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MOVING TO SPAIN

‘Frustrating, but don’t give up’: Your advice for Brits to moving to Spain post Brexit

How easy is it to move to Spain from the UK given that freedom of movement ended with Brexit? Several Britons who have made the move tell The Local about the problems that emerge as well as the time and costs involved.

'Frustrating, but don't give up': Your advice for Brits to moving to Spain post Brexit
What's it like moving to Spain post-Brexit? Photo by JAIME REINA / AFP

According to the results of a survey we posted on our website, by far the most popular way for Brits to move to Spain, post-Brexit was via the Non-Lucrative Visa or NLV.

Several respondents said they applied for NLV, which is a one-year visa (that can be renewed), which allows non-EU citizens to live in Spain by demonstrating that they have sufficient financial means for themselves and, if applicable, their families.

Crucially, however, you are not allowed to work while on this visa and have to prove that your income comes from passive sources such as renting out a property back in your home country. 

The NLV is also one of the most expensive ways to move to Spain. In 2023, you must show that you have savings of at least €2,400 per month, and more for extra family members without being allowed to earn anything here. 

Wendy Hendry who moved to the Alicante province from Scotland said that the process of applying took around four to five months, while Terry Mulchinock said it took him a total of six months. Howard Evans who moved to the Valencia area on the other hand, was incredibly lucky when it took him just one week to apply because it was during the height of the pandemic in February 2021. 

READ ALSO: How long does it take to get a non-lucrative visa for Spain?

There was, however, a split between those who applied for the NLV themselves and those who used a lawyer to help them with their application. 

Shirley Johnson who moved to Galicia from Lancashire said: “I made the application myself (many people use lawyers and it costs thousands of pounds). There is guidance from forums and also from the Spanish Embassy in Manchester. I was not rejected”. 

While Hendry agreed that you “should try and apply yourself because companies who offer these services will try and rip you off”. 

On the other side, both Mulchinock and Evans disagreed and said that you should use the services of a lawyer to help you with your application instead. 

Mulchinock said: “We employed a lawyer who was very competent, copied our paperwork, bank statements, got police checks, medical forms … nothing difficult”. 

Evans agreed that the whole process was quite straight forward and he was pleasantly surprised because of his “excellent solicitor”. 

READ ALSO: What are the pros and cons of Spain’s non-lucrative visa?

Readers who applied for the NLV said they spent anywhere from €2,000 to around €3,500 on the application, including all the lawyers’ fees and paperwork, while those who paid the higher amount also included the cost of the private health care needed for the application. 

“With a year’s private health care for two people all in was nearly £7000,” explained Mulchinock. Evens paid a little less, but without health insurance, “approximately €3000 paid to Spanish solicitor,” he said. 

Family connections

But, although the the NLV was the most popular way, it wasn’t the only way that Brits have managed to move to Spain post-Brexit.

Some respondents said they applied for visas to live in Spain due to family connections, either through the family reunification visa or by getting a residence card by being a family member of an EU citizen. 

The family reunification visa allows non-EU nationals to bring family members to live with them in Spain, provided that they have already been legally resident in Spain for at least one year, while the residence card is for family members of EU citizens such as spouses, partners, dependent children, and dependent parents. 

READ ALSO – Q&A: Can EU nationals bring non-EU family members over to Spain?

Half of these people said that their applications were relatively straightforward and easy, while half said it was a lot more difficult than expected. 

Lili, who moved to the Valencia area from Malta, said they when she tried to apply for a residence card for her British husband, she found it very challenging. 

“I’m dual citizen, EU/British, so for me it was easy. My husband is British and whilst technically we should have no issues with his residency, we repeatedly faced situations where I have no problem (as an EU citizen) and he’s treated worse and we have to jump through hoops to fight for his rights,” she said. 

“The experience was maddening. We spoke to a few lawyers and each one was telling us something different about the paperwork we had to submit, different from what’s listed on the Spanish government website even. I think there is a lot of confusion since they think of him as a non-EU citizen not a husband of an EU citizen. Eventually, I submitted the documents myself and we’re still waiting for a decision,” Lili added. 

On the other hand, Josh Goodwin who applied for the family reunification visa and moved to Mallorca from Leeds, said he was “pleasantly surprised” and that although the paperwork was “tricky”, using a good lawyer helped.

Working visas 

Several other readers found other ways to legally move to Spain since Brexit had come into force. Some respondents said they applied for visas for highly skilled workers through their companies, but that these were mostly for temporary periods lasting around six months. 

Even though the companies mainly organised and paid for these types of visas, the applicants said they were very expensive and it was very difficult having to have all their certificates and documents apostilled and translated, the legal fees and the visa charges. 

One reader who preferred not to be named said: “Don’t expect anything to happen quickly or electronically – everything seems to need a visit in person… It was just so much easier pre-Brexit”. 

The final number of readers who answered our survey were in the process of trying to apply for various types of visas in the hope that one of them would be successful. 

Vanessa Campbell from Surrey who is trying to move to Jávea to look after her sick mother said that her residency application was rejected as she couldn’t prove she had enough savings, so she is trying the family reunification route instead.

