BREXIT: Why UK and Spain now strongly recommend exchanging green residency document for TIE

It remains optional for Brits in Spain to exchange their green residency certificates for TIE cards, but now both UK and Spanish authorities are urging that UK nationals do so anyway. Here's why.

BREXIT: Why UK and Spain now strongly recommend exchanging green residency document for TIE
Screenshot of British Ambassador to Spain Hugh Elliott speaking about the new advice for exchanging the old green residency documents (pictured) for a TIE card.

Since the early 2000s, Britons in Spain who registered as residents were issued a green residency document, first it was an A4-sized paper version and later a smaller version, also green and made of paper (which could not be laminated).

Since July 6th 2020 however, Spanish immigration authorities started issuing the biometric TIE (Tarjeta de Identidad de Extranjero) cards, in accordance with Britons’ new status as non-EU nationals following Brexit.

Those who had the green residency certificates have since been given the option of exchanging the green document for a TIE card, but Spanish authorities and the UK Embassy in Madrid have stressed that this is “optional” and that the green documents will still be valid after the end of the transition period, so it was up to you if you exchanged or not.

On May 26th however, UK and Spanish authorities have officially adopted a change of stance and are now recommending that everyone exchange their green residency document for a TIE and have outlined several reasons why.

British Ambassador to Spain Hugh Elliott said: “We know that some of you have been having difficulty using it to access services. As was always said, the green certificate is a valid document to prove your residency and your rights under the Withdrawal Agreement in Spain, and that’s not changing. However, both we and the Spanish government would now strongly encourage you to take steps to exchange the green certificate for the new biometric TIE.”

Why are the authorities advising this? Elliott has outlined three main reasons as to why British residents should do this:

  • “Firstly it explicitly states your rights,” he said. Elliott refers to Britons’ rights under the Withdrawal Agreement which protect the rights of Brits who were living in Spain before the end of 2020. These are not explicitly stated on the green certificates.
  • “Secondly it will make some day-to-day administrative processes including border crossings, if you’re travelling, easier. It’s got your photo on it and it’s just more recognisable,” Elliott continued
  • “Thirdly, it’s actually a lot more durable than the green paper certificate. I’ve seen some pretty tatty ones of those!” he added.

So the message is that having a TIE could actually save Brits in Spain time and trouble, especially as not all authorities outside of Spain are necessarily familiar with the old, green residency documents.

Many Britons have been complaining about the lack of appointments available to exchange their cards in places with a high volume of UK nationals such as Alicante.

Some groups fighting for Briton’s rights in Spain have called on UK nationals wanting to process the “optional” exchange to hold off until their fellow countrymen and women registering for the first time as residents get their TIE first, as a means of not clogging up the system.

“The Spanish authorities have recently dedicated more resources to help UK nationals through this process – for example specifically in Alicante, Benidorm and in Torrevieja,” explained Elliott.  

He went on to say the exchange process is very quick and that you’ll need to use an online portal you make an appointment at a National Police station in your province.

“Go to your appointment with your documentation,” Elliott continued. “You’ll also have fingerprints taken, then you’ll be given a receipt, a resguardo in Spanish, with a date to collect your new TIE card”. The cost for the exchange is just €12.

In some regions however, such as in Catalonia, it may be necessary to apply for a second appointment in order to collect your card, these could also take a long time to become available. 

If you’ve been a resident for less than five years, you’ll receive the TIE valid for five years, while if you have been a resident for more than five years, you will be given a larga duración (long-term) TIE which lasts for 10 years initially.

“You don’t need to prove your income when exchanging a green certificate or when updating from a five to a 10-year TIE, although you may have to prove your continuous residence in Spain”, Elliott explained.

According to the British Embassy, many Brits in Spain who have already done the exchange process have been surprised about just how quick and straightforward the whole process is.

“I would encourage anyone who has not exchanged to take steps to do so now,” concluded Elliott.

Back in December 2020, Spanish authorities began to stress that the exchanging green docs for TIEs could be advantageous, with Spain’s Secretary of State for Migration Hana Jalloul saying: “The Spanish Government would like to keep on encouraging British Nationals to exchange their green residency document for the new biometric TIE card as it may speed up administrative processes and, especially in the current situation regarding border crossings.”


Member comments

  1. Interesting that everyone is being encouraged to get a TIE. I will lose the 4.5 hard earned years I have put in on my journey to citizenship. I will effectively start at Year Zero because the TIE will state that it’s temporary for five years from now – not from when I was first given residency in October 2016. This is extrenelt unfair, and the British ambassador should make this clear.

    1. That’s almost certainly not the case. Your TIE is not the definitive source of information about your length of residency. Do you have a padrón?

  2. No problem getting my TIE in Girona – straightforward and no delays in collecting the card

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Britons investigated for using fake documents to stay in Spain after Brexit

Spanish national police are investigating four British citizens who allegedly forged padrón documents in order to gain residency status in Spain after Brexit. One of them has been arrested in the Canary island of Tenerife.

Britons investigated for using fake documents to stay in Spain after Brexit

Spanish police investigators, through the Immigration Office of Santa Cruz de Tenerife, have discovered the possible existence of fraud in some post-Brexit residence applications.

After carrying out the necessary checks, they found that at least four residency application requests had been made using false documents which claimed their registration at their local town halls (padrón) were prior to Brexit coming into force.

British citizens wanting to apply for residency after Brexit and be protected under the Withdrawal Agreement (WA) have to prove they were living in Spain before the end of 2020 through documents such as their padrón certificate or private medical insurance. 

READ ALSO: 16 things you should know about Spain’s padrón town hall registration

The four British nationals in question are based in the southern part of the Canary Island of Tenerife and one of them, who was on the island at the time of investigation, has been arrested. The investigation is ongoing and new arrests haven’t been ruled out. 

This is not the first time that fake applications and falsified documents have been used by British citizens to try and gain Spanish residency after Brexit.

Having WA protected status makes the residency application simpler and grants more rights than for Brits applying after Brexit as non-EU nationals, as they don’t have to prove a large amount of savings and they can apply for jobs in the same way as EU nationals, among many other advantages.  

In November 2021, the UK Embassy warned UK Nationals against submitting fraudulent residency applications – either directly or through a third party.

“They are particularly on the alert for forged healthcare insurance, padrón certificates and lease contracts, as well as people falsely claiming student status,” the embassy wrote on their Facebook page.

There were also reports of fraudulent gestores (similar to lawyers) in Spain targeting non-EU citizens ‘to help’ with residence applications.

Since Brexit came into force in 2021, the main reasons why UK nationals’ residency applications have been rejected have come as a result of them not ‘regularising’ their situation in Spain, in other words registering at the town hall or immigration office, as well not being able to prove that they were living in the country before the end of 2020 when the UK left the EU.