Brexit Q&A: What happens if I didn’t register as a resident in Spain by December 31st?

On December 31st 2020, the transition period ended, and with it the deadline for Brits to become resident in Spain. However, if you were living here before that date but didn't register, there is still time.

Brexit Q&A: What happens if I didn't register as a resident in Spain by December 31st?
Photo: Patrick Dobeson/Flickr

Under terms ratified in the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement the rights of British citizens to live in Spain are guaranteed as long as you were resident in Spain by December 31st 2020.

The longstanding message from both the Spanish and British authorities was that those living in Spain needed to get their paperwork in order and officially register as a resident, but with coronavirus and the delay in appointments available, it means that many people were unable to register by the December 31st deadline. 

Since July 7th the Spanish authorities have been issuing a new biometric TIE card for British nationals resident in Spain, replacing the former green residency certificates which came in either A4 size or credit card size.

Those who have the green certificates can swap them for the TIE card but there is no deadline to do so, and although there are advantages to having the new biometric card, the green certificates remain valid for the foreseeable future.

The green paper certificates and new TIE biometric cards show legally residency.


Now that the deadline has passed however, many have still not got their residency certificate or TIE because they never got around to registering, they are newly arrived or they haven’t been able to secure an appointment to start the process due to holdups in some extranjería offices in Spain.

But that doesn’t mean they have missed the chance altogether, as long as they can prove that they were living in Spain and meeting the requirements for doing so before December 31st.

“Your rights come from your living legally in Spain before December 31st ,not from possessing the residency card itself,” explained the British Embassy in Madrid in an FAQ on Brexit published on December 29th.

“If you are unable to complete the registration process before January 1st, you will still be protected by the Withdrawal Agreement, as long as you were legally living in Spain before the end of 2020,” they continued.

“That means that you were living here and meeting the EU free movement conditions of working, being self-employed, or having sufficient income and comprehensive healthcare cover to support you during your retirement or studies.”

So how do you prove you were living in Spain before December 31st?

“We recommend you have as much documentation in place to demonstrate that you were legally living here before the end of the Transition Period as possible,” explains the British Embassy. “That might include, but not be limited to, a padrón certificate, utility bill, healthcare policy, work contract or flight ticket.”

What should I do if I can’t get an appointment?

Covid restrictions, along with the Christmas period have meant that there are fewer appointments available in some areas, but you should keep trying. You should also remember that you can complete the first stage of the residency process by submitting your documents electronically, if you have a digital certificate.

You can find out how to get your digital certificate HERE

If you do not have a digital certificate you can also use a third-party representative to submit your documents for you.

BREXIT: Where can Brits in Spain get help with residency applications?

What should I do if I didn't or couldn't register before the deadline?

There is still time, as stated above, as long as you moved here before December 31st. You should make sure you have as much documentation in place to demonstrate that you were legally living here before December 31st as possible. Try to gather documents such as your padrón certificate, utility bills, healthcare policies, work contract and flight ticket.

As soon as you are able to get an appointment to get your TIE, then do so. 

Is my green certificate still valid or does it need to be exchanged for a TIE?

The green residency certificate – both A4 and credit card-sized – remain valid documents to demonstrate your status as a resident and your rights under the Withdrawal Agreement.

The Spanish Government emphasises that the biometric TIE is more durable and may simplify some administrative processes and border crossing. If you decide to exchange your green certificate for the TIE, there is no deadline for doing so.

What happens if I didn't move to Spain before December 31st, can I still live there? 

The short answer is yes, although the process will be a lot more difficult. If you're a British citizen who is not already a resident in Spain, but wants to move here you will most likely be treated the same as third-country nationals, such as those from the US or Australia. 

You will either need to be offered a job and be sponsored by a company for a visa (which is very difficult right now given Spain's high unemployment rate), apply for a student visa and enrol on a course, apply for a self-employment visa and have sufficient funds to support yourself, apply for a non-lucrative visa or marry a Spanish or EU citizen. 

A non-lucrative visa is an authorisation that allows non-EU foreigners to stay in Spain for a period of more than 90 days without working or carrying out professional activities, by demonstrating that they have sufficient financial means for themselves and, if applicable, their family.

“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.

What if I was living in Spain before the Brexit deadline but left to go back to the UK for the Christmas break – will I have problems returning? 

There have been reports of British residents in Spain being denied boarding in the UK when trying to return home, due to not having a new TIE and only their original green residency certificates.

Spanish authorities have moved to clear up the issue however, confirming that both the green residency certificate AND the TIE is valid for travel for British residents in Spain. 

Where can I get help?

The British government has provided funding to three organisations in Spain to offer help and support Brits with the process. If you don't have internet access or don't feel confident completing the form online they can even do it for you if you don't have friends or family who would be able to help.

If you or someone you know may have difficulty completing the paperwork, you can contact them using the details below to discuss how they may be able to help you.

