Spend time in Spain or have a Spanish holiday home? Freedom of movement from 2021

Spain view; Freedom of movement post-Brexit

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What will Brexit change for regular UK visitors to Spain and non-residents with a Spanish holiday home?

What will Brexit change for regular UK visitors to Spain and non-residents with a Spanish holiday home? 

In a few weeks’ time, when the Brexit transition period officially ends at midnight (CET) on 31 December, UK nationals will lose the automatic right to come and go in Spain that has been in place for the last 48 years. From 1 January, only those who have already established lawful Spanish residence or EU citizenship will have unlimited access to the country.

If you spend a lot of time in Spain or have a Spanish holiday home and enjoy being able to visit when you like – but intend to remain UK resident – things are about to become much more complicated. Similarly, if you are thinking about moving to Spain after 2020, you will need to jump through more hoops than if you moved today.

Spanish residency in 2020

The surest way to maintain uninterrupted access to Spain is to arrive before the end of 2020, register for Spanish residency, and commit to meeting the residence requirements. Doing so will lock in the right to remain and to receive citizens’ rights protections under the Withdrawal Agreement for as long as you live in Spain. 

You don’t need to be physically present in Spain when the Brexit transition ends to qualify, but you do have to submit your application to the authorities in person, where possible. While you actually have until 30 June 2021 to do this, you must be able to demonstrate that you were settled before 31 December 2020. What constitutes “proof” here could be open to interpretation, so it is risky to rely on this extension. We certainly wouldn’t recommend waiting until after the December deadline to start the application process, particularly as there is already a backlog. 

Once your application is lodged – even if your appointment is in 2021 – this indicates that you are settled and intend to remain in Spain. However, you still need to prove that Spain is your permanent home in 2020, so gather as much evidence as you can now (e.g. padrón certificate, utility bills, healthcare registration). 

You also need to take care to meet the residence requirements by not spending too much time in the UK. Holders of the green residence certificate or new TIE would forfeit residency by spending more than six months outside Spain in any of their first five years (or 12 months over that period). 

Access to Spain from 2021

As things stand, the immigration rules have not been finalised for non-Spanish-resident UK citizens who want to spend time in Spain post-Brexit. So while we remain confident that Spain will continue to welcome British nationals, we need to wait and see what the new requirements will be.

At this stage, we can only speculate based on existing rules for non-EU/EEA (‘third country’) nationals. While these are set to apply if the UK leaves without a deal, it is possible that the UK/Spain may agree more favourable arrangements during negotiations, so this should be considered the worst-case scenario.

The 90-days in 180-days rule 

Once automatic freedom of movement ends, non-Spanish resident UK nationals should still be able to enter Spain visa-free… but only for short stays. 

The EU has agreed to add the UK to its list of visa-exempt countries (provided the UK reciprocates). So, unless there is an alternative UK/Spain agreement, UK citizens will be limited to visiting Spain for up to 90 days within any 180-day period without a visa. 

The 180-day clock would start when you first enter Spain – or any Schengen state – from 2021 as a non-EU citizen, with each subsequent departure and entry recorded and counted at border control. While being away from Spain for a full 90 days would allow a new stay of up to 90 days, once you have used up your allowance you will not be permitted to enter another Schengen country without a visa.

Those who maintain UK residency but own a Spanish holiday home will therefore need to take extra care when planning trips to Spain (or anywhere in the EU) to avoid illegally overstaying or potentially being denied entry. Also, be prepared to answer questions at the border about the duration and purpose of your visit.

For stays over 90 days or the right to work in Spain as a non-EU national, you would need to apply in advance – under as-yet-unknown conditions and rules.

Minimum income requirements for residency

If you want to secure unlimited access to Spain by becoming resident, you will need to prove you can financially support yourself and any dependents without relying on state support. Across the EU, this involves demonstrating a level of income at least equal to the national minimum wage. But this is not necessarily the case for Spain, as the thresholds are generally decided on a case-by-case basis at the discretion of the extranjería offices. This means the minimum income across the Spanish regions can vary by thousands. 

Up until recently, the “sufficient income” requirement has not always been imposed on UK nationals seeking Spanish residence, but certainly will be from 2021. Beware that the thresholds for third country nationals are significantly higher, so it will be much easier to satisfy this condition by registering for residence as an EU citizen in 2020. 

Tax residence in Spain

If you become Spanish resident it is highly likely you will also be deemed tax resident in Spain, so you must take care to meet your payment and reporting obligations. 

Spanish taxation is complex, but the way you hold your wealth and assets can make a significant difference to your tax bill. A locally-based adviser with cross-border expertise is best placed to help you take advantage of suitable opportunities in Spain. They can also guide you through the necessary steps to protect your position in Spain post-Brexit.

While it’s not quite “now or never” for securing access to Spain, it will certainly get harder from 2021, so weigh up your options now for making the most of what Spain has to offer. 

Contact a local adviser to discuss your options


All advice received from any Blevins Franks firm is personalised and provided in writing. This article should not be construed as providing any personalised taxation and/or investment advice. All information is based on Blevins Franks’ understanding of legislation and taxation practice, in the UK and overseas at the time of writing; this may change in the future.

Tax rates, scope and reliefs may change. Any statements concerning taxation are based upon our understanding of current taxation laws and practices which are subject to change. Tax information has been summarised; individuals should seek personalised advice.