For members


BREXIT: What Britons need to know about visas for Spain

UK nationals looking to visit Spain for short or long stays after Brexit have to factor in the visas they may require now that they are non-EU citizens.

BREXIT: What Britons need to know about visas for Spain
Photo: Schengen Visa

Brexit has complicated life for Britons looking to come to Spain for any number of reasons: a holiday, spending time in their second home, business, residency, retirement or otherwise. 

For those living in Spain before December 31 2020, applying for the TIE residency card is their only option if they wish to stay past 90 days and they haven’t registered before.

READ MORE: How Britons can apply for Spain’s TIE residency card

But UK nationals who are not residents in Spain have to factor in that they may need a visa to visit Spain for both long and short periods.

Will Britons need a visa for a short visit to Spain?

The Spanish government is yet to publish a specific list of visa requirements for Britons wanting to come to Spain after Brexit, which means that until then, the rules that apply to other third-country nationals also technically apply to Britons, although many non-EU nations are exempt from Schengen short-stay visas for now.

Currently, non-resident Britons cannot visit Spain due to the travel ban for non-EU nationals as part of the bloc’s coronavirus restrictions, which further complicates the situation.

However, once Covid restrictions end, there are a couple of situations that could play out:

– Spain won't require a visa for British tourists to visit. This is the current deal under the Withdrawal Agreement and seeing how reliant the country is on tourism (more than 18 million Britons visited Spain in 2019), the government is likely to do whatever it takes to restore the backbone of Spain’s economy by ensuring easy holiday travel for Britons.

– However, Britons may have to apply for an ETIAS visa waiver by the end of 2022 as is being currently reported. This would be a simplified online system which enables Britons to renew their visa waivers for the Schengen Area with less hassle and paperwork (ETIAS waivers will be valid for three years). All the non-EU countries that are currently exempt for Schengen visas for short stays would also have to apply.

Both options would be subject to the 90 out of 180 days rule that applies to non-EU nationals visiting the Schengen Area, constituting a short stay according to Member States’ rules.

This may be subject to future reciprocal tourism agreements with the UK but Sánchez’s government is unlikely to turn its back on British tourists and second home owners and the option of bilateral agreements can't be ruled out.

The UK's government website also offers the latest information on travel to the EU for UK nationals. 

Photo: AFP

What if I’m a UK national wanting to go on a business trip to Spain?

This will again be decided by future bilateral agreements relating to freedom of movement of Britons in Spain for business trips but also transit, au pair work and visits from an EU/EEA spouse, with all visits of a maximum of 90 days under the Schengen Area’s short-stay visa system.

There is currently a Schengen short-stay business visa system for many non-EU nationals who have to have an interview at the Spanish consulate of their country, show proof of financial means, fill in an application form and pay from €35 to €80 in fees. They also require a letter of invitation from the company which they will be doing business with. 

Will Britons need a visa to spend more than 90 out of 180 days in Spain?

In this case, the answer is currently yes, as the end of freedom of movement between the UK and the EU effectively ends any long stays on either side without a visa.

UK citizens wishing to move to Spain for the first time from 2021 have to apply for one of the long-term visas available, before they leave for Spain.

Student visa: You can apply for this visa if you enrol on a Spanish higher education course, but it’s only valid for your time of study (and sometimes has to be renewed before that). You will need proof of financial means and health insurance. The years spent in Spain as a student only count as half towards the years for you to get permanent residency (so if you studied for four years, only two will count towards your residency).

Entrepreneurship visa: Also known as the investment visa, it will require a UK national to invest at least €2 million in Spanish government bonds or buy at least €1 million in Spanish companies’ shares or bank deposits at Spanish financial institutions. Alternatively, they have to start a business project in Spain that is considered of general interest ie. creating jobs, have a relevant socio-economic impact or make a significant contribution to scientific innovation and/or technology.

Golden visa: British people can get residency if they buy real estate in Spain to the value of at least €500,000, per applicant. Find out more here.

Non-lucrative residence visa: the best option for retirees looking to move to Spain, or anyone who can afford it. An applicant must show they have €25,816 at their disposal for one year (€32,270 if it’s a couple), comprehensive health insurance and not work while residing in Spain among other requirements

Family member of an EU citizen visa: If you’re the spouse or family member of a Spaniard or EU citizen, the road towards getting residency in Spain will be fairly straightforward as long as they can prove they have the means to take care of you.

Work visa: Non-EU applicants have to be highly-skilled employees that fall under the EU’s ‘Shortage Occupation’ list, therefore the employer has to apply for your work visa and prove that there are no suitable EU candidates available for the job.

UK citizens can also apply to be self-employed workers in Spain but as non-EU nationals they have to prove their venture in Spain will be financially viable as well as present a complex business plan which needs to be approved by five institutions. Find out more: how Britons can live and work in Spain after Brexit

Family regrouping visa: British or other non-EU residents in Spain who are in possession of a valid work or residency permit can bring over their parents, children or spouses if they’ve been in the country for more than a year and they can prove that the applicants are financially dependent on them.

Member comments

  1. Is there a visa appropriate for tennis players who wish to train and compete around Spain and the rest if the EU for more than 90 days out of 180, but less than 180 days a year total? In other words, not amounting to residency in any one country.

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For members


What is the latest on Gibraltar’s Brexit status?

With 2023 approaching and negotiations between Gibraltar, the UK, EU and Spain dragging on for yet another year, what is the latest on Gibraltar and Brexit? Will they reach a deal before New Year and how could it affect life in Gibraltar and Spain?