These organisations are:

READ ALSO: How Britons can prove they are resident in Spain when entering the country

More information:

  • Spain's government has a dedicated Brexit page for UK nationals HERE
  • Check out the UK Foreign Office latest advice on Living In Spain HERE 
  • Follow the British Embassy Facebook page for updates as well as Live Q&A sessions HERE
  • Check our Brexit section for all the latest news and updates: HERE







Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.
For members


UK driving licences in Spain: When no news is bad news

The UK Ambassador to Spain has given an update on the driving licence debacle, with nothing new to genuinely give hope to the thousands of in-limbo drivers whose increasing frustration has led one group to try and take matters into their own hands.

UK driving licences in Spain: When no news is bad news

It’s been almost five months since UK driving licence holders residing in Spain were told they could no longer drive on Spanish roads. 

Since that fateful May 1st, an unnamed number of the approximately 400,000 UK nationals who are residents in Spain, as well as hundreds if not thousands of Spaniards and foreign nationals who passed their driving test in the UK, have not been able to use their vehicles in Spain or even rent one. 

What adds insult to injury is that British tourists visiting Spain can rent a car without any issue. The fact that Spanish licence holders living in the UK can also continue to exchange their permits in the UK 21 months after Brexit came into force is equally hard to swallow.

READ MORE: ‘An avoidable nightmare’ – How UK licence holders in Spain are affected by driving debacle

The latest update from UK Ambassador to Spain Hugh Elliott on September 27th has done little to quell the anger and sense of helplessness felt by those caught in this bureaucratic rabbit hole.

“I wanted to talk to you personally about the driving licences negotiations, which I know are continuing to have a serious impact on many of you,” Elliott began by saying.

“As the government’s representative in Spain, I hear and understand your frustrations. I too am frustrated by the pace.

“We previously thought, we genuinely thought, that we’d have concluded negotiations by the summer. 

“Many of you have quite rightly mentioned that I expressed the hope to you that we’d have you back on the road by the end of July.

“Now the truth is it has taken much longer, as there have been unforeseen issues that we have been working very hard to resolve. 

“And I’m as disappointed as you are by the length of time that this is actually taking. 

“But, please, be assured that we are resolving those issues, one by one. There are only a couple of issues left, but they are complex.”

It has previously been suggested by the UK Embassy that Spain has asked for data provision to form part of the exchange agreement, and that British authorities were reluctant to share said information on British drivers’ records, including possible infractions. 

Whether this is still one of the causes of the holdups is unknown, given how opaque the Embassy is being in this regard. 

“We’re working on this every day, it remains a priority,” the UK Ambassador continued.

“There is a lot going on behind the scenes, even if it doesn’t feel like it to you. 

“I know too that you want a timescale and you want an update after every meeting.

“But I’m afraid I just can’t give you those things in this negotiation.” 

The ambassador’s words are unlikely to appease those who are still unable to drive. 

A few weeks ago, a Facebook group called “Invasion of the British embassy in Madrid for the DL exchange issue” was set up, which so far has more than 400 members. 

The group’s administrator, Pascal Siegmund, is looking to set up a meeting with the British Embassy and Spanish authorities to shed light on the impact that not being allowed to drive is having on the life of thousands of UK licence holders in Spain. 

Many of those affected are sharing their stories online, explaining how, due to administrative errors on the part of Spain’s DGT traffic authority, they were unable to process their licence exchange before the deadline. 

This contrasts with the little sympathy shown by UK licence holders who were able to exchange and other commentators, who accuse those in limbo of not having bothered to complete the process, arguing that it’s essentially their own fault.

READ ALSO: Not all Brits in Spain who didn’t exchange UK driving licences are at fault 

“Many of you also continue to ask why you can’t drive while the talks are continuing,” Elliott remarked.

“It is not in the gift of the UK government to reinstate the measures which previously allowed you to continue to drive whilst the negotiations were ongoing earlier in the year. 

“As we said previously, we did request the reinstatement of those measures several times, but this wasn’t granted.”

It’s worth noting that since the news broke on May 1st that UK licence holders residing in Spain for more than six months could no longer drive, no Spanish news outlet has covered the story again. 

Pressure from citizen groups such as the one recently set up and increased awareness about the issue in English-language news sites such as The Local Spain is perhaps the best chance in-limbo drivers have of their voices being heard and the driving licence debacle being finally fixed. 

“I’d say we’re genuinely still making progress,” UK Ambassador Elliott concluded, practically the same message as in previous updates.

“I get how frustrating it is to hear that, but we are making progress. We’re in discussions almost daily about outstanding issues. 

“And I remain very optimistic that we will reach an agreement and hope it will be soon. 

“But as I say, I can’t give you a definitive timetable. 

“And so, the advice that we have been giving all along, which is that you should consider taking the Spanish test if you do need to drive urgently, remains valid. Though we appreciate that’s hard.”