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Brexit: How much money will Britons in Spain need to be legally resident?

Brexit: How much money will Britons in Spain need to be legally resident?
The queue outside an extranjería (foreigners' office) in Spain. Photo: AFP
The question of what constitutes sufficient income for Spanish authorities to grant residency to Brits is a complicated one, but the sum will definitely be higher for those arriving in Spain after December 31st 2020.

If you’re a UK citizen who is looking to register as a resident in Spain, you may have come across the mention of “sufficient income” or “sufficient resources” as one of the standout requirements together with healthcare. 

This has in fact been a condition which citizens from EU/EEA nations and Switzerland officially have had to meet after three months residency in Spain, which is technically the time frame they have to become residents in the country.

However as in other EU countries this condition of minimum income has rarely been enforced for EU nationals who moved under freedom of movement.

As Spain’s Interior Ministry website states in terms of this self-sufficiency requirement:

“They have sufficient resources for themselves and their family members so as not to become a burden for social assistance in Spain during their period of residence, as well as a public or private health insurance that covers all risks in Spain.”

So the general consensus has been that if you're not working or getting a pension, you have to prove that you can financially take care of yourself and any dependants and therefore won’t be claiming benefits from the Spanish state.

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How much money do Brits registering for residency in Spain before December 31st need to show?

The Withdrawal Agreement and the Royal Decree covering Spain's Brexit contingency measures guarantee that Brits living in Spain before the end of 2020 are treated the same as all other EU/EEA citizens, even if they have their residency appointment after the December 31st 2020 deadline.

“As long as you can show authorities proof that you have been living in Spain before that date, the same conditions will apply to you as to any EU citizen,” John Carrivick of Eurocitizens group told The Local.

This can take the form of a rental agreement, house bills, a padrón certificate (registration at your town hall) etc.

“I’ve never heard of any Brits having their residency denied up to now because of insufficient income, I know I wasn’t asked for an income requirement but I moved to Spain in 1971.

“Foreigners' office staff usually don't look too closely at this with EU nationals but this could have now changed for Brits currently applying for residency and proof of financial means will definitely be a requirement for UK nationals after December 31st.”

The evidence indeed suggests that this has changed already and that Brits who aren’t working or registered as self-employed are being required to show proof of sufficient financial resources to be self-sufficient, even if protected under the Withdrawal Agreement or Royal Decree. 

According to Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) Spain and Brexpats in Spain, the minimum annual amounts required as of 2020 for residency applications for citizens of the EU, EEA and Switzerland are as follows:

Individual: €5,538

With families:

2 members: €9,415
3 members €13,292
4 members €17,169

Each additional member: +€3,876

The CAB has taken the information from Spanish government sources and stated that it’s the accepted amount based on the minimum income in Spain, the non-contributory pension. The amounts stated above rise annually.

However – and this is important – these amounts are not the same across Spain and won’t apply to every residency application. It also seems that different bodies have been provided different sums by official Spanish authorities.

Eurocitizens group told The Local that the income requirements are instead based on multiples of the relevant IPREM (Indicador público de renta de efectos multiples).

In 2020, the Iprem is set at €537,84 per month for an individual, which works out to be an annual requirement of €6,454 a year rather than the €5,538 mentioned earlier. The British Embassy in Spain has also quoted these IPREM figures.

For self-employed people, no specific amount is stated by the Spanish government but applicants must show that the income from the business, once costs have been deducted, is sufficient to maintain the applicant and any family.

For non-workers, including retirees without a pension, the amount stated is 400 percent of the IPREM (€2,151 per month) for the first family member and 100 percent for every other family member, as part of the non-lucrative visa for third country nationals (UK nationals can therefore not apply yet).

Why aren’t there specific sums that apply across all of Spain?

The Spanish Royal Decree states: “As regards sufficient financial means, a fixed amount cannot be established, but rather the personal situation of nationals of a Member State of the European Union or of another State party to the Agreement on the European Economic Area.

“In any case, this amount will not exceed the level of resources by which social assistance is granted to Spaniards or the amount of the minimum Social Security pension”.

Both Citizens Advice Bureau Spain and the UK Embassy in Spain have stated that civil servants in different “extranjería” offices are allowed to use their discretion when judging what constitutes sufficient income or financial resources.

