Living in Spain After Brexit: What You Need to Know

For many British people with strong ties to the continent, Brexit presents the great unknown. Much is yet to be finalised about how Brexit will impact those Brits currently living in Spain, travelling to Spain regularly to stay in their holiday home, letting holiday homes, or planning to move to Spain in the future. But there is much that we do know, and the good news is a great deal of the information that has been filtered down is positive. Here we will outline exactly what you need to know about living in Spain after Brexit, and how the shift may (or may not) impact on your way of life:

A Note on : Taking Holidays to Spain

Regardless of how you feel about Britain’s decision to leave the European Union, on 31st January 2021 it will happen. And for the vast majority of British people this will have very little impact on their visits to wider Europe. If you are a British person who spends your holidays in Spain, or otherwise visits the country for short periods of time then very little will change about the way you enter or exit the EU: if you spend less than 90 days in Spain over the course of 6 months then yu will not be impacted by entrance or exit visa requirements and you can continue to enjoy your holidays as you always have.

When you are clearing immigration at your Spanish arrival airport you will need to enter the non-EU passengers queue rather than the passengers arriving from the EU line, and it is recommended that you ensure you have robust medical travel insurance (this has always been the recommendation, although many travellers chose to ignore this advice). Otherwise, you will experience very little change.

If you are living in Spain though, or spending longer than 90 days in each 6 month period in the country, then you are likely to experience some dramatic changes, and these will be the focus of this piece.

Your Rights in Spain After Brexit

Your Rights in Spain After Brexit

Many British ex pats living in Spain are concerned about how their rights in the country will be affected after the Withdrawal Process is complete. Will they suddenly become second class citizens in the country that they call home? During the Transition Period (which lasts until 31st December) nothing will change and all of your existing rights are protected. After this transition period the Withdrawal Agreement will come into force, and this serves to protect many of the rights of British people living in Spain. This includes, but is not limited to:

  • The right for British citizens who are legal Spanish residents to be able to continue to live and work in Spain
  • UK state pensioners will continue to have the right to access lifelong healthcare as long as they remain living in Spain. This also applies to residents who claim a UK state pension in the future, provided that they are legally Spanish residents.
  • British citizens living in Spain will continue to have the UK state pension uprated, in line with the rest of the UK.
  • British citizens living in Spain will be able to exchange their driving license until the end of 2020 without taking a driving test. What’s more, this Spanish driving license will be accepted in the UK when they visit.

Note: It is important to note that you will only be eligible for these rights under the Withdrawal Agreement if you are registered as a Spanish resident by the end of 2020. Therefore, if you are living in Spain and haven’t already done so, it is very important to begin the process of applying for Spanish residency as soon as possible.

If you are not yet living in Spain, and are considering moving in the future, how this will affect future residency (where applications have not been completed by the end of 2020) has not yet been clarified either by the UK or the Spanish governments,  but it seems likely that application for formal residency will be very important in securing your available rights whenever you take the plunge and make the decision to move to Spain. Many forecasts are predicting that British Citizens will have to make a visa application to secure these rights, just as residents from other non-EU countries currently do.

Applying for a Spanish Visa

Applying for a Spanish Visa

Despite extensive research, information about the process of obtaining Spanish residency after 2020 and without a residency green card has yet to be released. The official line is that this is “still in negotiation”, however it is likely that if you want to permanently live and work in Spain in 2021 and beyond then you will need to apply for a visa. This could be a new post-Brexit visa established for UK citizens, or it could be a visa from the existing Spanish visa family. We still hope that there will be a reciprocal agreement in place between citizens of Spain and those of the UK by the end of the year. But to give you a better understanding of this process, here is a step by step guide to applying for a Spanish Golden visa, which is currently one of the fastest and easiest visas that you can obtain to secure permanent residence in Spain:

The ‘Golden Visa’ is a Spanish residence permit programme that was introduced to stimulate foreign investment in the country, particularly from outside of the EU. Effectively, a Golden visa is offered to any foreign investor who invests at least 500,000 euros in property in Spain, amongst other requirements. People are attracted by the Golden Visa because it is one of the easiest ways to obtain a residency permit to live permanently in Spain, and it also a relatively quick way to obtain a Spanish residency permit if you don’t want to wait for more inexpensive channels. The main, and most obvious, drawback of this particular scheme, however, is that it does require that you have a significant sum of money available to invest in property.

