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BREXIT

How do other EU countries’ post-Brexit residence permits compare to Spain?

Following the news that Denmark plans to deport a UK national who failed to apply for post-Brexit residence status in time, we look at how Spain and other EU countries have applied residency permit rules following the UK's official withdrawal.

spain brexit residency rights deportation
One of the stated objectives of the agreement is to protect the rights of citizens to continue living and working in their respective countries after Brexit. Photo: Jannes Van den wouwer/Unsplash

Phil Russell, a UK national who lives in Denmark with his Danish partner, submitted an application for a post-Brexit residence permit four days after the December 31st, 2021 deadline.

Russell has since been informed he must leave the country by December 6th but has the right to appeal the decision. He has notified authorities that he intends to appeal and his residence and working rights in Denmark are protected while the appeal is ongoing.

Under Denmark’s application of the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement, British nationals who moved to Denmark under EU free movement rules before December 31st, 2020 were required to submit an application for new residence status and a new residence document by the end of 2021.

Up to September 30th, Danish authorities have received 290 late applications for post-Brexit continued residency status.

Decisions on some applications made after the deadline are still being processed, meaning it is not clear how many UK nationals have already or could yet lose their residency rights.

Below, we look at how Denmark’s approach to the post-Brexit residency process compares to Spain’s and other EU countries.

Spain

Compared to Denmark, Spanish authorities have been lenient with how Brits can guarantee their Withdrawal Agreement rights.

In July 2020, they introduced a new type of TIE card (the residency document for non-EU nationals in Spain) which stipulates their WA rights. 

More than two years on, it isn’t compulsory for UK nationals living in Spain who already had the EU green residence certificate to exchange it for a TIE, but they have been advised to do so as the new ID is biometric and can avoid any issues with airport officials not recognising the old photo-less document.

The main problems that have arisen have been for under-the-radar Britons who never registered prior to Brexit coming into effect on January 1st 2021, and others who have been unable to prove they were living in Spain before that date.

READ MORE: Why some residency applications by Britons in Spain are rejected (and how to appeal)

In September 2021, we covered how some people in that situation had been told to leave at (sometimes very) short notice and apply for a non-EU residency visa such as the non-lucrative visa if their residency application is rejected.

But as Age in Spain – one of the other groups currently helping Britons with residency applications and appeals – told The Local Spain: “In our experience, rejection of residency applications is actually quite unusual”.

However, unregistered applicants have been asked to show more paperwork and proof than those who were just exchanging their green certificates for TIEs.

There is no evidence that Spain has deported any UK nationals. In fact, Spanish authorities actively sought to dispel myths about this propagated in the UK tabloids.

There are now more than 407,000 UK nationals who are currently registered in Spain in 2022, a number which has increased by at least 30,000 since 2021 (how many are still under the radar is unknown). 

This increase reflects the wide coverage and advice that the UK embassy and English-language media and forums have provided to unregistered Brits, as well as the overall tolerant and helpful attitude of Spanish migration authorities. 

Sweden

On its website, the Swedish Migration Agency says it “can accept an application for residence status that has come in after” its deadline which, like in Denmark, was December 31st 2021.

“This presupposes that there are reasonable grounds for why you did not apply in time. A review will be done of each individual case,” the agency says.

People with permanent residence permits have the right to continue to stay in Sweden as usual even after the deadline, according to the Migration Agency. Those with temporary residence permits in Sweden may need to apply for a work permit.

The Swedish rules have nevertheless caused some uncertainty for resident Britons.

According to a section on the Migration Agency website, post-Brexit residence status “applies indefinitely”. The certificate which was issued to those who applied before the deadline of December 31st 2021, however, is only valid for five years. 

This has left many of those holding the certificate concerned that laws might change to prevent them from renewing their certificate when that period ends. 

READ ALSO:

France

Like Denmark, application for a post-Brexit residence card was required in France.

In June 2021, the French government extended the deadline to apply for residency for British nationals.

France extended its deadline due to high demand and new Covid-19 restrictions in 2021, and because French authorities were aware many Britons were unlikely to meet the original deadline.

All Brits who were living in France before December 30th 2020 needed to apply for a residency permit known as a carte de séjour. The official deadline to do so was Wednesday, June 30th.

