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End of the Brexit transition period: what do Brits in Spain need to do now?

More UK nationals live in Spain than any other European Union country – at least 360,000 are officially registered. If you’re one of them, you’ll be glad to know you can continue your life in Spain after the Brexit transition period ends on 31 December 2020.

End of the Brexit transition period: what do Brits in Spain need to do now?
Photo: Getty Images

However, you may need to take some action this year to keep all your rights and access to services in four key areas: residency, healthcare, travel and driving. This guide, presented in partnership with the UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO), tells you what you need to do.

Get the official UK government advice on living in Spain after the transition ends

1. Registering your residency

If you’re British and are legally living in Spain before 31 December 2020, there’s a simple and welcome message on residency: no need to say ‘adiós’. Your right to live in Spain will be protected. 

However, you may still need or want to take action. If you register as a resident between now and the year’s end, you’ll be issued with a biometric identity card called a TIE (Tarjeta de Identidad de Extranjero). If you're not yet registered, you should do so as soon as possible.

As a UK citizen, your TIE will confirm your status under the Withdrawal Agreement between the UK and the EU. From 6 July this year, TIE cards have been issued instead of the green A4 residency certificates and green credit-card sized pieces of paper issued by Extranjería (the migration office) or the police as proof of residency.

So, what if you have one of these older documents? Don’t panic – your current document will remain valid after the transition period ends. You can choose to exchange it for a laminated TIE – which the Spanish government says is more durable and explicitly mentions your status as a beneficiary of the Withdrawal Agreement.  

A TIE will make administrative formalities and border crossing easier. But the older documents provide equal proof of your residence, so it’s up to you whether or not to change!

Photos: Getty Images

2. Ensuring you're registered for healthcare

You need to have healthcare cover in order to register as a resident in Spain. If you’re living in the country before the end of 2020, your rights to Spanish healthcare will be protected as long as you remain legally resident. But access to healthcare in Spain works differently to in the UK – where the NHS is a residence-based system.

UK nationals access Spain’s national health system in various ways depending on personal circumstances. For example, you’re entitled to the same healthcare as a Spanish resident if:

  • you’re working or self-employed in Spain

  • you’re a permanent resident (after living in Spain for five years)

  • you get a UK State Pension (or certain other benefits) and you’ve registered a UK-issued S1 form with the social security office 

  • you register and pay a monthly fee to join the Convenio Especial scheme

Once you’re registered for healthcare, basic state services are free. You can expect to pay in part for prescriptions – or in full if you use the Convenio Especial.

Get the full official UK government advice on your rights to state healthcare in Spain

3. Checking you're ready for trouble-free travel

You live abroad – so crossing borders is no big deal, right? But you’ll face some new rules on travel within Europe next year – so doing your homework now could save you a lot of trouble later.

Photo: Getty Images

From 1 January 2021, you’ll need six months left on your passport to travel within Europe (be aware that any extra months you had added to your passport's validity when renewing it early last time won't count towards this).

You can check your passport’s validity here to know for sure if you need to renew it before booking a trip. This new rule applies to children’s passports, as well as adults, and applies for travel to most European countries. 

It doesn’t apply for Ireland or if you’re entering or transiting to Spain and have your rights protected by the Withdrawal Agreement. 

4. Exchanging your driving licence 

Living in Spain, you'll know it's a beautiful country to explore by car – whether you're on a coastal road or crossing the rugged interior, the scenery is often breathtaking. But if you still have a UK driving licence, you'd be wise to exchange it for a Spanish licence soon.

Do this before the end of 2020 to be guaranteed an exchange under the current rules – which don't require you to take a driving test. You’ll need a valid residence document to make the swap.

Book an appointment with the Spanish Traffic Authority (DGT) to set the wheels of your licence exchange in motion.  

Staying up-to-date 

You can sign up to get emails with the latest official UK government updates about these topics in Spain. It may also be worth signing up if you’re waiting for information to be announced on a topic not covered here – such as travelling with pets, for example.

British embassies and consulates in Europe have held over 775 Brexit-related outreach events with UK nationals since November 2017 to understand people’s concerns and explain actions they need to take. Initiatives during the coronavirus crisis have included Q&A events on facebook.com/britsinspain.

“The Spanish Government is here to support you in this new phase and we want to send you a very clear message: this is, and always will be your home,” said Hana Jalloul, the Spanish Government’s Minister with responsibility for immigration.

See the video below featuring Jalloul and Hugh Elliott, the British Ambassador to Spainfor more information on your rights.

Get all the latest official guidance for UK nationals in Spain on these four topics and more by visiting the UK government's Living in Spain web page

 

For members

RESIDENCY PERMITS

Spain vs Portugal: Which Golden Visa is better for you?

Iberian neighbours Spain and Portugal both offer the highly sought-after 'golden visa' for non-EU nationals who want to move to Europe. But what are the differences between them and which one is best suited to you?

Spain vs Portugal: Which Golden Visa is better for you?

Getting a visa or residency in a European country can feel near impossible if you’re a third-party national.

The EU’s ‘golden visa’ – sometimes known as as an investor visa – gives non-EU citizens the right to live in Europe, enjoy borderless travel within the Schengen zone, and even begin the process to gaining European citizenship if they meet several criteria.

This special visa is of particular interest to Britons searching for a way to move to the EU in the aftermath of Brexit, and has also proven popular with Americans, Russians, Chinese and Indian citizens who can afford it.

READ MORE: What foreigners should be aware of before applying for Spain’s Golden Visa 

What is a ‘Golden Visa?’

