Spanish Residency After Brexit for UK Citizens

Created: Apr 17, 2020 | Updated: Sep 15, 2020

What are the new rules for residency in Spain after Brexit? The right for UK citizens to travel, work, and reside in Spain have been modified, and individuals looking to reside or become Spanish citizens need to be informed of the changes that are now affecting them and will affect them in the future. In this article, we will discuss:

  • Residency in Spain After Brexit for UK Citizens
  • Post Brexit Spain Citizenship Possibilities
  • Document and translation requirements for Spanish residency applications

Post-Brexit Spanish Residency

Britain has left the European Union and is currently in a transitional stage, which at the moment is planned to last until December 31st 2020. This change in Britain’s relationship with the E.U. will affect the immigration and residence status of British nationals after the end of the transitional period. There are very many British citizens who have made Spain their home, either temporarily or permanently. The exact numbers are not known, but is anywhere between 300,000 and 1 million. There are also many British citizens who are still contemplating a move to Spain to live in the future. Because of the changed status of the relationship between the U.K. and Spain it is important for all concerned British nationals to become familiar with Spanish residence procedures so they can prepare for a post Brexit future.


Residency in Spain after Brexit: Transitional Period

Until 31st December 2020, there will be no change in the right to live, study and work in Spain for British nationals. They are treated as de-facto E.U. citizens until the end of the transitional period. However, this is a good time to apply for a temporary or permanent Spanish residence permit, rather than leave it to the end of the year. Residence permit applications take some time to process, so the sooner you start the ball rolling, the less stressful it will be than if you left it to next year.

This is the time to make sure that you have complied with the requirement by the Spanish government to register yourself as a resident of your local area. This is not a new requirement and in fact every Spanish citizen, as well as other E.U., E.E.A and Swiss citizens need to register themselves at the Padron office at their local town hall (ayuntamiento) and receive a “certificado de empadronamiento.” This registration is not directly related to residency, but is more of a register of who is living in the community. You will need it as one of the documents when you apply for your residencia, or Spanish residence certificate.

In addition to the certificado de empadronamiento, you should also obtain a certificado de registro como residente comunitario if you have been living in Spain for more than 3 months. With the certificate you will also get a personal foreign identification number (número de identidad de extranjero, or NIE ). The NIE is a unique identification number that will be printed on the certificate, and is used for things like Spanish tax, financial transactions, etc. Possession of the certificate gives you legal residence status in Spain during the transitional period and will make it easier if the U.K. and Spain reach a mutual agreement on each others’ citizens’ residence rights after December 31st 2000. 

You should apply for your residence certificate at the nearest Foreign Citizens’ Office (Oficina de Extranjería) or police station (Comisaría). The application process is relatively simple, but you will need documentation, translated into Spanish, to show you have health insurance and enough income or assets to maintain yourself while in Spain. The full list of documents and translation requirements is given below.


Residency in Spain After Brexit: Post Transitional Period

Negotiations between the U.K. and individual E.U.-7 governments, especially those like Spain with many British nationals, may result in an individual agreement between the two countries that specifies more clearly what arrangements there will be for travel, residence, study and work. Spain has a strong economic incentive to make it easier for British residents of Spain to stay as they do now.  It has been indicated that as long as Britain gives reciprocal rights to Spanish citizens resident in Britain, then any British residents in Spain who are already in possession of a residence certificate should be able to retain the rights they already enjoy after the end of the transitional period. This is by no means certain and there is an added complication in the form of the status of Gibraltar and the rights of access between residents of Gibraltar and adjoining Spain to consider.

Considering the uncertainty, it is definitely worth British residents living in Spain ensuring they have their residence certificate under the present arrangement, as well as apply for a Spanish residence visa, such as a non-lucrative residence visa (visado no lucrativo). Spanish residence visas are temporary or permanent depending on how long the holder wishes to live in the country. If things go pear shaped after the end of this year, Brits who have not got a temporary or permanent residence visa may find they have to apply from Britain.


Changes after the transitional period for non-resident British citizens: short stays

At the moment, it is assumed that British citizens who are not resident in Spain or who did not obtain residence certificates or visas before the end of the transition period will be treated the same as a group of non E.U. , E.E.A. or Swiss countries that do not need short stay visas for periods up to 3 months at a time. These other countries which are in a visa-waiver category for short stays include Canada, Australia and the U.S. 

If this is what is likely to happen, British citizens who wish to travel to Spain, or any other Schengen country, can visit for up to 90 days in any 180 day period. The ‘clock’ starts as soon as the traveller arrives in a Schengen area port or airport and stops when leaving. For example, if you have a holiday home in Spain, you will be able to visit it for periods of up to 90 days in every 180 days without any other formalities. The 90 day period could also be broken up into blocks so doesn’t need to be continuous. 

