BREXIT: How many Britons have applied for Spain’s TIE residency card?

The UK embassy in Madrid has released data on the number of Brits who have applied for the non-EU residency card or exchanged their green certificates for the Withdrawal Agreement document, all while strongly encouraging that all UK nationals in Spain get one. 

how many brits have applied for tie in spain
Photo: Jorge Guerrero/AFP

“At the beginning of June (2021) more than 150,000 UK Nationals had applied for their Withdrawal Agreement TIE – that’s both those swapping from the green certificate, as well as brand new applicants,” The British embassy wrote in a Facebook post. 

This represents a jump of around 100,000 applications or exchanges from when Spain’s Secretary of State for Migration Hana Jalloul stated in a video message on December 23rd 2020 that “more than 50,000 British citizens have applied for the new TIE card”. 

“If you’re not one of them, both we and the Spanish Government recommend doing so as soon as you can,” The British Embassy advised on August 13th. 

“It explicitly states your rights under the Withdrawal Agreement. It makes day-to-day administrative processes, including border crossing, easier. It’s got your photo on it, it’s more recognisable and it’s more durable.”

Spain’s Ministry of Migration and Inclusion states the same advantages in its latest Q&A about Brexit

To clarify, the Tarjeta de Identidad de Extranjero (TIE) is a residency document that’s issued to non-EU foreigners who live in Spain.

In the case of Britons who can prove they were living in Spain before December 31st 2020 it features the words “Emitido bajo artículo 18.4 Acuerdo de Retirada” (issued under Article 18.4 of the Withdrawal Agreement), which means they keep the same rights they had before they ceased to be EU nationals. 

But TIEs are also issued to Britons who are moving to Spain for the first time after Brexit, in which case those words regarding their rights under the Withdrawal Agreement and the conditions they have to meet to be eligible for residency are harder. The 150,000 stat released by the UK Embassy does not apply to this group.


In the case of unregistered Brits who were living in Spain before Brexit, it’s a no brainer. Spanish authorities have been particularly lenient by not setting an official deadline for them to apply, but under EU law their 90 days out of 180 days in the Schengen Area elapsed at the end of March. If they intend to live in Spain, they have to register and get a TIE. 

FIND OUT: How to apply for a TIE residency card in Spain

For those who did register as residents in Spain before Brexit – in many cases years before – they have been advised for the past months by the UK embassy to exchange their green residency documents (A4 or card sized) for the reasons listed earlier. 

When Withdrawal Agreement TIEs for Britons were first launched in July 2020, the advice for green certificate holders was that the exchange was optional, but in recent months Spanish and British authorities have started to recommend more and more frequently that they carry out the swap. 

This comes in light of increasing problems with the recognition of the old green certificates by airport staff and by other officials. 

“Some Spanish authorities are getting it so wrong (universities, banks) and insisting only the TIE is now acceptable,” Anne Hernández, head of citizen support group Brexpats in Spain, told The Local. 

Nonetheless, not all Brits in Spain are in favour of the swap, as in some cases they want to avoid long waits in places with large British populations, or because their old green residency document doesn’t have an expiry date or have to be renewed in theory, as in the case of the TIE. 

Reader question: Does Spain’s TIE residency card always have an expiry date?

It’s worth noting however that the exchange process is straightforward in most cases and the benefits of the new TIE card certainly outweigh any potential drawbacks. 

FIND OUT: How Brits in Spain can exchange a green residency document for a TIE

In its latest report published in March 2021, Spain’s Ministry of Migration, Social Security and Inclusion reported that the number of Britons who became residents in Spain went up by 6 percent in 2020, with 381,448 registered by December 31st 2020, the end of the transition period. 

This figure will no doubt have changed by August 2021, but it does reflect that there could be tens or even a couple hundred thousands UK nationals who have not yet exchanged their green residency documents.


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Reciprocal healthcare agreements between Spain and Gibraltar end

The Spanish government has confirmed that it will not extend its reciprocal healthcare agreements with Gibraltar, meaning that from July 1st 2022, it will come to an end.

Reciprocal healthcare agreements between Spain and Gibraltar end

When the UK left the EU on December 31st 2020, both sides agreed that the UK’s EHIC European healthcare cards could still be used until their expiry dates.

This card provided British travellers with free state-provided medical care in the EU in case of emergencies.

Beyond their five year period of validity, EHIC cards are no longer valid and travellers have to apply for the new Global Heath Insurance Card (GHIC) instead. 

Spain made a separate agreement with Gibraltar under its Royal Brexit Decree in which unilateral arrangements would be maintained in the territory and extended until June 30th 2022.

During the meeting of the Spanish Council of Ministers on Tuesday, the Spanish Government decided not to extend the agreement further, meaning that residents of Gibraltar will no longer be able to benefit from it.

In a statement the government of Gibraltar said: “It would have been HMGoG’s preference for these arrangements, which deeply affect citizens on either side of the border on matters as essential as healthcare, to have been maintained. Indeed, HMGoG was prepared to continue with them”.

“However, because reciprocity is a key element to these arrangements which cannot work without coordination and provisions for reimbursement of costs etc., HMGoG is left with no option but to discontinue them also in so far as treatment in Gibraltar is concerned,” it continued. 

What does this mean?

Gibraltar residents insured under Gibraltar’s Group Practice Medical Scheme will, after 30th June 2022, no longer be able to access free emergency healthcare in Spain during a temporary stay in the country. 

Those who are residents in Spain who travel over to Gibraltar will not have access to free healthcare on The Rock either. 

As a consequence, if a resident of Gibraltar falls ill or has an accident while over the border in Spain or the same for a Spanish resident in Gibraltar, they will have to pay for healthcare.

The government of Gibraltar is encouraging its citizens from July 1st 2022 to have appropriate travel insurance with medical cover each time they visit Spain.

This means that even those who are hopping over the border for few hours such as for a shopping trip or going out for dinner will have to make sure that they have adequate health insurance. 

“Where medical attention is required the costs incurred may be considerable, so you should ensure you have adequate insurance cover or alternatively the means to pay,” the Gibraltar government said in their statement.