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BREXIT

The ultimate No-Deal Brexit checklist for Brits in Spain

We don't yet know what will happen when the October 31st Brexit deadline arrives. But whatever the scenario, it's best to be prepared.

The ultimate No-Deal Brexit checklist for Brits in Spain
Photo: zerbor/Depositphotos

Maybe Prime Minister Boris Johnson will succeed in negotiating a new withdrawal agreement maintaining European citizens rights. Maybe Britain will crash out of the EU and chaos will ensue. Maybe, Brexit will be cancelled all together. 

The good news is that Spain is prepared for a No Deal scenario and has made contingency plans to outline the rights of Britons resident in Spain.

READ MORE: Healthcare in Spain after Brexit: What you need to know

These were brought into law in a Royal Decree in March and guarantee that Brits legally here on Brexit date will be offered new permanent residency papers.

Just make sure you have all the paperwork you need and are prepared for whatever comes next.

Here's our 12-point check list with the help of British in Europe, which campaigns for the rights of British citizens in the EU.

1.  Make sure that you’re legally resident in your host country.

This is the ONE thing that all Brits living in Spain should make sure they do and has been repeated incessantly by British Embassy and consular staff in the run up to Brexit.

This will provide evidence the date of your arrival in your host country and provides proof that you were legally resident on October 31st 2019, when Britain exits the EU.

This will streamline the process when it comes to applying for whatever residency arrangement is decided after Brexit, whether there is a Withdrawal Agreement or dreaded No Deal.

READ MORE: This is the ONE thing Brits in Spain need to do ahead of Brexit


I
f you don't have either the A4 green piece of paper or the credit card sized certificate then you may not be officially registered.

2. Register with Hacienda

Make sure that you’ve submitted income and other tax returns if you’ve been there long enough to do so (even if all your income comes from the UK).

3. Check your healthcare


Photo: everythingposs/Depositphotos

Make sure that you are registered with Spanish social security and that you have a health card. Your rights may change if there is a no-deal Brexit and the Spanish and UK authorities have vowed to strike a reciprocal agreement so will easier to prove that you were entitled to it if you are already in the system.

If you have health insurance, keep it updated and see if you can guarantee your current rate will be maintained for at least the next year. Premiums might well go up for Brits after Brexit.

READ ALSO: British Embassy ‘reassures’ Brits in Spain over healthcare post-Brexit

4. Exchange your British driving licence for a Spanish one

If you’re still using a UK driving licence, apply to change it for a Spanish one as soon as possible because on October 31st 2019 the EU rules under which UK licences are recognised in the EU27 will lapse if there is no deal. 

In the worst case scenario, you could be required to sit a Spanish driving test.

READ MORE Exchanging your British driving licence for a Spanish one: What you need to know

5. Check your passport


Photo: Bellphotography423/Depositphotos

You’ll need to comply with different rules to enter and travel around the Schengen area post Brexit although we don’t yet know what they might be.

There are two important issues that may affect your right to travel or to live here legally after exit, so it’s really important to start thinking about this now.

  • Firstly, Schengen Border Code rules mean that existing passports which were renewed early and therefore have over 10 years validity will no longer be valid until the expiry date written on the passport, but will be limited to the 10 years immediately after their issue date. For example, if your passport was renewed (under the old rules) 6 months before its expiry date, it would show a valid period of 10 years and 6 months. After 29 March 2019, you will effectively ‘lose’ the last 6 months validity, as third country nationals’ passports must have been issued within the last 10 years. 
  • Secondly, your passport must have at least 6 months’ validity on arrival, after discounting the period above. More details HERE
  • Note: There have been reports that validity may affect you even if you don’t travel – with some speculation that to remain a legal resident in your host country you may need to make sure that the issue date on your passport is later than October 31 2009. The British Embassy in Madrid said they were not aware of this issue.

We don’t yet know what rights, if any, we will have to cross the border to or from any EU27 country if there is No Deal, but dealing with these two issues now is a sensible precaution.

6. Get the paperwork ready

Make a dossier as if you’re applying for a proof of residence or permanent residence document.

The following is advice from British in Europe:

  • Collate all your income, property and other tax returns and notifications since your arrival. You may need them to prove the length of your residence.
  • Put together a file of utility bills for at least 10 years if you can. This will prove your continued residence.
  • If your name is not on the income and property tax bills for your household or on any utility bills, get it added now. For anyone who has changed their name through marriage or otherwise: make sure that the name on bills, bank statements, pension statements, payslips etc. matches the name on your passport if possible.
  • Put together a file of bank statements, wage slips (if employed) or income and other tax declarations (if self-employed), proof of health cover and pension payments and/or pension statements for the last 5 years if you’ve lived in your host country that long. Longer is even better – 10 years is best. You may need these to prove the stability, sufficiency and regularity of your resources.

7. Prepare financially


Photo: JoaquinCorbilan/Depositphotos

The following is particularly relevant to those who derive their income or have savings in the UK in sterling, says British in Europe.

