Residency in Spain after Brexit: new residency documents for UK nationals in Spain

Photo by Waldemar Brandt on Unsplash
Photo by Waldemar Brandt on Unsplash
27 January 2021, Emma Donaldson

As the COVID-19 pandemic has attracted all our attention since last year, Brexit seems to have taken a backseat. However, there are still many expats living in Spain, or indeed Brits preparing to move to the Iberian Peninsula, who have many valid questions about residency in Spain after Brexit. With the help of some recent advice from the British Ambassador to Spain, Hugh Elliot, let’s clear up any doubts, including the latest news and information on new residency documents for UK nationals in Spain.

I don’t have any residency documents in Spain and I can’t get an appointment. What should I do?

For those who moved to Spain before the end of the Brexit transition period, or perhaps the coronavirus has just got in the way of getting your paperwork sorted, the British Embassy has reassured Brits that there is no need to worry. In a recent video posted by the British Embassy on Facebook, the British Ambassador to Spain clearly stated: “Your rights as UK nationals in Spain will be guaranteed, not by possession of a residence document itself, but by being legally resident in Spain before the end of the transition period. That means living in Spain and satisfying the current residency requirements of sufficient income and healthcare cover by 31st December 2020.” 

Elliot did also acknowledge that there is an obvious backlog in residency appointments for Brits due to the COVID-19 pandemic in Spain but reminded those from the UK that they still have time to get residency documents and that more and more appointments are becoming available in a bid to clear the coronavirus backlog. The best advice is to register as soon as possible for an appointment which must be done online.

What is the new residency card for UK citizens in Spain?

In the summer, the Spanish government announced that was introducing a new residency document for UK nationals who are protected by what is called a “Withdrawal Agreement” between the EU and the UK. This new document is a non-EU special residency permit called a “Tarjeta de Identidad de Extranjero” (TIE) and was initially introduced from the beginning of July 2020. On the subject, Hugh Elliot added that the TIE will be a “photo card which explicitly mentions your rights under the Withdrawal Agreement”. Instructions regarding this card have been issued to local authorities so that all new applicants can be issued directly with a TIE instead of a NIE (“Número de Identidad de Extranjero”). The process should be very similar, if not identical to the process of applying for a NIE in Spain.

I already have the green NIE card. Do I need to apply for a new card?

Some British nationals currently living in Spain will have a paper A4 NIE certificate, while others will have a flimsy green credit card-sized piece of semi-laminated paper. Whether they say “permanente” or not, both of these documents remain equally valid in demonstrating your rights and residency status within the Withdrawal Agreement while living in Spain, even after the end of the transition period which ended on 31st December 2020.

Despite recent issues when travelling and confusion for Brits who were turned away from flights even though they had a NIE, things have now been cleared up with the authorties and airlines and your NIE is still valid. The Spanish authorities have published guidance on the continued validity of the green residency certificate which you can read in English or Spanish. This states that there is currently absolutely no need to exchange these documents or apply for a new one. In the future, you may choose to exchange your current document or certificate for a TIE, but this step is currently not compulsory, and given the current backlog in the system, now would not be an advisable time to do it.

Will my passport be stamped when travelling to Spain?​​​​​​​

It has been reported that a number of UK nationals who are residents in Spain have had their passports stamped at border control when travelling to Spain. However, the general rule is that British citizens who demonstrate that they were living in Spain as residents before 1st January 2021 should not have their passport stamped or indeed be subject to routine intentions questioning upon entry, exit or transit through Schengen borders. If you have had your passport incorrectly stamped upon entering Spain, note that your rights in Spain will not be affected.

Keep up to date with the British Embassy in Spain

The British Embassy in Spain is fully aware of the questions and doubts held by many Brits living in Spain regarding the uncertainty of Brexit. In order to address these questions, the Embassy frequently holds Q&A sessions on their Facebook page, Brits in Spain. In the meantime, you can also keep up to date with all the latest Brexit news here on idealista and by checking out the UK government's Living in Spain guide.

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