for more than 15 years from participating in UK parliamentary elections and has supported the Private Members’ Bill on overseas electors throughout its passage through Parliament. However, unfortunately the Bill did not pass through its report stage on 22 March. The Government is now considering other ways to implement votes for life ahead of the next scheduled General Election in 2022.

Moving to Spain in the future

If the UK leaves the EU with a deal, UK nationals will still be able to move to Spain as they do now during the transition period (so until the end of December 2020), but they will need to ensure they are correctly registered as a resident by June 2021 in order to fall under the Withdrawal Agreement and enjoy the rights that it protects. If your spouse is from outside the EU, during this period they will also be able to apply for a residency certificate as per the current rules.

If the UK leaves the EU without a deal, the Spanish authorities have recently announced what conditions will apply to UK nationals who arrive in Spain after the date the UK leaves. They will have the condition of third-country nationals and the general arrangements for foreigners in Spain will be applicable to them. They will not be covered by the provisions set out in the Royal Decree as those will only apply to those already resident in Spain on the date the UK left the EU. Further information about the general immigration regime can be found here (in Spanish) or by contacting the Spanish Embassy in the UK.

Business

If the UK leaves the EU with a deal, during the transition period UK nationals who own businesses or who as part of their work operate across the EU will be unlikely to see much change in their operations, as conversations regarding trade and the future economic partnership will form part of the next phase of discussions.

If the UK leaves the EU without a deal, those working in business should, as a first point of call, look at the information available for business on the EU Exit pages of gov.uk. The Spanish government’s Brexit site also has a specific section for ‘Economic Operators’. If you or your business works in a certain profession or field, the relevant Spanish regulating body may also be able to provide you with further information.