Anne Hérnandez, the head of citizen help group Brexpats in Spain, told The Local Spain on Thursday of the most recent residency problem UK nationals in Spain are encountering post-Brexit.
According to legal documents The Local Spain has had access to, Spain’s Immigration Office (Extranjería) are informing some Britons who applied for residency under the Withdrawal Agreement that they have 15 days to leave the country after their application has been rejected.
“You will be advised that, unless you have a qualifying document to stay in Spain, you must leave the Spanish territory within 15 days from the notification of this resolution, unless exceptional circumstances occur and you justify that you have sufficient means, in which case you may extend your stay up to a maximum of ninety days,” reads the document.
“Once the indicated period has elapsed without the departure being made, the provisions of the Regulation of Organic Law 4/2000, of January 11, will be applied for the cases of being irregularly in the Spanish territory (article 53.1.a of the cited Organic Law 4/2000).”
According to the state bulletin in question, overstaying can be considered a “serious offence” by Spanish authorities, with fines going from €501 to €10,000, a possible expulsion from Spain as well as a potential ban from the Schengen area for six months to five years.
Hernández, who was recently awarded an MBE for the help she provides to Britons in Spain, said “it’s the first I’ve heard of the 15 days deadline but I’ve been contacted by people asking for help who’ve told me this”.
“We don’t have exact figures of how many people are affected but I know of several cases around Málaga.
“Applications are mostly being rejected on the grounds of insufficient evidence of legally residing in Spain in 2020, such as a padrón (town hall registration), medical insurance or other proof people were actually living here before 2021,” Hernández explained.
The situation affects Britons who are applying for residency in Spain for the first time under the Withdrawal Agreement. In essence, those who didn’t register before Brexit came into force, (and therefore are not holders of the old green residency document or, since July 2020, a TIE card), even though they were purportedly living in Spain before the end of 2020.
Their application process is different from those who are green residency document holders and want to exchange the A4 paper or card for a TIE, and different as well from the process for UK nationals who weren’t living in Spain before Brexit and are applying for residency for the first time.
“It’s scary stuff when you consider that British applicants might have sold up in the UK to buy their dream home here, shipped all their furniture and belongings over and their pets – what do they do?” Hernández said, citing also the example of a pregnant British woman in Spain who’s received this notice letter from Spanish immigration authorities.
Appealing rejected residency applications in Spain is possible and there are several organisations – Age in Spain, Babelia and IOM – helping Brits in particular to do so.
“But if they ask for a document such as medical insurance dating back from 2020 and they can’t provide it, they risk the application being rejected again.” Hernández argued.
Alicia Gárate, the International Organisation for Migration’s coordinator for the UK Nationals Support Fund Project in Spain, told The Local that there are “two appeal processes for rejected residency applications which each have to be completed within a month”.
“It’s important for UK nationals to know that if their residency application is rejected and they appeal, then they have the right to remain in Spain during the appeal process.”
Although Spain hasn’t given unregistered Brits who were in the country before Brexit a deadline by which to apply for their Spanish residency for the first time, UK and Spanish authorities have been urging Britons to do so as soon as possible if they intend to stay here.
Hérnandez will discuss the matter on the Mijas weekly livestream session on Youtube at 7pm local time on Thursday September 9th (you can listen to it at a later date here).