Brexit checklist for Brits in Spain: Residency, travel, healthcare, pets and pensions

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Brexit checklist for Brits in Spain: Residency, travel, healthcare, pets and pensions
Photo: AFP

Here's our quick guide to what you need to know ahead of December 31st.


Where are we now?

We're currently in the final phase of the Brexit transition period. After the UK officially left the European Union on January 31st, we entered an 11-month transition period during which most things remained the same for British people either living in Spain or visiting. That transition period ends on December 31st, 2020 and then things will really start to change.

This transition period has now passed the deadline to be extended, so there are only a few weeks left to sort out any admin tasks that need to be done before the transition period ends (see below).

During this time the UK and EU are trying to negotiate a trade deal - this doesn't seem to be going very well, but the part of the Withdrawal Agreement that covers citizens' rights for both Brits and EU nationals is largely unaffected.

What next?

For Brits already living in Spain the most important thing is to get your residency paperwork in order and start the process to register officially. 

100 days to go: British Ambassador to Spain sends important message ahead of key Brexit date

December 31st, 2020

This date is the big one, it's when Brexit becomes 'real' for most people and when the effects really start to be felt on day-to-day life.

For British people living in Spain or planning to do so there are some things that need to be done before then. They include;

Moving - if you're not already living in Spain but want to do so in the future you will find the conditions for moving here may get a lot tougher from 2021 onwards. We lay out here the main differences in moving to Spain before or after December 31st.

It's worth pointing out that Brexit also ends onward freedom of movement, so even if you are legally resident in Spain you won't be able to move to, for example, Germany on the same terms in 2021. So if you're undecided over which European country you want to settle in long-term, now is the time - as Bucks Fizz said - for making your mind up.

Legal status - All Brits who are living in Spain by the end of the year will have to apply for a residency permit and from July 6th this has meant registering for a biometric identity card called a TIE (Tarjeta de Identidad de Extranjero).

From July 6th 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.

BREXIT: How to apply for a TIE residency card in Spain

This replaces the former green paper residency certificate which will remain valid after the transition period ends and can  be exchanged at any time even after December 31st deadline. 

You should start the process to register as soon as possible but because it may be difficult to secure an appointment at the local police office or extranjeria, you should make sure to have all your paperwork to prove that you were resident before December 31st.


Healthcare - Most British people living in Spain will already be registered in the Spanish health system, and for them nothing will change. But anyone not registered needs to do so - find out how here.

BREXIT: How to access Spain's public healthcare if you're not a pensioner or working

Driving licences - Brits resident in Spain have until December 31st to exchange their British driving licences for a Spanish one. However don't despair if you can't get an appointment with the DGT as Spanish authorities have changed the system to ensure that as long as you have started the process before the end of the year you can make an appointment within the first half of 2021.

READ MORE: Spain introduces new process for British driving licence swap

Passports - From 2021 onwards you will not be able to travel inside the EU on a British passport if it has less than six months left on it, so anyone whose passport is approaching its expiry date will need to renew.

REMINDER: What Brits in Europe need to know about travel after December 31st

Pets - It's not just people whose travel documents are changing, the EU Pet Passport scheme will no longer apply to the UK, so people wanting to take their pets between France and the UK will need to embark on a much more complicated process which in some cases needs to begin four months before your date of travel - see here for details.

Banks - Most people living in Spain will already have a Spanish bank account, but if you don't then now is the time to open one - you will need a Spanish account to link to your health cover and some British banks are closing accounts or cutting services for British customers living abroad.

January 1st 2021 and beyond

From here on we get into some uncertainty, because a lot of the rules for British people moving to Spain to live or work after this point are still the subject of future negotiations.

Residency - People who are already resident in Spain by December 31st 2020 are covered by the terms of the Withdrawal Agreement, which gives lifetime guarantees on issues like residency, family reunification, healthcare and pensions.

READ ALSO What is the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement and does it cover me?

However for people who want to move to Spain after that date, things are still quite uncertain. It's still possible that the UK and EU could come to an agreement on that (although the trade deal is likely to take precedence in negotiations) and that Spain and the UK can agree a bilateral deal. However if neither of these things happen in the next three months, British people default to Third Country National status on January 1st.

This means that the conditions for living and working in Spain become similar to those already in place for other non-Europeans such as Americans, Australians and Indians. For them moving to Spain is of course still possible but is considerably more complicated and involves visas and residency permits. Find out more about the visa system and conditions here.

READ MORE:  How can British second home owners spend more than 90 days in Spain after Brexit?


Work - working in Spain for British people is also likely to become more complicated.

Spanish companies who are hiring a non-EU national who is moving to Spain to work need to jump through extra administrative hoops to justify why they are hiring a non-European. It's not an impossible task, but it does put non-Europeans at a disadvantage in the job market as most firms prefer to avoid the extra paperwork if they can find a similarly-qualified European candidate.

There's also the question of the recognition of foreign qualifications especially regarding regulated professions (doctors, nurses, engineers, architects etc), who may need to apply for "homologación" like other third-country nationals before they are allowed to work, a lengthy application process which takes two years on average.

Again, we don't know exactly what residency requirements for Brits will be after 2021, but if they follow the current model for non-Europeans you will need a visa sponsored by an employer if you are coming here to work.

If you want to come and either set up your own business or work as a freelancer or contractor you could also need a visa and to provide proof of income or proof that your business plan is an economically viable idea.

BREXIT Q&A: What Brits in Spain need to know about jobs


Stock photo: Esther Ann/Unsplash


At present people who are paid a state pension in the UK can continue to claim it if they live in Spain and their pension will be uprated - raised in line with inflation, wage growth or price increases - every year.

For people resident in Spain before December 31st 2020, their UK pension will continue to be uprated for the rest of their lives.

For people who make the move after transition, however, there is no such guarantee at the moment that their state pension will be uprated.

Spain has long been a popular place to retire and for a more detailed guide on how to do that, read about it here.

Travel - British people will have to use the non-European passport queue at airports and as mentioned above cannot travel within the EU on a passport that has less than six months until its expiry date. It's also worth mentioning that Spanish ID cards will no longer be valid to travel into the UK on from October 2021, so if you are travelling with a Spanish friend or partner they will need their passport.

Cats, dogs and ferrets will also be subject to stricter conditions when travelling between Spain and the UK.


Visiting - for people who just want the odd holiday in Spain not much will change apart from the travel rules mentioned above. But for second-home owners and people who want to take long breaks the 90-day rule comes into effect, limiting how long you can spent in Spain. For a fuller explanation of the 90-day rule, click here


For more on how you can get ready for the Brexit changes, head to our Preparing for Brexit section, which is updated with all the latest information as it is released by the British and Spanish governments.




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