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BREXIT

Reader question: Can Brits stay more than 90 days in Spain if they have a spouse with an EU passport?

As British nationals get to grips with the 90-day rule that now governs all trips to EU and Schengen countries, readers are asking if having a European spouse makes any difference to the limit?

Reader question: Can Brits stay more than 90 days in Spain if they have a spouse with an EU passport?
Is having an EU spouse useful for more than love and companionship? Photo: Pau BARRENA / AFP

Question: I have an Irish passport but my wife has a British one. I am therefore able to visit Spain for more than 90 days out of every 180, but can she do the same as my wife?

This question is one of several The Local has received on a similar theme as British nationals face life under the EU’s 90-day rule.

90-day rule

This rule applies to all non EU-nationals travelling into the EU or Schengen zone (which includes Spain) for whatever reason – holiday, family visits or visit to second homes.

It has therefore long applied to visitors from American, Canada, Australia etc but since January 1st 2021 has also applied to Brits.

If you intend to do paid work while in the EU, you will probably need a visa even if you stay less than 90 days and there are some countries whose nationals need an entry visa even for a stay of less than 90 days – find the full list here. The overseas territories of France and the Netherlands have extra restrictions in place.

The rule says that people who are not resident can only spend 90 days out of every 180 in the EU. So in total over the course of a year you can spend 180 days, but not all in one block.

This Schengen calculator allows you to calculate your visits and make sure you don’t overstay.

It’s important to point out that the 90-day limit is for the whole Schengen area, so for example if you have already spent 89 days in Spain you cannot then go for a long weekend in Berlin.

People who want to stay longer than that have to get a visa – either a visitor visa if they simply want to make a prolonged visit or a long-stay visa for people who intend to make their home in an EU country.

But what about Brits who are the spouses of EU citizens?

Having an EU spouse is useful in a number of ways to do with immigration (plus if you pick a good one they might put the bins out) but unfortunately not when it comes to the 90-day rule.

The EU’s immigration guidelines state that non-EU passport holders can join their EU spouse in a European country for three months, but after that must apply for a residency card (if they intend to stay) or a visa.

The good news is that applying for both residency or a visa can be simpler if you are applying as the spouse of an EU passport holder.

For visas the system varies between countries but generally you won’t need proof of financial means if your spouse is working, while for pensioners the income and health cover requirements are generally more relaxed. 

In Spain, the residency document to apply for in this case is the tarjeta de residencia de familiar de ciudadano de la UE (Residency card for family member of EU citizen), which is available for married or registered spouses as well as their children.

If a Briton’s EU partner is working in Spain (either contract or self-employed), they won’t need to show proof of income but rather their registration in the country’s labour system. Showing that the the UK spouse is a beneficiary of the EU national’s social security and therefore has access to public healthcare also means they don’t have to prove they have comprehensive private health insurance. 

It’s worth noting that if a British national’s EU spouse has residency in another EU country other than Spain, that doesn’t give the UK national the automatic right to move to Spain; the EU citizen would have to move to Spain as well and prove he or she has sufficient economic resources for the two of them. 

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Member comments

  1. As always the Local has provided a useful overview. However, when to comes
    to visas the devil is in the detail. The article would be *really* useful
    if links were included to application processes.

    People who want to stay longer than 90 days in 180 have to get a visa – either a visitor visa or a long-stay visa. This article was sourced in
    France but is referenced by The Local in Spain. I am still looking for
    details of how to obtain a visitor visa – clearly a Spanish matter as
    the EU extension visa does not seem appropriate.

    Can anyone assist with clarification of what visa is needed to stay
    in Spain for 180 days en bloc – and how to obtain such? Information
    is needed by September for those UK nationals who habitually spend
    their winters in Spain over the five colder months of the year.

  2. The french government’s website guide to visas explains very clearly how to stay longer than 90 days, if required. And, for those with 2nd homes who want to spend more time in the summer (more than 90 days in a stretch) a ‘short long-stay’ visa is possible. Interestingly, Crete, Croatia, Bulgaria and Romania have chosen to stay out of the 90 days in 180 day rule. Visa application to french consulate appears pretty straightforward. It’s a nuisance, and I wish we didn’t have to do it, but not as bleak as the press make it out to be.

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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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