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BREXIT: When should British residents in Spain get a TIE?

With the end of the Brexit transition period fast approaching, one of the key questions Britons who are already residents in Spain have is whether they should get the new TIE residency card even though it’s optional for them, and if so, when.

BREXIT: When should British residents in Spain get a TIE?
Photo of new TIE card for British residents in Spain, with arrow pointing to the correct wording/status on the cards. Photo: British Embassy in Spain

Ever since the Spanish government started issuing the new biometric TIE cards “Tarjeta de Identidad de Extranjero” on July 6th, this question has been the subject of much debate among Britons who already have a green A4 residency certificate or a small green residency card.

That’s despite the fact that the official message from the British Embassy and Spanish authorities has been clear from the start: the TIE card is optional for Britons who were registered before that date.

“While you may choose to change your current certificate for a TIE at some point in the future, there's no requirement to do so,” British Ambassador to Spain Hugh Elliott stated back in July and has continued to do so.

READ ALSO: 

The BOE bulletin by the Spanish government which announced the launch of the TIE also confirmed this by stating that Brits who are already registered in Spain “will not have the obligation to apply for a new resident status nor, therefore, undergo a new documentation process, but they will have the right to receive a residence document that expressly reflects their status as a beneficiary of the Withdrawal Agreement”.

However, these reassurances haven’t convinced many British residents in Spain who are choosing to apply for a TIE now.

Mark Stucklin of Spanish Property Insight recently wrote an opinion piece on his website titled “British residents in Spain, don’t forget to apply for your TIE (Foreigner’s ID) card this year, just to be on the safe side”, in which he explained why he chose to apply for the card as “you never know what’s around the next corner with Brexit, so better safe than sorry”.

From a practical standpoint, the TIE is a hard, laminated card that is certainly more durable than the old A4 residence paper certificate or card.

But there are other potential advantages to the TIE relating to Britons’ status in Spain.

Nigel Aston, President of EuroCitizens, a lobbying group which fights for the rights of British residents in Spain, told The Local: “Holders of green cards/A4 papers can retain those as an alternative to the TIE, at the moment, in perpetuity.

“That may change in the future but the Spanish have, as yet, given no contrary indication.

“Nevertheless, the EuroCitizens' advice is to get a TIE.

“(Given the Spanish government’s stance) there is no rush but we recommend doing it for convenience reasons and, more fundamentally, as it confers status.”

Aston told The Local that the advantage of the TIE as envisaged in the BOE is that it clearly states that the holder is entitled to the rights set out in the Withdrawal Agreement and distinguishes between initial residency and permanent.

“The TIE for registered UK citizens living in Spain at 31 December is annotated to show that the holder is “protected” by the citizens' rights provisions of the Withdrawal Agreement.

“Whilst most officials in the Spanish administration and, indeed, counterparts in other Schengen states will recognise this protection in the passport/green docs, probably some will not, potentially causing bureaucratic issues.

“Holding the appropriate TIE, therefore, is a clear, unambiguous, confirmation of ongoing rights.”

However, there are two important setbacks Britons who are applying for the TIEs are facing which may push those who don’t need to apply to hold off for the moment.

Many Britons who have received their new residency cards in Spain have noticed that they contain information which isn't accurate.

“Some of the new TIEs obtained via the EX23 route (those who already had a green residency and just wanted to exchange them for the TIE) have picked their cards up from several different areas of Spain but they are wrongly worded,” Anne Hernandez, head of the Brexpats in Spain organisation, told The Local.

These biometric cards, which should have the wording at the bottom saying “Residence Permit/Titre de Sejour” instead state “family member of a Union citizen”.

“Some of the TIEs are also wrongly dated,” Hernandez adds.

“A permanent TIE card should be 10 years but it seems they are being dated to expire in 5 years”.

READ MORE: What we know about the two mistakes on the TIE residency card

There is also the issue of the lack of TIE appointments being made available, which is particularly worrying for those who have never registered rather than for residents.

“Those who are desperately trying to get their TIEs for the first time and benefit from the Withdrawal Agreement are very stressed because appointments are few and far between, Hernández told The Local.

“(Therefore my advice to residents) who choose to apply for the TIE is to leave it till after December 31st.

“It seems rather selfish to do it now, thereby further reducing availability of appointments before the end of the transition period.

“So think of your fellow Brits and wait till 2021 if you wish to exchange your green residency for the TIE but there is no obligation to exchange it.” 

READ MORE:  The quick Brexit guide for Brits in Spain: Residency, travel, healthcare, pets and pensions

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BRITS IN EUROPE

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.

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