The focus of the Golden Visa is to ensure that applicants and making a financial contribution to the country’s economy. In order to obtain a Golden Visa in Spain you should meet at least one of the following criteria, as well as owning property worth 500,000 euros, as outlined above:

  • A one million Euro investment in bank deposits in Spanish Financial Entities.
  • A one million Euro investment in shares of Spanish companies.
  • A two million Euro investment in Spanish Public Debts.
  • Starting a business project in Spain of general interest, which creates employment, contributes to technological and/or scientific innovation or has a socio-economic impact on the local area.

If you choose not to apply for a Spanish visa then that doesn’t have to stop you from owning and enjoying a holiday home in the country. Because Spain is part of the Schengen Area, you can spend up to 90 days in each 180 day period in the country without a visa. That means that you can spend almost half the year in Spain, and own your own property to live in and enjoy life in, completely visa-free. You are also free to rent out your property when you aren’t using it, within the parameters of local Spanish rental laws, which vary from region to region, without securing a visa. However, without a visa, you won’t be able to secure work whilst you’re living in Spain.

Taking Spanish Citizenship

Taking Spanish Citizenship

Many expats are talking very seriously about taking Spanish citizenship as a route to remain in the country, but it is important to note that citizenship and residency are very different propositions with very different routes of access. As a Spanish resident, you remain a British citizen, and retain all of the benefits and sense of national identity that come with this. As a Spanish citizen you give up your British identity and instead declare your loyalty to Spain; this then gives you all of the same rights in the country as any citizen who have been resident in Spain since birth.

Becoming a Spanish citizen is an obvious route to ensuring that your rights to remain in the country after Brexit are secured, but the road to Spanish citizenship isn’t always a smooth one, and you must fulfill some very strict criteria before you are able to even begin submitting a citizenship application:

  • You must have been living in Spain, full time, for at least ten years, unless you have any familial ties to the country
  • You must be able to show that you are a good citizen that has integrated well into your Spanish community
  • You must have no criminal record, either in Spain or in the UK
  • You must show that you are financially stable and have the mean to support yourself in Spain (this can either be in the form of a contract of employment, savings, or a pension fund)

There are exceptions to the ten year wait before you can apply for citizenship, but these generally apply to individuals with familial ties to the country. Those exceptions are:

  • Refugees generally only have to wait for 5 years before they are eligible to apply for citizenship. Nationals from Spanish-American countries, Andorra, the Philippines, Equatorial Guinea, Portugal, and those of Sephardic origin only have to wait two years.
  • If you are born in Spain but your parents are foreign nationals you have to wait just one year before you are eligible to apply for citizenship
  • If you are married to a Spaniard then you application for Spanish citizenship can also be fast tracked if you live in Spain for just one year. You can also claim Spanish citizenship under the same terms as the widower or widow of a Spaniard, provided you weren’t separated at the time of their death.

The Spanish citizenship application is a vigorous one, but its main benefit is that, as a Spanish citizen, you would not be impacted by any law or policy changes focusing on ex pats once the Brexit process is complete.

The Impact of Brexit on Healthcare

The Impact of Brexit on Healthcare

Spain is a country famed for its Mediterranean good health, with life expectancy in the country higher than many other EU countries (including the UK) and more people reporting that they are in good health (two out of three Spanish people believe they are in good health, compared to three out of four British people). It also has one of the best healthcare systems in the world, and the hospital and healthcare facilities in the Costa del Sol are a blend of world class private and public facilities. There is already a huge number of multi-lingual medical professionals living and working in the region, and translators are available if needed in many of the local hospitals: this is unlikely to change as a result of Brexit.

What may well change is how you pay for your healthcare, or whether any access to free healthcare is available. As an EU member state, visitors from the UK to Spain are currently entitled to the same level of free healthcare as local citizens, thanks to reciprocal EU agreements. Using an EHIC card (which can be obtained for free from the British Government), access to public doctors visits, hospital stays and tests are all free. Prescriptions are charged for, depending on your income level, as is dentistry and eye care. The EHIC remains valid during the transition period until 31st December 2020. After this date, we still don’t know what will happen to reciprocal healthcare provisions between Spain and the UK.