  • If you have bank accounts, savings or investments in the UK, consider moving them to your host country now. Sterling may drop suddenly in the case of a no-deal exit; there may also be temporary problems moving money in and out of the EU. If most of your savings and income are in the UK, try and make sure you have access to enough cash in euros to see you through two or three months, especially if your income is transferred monthly.
  • If you have a personal pension in the UK (this doesn’t apply to state or public service/occupational pensions) and have not yet retired, think about getting advice about how to deal with this and cashing it in if you’re old enough, or moving it. There may be issues with the rights of UK insurers/financial services providers to operate in the EU without having a formal presence there after Brexit and these could cause problems e.g. with insurers making payments to those living outside the UK. 
  • BASICALLY: Ask your insurer/private pension company in the UK what plans they have put in place for post-Brexit scenarios and whether you need to do anything to prepare. 

8.. Put in place contingency plans to secure your income and minimise your expenses.

Photo: andreypopov/Depositphotos

The following advice is from British in Europe:

  • This applies particularly if the bulk of your income is in sterling, which may take a serious hit after a no-deal exit. Create a personal financial contingency plan. Look at ways you can cut your spending temporarily, and how you could create additional income, particularly in euros. Get any potentially expensive dental, optical and hearing work done now, in case you have to reduce the cover on your private health insurance (if you have one)!
  • If you have a business that relies on attracting people from the UK, think about changing your client base. If there is a no-deal Brexit, people may not want to travel to the EU next year and you’ll need to find new clients in the EU 27 if you’re to survive financially. Make sure you have a website in the language of your host country, if you haven’t already, and that you begin to advertise NOW to attract EU27 customers.
  • If you have a business that relies solely or partly on UK customers/clients, put contingency plans in place now to deal with potential issues with VAT, excise, billing, professional insurance cover, etc.

9. Prepare for applying for long-term residence and think about citizenship.

If you have lived here for more than five years you can apply for permanent residency and if you have been a resident for ten years, you are eligible for citizenship, although you have to pass a language and citizenship test.

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

10. Top up your medication before October 31st 2019.


Photo: ginasanders/Depositphotos

If you currently rely on an S1 form for access to the local health service and you need regular medication, think about making sure you have a good supply of it on October 31st 2019 – if the worst happens and the reciprocal health care system stops on that date it might take several weeks to get an alternative system up and running and there may be short term chaos. Making sure that you have the permitted 3 months of long-term medication would mean that you’d avoid having to pay full whack for your meds while the situation was resolved.

11. Get your professional qualifications recognised now.


Photo: alphababy/Depositphotos

The European Commission has said that, whatever the outcome of the negotiations, Brexit does not affect decisions made pre-Brexit by EU27 countries recognising UK qualifications under the general EU directive on the recognition of professional qualifications (Directive 2005/36/EC).  For details of which qualifications are covered see HERE

So if you have a UK qualification covered by that Directive and you need to be able to use it, apply to get it recognised before October 31st 2019.

12. Make sure that you’re in your host country on 31st October 2019.

This is probably not the best time to make a family visit to the UK! Transport could be chaotic, with no agreements on air or other travel between the UK and EU.

Ideally it would be best to be in your host country on those dates but if not possible, try to be somewhere in the Schengen zone: https://www.etiaseurope.eu/schengen-countries/.

13. Keep informed

Make regular check-ins to The Local Spain for updates about how Brexit might affect UK nationals. Become a member and sign up to our newsletter for updates straight to your inbox.

FCO website Living in Spain HERE and their Facebook page HERE

Spanish government dedicated Brexit information page HERE

Keep in touch via British in Europe via their website.

READ ALSO: 

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For members

RESIDENCY PERMITS

Spain vs Portugal: Which Golden Visa is better for you?

Iberian neighbours Spain and Portugal both offer the highly sought-after 'golden visa' for non-EU nationals who want to move to Europe. But what are the differences between them and which one is best suited to you?

Spain vs Portugal: Which Golden Visa is better for you?

Getting a visa or residency in a European country can feel near impossible if you’re a third-party national.

The EU’s ‘golden visa’ – sometimes known as as an investor visa – gives non-EU citizens the right to live in Europe, enjoy borderless travel within the Schengen zone, and even begin the process to gaining European citizenship if they meet several criteria.

This special visa is of particular interest to Britons searching for a way to move to the EU in the aftermath of Brexit, and has also proven popular with Americans, Russians, Chinese and Indian citizens who can afford it.

READ MORE: What foreigners should be aware of before applying for Spain’s Golden Visa 

What is a ‘Golden Visa?’

The golden visa is an EU immigration programme that awards residence permits in foreign countries in return for investment. It varies between countries (not all EU nations offer it), but often it involves purchasing a property of a certain value, creating a company or job opportunities, or in some instances contributing to a national development fund or investing in stocks and shares.

Two of the most popular European countries for golden visas (and for tourists and retirees in general) are Spain and Portugal. 

Since the scheme was launched back in 2013, the number of third country nationals applying has risen every year. In 2019, Spain issued this visa to a record 8,000 non-EU nationals.

Both countries are famed for their temperate climate, beaches, culture and relaxed lifestyle, but which of the golden visas is better: Spain’s or Portugal’s?

