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Brexit: What to do if you haven’t got your Spain residency papers in order yet

Brits who failed to legally register in Spain before the original Brexit day of March 29th have reported difficulties getting their papers in order. Here’s what you need to know:

Brexit: What to do if you haven’t got your Spain residency papers in order yet
Photo: ruskpp/Depositphotos

In the months and weeks leading up to March 29th – the original Brexit date – we urged readers to make sure that they had registered properly with the Spanish authorities to ensure that they could legally stay in the country in the case of a no-deal Brexit.

Well that date has been and gone but we are still no closer to knowing whether or not the UK will ratify a withdrawal agreement or crash out of the European Union with a no-deal Brexit. Or when that might happen.

But there are reasons to be calm in Spain. Last month, in a move that was hugely welcomed by Brits living in Spain, the Spanish government signed a Royal Decree to set out contingency plans covering a No-Deal Brexit that would “assure the continued rights of those British living in Spain”.


The measures, which were formally announced on March 1st, included the guarantee that those Britons legally resident in Spain on March 29th would be offered new permanent residency papers

Yes, there will be some more bureaucracy to navigate as British residence in Spain will have to apply for a new foreigner identity card, sometime before December 31th 2020.

“The process will be nearly automatic,” for those who already have permanent residency, said the text.

In order to make sure that, whatever happens, Brits in Spain are in the best place to secure their rights, they need to ensure that they are indeed a legal resident.

British Embassy officials had emphasised that Brits living in Spain should ensure that they were properly registered before March 29th.

If you don't have either of the two documents above then you are NOT registered as a resident in Spain.

“Please make sure you are registered correctly and that means that you should have either an A4 size green piece of paper or a small credit card size piece of green paper,” explained Sarah-Jane Morris, the Consul General, at various outreach events held across Spain.

Spanish authorities estimated that more than 300,000 Brits are officially registered but suspect that there are tens of thousands more entitled to do so.

Registering is essential for anyone who has spent more than three months in Spain and involves making an appointment at your local foreigners office (Extranjeria) or if there isn't one then your local National Police station.

But because of the sudden rush to register before Brexit happened, appointments are scarce and some people have even been turned away and told it is no longer possible.

But don’t despair, the Spanish government guaranteed that those who have proof that they lived her before the UK leaves the EU will have their rights guaranteed.

Here’s what you need to do:

Securing a ‘cita previa' – private appointment – is notoriously difficult and can require dozens of attempts as they are only released a certain number of weeks in advance and there is currently quite a backlog.

You need to keep checking the online appointment system for new residency appointments on a weekly basis.

The British consulate in Malaga advises “to keep (print out) any documentation that you receive, even the rejection notification of no appointments available and keep these for proof that you have been trying to get an appointment, to start the residency application process just in case to show later on when you do eventually get an appointment.”

For the step by step guide in how to get residency READ MORE

Register on the padron:

If  you haven’t done this yet, you should. And it’s fairly straightforward although you will need a “cita previa” at the town hall.

This provides proof that you were living in Spain. The certificate itself is only valid for three months at a time. But once you are registered you do not need to re-register every 3 months but you do need to return to the town hall every three months to request another copy of the certificate (currently it is free of charge) – useful if going forward you need to prove how long you have been living here.  

All you need is proof that you live where you live –  a utility bill will do.

Don’t Panic!

The British Embassy have put this reassuring message on their website:

“We know many of you are worried that you haven’t got your residency certificate yet and are unable to get an appointment, but the message is: don’t panic! Even if the UK leaves the EU without a deal, the Spanish Government has given a 21-month grace period when you will be legally resident, whether you have your document or not.  

More information:

FCO website 'Living in Spain' HERE and their Facebook page HERE

Spanish government dedicated Brexit information page HERE

List of provincial Extranjerias – foreigner offices – HERE 

READ ALSO: How to exchanging your British driving licence for a Spanish one 






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Brexit: Brits in EU feel European and don’t want to return home

The majority of Britons who live in the EU, Norway, Iceland or Switzerland and are protected under the Brexit agreement feel European and intend to remain in Europe permanently, but many have concerns about travel problems, a new survey reveals.