She said the process “is far more complicated than I had thought. Be prepared to be frustrated but don’t give up hope”. She added that there had been no compassion from the authorities because of her difficult situation.

Overall, most of the people who answered our survey had found the process of moving to Spain post-Brexit very challenging and a lot more difficult than they had originally expected. 

Tips

The majority of respondents agreed that using a lawyer definitely helped and urged others to find a good one and do the same.

“Do your research and definitely use a lawyer,” one reader said, while another echoed these sentiments. “Use a reputable solicitor and follow their advice,” they advised. A third simply said: “Get a lawyer to do it, if you can’t afford a lawyer stay at home”. 

Those who did the applications themselves encouraged others to do as much research as they could. “Research, use forums for help, and keep the faith!” one said. 

Others simply thought the process was too difficult and urged Britons to fight back against the situation if they want to be able to move to other EU countries.

“Put pressure on the British government to join Single Market in a similar way to Switzerland or Norway, with freedom of movement, otherwise, you should have A LOT of patience, time and money,” they added. 

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BREXIT

Brexit: Brits in EU feel European and don’t want to return home

The majority of Britons who live in the EU, Norway, Iceland or Switzerland and are protected under the Brexit agreement feel European and intend to remain in Europe permanently, but many have concerns about travel problems, a new survey reveals.

Brexit: Brits in EU feel European and don't want to return home

The research also shows that problems exist and “travel is where most issues relating to the new status currently occur”. For instance, border officials are still stamping passports of UK citizens with residence rights under the EU UK withdrawal agreement, even though they shouldn’t.

“There is constant confusion around passport stamping. I was ‘stamped in’ to France on a short trip… but could not find anyway to be ‘stamped out’ again. I think I can only spend 90 days in other EU countries, but have no idea how anyone can check or enforce that – until someone decides to try. It’s a mess,” was one of the answers left in an open question.

“Every time I go through a Schengen border control, I need to provide both my passport and Aufenthaltstitel card [resident permit in Germany] and watch to check that they don’t stamp my passport. As I am currently travelling a lot that’s been 20-odd times this year…” another respondent said.

The survey was carried out by Professor Tanja Bueltmann, historian of migration and diaspora at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, between October and November 2022. About 1,139 UK citizens replied.

Of these, 80 per cent found acquiring their new status easy or very easy, 60.7 per cent feel their rights are secure, while 39.3 per cent have concerns about their status going forward.

Staying permanently

More than three quarters (76.6 per cent) of respondents said they plan to live permanently in the EU or the other countries of the European Economic Area and Switzerland. In fact, 65.7 per cent said that Brexit has increased the likelihood of this choice.

For some, the decision is linked to the difficulty to bring non-British family members to the UK under new, stricter immigration rules.

“My German wife and I decided we no longer wanted to live in UK post Brexit referendum. In particular, we were affected by the impact of immigration law […] We cannot now return to UK on retirement as I cannot sponsor her on my pension. We knew it was a one-way journey. Fortunately, I could revive an application for German citizenship,” was a testimony.

“My husband is a US citizen and getting him a visa for the UK was near impossible due to my low income as a freelance journalist. We realized under EU law, moving to an EU country was easier. We settled on Austria as we had both lived there before… we could speak some German, and we like the mountains,” said another respondent.

Professor Bueltmann noted that the loss of free movement rights in the EU could be a factor too in the decision of many to stay where they are.

Citizenship and representation

Among those who decided to stay, 38.2 per cent are either applying or planning to apply for a citizenship and 28.6 per cent are thinking about it.

A key finding of the research, Bueltmann said, is that the vast majority of British citizens do not feel politically represented. Some 60 per cent of respondents said they feel unrepresented and another 30 per cent not well represented.

Another issue is that less than half (47.5 per cent) trust the government of their country of residence, while a larger proportion (62 per cent) trust the European Union. Almost all (95.6 per cent) said they do not trust the UK government.

Feeling European

The survey highlights the Brexit impacts on people’s identity too. 82.6 per cent of respondents said they see themselves as European, a higher proportion than those identifying as British (68.9 per cent).

“Brexit has really left me unsure of what my identity is. I don’t feel British, and I certainly don’t identify with the mindset of a lot of British people who live there. Yet, I am not Danish either. So, I don’t really know anymore!” said one of the participants in the survey.

Professor Bueltmann said the survey “demonstrates that Brexit impacts continue to evolve: this didn’t just stop because the transition period was over or a deadline for an application had been reached. Consequently, Brexit continues to shape the lives and experiences of British citizens in the EU/EEA and Switzerland in substantial, sometimes life-altering, ways.”

Considering the results of the study, Professor Bueltmann recommends policy makers in the EU and the UK to address the issue of lack of representation, for instance creating a joint UK-EU citizens’ stakeholder forum.

The report also recommends the UK government to rebuild trust with British citizens in the EU introducing voting rights for life and changing immigration rules to allow British-European families to return more easily. 

This article was prepared in cooperation with Europe Street News.

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