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BREXIT

ANALYSIS: What will Brits in Spain need to get ‘settled status’?

Sue Wilson of Bremain in Spain provides some reassurance for British people resident in Spain.

ANALYSIS: What will Brits in Spain need to get 'settled status'?
Photo: F Govan / The Local Spain

With the British government pushing its controversial Immigration Bill through parliament last week, the focus was on the rights of EU citizens. In particular, the ruling that requires immigrants to pay into the NHS, regardless of their existing tax contributions, seems especially unfair. The government’s dramatic U-turn to remove the fee for healthcare workers was welcome, but the issue of double taxation for other EU citizens remains.

On this side of the Channel, Brits in Europe are mourning the loss of their freedom of movement rights, which enabled us to make new lives for ourselves in EU countries. Those opportunities, that we took full advantage of, are sadly being taken away from future generations. Those of us already residing here must focus on protecting the lives we’ve built.

Regarding our status in Europe, Michael Gove recently wrote to Michel Barnier. In his letter, Gove criticised the EU for being too slow to implement systems to secure future residency rights for British citizens. Gove cited the UK’s ‘settled status’ scheme for EU citizens in the UK and expressed concerns that the EU would not meet its Withdrawal Agreement obligations in a timely fashion.

For those of us living in Spain, what will be required by the Spanish authorities in order for our status to be ‘settled’?

Here’s what we know so far. Spain’s existing identity card for foreigners, known as the ‘tarjeta de identidad de extranjero’ (TIE) will replace the current documentation for British residents.  

The TIE proves legal status and is issued to foreigners authorised to stay in Spain for longer than six months. Those Brits registering for the first time will be issued with a TIE; those holding existing residency documents will be able to swap these for the TIE.

Unlike in the UK, where EU citizens need to apply for their new ‘settled status’, Spain is adopting a ‘declaratory’ registration system. The British scheme requires EU citizens to apply for their status, at the risk of being rejected or offered a lower, time-limited ‘pre-settled status’.

With EU countries free to choose their own registration systems, we’re fortunate that Spain has chosen a simpler approach, with no risk of existing legal residents being refused the new status. Brits in France aren’t so lucky, as France has adopted a similar application system to the UK.

As Brits in Spain, in effect, don’t need to reapply for their legal status, there are no specific registration deadlines. Our existing green residency certificates/cards will remain valid, even after the transition period, as confirmed by the British Ambassador to Spain, Hugh Elliott.


Sue Wilson with British Ambassador Hugh Elliott. Photo: S Wilson. 

 

The Ambassador told me:“I know that, because of the suspension of residency appointments during the current state of emergency, many UK nationals are concerned about their ability to obtain the correct documentation before 31 December. I want to reassure people on two points. If you already have the green residency certificate, your core rights are protected and it remains a valid document, even after the end of the transition period.”

“If you don’t yet have your green residency certificate there is, likewise, no need for alarm. We continue to advise people to get an appointment as soon as you can. However, as long as you are living in Spain and can prove that you satisfy the legal conditions of residence (i.e. sufficient income and access to healthcare) by 31 December 2020, your rights are assured even if you are not able to get the physical document before the end of the year.”

Throughout the Brexit debate, and the coronavirus crisis, I’ve been grateful for the way the Spanish authorities have dealt with the many difficulties. They haven’t got everything right – what government has in these troubled times – but they’ve made us feel safe and welcome. In addition, we’ve had the support of the British Embassy in Madrid, which has been much appreciated.

The Spanish government’s commitment to protecting our rights was reiterated by the Ambassador, who said: “My colleagues and I are in regular contact with the Spanish authorities at national and regional level and I know that they share our strong commitment to citizens’ rights issues. They have provided a website in English for UK Nationals (see below) and increased their capacity to deal with appointments in areas where the most British people live.”

Wherever the next few months and years take us, I’m not going anywhere. Spain is my home and I’m ‘settled’. Whether I hold a green paper or an identity card in my hand, I’m a resident – legally and permanently – and I know how lucky that makes me.

By Sue Wilson – Chair of Bremain in Spain

More information: 

The Spanish government has a dedicated Brexit page in English HERE

The UK foreign office issues official guidance for Brits living in Spain HERE

 

READ MORE: 

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BREXIT

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.

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