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BREXIT: When is the deadline for Brits to apply for residency in Spain? 

Until when do Britons who were living in Spain before 2021 have to apply to become residents? The UK Embassy told The Local what the law states. 

BREXIT: When is the deadline for Brits to apply for residency in Spain? 
Photos: Jose Jordan/AFP, Camilo Rueda López/Flickr

With the first 90 out of 180-day deadline for non-resident Britons fast approaching – March 31st – many UK nationals who were living in Spain before January 1st 2021 are wondering when the deadline for registering as Spanish residents is. 

It’s true that in many cases unregistered Britons should have started the application process with plenty more time in hand, but there are numerous setbacks those who have wanted to register in recent months have faced. 

These include Spain’s travel ban on UK arrivals (due to be lifted on March 30th), Covid restrictions that have meant some Spanish immigration departments are operating with a skeleton staff, as well as a general backlog of applications and lack of appointments in places in Spain with a large British population. 

Different sources catering to British audiences in Spain have also been mentioning two different dates for a deadline for UK nationals who have never registered before: June 30th and March 31st. 

The Local Spain contacted the UK Embassy in Madrid to clarify, to which they replied:

“There is no hard deadline to register for residency – so neither March 31st or June 30th 2021 –  or to exchange your green certificate for a TIE.

“However UK nationals in Spain have always had to apply for residency in Spain if they intended to live here beyond three months. 

“This applies equally to nationals of other countries, including EU countries.”

The British Embassy recommends that UK nationals in Spain find out all there is to know about visas and residency in Spain in their Living in Guide on Gov.uk.

On this page, the deadline of June 30th 2021 is mentioned but only in reference to the date UK driving licence holders who are residing in Spain have until to exchange their UK licence for a Spanish one. 

This may be the source of the confusion regarding the alleged June residency deadline. 

Even though there is no hard deadline for residency on March 31st either, it is the day which marks the first 90/180 deadline for non-resident Brits in Spain and the Schengen Area, if they’ve been here or in the EU since January 1st 2021. 

The British Embassy did tell The Local in early March that there would be no extension for unregistered Brits in Spain due to the state of alarm and other coronavirus restrictions and difficulties caused by the current state of affairs. 

READ ALSO: 90/180 day Schengen rule: What are the consequences of overstaying?

In effect, and this may be subject to interpretation, now is the time for undecided Britons who’ve spent the winter months in Spain, or own a holiday home here, to decide how attached to Spain they want to be and if they want to be residents. 

If they lived in Spain before Brexit fully came into effect on January 1st 2021 and can prove it, it’s their choice to make, they can still apply for residency. But they must do it as soon as possible.

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But if there’s no intention to become a Spanish resident and/or they can’t prove it, they should leave before March 31st, without forgetting there are other visa options available to them.

“UK nationals (UKNs) who were legally living in Spain before 1 January 2021 can continue to live and work here; these rights will be protected by the Withdrawal Agreement for as long as they remain living here,” a UK Embassy source told The Local.  

“Their rights come from being lawfully resident here before the end of the Transition Period, rather than from possessing the residency document itself. 

“However, it’s really important that people take steps to register as soon as possible.

“The 90/180 day rule applies to any UK nationals who are visiting Spain for leisure purposes since 1 January 2021. 

“Any stays beyond the 90 days in any 180-day period will be dependent on the applicable visas and immigration rules for Spain. This may require applying for a visa and/or permit”.

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RESIDENCY PERMITS

Spain the second EU country that grants most residency permits to foreigners

More than 370,000 third-country nationals were granted the right to reside in Spain for the first time in 2021, according to new Eurostat data.

Spain the second EU country that grants most residency permits to foreigners

In 2021, Spain issued more than 370,000 first-time residency permits to non-EU nationals, a 31 percent rise compared to 2020 figures.

This figure represented 13 percent of the total number of residency visas issued across the EU, putting Spain only behind Poland, which granted 967,300 residency permits to non-EU nationals in 2021, around a third of the total across the EU’s 27 Member States last year.

Spain was top of the leaderboard in terms of residency permits issued for family reasons – 159,200 – 5 percent of the EU total.

As of January 1st 2022, there were 5.4 million foreigners living in Spain according to the country’s National Statistics Institute (INE). 

That means that foreign nationals now represent 11.4 percent of Spain’s population of 47.4 million.

Spain gained 49,612 foreign residents in 2021 whereas the number of Spanish nationals living in the country was reduced by 15,502.

In terms of the nationality of foreigners who live in Spain, Moroccans make up the biggest group (776,223), followed by Romanians (632,859), UK nationals in third (316,529), Colombians (315,885) and Italians (298,817). 

Spain’s foreign population stats often vary given the fact that sometimes it’s the calculations of the country’s migration offices (extranjería) that are used, whereas on other occasions it’s the tally used by town halls through the padrón census.

Other insightful data from Eurostat’s latest study include the fact that the residency permits issued on a yearly basis across the EU have roughly doubled from 1.5 million in 2011 to just under 3 million in 2021.

The huge rise in residence permits issued by Poland in 2021 can be explained by the fact that most of them are work permits for neighbouring Ukranians (790,100 of the 967,300 total). 

France was third in terms of the total number of residency permits issued in 2021 (285,200) and the Gallic nation is the EU country which issued the most residency visas for study purposes last year (90,600).

Whereas Italy was the country which saw the biggest rise in residency permits (159 percent rise from 105,700 in 2020 to 274,100 in 2021), Germany issued 41 percent fewer residency permits in 2021.

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