Brexit: Brits in EU feel European and don't want to return home

The research also shows that problems exist and “travel is where most issues relating to the new status currently occur”. For instance, border officials are still stamping passports of UK citizens with residence rights under the EU UK withdrawal agreement, even though they shouldn’t.

“There is constant confusion around passport stamping. I was ‘stamped in’ to France on a short trip… but could not find anyway to be ‘stamped out’ again. I think I can only spend 90 days in other EU countries, but have no idea how anyone can check or enforce that – until someone decides to try. It’s a mess,” was one of the answers left in an open question.

“Every time I go through a Schengen border control, I need to provide both my passport and Aufenthaltstitel card [resident permit in Germany] and watch to check that they don’t stamp my passport. As I am currently travelling a lot that’s been 20-odd times this year…” another respondent said.

The survey was carried out by Professor Tanja Bueltmann, historian of migration and diaspora at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, between October and November 2022. About 1,139 UK citizens replied.

Of these, 80 per cent found acquiring their new status easy or very easy, 60.7 per cent feel their rights are secure, while 39.3 per cent have concerns about their status going forward.

Staying permanently

More than three quarters (76.6 per cent) of respondents said they plan to live permanently in the EU or the other countries of the European Economic Area and Switzerland. In fact, 65.7 per cent said that Brexit has increased the likelihood of this choice.

For some, the decision is linked to the difficulty to bring non-British family members to the UK under new, stricter immigration rules.

“My German wife and I decided we no longer wanted to live in UK post Brexit referendum. In particular, we were affected by the impact of immigration law […] We cannot now return to UK on retirement as I cannot sponsor her on my pension. We knew it was a one-way journey. Fortunately, I could revive an application for German citizenship,” was a testimony.

“My husband is a US citizen and getting him a visa for the UK was near impossible due to my low income as a freelance journalist. We realized under EU law, moving to an EU country was easier. We settled on Austria as we had both lived there before… we could speak some German, and we like the mountains,” said another respondent.

Professor Bueltmann noted that the loss of free movement rights in the EU could be a factor too in the decision of many to stay where they are.

Citizenship and representation

Among those who decided to stay, 38.2 per cent are either applying or planning to apply for a citizenship and 28.6 per cent are thinking about it.

A key finding of the research, Bueltmann said, is that the vast majority of British citizens do not feel politically represented. Some 60 per cent of respondents said they feel unrepresented and another 30 per cent not well represented.

Another issue is that less than half (47.5 per cent) trust the government of their country of residence, while a larger proportion (62 per cent) trust the European Union. Almost all (95.6 per cent) said they do not trust the UK government.

Feeling European

The survey highlights the Brexit impacts on people’s identity too. 82.6 per cent of respondents said they see themselves as European, a higher proportion than those identifying as British (68.9 per cent).

“Brexit has really left me unsure of what my identity is. I don’t feel British, and I certainly don’t identify with the mindset of a lot of British people who live there. Yet, I am not Danish either. So, I don’t really know anymore!” said one of the participants in the survey.

Professor Bueltmann said the survey “demonstrates that Brexit impacts continue to evolve: this didn’t just stop because the transition period was over or a deadline for an application had been reached. Consequently, Brexit continues to shape the lives and experiences of British citizens in the EU/EEA and Switzerland in substantial, sometimes life-altering, ways.”

Considering the results of the study, Professor Bueltmann recommends policy makers in the EU and the UK to address the issue of lack of representation, for instance creating a joint UK-EU citizens’ stakeholder forum.

The report also recommends the UK government to rebuild trust with British citizens in the EU introducing voting rights for life and changing immigration rules to allow British-European families to return more easily. 

This article was prepared in cooperation with Europe Street News.