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The reasons why Brits are moving to Spain post-Brexit

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The reasons why Brits are moving to Spain post-Brexit
The reasons why Brits are moving to Spain post-Brexit. Photo: JOSE JORDAN / AFP

The popular stereotype of Brits in Spain are retirees, come to enjoy life on the Costa Blanca or Costa del Sol, but is this still true post-Brexit? We take a look at the latest immigration data to find out.


The EU data agency Eurostat has published its most recent findings, giving insight into how many Brits moved to Spain in 2022 - and what they're all doing here.

The Eurostat data compares first-time residency permits granted to UK nationals across different EU countries.

Pre-Brexit, Brits in Spain didn't need any kind of visa or residency permit - but those arriving in the country since 2021 need to complete immigration formalities which, among other things, requires them to state their purpose for moving to Spain.

Eurostat breaks this down into four categories; work, study, family reunification or 'other' - which includes retirees and others who don't intend to work or study in Spain.

In total 10,158 people were granted a first-time residency permit to live in Spain in 2022.

READ ALSO: Jobs, study or retirement: Why Brits move to the EU and where they go 

By far the biggest group of people coming to live in Spain were those who came for ‘other reasons’- a total of 4,400. This suggests that many Brits are still moving to Spain to retire or to spend time here without working, perhaps on Spain’s non-lucrative visa.

The next biggest group was those who had come to join family members, with the reunification visa. This suggests that many Brits are moving here to be with a spouse, partner or parents who are already resident in Spain.

READ ALSO: How can non-EU nationals bring family members to live in Spain?


The third-largest group was students. A total of 1,811 Brits came to study in Spain in 2022. This could be anything from language courses to full degrees or professional courses.

Although Brexit has made studying in Spain more complicated for British students, both Spain and the UK have been working together to try and make the situation easier.

At the end of June 2023, the two countries came to a formal agreement, making it easier for students from the British educational system to study at Spanish universities, essentially giving them the same access rights as when the UK was part of the EU. 

The deal is meant to limit the impact of Brexit in terms of access to Spanish university education for UK-based students, as well as the 70,000+ pupils who study at the approximately 80 British schools in Spain.

This means that we could see a great many more British students moving to Spain in 2023 and beyond.


The smallest category was those who came to Spain to work with 955 in total. Spain is notorious for being a difficult and complicated place to get a job or set up a business.

This isn’t helped by the fact that Spain has one of the highest unemployment rates in the EU. The country currently has an unemployment rate of 11.6 percent.

In order to be considered for a job as a non-EU national, in the majority of cases the position must be on Spain’s shortage occupation list. Most of these jobs are in the maritime and shipping industry, however, so options are limited.

In order to gain a work visa for Spain, employers also have to declare that there were no suitable Spanish or EU candidates available to fill the position, which can be a pretty tough order to fill.

Since the beginning of 2023, however, it has been made easier for self-employed Brits or remote workers to move to Spain, thanks to the new Digital Nomad Visa.

This means that freelancers or remote workers who meet all the requirements, such as having to earn over a certain amount each month and having worked for the same employer for more than three months, will now find it a lot easier to move here.

READ ALSO - LISTED: All the documents you need for Spain’s digital nomad visa

We may see the number of people in this category jump significantly when the stats for 2023 are released.


This data represents only a single year, of course, but it seems like retirees still make up the largest group of people moving to Spain, similar to what it was before Brexit. The data shows that almost half (43 percent) of Brits living in Spain came for other reasons, which includes pensioners.

Prior to the end of the Brexit transition period, Brits were not required to have residency documents in Spain, so data on how many moved here and what they were all doing is a lot less detailed.

Eurostat data from 2020 and 2021 is likely to be skewed due to Covid-19 and travel restrictions - so the data from 2022 provides the first detailed look at why and how Brits moved to Spain post-Brexit.


Comments (1)

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Mick 2023/08/18 09:47
Well done, The Local. Always up-to-date with the important news.

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