This is the crux of the matter. It’s these regional, provincial and perhaps even individual civil servant disparities in judgement that make it really hard for Brits in Spain to know how much is enough.

In a live Q&A on the Brits in Spain group on Facebook on September 15th, British Embassy staff answered the questions “What amount of income do you need to prove if you´re not working in Spain?” (skip to minute 29).

“The amount you need to prove differs in different areas of Spain,” British Consul Sarah-Jane Morris said.

“It’s based on what they consider to be enough for you to live off, which is why it can vary because it's linked to the benefits that you can get at in areas.

“That is why it’s important to find out from the area you are registering in how much you would need to prove.

“It will also depend on your personal situation, whether you live alone, how many dependants you have, whether you rent or own a home.”

So even though knowing a specific threshold amount would give Brits in Spain applying for a TIE residency card more peace of mind, it’s safe to say that almost all foreigners’ offices operate on a case-by-case basis.

“Most of Spain’s autonomous communities, apart from the Comunidad Valenciana (see section below) have set the same financial annual requirements,” President of Brexpats in Spain Anne Hernández told The Local.

Insider tip: Try to get answers in person as many extranjería offices don’t answer the phone or necessarily reply to emails.

Go there first thing in the morning and – armed with a smile- ask one of the civil servants “Disculpe, me gustaría saber la cifra que constituye recursos suficientes para la obtención de la tarjeta de residencia para británicos en esta oficina de extranjería”. (Excuse me, I would like to know the amount that constitutes sufficient resources for Brits to obtain a residency card at this specific migration office). It’s worth a try.

What if the amount my extranjería office asks for is disproportionately high compared to the figures mentioned above?

On September 13th 2020, CAB Spain posted an article titled “Why Has the Alicante Foreigners Office not Been Reported?” in which they address just this.

“The Alicante foreigners office are asking applicants from the EU/EEA making their applications for residency status as self-sufficient, to show the sum of €9,000 per applicant,” reads the post.

“This is almost double the resources as required by the regulations. For example, for two family members the requirement would be €9,415.”

If you find yourself in a similar situation, make sure you raise the matter with the British Embassy or your closest consulate in Spain. 

Does only money in a bank account count?

No. According to Spain’s Interior Ministry, “proof of availability of financial means for the period requested, can be accredited by any means of proof, including the contribution of property titles, certified checks or credit cards accompanied by a bank certification that proves the amount available as credit on the card”.

“If the means come from shares or participations in Spanish, mixed or foreign companies, located in Spain, it will be accredited by means of certification that the applicant does not exercise any work activity, accompanied by sworn statements”.

So any asset that generates income for you or proof that you are self-sufficient will play in your favour.

“The idea is that you have more earnings or more money than what would be needed to access income support in Spain,” Regional Consular Policy Advisor Lorna Geddie said.

“This is really down to your personal circumstances. So if you for example own a house, or you live on your own, or you have four different family members, the level of income that they are going to be looking at is going to be slightly different. Because, if you have dependants, then they will want to see that you have got money to be covering those dependants as well.”

“Do make sure you take along as much documentation as possible to prove that you have sufficient means to support yourself.” 

Anne Hernández of Brexpats in Spain added: “If you are not working you must prove the minimum annual income. Pensioners can meet this condition by providing a valid S1 and official translation of the pension letter showing annual amount granted

“Proof of minimum income for other non-workers can be supplemented by property deeds, bank-certified documents of the last 6 months balance or credit cards that are credited for the amount required.”

 

What will constitute sufficient income for those arriving AFTER the December 31st?

It’s the million-dollar question for Brits who want to move to Spain but can’t do so before December 31st 2020.

They will not be protected under the Withdrawal Agreement nor given the same rights as EU nationals in Spain.

Effectively, this implies that they will be treated like third-country nationals, for whom the residency process in Spain is considerably more complicated than for EU/EEA and Swiss nationals.

“For Brits arriving in Spain after December 31st, no official announcement has been made as to the financial requirements so we can only assume they will be the same as for third country nationals – €25,816.32 per annum per person (€2,151.36 per month) and not quite double for a couple,” President of Brexpats in Spain Anne Hernández told The Local.

Eurocitizens secretary Nigel Aston also told The Local Spain that “the amounts will rise steeply – around €27,000 per annum plus several thousand for each dependant.

“The clear message is to ensure you are registered by the end of 2020.” 


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