Brexit sparks surge in Brits applying for Spanish citizenship

The number of British residents applying for Spanish nationality has multiplied by 431 percent since the referendum on Brexit in June last year.

Brexit sparks surge in Brits applying for Spanish citizenship
Photo: alfonsodetomas/Depositphotos

New figures released by the Cervantes Institute show the huge surge in the number of Brits seeking citizenship in their adopted homeland in order to ensure they will retain their rights as citizens of a European Union nation.

During the first three months of 2016, a mere 28 Britons applied for Spanish nationality, a figure that had more than quadrupled to 111 in the same period of 2017.

Since October 2015, those seeking Spanish citizenship must not only have lived in Spain for over ten years, but must pass a language test and a  “general knowledge quiz” of which they must answer 15 out of 25 multiple choice questions correctly.

READ MORE: Everything you need to know about getting Spanish citizenship

According to official figures 308,821 Britons are registered as permanent residents in Spain with a further 110,373 owning property that they use as occasional residences, although the true number of those Brits living in Spain is thought to be much higher.

Although the threat of uncertainty once Brexit occurs is held responsible for the surge in those applying for Spanish nationality, many are put off by the fact that Spain will not allow dual nationality and asks its new citizens to renounce their British nationality.

But a petition by British journalists Giles Tremlett and William Chislett is calling for the Spanish government to legislate to change that. The petition has already garnered close to 20,000 signatures.

The official figures back up anecdotal evidence that more and more Brits are considering adopting Spanish nationality.

Language academies on the Costas have started up courses designed to coach British expats through the citizenship tests.


Brits in Europe won right to vote for life in UK but questions remain

After years of campaigns and promises British citizens living abroad finally won the lifelong right to vote in UK general elections in April 2022. But campaigners say more needs to be done to allow all those Britons abroad to be able cast their votes easily.

Brits in Europe won right to vote for life in UK but questions remain

What’s in the law?

The Elections Act 2022 introduced several changes to the current legislation on electoral participation. Among these, it removed the rule by which British citizens lose their voting rights in the UK if they have lived abroad for more than 15 years

The new rules also abolished the requirement to have been previously registered in the UK electoral roll to become an overseas voter. In addition, the registration in the electoral roll will now last up to three years instead of only one year.

It is estimated that these changes could increase the number of overseas voter registrations by some 3 million. But the way new measures will be applied in practice is still to be defined.

READ ALSO: ‘Mixed feelings’ – British citizens in Europe finally get right to vote for life

Defining the practicalities

Under the new law, Britons living abroad will have to register to vote in the last place they were registered in the UK. This means that people who have never lived in the UK will be ineligible to vote, regardless of how long they have been overseas, while those who left when they were children will be able to use a parent or guardian’s address.

But given that the UK does not require residents to register with local councils, how to prove previous UK residence? “Typical documents accepted as a proof of residence are Council tax or utilities bills, but not everyone will have them or will have kept them in an international move,” says Fiona Godfrey, co-founder of the British in Europe coalition.

Ballot papers are pictured in stacks in a count centre as part of the 2019 UK general election. (Photo by ANDY BUCHANAN / AFP)

Other questions concern how people will effectively cast their ballot. UK citizens overseas will be able to vote by post or by proxy or in person at their polling station if they are in the UK at the time of the election. However, few people are likely to travel to the UK for an election and in the past there have problems and delays with postal voting.

The Electoral Commission has recommended that overseas electors appoint a proxy to vote on their behalf. But who could that be for people who have been away from their constituency for a long time?

New secondary legislation will have to answer these questions, defining how to be included in the electoral roll and how to exercise the voting right in practice.

According to British in Europe, the government should present draft legislation in the first half of the year so that the parliament can adopt it before summer and registrations of overseas voters can start in the autumn.

British in Europe survey

British in Europe are currently running a survey to understand the difficulties UK citizens abroad may face in the registration and voting process, as well as their intention to participate in elections.

The survey asks for instance which documents people can access to prove their previous residence in the UK, what problems they had voting in the past, and if and how they plan to vote in the future.

“We need to get an up-to-date picture of British citizens living around the world and have information to make recommendations to the government, as it prepares secondary legislation,” Godfrey said. “If millions of people will exercise their voting rights, there will be consequences for council registration offices, post office and authorities that will manage the process, among other things” she argued.

The right to vote concerns only UK parliamentary elections and national referendums, not elections in the devolved administrations of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, or at local level.

The survey is open to UK citizens living anywhere in the world and is available at this link.