However with an estimated 25,000 Brits still to apply and thousands more still waiting for their application to be processed, French authorities decided to extend the deadline to September 30th, 2021. 

Italy

Italy’s post-Brexit card isn’t mandatory but the British Embassy in Italy advises residents to apply for it to prove their status under the Withdrawal Agreement.

This means you don’t need a residency card if you have alternative proof of pre-Brexit residency.

However, while Italian authorities have often accepted other forms of proof, they have also sometimes required the card, causing some level of uncertainty.

READ ALSO: How many of Italy’s British residents have successfully applied for a post-Brexit residency card?

Germany

Residence rights after Brexit were automatically granted to British nationals who lived in Germany prior to the deadline, so they don’t need Germany’s residence card – although it is still recommended-

There have been reports of passport stamping for British residents in Germany, even if they have the residence card.

Overall, Germany has a lenient system, transferring rights automatically and without demand application for a new card or updated residence status.

READ ALSO: How Brits can prove their post-Brexit rights in Germany – before they get their residence card

The Brexit Withdrawal Agreement’s Article 5 states that the EU and UK must “take all appropriate measures, whether general or particular, to ensure fulfilment of the obligations arising from this Agreement and shall refrain from any measures which could jeopardise the attainment of the objectives of this Agreement.”

One of the stated objectives of the agreement is to protect the rights of citizens to continue living and working in their respective countries after Brexit.

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BREXIT

CONFIRMED: Deal on UK licences in Spain agreed but still no exchange date

The UK Ambassador to Spain has confirmed that “two outstanding issues” delaying negotiations have now been resolved, although he didn't confirm how many “weeks” it will be before in-limbo UK licence holders can exchange and get back on the road.

CONFIRMED: Deal on UK licences in Spain agreed but still no exchange date

UK Ambassador to Spain Hugh Elliott on Friday November 18th took to the embassy’s social media channels to announce some promising news that will give hope at the very least to the thousands of UK licence holders who haven’t been able to drive in Spain since May 1st.

“I can tell you today that we have now made a very significant step forward,” Elliott began.

“You will recall that we have been in discussions with the Spanish for some weeks over two outstanding, complex issues and I’m pleased to tell you that we have now reached an agreement on those two points.”

The British Embassy has never explicitly explained the reasons why negotiations have gone on for over two years without much progress, with the only hint being that Spain asked for the provision of UK licence holders’ data to be part of the deal, something the UK did not want to agree to.

“So we will now take forward the remaining steps including legal checks, securing ministerial approval on both sides, which for Spain is by the Consejo de Ministros (the Spanish Cabinet), and the necessary treaty processes and formal exchanges,” Elliott added. 

“What I can’t tell you today is exactly how many weeks those final steps will take. 

“But I can tell you the process is already underway and once those legal and political approvals are done, confirmation will be published in the BOE, or state bulletin.”

Some Spanish laws have to receive approval from the Spanish Parliament and the Senate before they can come into force, extra legislative steps that can add months to the process. 

The fact that Elliott has said that this post-Brexit agreement on the exchange of UK licences in Spain will go from the Spanish Cabinet straight to the BOE is positive, although the “weeks” the ambassador mentions could end up adding up to a couple of months in a country known for its slow bureaucracy.

However, all the British drivers residing in Spain – as well as Spaniards and other foreign nationals who have a UK licence – at least now have the peace of mind of knowing that they won’t have to sit their driving exam again in Spain.

“At that point (when the law comes into force) you will then have six months to exchange your UK licence for a Spanish one and during that time you will be able to drive using your existing valid UK licence. 

“Now I know this has not been an easy time for those of you who have been unable to drive,” the ambassador acknowledged once more about the mobility issues affected drivers have faced for months, especially those in rural areas. 

“But I hope that this latest news gives you some reassurance and helps you consider your next steps. 

“We will keep you up to date on further developments and provide more information on the process for licence exchange itself,” Elliott concluded.

Spain and Italy remain the only EU countries that have not implemented laws which allow for the exchange of UK licences for Spanish or Italian ones by residents. British tourists in Spain are not affected by the UK driving licence debacle.

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