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Last chance! Expat Brits urged to register for EU vote

Tens of thousands of British expats risk disenfranchisement if they fail to register to vote by the deadline on Monday May 16th.

Last chance! Expat Brits urged to register for EU vote
Photo: D Smith/Flickr

Although more than 1,000 expats per day in Spain alone have been going online in a bid to register to vote in the upcoming EU referendum, lobby groups believe tens of thousands could miss out on the chance to have their say.

“The registration for overseas UK nationals has been a bit of cock up to say the least,” warned Laura Sandys, chair of European Movement, a lobby group campaigning to keep Britain within the European Union.

She said a lack of clarity had left many expat voters confused about the final deadline and said the European Movement was “seeking urgent clarification from the Electoral Commission”.

“We have a major problem when it comes to the end date for registration which is now May 16th, except it’s not the 16th of May because the deadline has now been extended,” she told The Local.

“I’m extremely concerned as to whether the local authorities have the resources to all the research that is required to ensure that when people do send in their forms that they are turned around quickly and I feel very strongly that we need to ensure that British government absolutely gives the right resources to make this happen,” she said.

“Ultimately it’s down to those people living across Europe to get onto the government website and register to vote, get active and get your name in there before the 16th because that is the absolute guaranteed copper bottom cut off,” she urged.

“EU membership has helped some two million British citizens to live and work in other EU countries – something that used to be reserved for the few,” Sandys explained.

“Their basic rights to reside in any EU country, to work, or to access education and health care are guaranteed under EU law. All this is under threat from a Brexit.”

Only British expats that have been registered on the UK electoral roll within the last 15 years are entitled to vote and must meet the May 16th deadline to register for a postal vote in the EU Referendum.

READ: Ten-point guide on how to register to vote in EU referendum

However, those that miss the deadline can still register for a proxy vote by choosing someone in the UK to vote on their behalf.

“If you register to vote by May 16th it should be easier to vote by post, as postal votes for the referendum will be sent out earlier than usual, giving you more time to receive, complete, and return your ballot pack to the UK,” explained Alex Robertson, Director of Communications at the Electoral Commission.

“If you wish to vote by proxy, bear in mind that the person you choose to vote on your behalf must be registered and eligible to vote at the referendum.

“The EU Referendum is going to be a significant event and we know lots of UK citizens will want to make their voices heard. Please spread the word. You can go to www.aboutmyvote.co.uk for more information.”

Simon Manley, the British Ambassador in Madrid urged expats in Spain not to miss their chance. 


British Ambassador Simon Manley. Photo: FCO

“Ultimately, it is for the British people to decide whether we should remain in or leave the European Union, but, whatever they think on the issue, I would appeal to my fellow Brits in Spain not to miss the chance to have their say in this once-in-a-generation referendum.”

An estimated half of British expats in Spain who are eligible to vote in the UK still remain unaware that they can go online to register to vote, according to a survey by expat website AngloInfo, carried out for the Electoral Commission.

There are an estimated  five million UK citizens abroad, 2.3 million of them residing in the EU and with the race between the Brexit and the Remain camps currently neck and neck, the expat votes could sway the decision.

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BREXIT

Britons investigated for using fake documents to stay in Spain after Brexit

Spanish national police are investigating four British citizens who allegedly forged padrón documents in order to gain residency status in Spain after Brexit. One of them has been arrested in the Canary island of Tenerife.

Britons investigated for using fake documents to stay in Spain after Brexit

Spanish police investigators, through the Immigration Office of Santa Cruz de Tenerife, have discovered the possible existence of fraud in some post-Brexit residence applications.

After carrying out the necessary checks, they found that at least four residency application requests had been made using false documents which claimed their registration at their local town halls (padrón) were prior to Brexit coming into force.

British citizens wanting to apply for residency after Brexit and be protected under the Withdrawal Agreement (WA) have to prove they were living in Spain before the end of 2020 through documents such as their padrón certificate or private medical insurance. 

READ ALSO: 16 things you should know about Spain’s padrón town hall registration

The four British nationals in question are based in the southern part of the Canary Island of Tenerife and one of them, who was on the island at the time of investigation, has been arrested. The investigation is ongoing and new arrests haven’t been ruled out. 

This is not the first time that fake applications and falsified documents have been used by British citizens to try and gain Spanish residency after Brexit.

Having WA protected status makes the residency application simpler and grants more rights than for Brits applying after Brexit as non-EU nationals, as they don’t have to prove a large amount of savings and they can apply for jobs in the same way as EU nationals, among many other advantages.  

In November 2021, the UK Embassy warned UK Nationals against submitting fraudulent residency applications – either directly or through a third party.

“They are particularly on the alert for forged healthcare insurance, padrón certificates and lease contracts, as well as people falsely claiming student status,” the embassy wrote on their Facebook page.

There were also reports of fraudulent gestores (similar to lawyers) in Spain targeting non-EU citizens ‘to help’ with residence applications.

Since Brexit came into force in 2021, the main reasons why UK nationals’ residency applications have been rejected have come as a result of them not ‘regularising’ their situation in Spain, in other words registering at the town hall or immigration office, as well not being able to prove that they were living in the country before the end of 2020 when the UK left the EU.  

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