How hard is it now to become a legal resident in Spain?

1 In 10 EU Nationals "Considering Leaving The UK" This Summer

SINCE April 1, there has been mounting concern amongst Brits in Spain about getting deported.

Due to Brexit, Britons are no longer EU residents in Spain, and now the same rules apply to them which have always applied to non-EU citizens.

To make it simple, if you are already legal in Spain, you have nothing to worry about; if you were not legally registered as a resident of Spain, then things are a little more complicated. But read on…

If you already had the green EU residents’ card/certificate

As Raquel Perez, Director of Perez Legal Group tells us, British citizens in Spain who had the green card (EU residents’ certificate) and their relatives, will be able to apply for the new TIE residency card via a simplified procedure until June 30, 2021.

June Arch, a 92-year-old resident of Alhaurin el Grande, Malaga, since 1989, tells us just how simple it was to do, having applied before the end of last year: “My daughter and I got appointments online with the ‘Extranjeria’ department of the National Police. We could choose from several different police stations and decided to go to Benalmadena. We got the documents online and filled them in, as well as the document you need to take to the bank or cash point to pay the fees. Took it all down to the police station with a recent passport size photo and, in my daughter’s case, the Certificado de Empadronamiento (but only because her address had recently changed), our passports and green cards, and everything was done for us within minutes, fingerprinting and all. We were given a second appointment to go and pick up our new cards, told not to forget our passports and green cards when collecting them, and within a few weeks, we had the new TIE cards. It was as easy as that.”

Meanwhile, 45-year-old Abdelhakim el Kachifi, a Moroccan resident of Benalmadena since 2009, says that as a relative of a British citizen, the procedure was equally simple.

More than 360,000 British citizens and their relatives are already legally registered residents in Spain.

From July 1, Raquel Perez tells us, the process will be slightly more difficult, in accordance with what any other citizen from a non-EU country would expect. However, she maintains that the process will not be difficult, you just have to have all the documents required.

If you did not have the green EU residents’ card/certificate

Those who missed the application deadline to register for the first time, were unable to gather the required documents or had their applications rejected are advised by the UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) to apply for resident status and appeal rejections.

The Spanish authorities are working through a backlog of applications, but being aware of the delays caused by coronavirus, they are likely to be more flexible with late applications and confirm that those applying or appealing will continue to be treated as if they have full residence rights.

However, be aware that the requirements for income which will allow you to stay in Spain are a lot stricter than they were until the end of last year.

Visiting Spain

As a tourist, you can enter to Spain for a period of 90 days within 180 days. When crossing borders you will be requested at least NIE certificates, travel tickets (incoming and return), and with the current covid restrictions maybe justification of why you are travelling to Spain.

After 90 days, if you are stopped by the police, you are living here and you don’t have a residency card, the police can launch the procedure for deportation. This means that if you were already here on January 1 this year, the 90-day period is already up.

If you want to live in Spain

British citizens who are not currently in Spain and wish to move here must start a different process and can obtain the residency card even if they are not yet in Spain.

They will need to apply for a visa at the Spanish Consulate in England (London or Manchester), and this is a slightly more involved process but it’s not difficult to achieve.

Mixed views

Amidst all the concern, and reports of thousands of Brits having to leave Spain, the UK government has said that the rights of UK nationals to continue to live, work and study in Spain are protected by law.

Some former residents are claiming to feel unwanted and have gone so far as to promote a boycott on Spain and anything Spanish. Meanwhile, other Brits living in Spain have responded to them by saying that it is their own fault, as they have had months to legalise their situation. Many people seem to have been under the false impression that because they are British they couldn’t or wouldn’t be deported, but are now coming to understand that they do not have special status.

Other Brits who have always lived in Spain legally and paid their dues are glad to see Spain now cracking down on those who they consider to have been playing the system for years and living under the radar. But the question remains, will Spain have to back down on certain measures if they find many Brits who were essential to the economy are leaving, or will the new incoming residents, of a different age, increased income and who will now be obliged to pay taxes, turn the situation around?


The Euro Weekly News is running a campaign to help reunite Brits in Spain with their family and friends by capping the costs of PCR tests for travel.

Please help us urge the government to cap costs by clicking here

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Written by

Jennifer Leighfield

Jennifer Leighfield, born in Salisbury, UK; resident in Malaga, Spain since 1989. Degree in Translation and Interpreting in Spanish, French and English from Malaga University (2005), specialising in Crime, Forensic Medicine and Genetics. Published translations include three books by Richard Handscombe. Worked with Euro Weekly News since November 2006. Well-travelled throughout Spain and the rest of the world, fan of Harry Potter and most things ‘geek’.

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