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Why some residency applications by Britons in Spain are rejected (and how to appeal)

Some UK nationals applying for residency in Spain for the first time are having their applications rejected. We spoke to some of the groups helping Britons register to find out where the main problems are and how the appeal process works. 

Why some residency applications by Britons in Spain are rejected (and how to appeal)
Have you had problems getting your Spanish TIE residency card (seen here in background)? Photo: Yan Krukov/Pexels

Why are some residency applications getting rejected?

“Proofs of residency by the 31/12/2020 are key to the success of the application process,” Alicia Gárate, the International Organization for Migration’s coordinator for the UK Nationals Support Fund Project in Spain, told The Local Spain. 

“It is important to gather as much information as possible to prove that you were a legal resident in Spain before the end of the transition period. 

“In addition, there can be challenges that are very specific to each situation and are complex, therefore they need to be analysed and addressed in detail from a legal perspective and according to the Withdrawal Agreement.

IOM is able to provide individual support to UK nationals who are struggling in these cases.”

It’s worth noting that Britons who are already holders of a green residency certificate and wish to exchange it for the new biometric TIE card do not have to provide as much documentation and the process is fairly straightforward.

However, for UK nationals who have not been previously issued a green residency document, the requirements from Spanish extranjería authorities are stricter and require more paperwork as they have to prove they lived in Spain before Brexit and that they have the financial means and health cover to not be a burden to the system. 

The differences between the different processes are detailed in this document by the Spanish government.

“In our experience, rejection of residency applications is actually quite unusual,” a spokesperson for Age in Spain, one of the other groups currently helping Britons with residency applications, told The Local Spain. 

“Most of the time it comes down to a relatively small problem in the application – a mistake on a form, a section that has not been completed or a missing or out-of-date document, for example. 

“Whenever people need support with the residency process we work with them to make sure that these things are sorted before an application is submitted. 

“If a residency application is rejected then Age in Spain works with that person to help them resolve the problem.”


Anne Hernández, head of Brexpats in Spain, told The Local that several Britons had contacted her to inform her that their residency applications had been rejected because the private health insurance policy they had taken out didn’t start before January 1st 2021.

“Setting up a private medical insurance policy can take several weeks,” Hernández said. 

“Legally they can’t backdate it, even if they took out the policy in December 2020.”

“These are isolated cases, so far I’ve heard of it happening in Alicante and Málaga, but I’ve also been told that some immigration officials are not accepting a padrón (town hall registration certificate) that wasn’t issued before December 31st 2020.  

Photo: Jose Miguel Guardeño/Pixabay

“I’ve also been told that on other occasions applicants are being asked to provide translations or legislations of their documents having not done so initially. 

“Or to provide a more current bank statement which shows that they were living and spending in Spain before the end of the transition period.”

In a recent Facebook post, Citizens Advice Bureau Spain wrote that “some companies present applications with incorrect documentation”, in reference to gestorías and other legal companies (not the ones quoted in this article) that are now offering Britons help with the residency process for a fee. 

“Please be diligent,” they stressed, which is a reminder that it’s always worth double-checking the requirements and paperwork yourself even if you’ve enlisted the help of an agent.  

Can Britons appeal if their residency application is rejected?

“If a UK National’s residency application is rejected they can appeal the decision,”  Alicia Gárate of the IOM stated.

“It’s important for them to know that if it is rejected and they appeal, then they have the right to remain in Spain during the appeal process.

“Information on how to appeal is included in the ‘resolución’, the letter that UK nationals receive from the Spanish authorities as a result of their application. 

“While the appeal is considered, there is no loss of rights for the UK nationals and they are able to remain in Spain”. 

UK nationals who are struggling with the procedure or are not sure about what to do next can contact the IOM’s UK Nationals Support Fund as they have been supporting those who are facing specific challenges with their applications. They can also provide support and advice on the appeal process as needed. 

“We have a dedicated team of caseworkers to support UK nationals who are struggling. We encourage UK nationals who are facing difficulties to get in touch with us at IOM Spain, Madrid (0034) 699 581 855, Murcia (0034) 648 642  543, Andalucia (0034) 650 339 754/ 616 825 704 or they can email us at: [email protected] and visit our website.”

Age in Spain also gave more details on the appeal system:An appeal is a formal written document you can prepare and present to the Spanish administration in case you disagree with their resolution about your residency process. 

“You will have one month to present the appeal to the office that issued the resolution of your residency process, counting from the day after you received and signed that resolution.Your appeal will be issued to a judge that will then send the judgement to the Immigration Office.

“If the appeal is finally accepted by the Immigration Office, you will receive a document called “Carta de estimación favorable“, which is equivalent to the “resolución favorable” and therefore allows you to proceed to get your fingerprints taken and issue your residency card.

Photo:Startup Stock Photos/Pexels

What do I need to start an appeal?

“It is important to note that rejected processes usually happen due to the nuances in each residency application, and therefore the documents needed to proceed with the appeal may vary from case to case,” Age in Spain stressed.

Some of the requirements for the appeal are:

  •         Name and surname
  •         NIE or ID number (passport)
  •         The resolution which is being appealed and the reason that justifies the appeal
  •         Institution where the appeal will be sent. In this case the Immigration Office of your province (Oficina de Extranjería)
  •         Details and particularities that justify our appeal, explained thoroughly and based on legal assumptions
  •         Date, signature and place where the appeal was made

Can I present an appeal by myself?

According to Age in Spain, “if you decide to start an appeal by yourself, you will need to present all the previous documents at a general registry that will send your appeal to the proper administration.