The golden visa is an EU immigration programme that awards residence permits in foreign countries in return for investment. It varies between countries (not all EU nations offer it), but often it involves purchasing a property of a certain value, creating a company or job opportunities, or in some instances contributing to a national development fund or investing in stocks and shares.

Two of the most popular European countries for golden visas (and for tourists and retirees in general) are Spain and Portugal. 

Since the scheme was launched back in 2013, the number of third country nationals applying has risen every year. In 2019, Spain issued this visa to a record 8,000 non-EU nationals.

Both countries are famed for their temperate climate, beaches, culture and relaxed lifestyle, but which of the golden visas is better: Spain’s or Portugal’s?

See below for the minimum investment needed; the type of investments you can make; how long it takes to get citizenship; whether the golden visa gives you free travel around the Schengen area; how long the application takes; the rules on residency, and how long you must spend in the country; and whether family members are included.

The facts

  Spain Portugal
Minimum investment required €500,000 €250,000
Type of investment Property over €500,000; €1 million in a Spanish company; €1 million in a Spanish bank account; at least €2 million in Spanish public debt securities. Property over €500,000 or urban renovation of €350,000; business startup creating at least 10 jobs; capital transfer of €1.5 million; research and development investment of €500,000; €250,000 contribution in the arts. 
Citizenship timeline 10 years 5 years
Schengen Travel? Yes Yes
Application time 20 business days processing once documentation is received; 2/3 months in total. 3-6 months
Residency rules Must visit Spain once a year. 1 week for the first year; 14 days every 2 years after.
Family included? Partner, dependents and children (under 18). Partner, dependents, children, parents of the main applicant if over the age of 65 years old (under 18 or dependent and unmarried children who are under 26 and in full-time education).

Changes to Portuguese Golden Visa

New visa rules came into effect in Portugal from January 1st 2022. These have mainly increased some of the minimum investment thresholds (but not the arts investment, which at €250,000 remains the cheapest route to a golden visa for either Portugal or Spain) and have changed some of the geographic requirements for property investment.

Keen to stimulate investment in the less touristy parts of Portugal, buying a residential property in big urban centres such as Lisbon or Porto or in the popular coastal regions such as the Algarve are no longer sufficient to qualify for a golden visa.

As of 2022, property investments must be in Madeira, Azores, or Portuguese inland regions and rural or low-density areas. In such areas, a 20 percent discount on the investment is offered.

You can find the full geographical breakdown of investment areas here, although be warned the text is in Portuguese. 

In Spain you can buy several properties which add up to €500,000

One option for the visa is to buy a property for €500,000 or more, but you are not required to spend it all on one property. You will still be eligible for the visa if you buy multiple properties, as long as the total amount adds up to more than €500,000.

The extra costs

Besides parting ways with half a million Euros to get a visa, both Spain and Portugal require some hefty application fees for the scheme.

Fee Spain Portugal
Application €70 per applicant €80 per applicant
Approval €5,000 per applicant €5,857 per applicant
Renewals €3,000 per visa holder €3,195 per visa holder
     

Tax benefits

One advantage of the Portuguese Golden Visa scheme is its tax rules.

Portugal’s Golden Visa program offers the ultimate tax advantage. Golden Visa holders are eligible for Portugal’s NHR Tax Scheme, a system that grants tax-exemptions for up to ten years.

Exemptions include income obtained from pensions, capital, income from property and capital gains, intellectual property and industrial property. The property tax transfer system means that Golden Visa holders pay the same rates as local residents.

In Spain, all foreign residents are taxed on their ‘worldwide income’ if they are in Spain for more than 183 days a year. For non-residents, tax is charged at 24.75 percent on income earned in Spain.

Getting the golden visa, however, doesn’t mean you have to reside in Spain or spend a certain amount of time here in order to renew it. This means that you don’t have become a tax resident. The only requirement is to visit once a year to renew your permit.

READ MORE: Property in Spain: Is now a good time to buy a home? 

The golden visa is retroactive in Spain

This means that if you already bought a property in Spain worth over €500,000 after 2014, but didn’t apply for a golden visa at the time, it’s still possible to do it now.

The property can be sold once you have obtained permanent residency in Spain. Once you have lived in Spain for more than five years and have obtained permanent residency, you are able to sell the property without forfeiting your right to reside in Spain.

You cannot, however, use a mortgage loan or financing for your investments. This cannot be done through a mortgage company or a loan, and must be from your own pocket.

Conclusion

Portugal and Spain’s golden visa schemes offer fantastic opportunities to relocate to an EU member state.

Both offer you the chance to enjoy borderless travel in EU member states, but they both also require you to have a significant amount of money saved up in order to invest it in property, renovation, shares, capital transfers, or debit securities.

If you’re concerned about taxes, perhaps the benefits of the Portuguese visa might entice you. It is worth remembering, though, that the recent changes to the Portuguese system now mean there are geographical limits on property investments meaning you can’t buy in popular areas. 

If you’re overly concerned about location, the Spanish golden visa gives you more freedom to choose where you live.

The sums for property investment are broadly similar, sitting at €500,000 in both countries, although in Portugal there are discounts for taking on renovation projects and purchasing property in sparsely populated areas which could reduce the amount of your investment quite significantly.

In Spain, the property threshold, regardless of where it is or what type of property it is, is a flat €500,000.

Both golden visas have very little in terms of residency requirements, although in Portugal the time to gaining citizenship is just 5 years, half of Spain’s 10-year wait. With the golden visa, in Spain you can obtain permanent residency after five years.

If you’re still undecided, the article below may help you pick between Portugal and Spain.

READ MORE: Portugal vs Spain – Which country is better to move to?

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