As we have mentioned more than once on these pages, the UK’s decision to leave the EU has made living permanently in Spain much more complicated for Britons. Living in Spain after Brexit now requires individuals to apply for a visa or for a residency permit.
Without a visa or residency permit, Britons are able to stay in Spain for 90 days out of every 180-day period, meaning that they could spend half of the year in Spain in two extended visits. This is the ideal option for many, but if you don’t want to maintain a base in the UK and want to move to Spain on a full-time basis then you can no longer do this without securing the necessary documentation. What does this mean for your residency status? Can you be a resident of Spain and the UK at the same time? And how will this impact your tax obligations in each country? Here’s everything you need to know:
You Can Only Be a Resident of a Single Nation
Whilst maintaining your UK residency when residing in Spain might be appealing, unfortunately this isn’t possible. In fact, even before Brexit it wasn’t legally and officially possible to reside in both countries (though many people didn’t register as residents of Spain to enable them to do so). This is because, when the UK was part of the EU, the time individuals spent in Spain wasn’t monitored as it is now. Because this freedom of movement (Under the EU Freedom of Movement Act) no longer applies to UK citizens, the amount of time Britons spend in the UK is being monitored: if you want to stay in Spain for longer than 90 days then you will need a residency permit or visa, and in applying for these you will give up your residency of the UK. You can only be a resident of one nation at a time.
Wondering what this means in real terms? It means you would use your UK residency status, access to some UK benefits, and access to the NHS for any healthcare you might need.
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How to Become a Spanish Resident
If you were living in Spain before the withdrawal period ended and the UK officially left the EU on 31st December 2020 then your rights to remain were protected by the terms of the Withdrawal Agreement and you should apply for a Tarjeta de Identidad de Extranjero (TIE) residency card: a biometric card that will protect your right to remain in Spain. If you possess any other type of residency card (a green card is a common example) then you are strongly encouraged to exchange this for a TIE card as soon as possible and protect your residency.
If you arrived in Spain after 1st January 2021, or haven’t yet moved to Spain but are currently exploring your options, then your right to live in Spain is not protected by the withdrawal agreement, and you will have to apply to live in Spain like any other third party national. This can be an expensive and time-consuming process, but you will find it easier to secure a visa to remain in Spain if you don’t intend to work during your time in the country. The visas best suited to you in these circumstances are:
- The non-lucrative residence visa, which requires you to show that you can support yourself financial for the duration of your stay in the country
- The investors visa (or golden visa), which requires you to make a significant investment in Spanish real estate to remain in the country.
- The student visa, which allows you to stay in Spain for as long as you are studying at an official institution.
How Would Being a Spanish Resident Affect My Taxes?
There is a key difference between being a resident and a tax resident of a country: it could well be that, for immigration purposes, you are a resident of Spain without having to be a tax resident of the nation. If this is something you are interested in exploring, then there are the criteria, as set out by the Spanish tax authorities, for being a tax resident in the nation:
- “They have stayed longer than 183 days in Spanish territory over the calendar year. In order to determine the permanence in the Spanish territory, occasional absences are included, except if the taxpayer accredits their residency in another country. In the case of countries or territories labelled as tax havens, the Tax Administration can demand proof of stay in that tax haven over a period of 183 days within the calendar year.
- They have their main base or centre of their activities or economic activities, directly or indirectly, in Spain.
- They have a dependent not legally separated spouse and/or underage children who are usually residents in Spain. This latter situation accepts evidence to the contrary.”
What if I Wish to Remain a UK Resident?
If you don’t wish to give up your British residency but still hope to spend considerable periods of time in Spain, or own property in Spain, then this is still possible. You can stay in Spain for 90 days out of any 180-day period without applying for a visa or residency permit. This means that you could spend two three-month chunks of time in Spain every year, which would be an ideal alternative for holiday home owners or ‘snow birds’ wishing to escape the bad winter weather in the UK. It is only if you wish to stay in the country for a period of longer than 90 days that you would need to apply for a visa.
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