“You can also present the documents electronically if you have a Digital Certificate. 

“In that case, you will have to start the process through this website and choose the option Tramitación on-line con certificado digital.

“In the section Datos de la Solicitud, you will have to choose the type of procedure. Choose the option Recurso potestativo de reposición from the dropdown menu.

“Finally, you will have to write down your case and attach all documents listed above to support your claim. It is very important that the case you exposé is well worded, and therefore we recommend seeking advice from a professional lawyer to ensure the success of this step. Finally you will need to press Siguiente at the bottom of the website to proceed and send your appeal. The resolution of the procedure will be notified through email and at your site in the Sede Electrónica – Mis Expedientes.”

Age in Spain assists UK passport holders in Spain with residency matters and appeals to residency queries. 

Residency Helpline and General Enquiries:
+34 932 20 97 41

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For members


EXPLAINED: What are the main obstacles to finding a job when moving to an EU country?

Moving to another country is never easy, as it requires going through cultural changes and administrative formalities. It can be even more complicated when looking for a job.

EXPLAINED: What are the main obstacles to finding a job when moving to an EU country?

According to new data released by the EU statistical office, Eurostat, the knowledge of the national language and the recognition of professional qualifications are the two most common obstacles experienced by foreign-born people in finding a ‘suitable’ job in countries of the European Union.

Overall, about a quarter of people born outside the EU who had experience in working or looking for work in the bloc reported some difficulties getting a ‘suitable’ job for level of education (without considering the field of expertise or previous experience).

The Eurostat analysis shows that the situation is better for EU citizens moving within the bloc. But there are major differences depending on countries and gender.

Life can be more difficult for women

In 2021, 13.2 percent of men and 20.3 percent of women born in another European Union country reported obstacles in getting a suitable job in the EU place of residence.

These proportions however increase to 20.9 percent for men and 27.3 percent for women born in a non-EU country with a high level of development (based on the United Nations’ Human Development Index) and 31.1 percent for men and 35.7 percent for women from non-EU countries with a low or medium level of development.

Finland (42.9 percent), Sweden (41.7 percent), Luxembourg (34.6 percent) and France (32.1 percent) are the countries with the highest shares of people born outside the EU reporting problems. Norway, which is not part of the bloc, has an even higher percentage, 45.2, and Switzerland 34.3 percent.

In contrast, Cyprus (11.2 percent), Malta (10.9 percent), Slovenia (10.2 percent), Latvia (10 percent) and Lithuania (6.7 percent) have the lowest proportion of people born outside the EU reporting difficulties.

Lack of language skills

The lack of skills in the national language is most commonly cited as a hurdle, and it is even more problematic for women.

This issue was reported by 4.2 percent of men born in another EU country, 5.3 percent of those born in a developed country outside the EU and 9.7 percent of those from a non-EU country with a middle or low level of development. The corresponding shares for women, however, were 5.6, 6.7 and 10.5 percent respectively.

The countries where language skills were more likely to be reported by non-EU citizens as an obstacle in getting a relevant job were Finland (22.8 percent), Luxembourg (14.7 percent) and Sweden (13.1 percent).

As regards other countries covered by The Local, the percentage of non-EU citizens citing the language as a problem was 12.4 percent in Austria, 10.2 percent in Denmark, 7.8 percent in France, 5.1 percent in Italy, 2.7 percent in Spain, 11.1 percent on Norway and 10.1 percent in Switzerland. Data is not available for Germany.

Portugal (77.4 percent), Croatia (68.8 percent), Hungary (58.8 percent) and Spain (58.4 percent) have the highest share of people from outside the EU already speaking the language as a mother tongue before arriving, while more than 70 percent of non-EU citizens residing in Denmark, Finland, Luxembourg and Norway said they had participated in language courses after arrival.

Lisbon Portugal

Portugal has the highest share of people from outside the EU already speaking the language as a mother tongue before arriving. (Photo by Aayush Gupta on Unsplash)

Recognition of qualifications

Another hurdle on the way to a relevant job in EU countries is the lack of recognition of a formal qualification obtained abroad. This issue was reported by 2 percent of men and 3.8 percent of women born in another EU country. It was also mentioned by 3.3 percent of men and 5.9 percent of women born in a developed country outside the EU, and 4.8 percent of men and 4.6 percent of women born in a less developed non-EU country.

Eurostat says this reflects an “unofficial distrust” among employers of qualification obtained abroad and the “low official validation of foreign education”.

The lack of availability of a suitable job was another factor mentioned in the survey. In Croatia, Portugal and Hungary, this was the main obstacle to getting an adequate position.

This issue concerned 3.3 percent of men and 4.5 percent of women born in another EU country, 4.2 percent of men and 5 percent of women born in a developed non-EU country It also worried 3.9 percent of men and 5.1 percent of women born in a less developed non-EU country.

Restricted right to work due to citizenship or residence permits, as well as plain discrimination on the grounds of origin were also cited as problems.

Discrimination was mostly reported by people born in a less developed non-EU country (3.1 percent for men and 3.3 percent for women) compared to people born in highly developed non-EU countries (1.9 percent for men and 2.2 percent for women).

Citizenship and residence permits issues are unusual for people from within the EU. For people from outside the EU, this is the only area where women seem to have fewer problems than men: 1.6 percent of women from developed non-EU countries reported this issue, against 2.1 percent of men, with the share increasing to 2.8 and 3.3 percent respectively for women and men from less developed non-EU states.

The article is published in cooperation with Europe Street News, a news outlet about citizens’ rights in the EU and the UK.