This is what the Spanish are promising Brits if there is a no-deal Brexit

What will happen to Britons in Spain if the UK crashes out of Europe without a withdrawal agreement? Will their residence status change to ‘third-country nationals’ overnight on March 29th? And will they be able to stay and work?

This is what the Spanish are promising Brits if there is a no-deal Brexit
Photo: InkDropCreative/Depositphotos

These questions have been on the mind of many of the more than 300,000 Brits resident in Spain and have come up repeatedly at the Q&A sessions held by British Embassy and Consulate officials at sessions across Spain.

The British Ambassador, Simon Manley, and his team have sought to reassure British residents that as long as they have officially registered and are here legally when Brexit happens, then the Spanish have said they will do everything possible to protect the existing rights of British residents living in Spain.

READ MORE: The ultimate No-Deal Brexit checklist for Brits in Spain

At a meeting in Madrid last week, Manley assured a packed out room at the Bellas Artes building that the Spanish government were preparing a new law (decreto ley) outlining contingency plans for British residents in the wake of a No-Deal Brexit and that it should be in place before parliament is dissolved on March 5th ahead of the general election.

While insisting that it was entirely up to Spain to decide how to treat British nationals in future, the British Ambassador said that the intent to make it easy for Brits to stay had been expressed at all levels of bilateral meetings.

We won’t know for sure what the measures will be until the decreto ley is officially published, but members of EuroCitizens, a Madrid-based lobby group fighting for citizens’ rights post Brexit, got a heads up during a meeting with civil servants from the Foreign Ministry, Interior Ministry and President’s office earlier this month.

Of course, everything approved in the decreto ley will be on the condition of reciprocity with the UK and the guarantee of the same treatment of Spanish citizens resident in Britain.

These are the key points to be included in the new law:

Registering as a third-county national

In the event of a hard Brexit, UK residents will have to register in Spain as third-country nationals.

  • A generous “grace period” for registration:

Spain guarantees that there a “sufficient”  transition period will be given (although this is undefined as yet and will depend on the effective date on which the UK leaves the EU).

  • Automatic registration as a third-country national:

From March 30th your existing EU documents (Your registration certificate or residence card as a family member of EU citizen) will continue to be valid until the end of the grace period – even though you are no longer officially an EU citizen.

During the as yet undefined “grace period” Brits will have to apply for a new third-country ID, a Tarjeta de Identificación de Extranjeros (TIE).

But the Spanish authorities promise that the procedure for granting this new status will be “practically automatic” for British citizens who are legally resident in Spain.

  • Extra resources:

Members of EuroCitizens were assured that extra resources would be allotted to immigration staff at oficinas de extranjería and comisariasin those provinces with large British populations.

Provisions for non-registered Brits resident in Spain before Brexit

If you and all your family members are not yet registered, for example, if you have recently arrived in Spain, then you should immediately apply at a foreigner’s office (oficina de extranjería) or police station (comisaría) for an EU citizen's resident document – your application will be considered under the same conditions as current legal UK residents.

If you have been unable to formally submit your application or have not been given an appointment before the withdrawal date – as in if the earliest cita previa (appointment) is not until after March 29th, there will be a specific process for applying for the new third-country ID during the period of grace, as long as you can prove that you were residing in Spain before the Brexit deadline.

However, the requirements stipulated by the new law, (that enables no-deal Brexit measures in Spain), will be similar to those for an EU citizen. Your application will be processed through a specific process which will be less demanding than the general residence process for all other third-country nationals.

Britons arriving in Spain after Brexit day

Applications for people arriving after March 29th will be processed in the same way as those for all other third-country nationals, with the corresponding requirements which are considerably more demanding than those for EU citizens, especially for non-working people.

It is also important to point out that, if the UK leaves the EU with no agreement, British citizens who are not registered as residents will, like all other third-country nationals, only be allowed to spend 90 days in any one six-month period and that their exit and entry will be controlled at ports and airports to enforce this.

New documentation

Your new ID card (TIE) will be biometric and will be valid throughout Spain and for travel within the EU-27 along with a passport. The document will accredit your status as legally-resident third-country nationals (under the régimen general de extranjeros as opposed to our current situation under the régimen de ciudadanos de la UE). If you have more than five years of legal residence, you will be able to get long-term residence (residencia de larga duración). If you have less than five years legal residence, you will be able to apply, under the same conditions, for long-term residence after Brexit once you have completed five years residence.

Working in Spain after Brexit

If you are employed (por cuenta ajena) or self-employed (por cuenta propia), you will be able to continue working as now. If you have exercised a profession using UK qualifications before March 29th, you will be able to continue to do so. If you are a Spanish civil servant (funcionario) with British nationality, you will be able to continue your employment even though you are no longer an EU citizen.

Social security coordination

On March 30th, automatic coordination of social security between the UK and the EU will come to an end. Thus there will have to be a new bilateral agreement covering this area between Spain and the UK or between de the EU and the UK. This would enable existing social security rights and aggregated pensions to be recognised for Spaniards in the UK and Britons in Spain.


The existing S1 scheme and EHIC card will also stop automatically in the event of a hard Brexit. A new agreement between Spain and the UK will have to be reached which reflects the true costs of the healthcare for the roughly 77,000 British UK pensioners in Spain compared with the mere hundreds of Spanish pensioners in Britain (to maintain access to public health for UK nationals as now).

The Eurocitizens group welcomed the provisions and said it should bring peace of mind to the many Brits worried about their future.

“One of the most difficult things to deal with for UK residents since the Brexit vote has been the lack of certainty about our futures. Now at least we know that, despite a Brexit cliff-edge, in Spain there will be a lengthy transition period and potentially simple administrative procedures to enable us to bridge the sad transition from European citizens to third-country nationals,” Eurocitizens said in a statement.

“We would like to thank again the civil servants who met us on 6 February, worked with us on this document and indeed who have engaged fully with us since the triggering of Article 50 nearly two years ago”.


For updates from the EuroCitizens group follow their Facebook page and sign up to receive their newsletter,

Check in regularly to the FCO website Living in Spain HERE and their Facebook page HERE

Visit the Spanish government dedicated Brexit information page HERE


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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.