How to become resident in Spain after Brexit

With Brexit looming, we regularly receive enquiries about whether it will be possible for UK citizens to live in Spain after the UK leaves the EU. The official date for when the UK will exit the EU (Brexit cut-off date) is currently set for the 29 March 2019.

We have therefore put together some information with the aim of answering some of these questions such as Will I be able to live in Spain after Brexit? How to apply for Spanish residency after Brexit? What is the difference between Spanish Residency and Citizenship? Should I buy property in Spain before or after Brexit?

Will I be able to live in Spain after Brexit?

As the UK is (for now) still a member of the EU, Brits still have an automatic right to reside in Spain.

During the first phase of the Brexit negotiations at the end of 2017, the UK government and the other 27 EU countries made a joint statement confirming that UK citizens ‘lawfully residing’ in another EU country before the Brexit cut off date will be allowed to continue to live, work or study there after Brexit.

So, in accordance with this agreement, as long as you are legally resident in Spain at the Brexit cut off date, you will retain the right to stay in Spain and will have the same rights and benefits as before Brexit.

So how can you become ‘legally resident’ in Spain before Brexit?

As the UK is still a member of the EU if you move to Spain before the Brexit cut-off date you will be legally resident in Spain as long as you have registered your residency in Spain. To register your residency in Spain here’s what you have to do:

If you intend to live in Spain for more than 90 days you should register as a Spanish resident at the local Spanish police station (Comisaria de Policia or Oficina de Extranjeria) so that your status as a Spanish resident is formally recorded on the central register of foreigners (Registro Central de Extranjeros).

As all Spanish residents are required to be on the Spanish electoral roll (padron municipal) you should also ensure that you are registered on this at your local town call.

These registrations can help you to show that you are a legally resident in Spain before Brexit and are entitled to continue to live in Spain as per the agreement made in December 2017 between the UK and the other EU countries. Once the five years is up you can apply for permanent residence as (at that point) a non-EU citizen.

Permanent residence in Spain is available after you have lawfully lived in Spain for five continuous years. Spanish Citizenship can then be obtained (if you want) after 10 years.

Therefore, for anyone who is thinking of moving to Spain and is in a position to move to Spain now, it may be wise to act fast to take advantage of the opportunity to maintain the current, pre-Brexit rights.

For those who are not in a position to become resident in Spain before the Brexit cut off in March 2019 but intend to buy a property with the view to gaining residency later on, read on for more information.

Can I become a Spanish resident if I move to Spain after Brexit?

Plenty of citizens from non-EU countries such as America, Switzerland and Australia reside in Spain without too much difficulty as Spanish immigration law allows people from countries outside of the EU to apply for permission to live in Spain.

However, undoubtedly the time, cost and process for acquiring Spanish residency will be less straightforward for UK citizens after Brexit than it is currently i.e. before Brexit.

It is likely that after Brexit, the position for Brits will be the same as for other non-EU citizens (or potentially easier depending on how the negotiations go!)

Assuming that Brits will have to follow the same rules as people from other non-EU countries, here’s how to apply for residency in Spain as a member of a non-EU country:

Non-EU citizens are able to enter Spain and are entitled to stay in Spain for up to 90 days in a 180 day (6 month) period. Whilst citizens of some countries require a travel visa for this, it is unlikely that this will be required for UK citizens after Brexit- for example nationals from the US, Australia, Canada and New Zealand don’t currently require a visa to enter Spain for up to 90 days. Even if there was a requirement for UK citizens to have a visa to enter Spain, it is unlikely to be a difficult process.

If you wish to stay in Spain for longer than 90 days, you will need to register as a Spanish resident at the local Spanish police station (Comisaria de Policia or Oficina de Extranjeria).

In order to be allowed to stay in Spain for more than 90 days (3 months) at a time non-EU citizens need to apply for a long-term visa. The type of long-term visa that will be suitable for you will depend on whether you wish to work, study, retire etc. in Spain. For more information about the different types of visa see Guide to Spanish Visa’s and permits.

The permit will usually be issued for one year and renewed each year up to five years, at which point non-EU citizens who have lived lawfully in Spain for five years can apply for permanent residency in Spain. They can then apply for Spanish citizenship after 10 years (if they want to).

What is the difference between Spanish residency and Spanish citizenship?

The key difference between Spanish residency and Spanish citizenship is that as a Spanish resident you have the right to live in Spain but retain your nationality and passport from the country you were born in or are currently a citizen of. As a Spanish resident you’ll benefit from many of the same rights as Spanish citizens providing you meet certain criteria.

If you decide to become a Spanish citizen you give up your original nationality and passport (unless you qualify for an exemption) and take on all the rights of any Spanish citizen, including the benefit of being an EU citizen, which allows freedom of movement within the EU.

Both options allow you to live in Spain on either permanent or ‘part-time’ basis but you must have obtained permanent residency before you can apply for citizenship.

The terms of Brexit are still unclear and it may well be that some special terms are negotiated for Brits who wish to live in Spain that may make the situation easier than for other non-EU nationals (as is the case for Switzerland for example).

Even if this is not the case, whatever Brexit terms the UK government manages to negotiate, it will still be possible to for Brits to own property and live in Spain. It’s just that you will have to follow a different set of rules for obtaining residency in Spain i.e. as a non-EU citizen.  So don’t panic- your Spanish property dream is still very much alive and kicking!!

For more information about buying a property in Spain or for assistance from one of our recommended English-speaking lawyers in Spain, Spanish estate agents, currency exchange experts or Spanish mortgage advisors give us a call on 01244 478 911 or email info@totalbuyingabroad.com. You can also download our Buying in Spain Guide

Disclaimer: The immigration rules for UK citizens in Spain who wish to move to Spain after 29 March 2019 are not yet confirmed.  The information provided in this article is provided in good faith and to the best of knowledge at the date of publication. This is not a substitute for proper legal advice given by a suitable qualified professional.

Article published: July 25, 2018