Do Brits and other non-EU property hunters still need a military permit to buy in Spain?

Do Brits and other non-EU property hunters still need a military permit to buy in Spain?
Torrevieja is among the Alicante municipalities where non-EU property buyers no longer require a military permit. Photo: Jose M Martin Jimenez/AFP
Foreign property buyers in Alicante province no longer need to get a Franco-era military authorisation to buy a home in locations that are of strategic interest for national defense, a law which shocked UK property seekers in the aftermath of Brexit. 

What’s the latest?

In early July, Spain’s Ministry of Defense published an order addressed to Spain’s General Directorate of Infrastructures allowing them to cancel the requirement of a military authorisation for non-EU property buyers in an area that’s particularly popular with foreign buyers: Alicante province.  

The decision benefits non-EU nationals such as Americans, Russians and, since 2021, Britons who want to buy a property in the Alicante municipalities of Torrevieja, Orihuela, Pilar de la Horadada or San Miguel de Salinas.

The decision comes after several bodies including the Alicante Chamber of Commerce and Alicante’s Association of Real Estate Developers (Provia) were able to convince Spain’s Ministry of Defense of the negative impact the military permit requirement was having on foreign property  purchases. 

A total of 363,393 foreign nationals are residents in the eastern province that’s part of Spain’s Valencia region, and thousands more own property in Alicante even though they aren’t residents there.

Spain’s Ministry of Defense has indicated that in Alicante municipalities in question in which the land has been approved in a partial plan or is classified as urban land (terreno urbano), it will no longer be necessary to apply for a military permit. 

Non-EU buyers of non-urban land (suelo no urbanizable or terreno rústico) are the only ones who will still need to request a military permit. 

As things stand, there is no indication that non-EU buyers in other locations in Spain which require a military permit can benefit from the lifting of this rule, but the decision regarding Alicante may lead to changes elsewhere. 

military permit property spainPhoto: Luis Vizcaino/AFP

What is Spain’s military permit for properties law all about?

For the past 40 years, Spain has had legislation in place that requires non-EU buyers to seek a special permit from the Ministry of Defence in order to buy property within areas considered strategic defence points.

The law was actually drafted in the last year of the Franco regime as a means to protect national security by preventing strategic places being bought up by foreigners. 

The law came into effect under Royal Decree 689 published in 1978 and exists to this day.

It’s an administrative process that requires certain paperwork including a criminal record check to take place before a purchase can be made, a process which is supposed to take two to four months to be completed but often takes double that time.

The rule applied to all foreign buyers until Spain joined the EU in 1986, when an exemption was put in place for citizens from the bloc. 

Citizens from Iceland, Switzerland and Norway are exempt under a mutual agreement between their governments and Spain.

Which areas in Spain need military permission?

It isn’t just zones around the edge of military installations that fall under the requirement for special permission.

In total, the law impacts about 1,560 municipalities across Spain as it also applies to urban areas close to the Strait of Gibraltar, the Bay of Cádiz, the Galician coast and Spain’s borders with France and Portugal as well as all the Balearic Islands and the Canary Islands. 

It also affects much of the region of Murcia and the Alicante province, especially towns along the southern Costa Blanca because of their proximity to the Cartagena naval base.

map military permits property spainMap produced by

What is the process for getting a military permit?

Besides all the usual administrative formalities required when buying in Spain, foreign buyers of property within designated sensitive zones will have to apply for a permit from the Ministry of Defence.

To do this they will need to provide a Criminal Record Certificate from their country of residence, accompanied by a sworn translation and stamped by a notary as well as detailed plans of the property itself.

As mentioned earlier, the application is meant to take an average of two to four months and up to six months but could be delayed further if there is a backlog due to a sudden surge in applications.

In recent years an average of 150 applications are received annually but this could soar with Brits now needing to apply too.

This means the buying process could be drawn out by months as without relevant permission, notaries will not be able to transfer title deeds.

Applications will need to be made with the help of a property registrar or notary. 

What about Brits who bought a house before December 31st 2020?

There is no retroactive application of the law which means if a property was registered in the name of a British buyer before the end of the Withdrawal Agreement then no special permission is needed.

For UK nationals who aren’t beneficiaries of the Withdrawal Agreement who buy a property in 2021 and onwards, the military permit could apply depending on where they intend to buy, now with the exception of Torrevieja, Orihuela, Pilar de la Horadada and San Miguel de Salinas in Alicante province.

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