From the end of 2020, the E.U. / Schengen area countries will implement the ETIAS visa waiver system again for all short stays for citizens of visa-waiver countries, presumably including the U.K. Intending travellers will need to apply online for a visa waiver or ETIAS approval before arriving in any E.U. / Schengen country by payment of a small fee. The system has been designed for simplicity and ease and once a visa waiver is obtained it should last several years before having to renew it. 


Changes after the transitional period: longer stays

If you do not have a Spanish residence permit before the end of the transitional period and you want to live for longer than 90 days at any one time, or permanently, you will need to apply for a Spanish residence visa. There are two lengths of residence visa: different types of temporary residence visa and a permanent residence visa. Temporary residence is available for those who have enough money to live there or retire, called non-lucrative residence visas (visado no lucrativo) and last a year or possibly two. They can then be extended up to five years. There are similar temporary residence visas for those who wish to study, do business or work in Spain. Permanent residence visas may be available after five years of residence, although the calculation of what constitutes five years is complex. Permanent residence visas allow the holder to live permanently in Spain, but the actual piece of paper itself has to be renewed every five years at the local police station.


Retiring to Spain 

If you have been thinking of retiring to Spain after Brexit, but have not had more than 5 years continuously living there already, your best solution is to apply for a temporary non-lucrative residence visa, which will last for a year or two. This can be extended one or two years at a time, providing that you can show you have the assets and income to support yourself during retirement and health insurance. After 5 years of retirement in Spain you should be able to apply for a permanent Spanish residence visa as outlined above. A five year visa can be renewed every five years rather than every one or two years.


Spanish citizenship possibilities 

You may be able to apply for Spanish citizenship if you have been living in Spain for more than 10 years. The benefit of Spanish citizenship is that you have all the rights of free travel within the E.U. that you once enjoyed as a British passport holder. You are also able to have the benefit of the same rights as any other Spanish citizen. The disadvantage, compared to just being a permanent resident, is that Spain does not recognize dual nationality, so you would have to renounce your British citizenship and all that entails. This wouldn’t be a decision to take lightly if you still have a lot of family in Britain. Spanish citizenship is also dependent on you having a good, working knowledge of the Spanish language and Spanish culture and laws. 


Document & Translation Requirements

The documents required for Spanish residency differs based on the sort of application you're submitting. We explain a few of these differences below:


Documents required for Spanish residence applications

All documents that are not in Spanish already must be translated into Spanish by a sworn translator certified by the Spanish government.

Documents needed for a certificado de empadronamiento

  • Proof of address, e.g. a utility bill, rental contract, deed of purchase, etc.
  • Passport; plus a copy of the passport ID pages
  • Completed application form (obtainable at the Padron office)


Documents needed for a certificado de registro como residente comunitario

  • A completed application form EX-18
  • A copy of the certificado de empadronamiento (if you are already living in Spain);
  • Your passport, valid for at least 6 more months;
  • Application fee;
  • Proof of Spanish health insurance or EHIC if still in transitional period;
  • Proof of address;
  • Proof of adequate assets or income for stay in Spain.


Documents needed for a Spanish residence permit

  • A completed application form EX-11
  • Your passport, valid for at least 6 more months;
  • 2 passport sized photos;
  • NIE number (if applying while living in Spain);
  • Application fee;
  • Proof of Spanish health insurance or S1 if retired on a pension ;
  • Proof of address;
  • Proof of adequate assets or income for stay in Spain or proof of UK state pension.
  • Criminal record clearance certificate issued by the U.K. Criminal Records Office (ACRO).


Documents needed for Spanish citizenship applications by naturalisation:

  • A completed application form;
  • Your passport, valid for at least 6 more months;
  • 3 passport sized photos;
  • NIE number (if applying while living in Spain);
  • Copy of your certificado de registro como residente comunitario
  • Application fee;
  • Proof of Spanish health insurance or S1 if retired on a pension ;
  • Proof of 10 years or more residency in Spain;
  • Criminal record clearance certificate issued by the U.K. Criminal Records Office (ACRO) within the last 90 days.
  • Spanish criminal record clearance certificate issued by the Registro Central de Penado within the last 90 days;
  • Proof of competency in Spanish language, up to CEFR-A2 level;
  • A CCSE exam certificate, showing familiarity with Spanish culture and laws.


Translations for Spanish Residency or Citizenship

All documents that are required for submission for registration as a foreigner, or Spanish residence visa or citizenship must be presented in Spanish, or translated from English into Spanish by a sworn Spanish translator approved by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, European Union and Cooperation. 

Sworn Spanish translations

It is a requirement of the Spanish government that all documents submitted at any stage of a residence visa or citizenship application are in Spanish as noted above. Any document in English or any other language must first be translated by a sworn spanish translator who is certified by the Spanish government. Translayte works with sworn translators in Spain that are approved by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. 

Contact us today to have your official documents translated prior to your application.

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