By Chris King •
Updated: 16 Nov 2023 • 12:29
Image of Mark and Alex.
A British man found himself in a complicated situation when he wanted to live in Spain with his girlfriend and realised that it was not that easy.
However, the first-hand knowledge gained by 34-year-old Mark Rofe as he navigated the post-Brexit immigration minefield ultimately led to his setting up a website that now helps other Brits who want to move abroad.
‘I don’t think a lot of people realise just how difficult it is since Brexit to move and live in another EU country. The 90 in 180 day rule means that non-EU nationals, which obviously includes Brits, can only stay in the Schengen Area for a maximum of 90 days within any 180-day period’, said Mark, who is originally from Surrey.
His 34-year-old Polish girlfriend Alex Limanowka was living in the Catalan city of Barcelona, but as he explained: ‘This essentially meant that I could only see Alex for half the year, and who wants to only see their partner for half the year? So we knew we had to come up with a solution’.
Anybody found guilty of overstaying the 90-day limit can find themselves banned from all Schengen Area countries for up to three years. They could also be fined.
Continuing his story, Mark said: ‘As a temporary solution, I did some research and found out that Andorra, which was just a three-hour bus journey from Barcelona, was not in the EU. So, I would head there whenever I was close to using up my allowable days in the EU, and this meant I was still close enough for Alex to come visit me’.
‘Looking at long term solutions, I considered a few options to obtain a visa, I looked at becoming a student, I looked at Spain’s Golden Visa, which would grant me residency if I purchased a property for €500,000 or more without a mortgage, I even looked at a type of retirement visa, but this meant I wouldn’t be able to work’, he detailed.
Mark added: ‘None of these were suitable, it was impossible, so we ended up doing the ‘pareja de hecho’, a type of civil partnership, which is similar to a marriage, just without the formal ceremony. It wasn’t exactly something quick or cheap to do either, it cost thousands in legal fees and it took more than six months for me to get my residency’.
His relationship therapist partner took over: ‘For a while, things were uncertain, which put a strain on our relationship. Thankfully for us though, we managed to find a way to make it work’.
‘Putting our situation aside, it does make me think how many other hundreds or thousands of other couples may have found themselves in a similar situation because of Brexit. It seems a bit sad that for Brits, even love has more boundaries than it did before’, she lamented.
Earlier this year, Spain introduced the digital nomad visa, which offers an opportunity for those who are able to work remotely, to live and work in Spain.
With that in mind, Mark launched VisasForBrits.com which helps British nationals to obtain this visa, and move to Spain.
‘Having been through the visa process myself, I have first hand experience of just how complicated and expensive it can be. I’ve created VisasForBrits.com because I wanted to make it easier, more accessible, and affordable for Brits to come and work and live in Spain’, he explained.
‘It can get a little bit complicated depending on your personal employment situation, but essentially if you earn over £27,000 a year and are able to work remotely, there’s a good chance you’ll be able to apply for Spain’s nomad visa’, Mark pointed out.
He concluded: ‘It’s still nowhere near as easy as it would have been before Brexit, but it’s at least an option for those who may fit the criteria’.
A glimmer of hope is on the horizon for Brits who own second homes in France after a requested amendment to the 90-day rule was recently approved by the country’s senate.
Although it still has to go for a vote before France’s National Assembly later this year, it has at least started the ball rolling and could ultimately lead to other countries following suit should the law be changed.
Have any of our readers experienced similar problems when trying to move abroad? We would love to hear from you in the comments section, thank you.
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Originally from Wales, Chris spent years on the Costa del Sol before moving to the Algarve where he is a web reporter for The Euro Weekly News covering international and Spanish national news.
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“the ‘pareja de hecho’, a type of civil partnership” – “it cost thousands in legal fees”
Why not just get married? Surely, so much easier and quicker.
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