What is the latest on Gibraltar's Brexit status?

As British politics tries to move on from Brexit, the tiny British territory at the southern tip of Spain, Gibraltar, has been stuck in political limbo since the referendum all the way back in 2016.

Gibraltar, which voted in favour of Remain during the referendum by a whopping 96 percent, was not included in the Brexit deal and has instead relied on a framework agreement made between the UK and Spain on New Year’s Eve in 2020.

After that framework was laid out, it was hoped that the various parties – that is, the Gibraltarian government, Spain, the EU, and the UK – would build on it and quickly find a wider treaty agreement establishing Gibraltar’s place on the European mainland in the post-Brexit world.

It was thought that Gibraltar could enter into a common travel area with the Schengen zone, limiting border controls and essentially creating a custom-made customs arrangement with the EU.

But since then, the negotiation process has stopped and started, with no deal being made and uncertainty dragging on through 2021.

Despite all parties still being relatively optimistic in the spring of 2022, no resolution has been found and 2023 is approaching.

Relying on the framework agreement alone, uncertainty about what exactly the rules are and how they should be implemented have caused confusion and long delays on the border.

The roadblocks

Progress in the multi-faceted negotiations to bash out a treaty and determine Gibraltar’s place in the post-Brexit world have repeatedly stumbled over the same roadblocks.

The main one is the issue of the border. Known in Spain and Gibraltar as La Línea – meaning ‘the line’ in reference to the Spanish town directly across the border, La Línea de la Concepción – the subject of the border and who exactly will patrol it (and on which side) has been a constant sticking point in negotiations.

Madrid and Brussels have approached the British government with a proposal for removing the border fence between Spain and Gibraltar in order to ease freedom of movement, Spain’s Foreign Minister José Manuel Albares said in late November 2022. There has been no immediate response from London.

The Gibraltarians refuse to accept Spanish boots on the ground and would prefer the European-wide Frontex border force. The British government feel this would be an impingement on British sovereignty. There’s also been the persistent issues of VAT and corporation tax considerations, as well as the British Navy base and how to police the waters around it.

Though there had been reports that the ongoing British driving license in Spain fiasco had been one of the reasons negotiations had stalled, the British ambassador to Spain Hugh Elliot categorically denied any connection between the issue of Gibraltar’s Brexit deal and British driving licence recognition earlier in November.

READ ALSO: CONFIRMED: Deal on UK licences in Spain agreed but still no exchange date

On different pages?

Not only do the long-standing sticking points remain, but it also seems that the various negotiating parties are on slightly different pages with regards to how exactly each seems to think the negotiations are going.

Judging by reports in the Spanish press in recent weeks, it appears that many in Spain may believe the negotiations are wrapping up and a conclusion could be found by New Year. This perception comes largely from comments made by Pascual Navarro, Spain’s State Secretary to the EU. Speaking to reporters in Brussels, Navarro claimed that negotiations have advanced so well that they were now only working ‘on the commas’ of the text – that is to say, tidying it up.

According to Gibraltar’s Chief Minister Fabian Picardo, though negotiations are ongoing, “we’re not there yet”. (Photo: JORGE GUERRERO/AFP)

“No issue that is blocked,” he said. “All of the text is on the table.” A full treaty, he suggested, could be signed “before the end of the year.”

Yet it seems the Gibraltarians don’t quite see the progress as positively as their neighbours. Last week the Gibraltar government, known as No.6, acknowledged Navarro’s optimism.

According to Gibraltar’s Chief Minister Fabian Picardo however, though negotiations are ongoing, “we’re not there yet”.

No.6 remains positive and hopes for a deal, but in recent weeks has also published technical contingency plans for businesses to prepare for what they are calling a ‘Non-Negotiated Outcome’ – effectively a ‘no-deal’ in normal Brexit jargon.

The UK, however, seem to be somewhere in the middle. Like Navarro, the British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly recently suggested at a House of Commons select committee that only “a relatively small number” of issues remain to be resolved.

However, he also acknowledged the possibility of a non-negotiated outcome. “I think it’s legitimate to look at that [planning for a non-negotiated outcome] as part of our thinking,” Mr Cleverly said. “But obviously we are trying to avoid an NNO.”

Election year

If no deal is found by New Year, that would mean that negotiations drag into 2023 – election years for both Picardo and Pedro Sánchez, Spain’s Prime Minister.

Gibraltar is expected to have elections sometime in the second-half of the year, and Sánchez has to call an election by the end of 2023.

In many ways, Spanish domestic politics has the potential to play a far greater role in Gibraltar’s fate than British politics. In fact, the shadow of Spanish politics looms over these negotiations and the future relationship between Spain and Gibraltar, the UK and Spain, and the UK and EU.

If Sánchez’s PSOE were to lose the election, which according to the latest polling data is the most probable outcome, then it would be likely that Spain’s centre-right party PP would seek to renegotiate, if not outright reject, any deal made.

READ ALSO: Who will win Spain’s 2023 election – Sánchez or Feijóo?

If PP are unable to secure a ruling majority, however, they may well be forced to rely on the far-right party Vox, who have often used nationalist anti-Gibraltar rhetoric as a political weapon. If Vox were to enter into government, which is unlikely but a possibility, it’s safe to say any agreement – if one is even reached before then – would be torn up and the Spanish government would take a much harder line in negotiations.

As the consequences of Brexit churn on in Britain, in Gibraltar uncertainty looms.