See below for the minimum investment needed; the type of investments you can make; how long it takes to get citizenship; whether the golden visa gives you free travel around the Schengen area; how long the application takes; the rules on residency, and how long you must spend in the country; and whether family members are included.

The facts

  Spain Portugal
Minimum investment required €500,000 €250,000
Type of investment Property over €500,000; €1 million in a Spanish company; €1 million in a Spanish bank account; at least €2 million in Spanish public debt securities. Property over €500,000 or urban renovation of €350,000; business startup creating at least 10 jobs; capital transfer of €1.5 million; research and development investment of €500,000; €250,000 contribution in the arts. 
Citizenship timeline 10 years 5 years
Schengen Travel? Yes Yes
Application time 20 business days processing once documentation is received; 2/3 months in total. 3-6 months
Residency rules Must visit Spain once a year. 1 week for the first year; 14 days every 2 years after.
Family included? Partner, dependents and children (under 18). Partner, dependents, children, parents of the main applicant if over the age of 65 years old (under 18 or dependent and unmarried children who are under 26 and in full-time education).

Changes to Portuguese Golden Visa

New visa rules came into effect in Portugal from January 1st 2022. These have mainly increased some of the minimum investment thresholds (but not the arts investment, which at €250,000 remains the cheapest route to a golden visa for either Portugal or Spain) and have changed some of the geographic requirements for property investment.

Keen to stimulate investment in the less touristy parts of Portugal, buying a residential property in big urban centres such as Lisbon or Porto or in the popular coastal regions such as the Algarve are no longer sufficient to qualify for a golden visa.

As of 2022, property investments must be in Madeira, Azores, or Portuguese inland regions and rural or low-density areas. In such areas, a 20 percent discount on the investment is offered.

You can find the full geographical breakdown of investment areas here, although be warned the text is in Portuguese. 

In Spain you can buy several properties which add up to €500,000

One option for the visa is to buy a property for €500,000 or more, but you are not required to spend it all on one property. You will still be eligible for the visa if you buy multiple properties, as long as the total amount adds up to more than €500,000.

The extra costs

Besides parting ways with half a million Euros to get a visa, both Spain and Portugal require some hefty application fees for the scheme.

Fee Spain Portugal
Application €70 per applicant €80 per applicant
Approval €5,000 per applicant €5,857 per applicant
Renewals €3,000 per visa holder €3,195 per visa holder
     

Tax benefits

One advantage of the Portuguese Golden Visa scheme is its tax rules.

Portugal’s Golden Visa program offers the ultimate tax advantage. Golden Visa holders are eligible for Portugal’s NHR Tax Scheme, a system that grants tax-exemptions for up to ten years.

Exemptions include income obtained from pensions, capital, income from property and capital gains, intellectual property and industrial property. The property tax transfer system means that Golden Visa holders pay the same rates as local residents.

In Spain, all foreign residents are taxed on their ‘worldwide income’ if they are in Spain for more than 183 days a year. For non-residents, tax is charged at 24.75 percent on income earned in Spain.

Getting the golden visa, however, doesn’t mean you have to reside in Spain or spend a certain amount of time here in order to renew it. This means that you don’t have become a tax resident. The only requirement is to visit once a year to renew your permit.

READ MORE: Property in Spain: Is now a good time to buy a home? 

The golden visa is retroactive in Spain

This means that if you already bought a property in Spain worth over €500,000 after 2014, but didn’t apply for a golden visa at the time, it’s still possible to do it now.

The property can be sold once you have obtained permanent residency in Spain. Once you have lived in Spain for more than five years and have obtained permanent residency, you are able to sell the property without forfeiting your right to reside in Spain.

You cannot, however, use a mortgage loan or financing for your investments. This cannot be done through a mortgage company or a loan, and must be from your own pocket.

Conclusion

Portugal and Spain’s golden visa schemes offer fantastic opportunities to relocate to an EU member state.

Both offer you the chance to enjoy borderless travel in EU member states, but they both also require you to have a significant amount of money saved up in order to invest it in property, renovation, shares, capital transfers, or debit securities.

If you’re concerned about taxes, perhaps the benefits of the Portuguese visa might entice you. It is worth remembering, though, that the recent changes to the Portuguese system now mean there are geographical limits on property investments meaning you can’t buy in popular areas. 

If you’re overly concerned about location, the Spanish golden visa gives you more freedom to choose where you live.

The sums for property investment are broadly similar, sitting at €500,000 in both countries, although in Portugal there are discounts for taking on renovation projects and purchasing property in sparsely populated areas which could reduce the amount of your investment quite significantly.

In Spain, the property threshold, regardless of where it is or what type of property it is, is a flat €500,000.

Both golden visas have very little in terms of residency requirements, although in Portugal the time to gaining citizenship is just 5 years, half of Spain’s 10-year wait. With the golden visa, in Spain you can obtain permanent residency after five years.

If you’re still undecided, the article below may help you pick between Portugal and Spain.

READ MORE: Portugal vs Spain – Which country is better to move to?

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