The UK government has said it is "seeking agreements with countries on health care arrangements for UK nationals". And on a positive note, these reciprocal agreements already exist with countries such as Australia and New Zealand, allowing UK visitors to receive urgent treatment at either a reduced cost or for free. It is likely that a reciprocal agreement of some kind will be established with Spain, because tourism from the UK is such as significant part of their economy, but we can’t yet guess what that will look like.

What we do know is that if you require a visa to enter Spain and become a resident, then it is likely that you will need to have comprehensive health insurance cover as a term of this visa: this is the case for all visa types currently issued by the Spanish government. Therefore, if you are looking to live in Spain in the long term, we recommend that you factor the cost of health insurance premiums into your financial planning, rather than plan for the unknown of reciprocal agreements that don’t yet exist. Many families in Spain have health insurance policies as standard, and this will provide you with the best level of peace of mind to protect your health in the long term. Wondering how much this will cost you? As a ballpark figure,  in Europe an insurance company will charge €200-300 for an individual in his 50s, €500 per month for a young family of four,  or 800 per month for a retired couple. If you have a chronic condition, however, such as diabetes or high blood pressure, you can expect to pay considerably more.

Protecting Your Pension

Protecting Your Pension

When you are living overseas, regardless of whether you choose to live in Spain or not, the strength of both your savings and your pensions in the UK are closely linked to the strength of the pound. This is because, in the vast majority of cases,  you will receive your pension payments in pounds and then rely on currency conversion to spend them in Spain. The impact of Brexit on the strength of the pound cannot yet be established: we won’t know exactly how the markets will react to the split until it happens. But based on forecasting, it is good news for ex pats living in Spain: after initial fluctuations, experts believe that Brexit will actually have a negligible impact on the strength of the pound. This is because of the amount of time it has taken for the deal to take place, which has given the notoriously risk adverse market the time that it needed to stabalise.

So, what does this mean for retirees currently living in Spain, and how can they protect their pensions? In short, if you already live in Spain or plan to move to Spain before the transition period is complete on 31st December 2020 then you are unlikely to experience any negative changes to your current status quo. The withdrawal agreement clearly states that both current ex pats and ex pats moving to Spain during the transition period “won’t be disadvantaged in their access to pensions, benefits, and other forms of social security”. These ex pats, known by the British government as the “Protected cohort”, will also continue to receive the statutory annual increment on State Pensions that all UK pensioners receive, meaning that they will not be negatively financially penalised for choosing to move to Spain whilst the UK was part of the EU. What still remains unknown is whether the same protection will be offered to potential retirees outside of this protected cohort: anyone who chooses to move to Span after December 2020. Whilst we can hope that reciprocal agreements will be put in place, this is still one of the great unknowns of Brexit for expats right now, as it is still on the negotiating table and no agreement has been reached.

Moving With Your Pets

Moving With Your Pets

Britain is a nation of animal lovers, so it’s likely that if you’re thinking of moving to Spain then you’d like to bring your four-legged friend with you. Before Brexit this was possible under the EU pet passport scheme. In positive news for pet owners,  after the brexit transition period is complete, it is likely that you will still be able to bring your pets with you when you move. This is because the UK is a Rabies-free country, and so experts forecast that it is likely to be regarded as a ‘third country’ that is given the same access to the EU pet passport scheme as EU nations. This applies to dogs, cats and ferrets but is unlikely to apply to other animals.

The Great Unknown

The Great Unknown

Whilst we can all feel confident and relied that, if we are currently living and working in Spain, our residency seems to be assured after the end of the withdrawal period, it is important to note that so much of Brexit’s impact  still remains unknown. What steps Brits who want to move to Spain after 31 December 20 will have to take is still unclear, for example. It is highly likely that there will be a reciprocal agreement in place between Spain and the UK, but what form this will take has yet to be successfully negotiated.

What is important is that if you are a British citizen and you do live in Spain right now then you should apply for a long-term residence permit sooner rather than later. Securing this essential document can take a while and has never been a requirement of living in Spain before. But unless you  have one, it could be hard for you to re-enter Spain after you return to the United Kingdom for a visit. This will also enable you to secure your already established rights as a Spanish resident



Finding Your Spanish Home

Finding Your Spanish Home

Are you thinking of moving to Spain, either before or after the Brexit transition period is complete? Looking for the perfect house for your whole family to call home, or a retirement bolt hole? We’re ready to help turn your dream home into a reality. We have extensive experience helping UK movers to find their perfect Spanish home, and we want to help you too. Why not get in touch with our local team of property experts today.