Brexit and Spain: What does it mean for travel after January 31st?

With the fourth and - maybe - final Brexit date fast approaching we look at what it means for travel for British people both living in Spain and visiting.

Brexit and Spain: What does it mean for travel after January 31st?

Brexit will impact on many aspects of life, but one thing we are receiving many questions on is travel restrictions. 

Assuming that the UK leaves the EU on January 31st under the terms of the Withdrawal Agreement – which is looking the most likely scenario at this point, although still not certain – here's a look at what is changing and what stays the same.

READ ALSO Brexit: What do I need to do before January 31st?

Under the terms of the Withdrawal Agreement once the UK leaves it then enters a transition period during which most things stay the same in terms of citizens' rights. This period lasts until at least December 31st 2020 and it is possible it could be extended.

Does anything change for British passport holders?

Your British passport of course remains a valid document for both travel and ID purposes, but from January 31st it will no longer make you an EU citizen.

During the transition period your travel in, out and around Europe remains visa-free so you do not need any supporting travel documents.

Can I still travel freely through the EU?

During the transition period, yes. Freedom of movement remains unchanged during the transition period, both for people moving to EU countries to live and work or just travelling. So if your dream is to pack in the rat race and spend six months wandering through French vineyards, Italian campos and Spanish fiestas then the transition period would be a good time to do that.

After the transition period ends there will be limits to how long UK citizens can spend at a time in the EU, even if they are not working there.

This is one of the things that is yet to be agreed, but it has been suggested that the 90 day rule – in which you can only spend 90 days out of every 180 in the EU without getting a long-stay visa – could apply. This would be the same as the rules already applied to other non EU citizens like Americans and Australians.

Can I leave Spain and come back if I don't have all my residency papers?

During the transition period you can continue to travel freely in the same way that you have been, but the one piece of advice that has been consistent since the Brexit vote was the need to ensure that you are legally registered as a resident in Spain.

This will insure that you are in the best place to secure your rights during the transition period and after Brexit.

All EU/EEA nationals staying in Spain longer than three months should have the residence certificate called Certificado de Registro de Ciudadano de la Unión (also known as Certificado de Registro Comunitario). 

This is NOT the same as a NIE identification number but is a green certificate either A4 sized or credit card sized depending on when it was issued. (See illustration below).

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

For full details of how to apply refer to the article HERE.

If you arrive in Spain before the end of the implementation (also known as transition) period, you will be able to register as resident in Spain under the current rules, and will have your right to residence in Spain protected for as long as you remain resident.

In some parts of Spain, UK nationals are currently unable to register as a resident as appointments are not available. If you don’t yet have a residence certificate, the residency advice on the Moncloa website is to make sure you have proof you were living here before Brexit (such as padrón registration or a rental contract), and to keep checking the online appointment system for new appointments.

Do I need extra travel insurance?

During the transition period, arrangements for healthcare remain the same, so if you have a valid EHIC card you can still use that and should you fall ill in any EU country your healthcare costs will be covered (although bear in mind that this only covers healthcare in the country you are in, not repatriation to the UK).

After the transition period ends, EHIC cards issued by the UK will no longer be valid. If you are resident in Spain and registered in the Spain healthcare system you can apply for a Spain-issued EHIC card and that will cover you for any healthcare in the EU (although not in the UK).

Healthcare arrangements for tourists after the end of the transition period are one of the issues to be addressed during the negotiations.

What about pets?

It's not only people who need passports, of course – dogs, cats and ferrets travelling between the UK and the EU need an EU Pet Passport.

During the transition period these will continue to function as normal, making travel with your furry friend a fairly frictionless experience.

After the transition period ends things are less clear as, for some inexplicable reason, the Withdrawal Agreement focuses mostly on humans.

This is something that would need to be dealt with during the transition period – essentially the UK needs to apply to be 'listed' with the EU as a country providing adequate animal health controls. If this is not sorted before the end of the transition period, the worst case scenario would be the same as the no-deal scenario outlined here.

What if I have dual nationality?

With the continued uncertainty around the status of UK citizens after Brexit, many people have opted to take dual nationality – either applying for citizenship through residency of the European country they are living in or applying for another passport – such as an Irish one – through family connections. 

Even though Spain doesn't legally allow dual citizenship with the UK, (although Spain doesn't require that you renounce your other passport) many Brits are opting to apply for Spanish nationality.


If you are lucky enough to already hold the passport of an EU country you will need to start using this when you travel in and out of the EU, in order to continue to benefit from freedom of movement.

What don't we know?

What happens during the transition period is fairly clear, but after that is over there are still many uncertainties.

Among the major ones are restrictions on the length of stay in EU countries – which is a big concern for second home owners in Spain – the process for applying for residency in Spain, the restrictions on people who want to move to Spain after the end of the transition period and whether pets could face extra passport controls.

These things are all supposed to be dealt with during the transition period, but the transition period is currently only 11 months long and the EU and UK also need to thrash out a trade deal during that time. So it's fair to say they have an ambitious workload.

Check out The Local's Preparing for Brexit section for more detail and updates as we get them. If you have questions, please send them to us here and we will do our best to answer them.

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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.