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Reader question: Can I be a resident in Spain and the UK?

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Reader question: Can I be a resident in Spain and the UK?
TO GO WITH AFP STORY BY MARIANNE BARRIAUX: People drink in the sun at a terrace bar in Benalmadena on March 16, 2015. - Of all UK-born residents living in the EU in 2011, the largest number was in Spain, according to Britain's Migration Observatory -- and many are retired.But the uncertainty linked to a possible Brexit has more than pensioners on edge. (Photo by JORGE GUERRERO / AFP)

Several readers have contacted us to ask if they can apply to be residents in both the UK and Spain in order to be able to stay in Spain longer than 90 days in 180 and to avoid paying more taxes in one or the other. Here's what you need to know.


Before December 31st 2020, many Brits decided to split their time between Spain and the UK and didn’t always register for residency in Spain even if they stayed for long periods, coming and going as they pleased. Brexit has changed all this, however. 

Can you be a resident in both Spain and the UK?

Unfortunately, it’s not possible to be resident in both the UK and Spain and it never has been. Even before Brexit, you still had to choose which country you were resident in. Pre-Brexit, technically you were supposed to register as a resident after three months in the country, however as the UK was still part of the EU, the amount of time spent in Spain wasn't monitored. This meant that you were able to spend longer periods in Spain and still remain a resident of the UK. 

If you register for residency in Spain, then you are liable to pay tax in Spain and will lose certain rights back in the UK such as access to the NHS and residency status. Therefore it's not possible to be a resident in both countries. 

Up until December 31st 2020, UK citizens could enjoy the EU’s freedom of movement act, which gave them greater flexibility and allowed them to easily move between Spain and the UK, even though they were only officially resident in one.

Unfortunately, it's no longer possible to do this.


Registering for residency in Spain

Brits who were living in Spain before December 31st 2020 and wish to continue living here, must apply for the biometric residence card called the Tarjeta de Identidad de Extranjero (TIE) if they are applying for residency for the first time. Those who previously held a green residency card, are encouraged by the British Embassy in Spain to exchange it for a TIE. Find out here how to exchange it. 

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

The UK government living in Spain guide states that “If you were legally resident in Spain before January 1st 2021, your rights will be protected by the Withdrawal Agreement and you should check that you are correctly registered as a resident". 

Spanish government website expands on this by stating: “Those UK citizens that arrive from January 1st 2021, and that are not included in the scope of application of the Withdrawal Agreement will fall under the general immigration regime, since the agreement reached between the UK and the EU does not include the free movement of people".

If I register for residency in Spain, does that mean I am also a tax resident there? 

Remember that residency in terms of immigration is not necessarily the same as being a tax resident. Residency has to be applied for, while tax residency can be automatic when certain conditions are met.

According to the Agencia Tributaria Spanish tax authorities, an individual is a tax resident in Spain when any one of the following circumstances apply:

  • “They have stayed longer than 183 days in Spanish territory over the calendar year. In order to determine the permanence in the Spanish territory, occasional absences are included, except if the taxpayer accredits their residency in another country. In the case of countries or territories labelled as tax havens, the Tax Administration can demand proof of stay in that tax haven over a period of 183 days within the calendar year.
  • They have their main base or centre of their activities or economic activities, directly or indirectly, in Spain.
  • They have a dependent not legally separated spouse and/or underage children who are usually residents in Spain. This latter situation accepts evidence to the contrary.”


How long can I stay in Spain if I'm not a resident?

Brits who live in the UK and want to spend time in Spain or own a holiday home here, now need to limit their stays to 90 days in every 180 days. This is because of the EU’s 90-day rule, which allows non-EU citizens to only spend 90-days out of every 180 in an EU or Schengen zone country, without the need for a visa. If you want to spend longer than this you will have to apply for a visa.

Applying for a Spanish residency visa in 2021 and beyond

If you're a British citizen who is not already a resident in Spain, but wants to be, you will be treated the same as third-country nationals, such as those from the US or Australia, and will need to apply for a visa.

According to Balcells Group legal firm in Spain, there are certain visas that make the process much faster, for example:

  • Non-lucrative residence, which only requires the possession of sufficient economic means and private health insurance. Find out more about the non-lucrative visa here and how much money you need for it. 
  • The investor’s visa, if you intend to make an investment in real estate to obtain residency.
    Find out all about Spain's golden visa residency scheme here
  • The student visa, which will allow you to change it afterwards to a temporary work permit.


Q&A: What Brits in Spain need to know about tax and residence after Brexit


Join the conversation in our comments section below. Share your own views and experience and if you have a question or suggestion for our journalists then email us at [email protected].
Please keep comments civil, constructive and on topic – and make sure to read our terms of use before getting involved.

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Anonymous 2021/07/23 11:08
If you are a S1 holder and have an NIE I understand that you are still able to use the NHS when in the UK. I and my wife and dependent child applied for a UK EHIC card as advised by the UK government after Brexit. We received the cards in Spain in early January and they are valid for five years. They provide cover in the EU. I also understand that the cost of any non-private treatment in Spain (and I assume elsewhere in the EU) is charged back to the NHS. Am I right? David Walsh Asturias

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