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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

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:

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.


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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.