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Have any Brits been expelled from Spain since Brexit?

The Local Spain
The Local Spain - [email protected]
Have any Brits been expelled from Spain since Brexit?
Eurostat claims no Brits have been asked to leave Spain since they stopped being EU citizens, but is plausible?(Photo by OSCAR DEL POZO / AFP)

New Eurostat data suggests that even though over 1,000 UK nationals have been ordered to leave EU countries in 2023, no such expulsions were carried out in Spain. Does this really give the full picture?


In total, EU countries as well as Schengen area nations including Norway and Switzerland ordered 1,040 British citizens to leave their territories in the first nine months of 2023, according to provisional data published at the end of December by the EU statistical office, Eurostat.

The EU countries that issued the largest number of orders to leave to UK citizens in the first nine months of last year were the Netherlands (275), and Sweden (135).


Spain on the other hand, which hosts the biggest UK community in the EU, has not reported any Britons being ordered to leave in 2023, according to Eurostat. 

For Q2 2023 for example, there were a total of 4,185 non-EU citizens who Spanish authorities ordered to leave, but in the UK nationals category there were zero. The same can be said for all other quarters stretching back to Q1 2021, when the Withdrawal Agreement became fully operational. 

Is it really possible that of the 400,000+ UK nationals residing in Spain not a single one has been ordered to leave the country in 2023?

Spain doesn’t publish information on the specific nationality of foreigners it sends a carta de expulsion (letter of expulsion) to. 

What has been reported is that Spanish judges have tended to favour financial penalties over marching orders in recent years, when the only issue is the lack of person's Spanish residency papers. 

That’s not to say that Spain doesn’t deport or expel ‘irregular’ immigrants, but there is evidence unearthed by Spanish investigative journalism portal Newtral which points to a dramatic drop in expulsions since Pedro Sánchez has been in power in Spain. 

For context, 140,000 non-EU citizens have been given their marching orders by Spanish authorities over the last 18 years, but since Sánchez became PM in 2018, there have been ‘just’ 12,700.

There are also some technicalities that have to be pointed out. 


If it’s a case of considering that the reason for the expulsion of a UK national is that they don’t have their Spanish residency documents in order since Brexit came into force, it’s key to factor in that this is considered an ‘administrative infraction’ by Spanish law, a non-serious offence in the eyes of most judges, and not a reason for deportation.

If on the other hand a UK national in Spain commits a serious crime, they can be deported, as in the case of a 54-year-old Brit in Alicante who was found guilty of starting a wildfire in a protected natural area, and had his three-year sentence exchanged for a ten-year ban from Spain.

The combination of being unregistered and having a criminal record can also result in expulsion, as seen in July 2023 with a British man who was based in Tenerife.

There’s also the fact that the process of expulsion in Spain has plenty of stages and legal jargon, and that those who receive a letter from Spanish migration authorities can usually appeal.

For example, back in September 2021, we reported the case of some UK nationals who had had their Spanish residency applications rejected and were sent notices telling them they had to leave the country within 15 days or risk being classified as undocumented. 


The legal documents The Local Spain had access to read: “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.

The situation affected Britons who were 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.

In any case, the above quote isn’t from a letter of expulsion, but rather a preliminary warning, which again proves how important it can be to have legal help if you find yourself in this situation.

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.

There are two appeal processes for rejected residency applications which each have to be completed within a month. Crucially, if a Brit’s residency application is rejected and they appeal, then they have the right to remain in Spain during the appeal process.

So to sum up, there is evidence to suggest that Eurostat’s claim that not a single Briton has been asked to leave Spain in 2023 is factually incorrect, even if only based on the two reported cases of UK nationals with criminal records who were given their marching orders in 2023.

In terms of warning or expulsion letters relating to rejected residency applications, in 2023 Spain's Immigration Observatory reported that 928 UK nationals with EU green residency certificates who applied to exchange it for a TIE either had their application filed or rejected, whilst 8,924 Brits with no pre-Brexit documents had their Spanish residency applications archived or rejected.

That represents almost 10,000 UK nationals, and potentially many of those who appealed had their Spanish residency applications finally rejected. 

Even though their ensuing ‘irregular status’ in Spain shouldn’t be enough for them to receive a letter giving them a deadline to leave, it has happened before.


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