How many residency applications from Britons has Spain rejected?

Find out just how many Britons have had their Spanish residency applications rejected and the reasons why.

People walk past a British pub in Benidorm on January 31, 2020. - On the sun-drenched eastern coast of Spain, British retirees, workers and small business owners are braced for an uncertain future after Britain leaves the European Union today. (Photo by JOSE JORDAN / AFP)
Residency rejections are mostly affecting Britons who are applying for residency in Spain for the first time under the Withdrawal Agreement. Photo: José Jordan/AFP

Earlier this month we reported that some UK nationals who applied for residency under the Withdrawal Agreement and had their Spanish residency applications rejected and were being sent notices telling them they must leave the country within 15 days or risk being classified as illegal.

READ ALSO – BREXIT: Brits rejected for residency in Spain given 15 days to leave country

But just how many people applied for residency and exactly how many applications were rejected?

In Spain, the estimated total number of UK residents in Spain (plus their third-country family members) is 381,400.

As of the beginning of September 2021, the Spanish authorities received 168,700 applications for residency and of these, 141,700 have been concluded, according to a recent report by the EU’s Specialised Committee on Citizens’ Rights.

Of these, 81,200 were approved for permanent residence (for people who had been living in Spain for more than five years) and 57,300 were approved for temporary residence (for people living in Spain for less than five years). 

A total of 2,400 were rejected and 800 were either withdrawn or were counted as void.

Why are residency applications being rejected?

In Spain, it seems that residency rejections are mostly affecting Britons who are applying for residency in Spain for the first time under the Withdrawal Agreement.

In essence, this means 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. 

Anne Hérnandez, the head of citizen help group Brexpats told The Local: “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”.

READ ALSO – Empadronamiento in Spain: What is it and how do I apply?

Mark McMillan from Sun Lawyers in Alicante, who has been helping numerous Britons with their residency applications, said: “Problems arise when people do not provide enough evidence of legally residing in Spain before the end of 2020,” adding that the Padrón certificate is the most widely accepted form of evidence.

While Diego Echavarria from Fairway Lawyers in Marbella told The Local that the most common rejection reason he sees is “because people did not have medical health insurance in Spain issued before 2021”.

READ ALSO – BREXIT: Why UK and Spain now strongly recommend exchanging green residency documents for TIE

He also said that several British people were trying to apply for residency whilst they were still in the UK and were not actually legally living in Spain at the time, and are therefore not covered under the Withdrawal Agreement.

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, however, the UK and Spanish authorities have been urging Britons to do so as soon as possible if they intend to stay here. 

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Anger grows as no solution found yet for in limbo UK drivers in Spain 

British drivers living in Spain are becoming increasingly disgruntled at the lack of solutions two weeks after they were told their UK licences were no longer valid, with the latest update from the UK Embassy suggesting it could still take "weeks" to reach a deal. 

Anger grows as no solution found yet for in limbo UK drivers in Spain 

There is growing discontent among UK licence holders residing in Spain who are currently in limbo, unable to drive in Spain until they either get a Spanish driving licence or a deal is finally reached between Spanish and UK authorities for the mutual exchange of licences post-Brexit.

Since May 1st 2022, drivers who’ve been residents in Spain for more than six months and who weren’t able to exchange their UK licences for Spanish ones cannot drive in Spain.

There are no official stats on how many Britons of the 407,000 UK nationals who are residents in Spain in 2022 are affected; according to the UK Embassy the “majority exchanged” as advised.

But judging by the amount of negative comments the last two updates from the British Embassy in Madrid have received, hundreds if not thousands are stuck without being able to drive in Spain.  

May 12th’s video message by Ambassador Hugh Elliott left many unhappy with the fact that the forecast for a possible licence exchange agreement will be in the “coming weeks”, when two weeks earlier Elliott had spoken of “rapidly accelerating talks”. 

Dozens of angry responses spoke of the “shocking” and “absolutely ridiculous” holdup in negotiations that have been ongoing for more than at least a year and a half, and which the UK Embassy has put down to the fact that Spain is asking the British government to give them access to DVLA driver data such as road offences, something “not requested by other EU Member States”.

Numerous Britons have explained the setbacks not being able to drive in Spain are causing them, from losing their independence to struggling to go to work, the hospital or the supermarket, especially those in rural areas with little public transport.  

“I know personally from all the messages you’ve sent in, just how incredibly disruptive all of this is for many of you,” Elliott said in response. 

“If you are struggling to get around you may find additional advice or support from your local town hall, or charities or community groups in your area and the Support in Spain website is another very useful source of organisations that can provide general support to residents.

“And if your inability to drive is putting you in a very vulnerable situation, you can always contact your nearest consulate for advice.”

There continue to be disparaging opinions in the British community in Spain over whether any pity should be felt for UK licence holders stuck without driving, as many argue they had enough time to register intent to exchange their licences, whilst others clarify that their particular set of circumstances, such as arriving after the December 2020 ‘intent to exchange’ deadline, made this impossible. 

OPINION: Not all Brits in Spain who didn’t exchange UK driving licences are at fault

So is there any light at the end of the tunnel for drivers whose UK licences aren’t valid anymore in Spain or soon won’t be?

“The agreement we’re working towards now will enable UK licence holders, whenever they arrived in Spain or arrive in the future, to exchange their UK licence for a Spanish one without needing to take a practical or a theory test,” Elliott said on Thursday May 12th of the deal they are “fully committed” to achieve.

READ ALSO: How much does it cost to get a Spanish driving licence?

And yet it’s hard for anyone to rest their hopes on this necessarily happening – sooner or later or ever – in part because the embassy advice for those with UK licences for whom it’s imperative to continue driving in Spain is that they should take steps to get their Spanish licence now, while acknowledging that in some places there are “long delays for lessons” and getting your Spanish licence “doesn’t happen overnight”.

READ ALSO: What now for UK licence holders in Spain?