Freedom of movement in Spain post-Brexit: What you need to know

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View of Cap Negre in Javea: Freedom of movement in Spain post-Brexit

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Can you still spend time in Spain post-Brexit? See what UK nationals need to know about Spanish residence and freedom of movement in 2021.

Can you still spend time in Spain post-Brexit? If you want the freedom to come and go in Spain as a UK national, make sure you know your options.

On 1 January 2021 the UK fully left the EU, bringing an end to over four decades of automatic freedom of movement for UK nationals. While this is a big change, Britons have chosen to visit and make their home in Spain long before the UK joined the EU and will continue to do so after Brexit. And, of course, Spain will continue to welcome UK citizens to their communities, albeit under different rules. 

So how do things work now, and what can you do to continue enjoying time in Spain? 

If you were already living in Spain before 2021

UK nationals who can demonstrate that they were lawfully settled in Spain before the transition period ended can enjoy uninterrupted freedom of movement and citizens’ rights under the UK/EU Withdrawal Agreement. You don’t need to have been physically present in Spain as at 31 December 2020 to qualify, but you do need proof that it was your permanent home at that time (such as a padrón certificate, utility bills and Spanish bank statements). 

If you already hold a green card or residence certificate from Spain, you don’t have to exchange it for the new residence document (the TIE). However, it may be sensible to do so as the TIE will explicitly confirm your rights under the Withdrawal Agreement.  

You must register for residence before 30 June 2021 to qualify for the significant benefits offered under the Withdrawal Agreement.

If you have a Spanish holiday home or plan extended stays in Spain

Unless you have Spanish residence or EU citizenship, UK nationals can no longer come and go as they wish. As a ‘third country’ visitor post-Brexit, you can now only spend up to 90 days in any 180-day period without a visa. 

This 90-day limit applies across the EU (within the Schengen zone), so you cannot pause or reset your days by spending time in another country, such as crossing the border into Portugal. Once you have used up your allowance you will not be permitted to enter another Schengen country without a visa until you have spent enough time outside the area.

Anyone caught overstaying could risk deportation, fines and a record in their passport that can complicate future travel and visa applications.  

If you want to spend more time in Spain, you have two general options: you can apply in advance for a visa for each extended stay; or unlock unlimited freedom of movement by becoming Spanish resident.

Acquiring Spanish residency in 2021

If you want to enjoy uninterrupted access to Spain as a UK national, you will need to apply for residence under the relevant post-Brexit immigration rules. In order to gain residence if you are not working in Spain (a ‘non-lucrative visa’), you will need to:

  • Demonstrate you have “sufficient” annual income to support yourself and any dependents without relying on the state.
  • Have adequate health insurance cover for Spain (this will have to be private as you are only eligible for state cover once resident).
  • Apply at the relevant embassy or consulate in the UK with the relevant documentation in advance of moving. 
  • Commit to spending a certain amount of time in the country (generally 183+ days in a year). 

You will also be expected to register as a tax resident in Spain and meet your tax obligations, as required.

Note that you will need to provide similar proof/documentation each time you renew your permit. In Spain this will be after a year, then likely to be every two years until you receive permanent residency.

Spain’s ‘golden visa’

Spain offers a more flexible residence option for third-country nationals who can make a substantial capital investment in the country. Known informally as the ‘golden visa’, this provides the freedom to come and go as you wish in Spain, including access to public services like state healthcare, without having to become fully resident. 

The most common way to qualify for this programme is by buying Spanish property worth at least €500,000. Other pathways include buying shares in a company or making a deposit in a Spanish bank of €1 million+ or investing in a new business that offers employment opportunities or other significant local benefits. Other than the initial investment, you would need to show you have sufficient financial resources for yourself and family members while you are in Spain.

Making the most of Spain

If you do decide to move to Spain so you can enjoy unlimited time here, make sure you adjust your financial affairs to suit your new situation. By becoming Spanish resident, it is highly likely you will also be deemed tax resident, so you will benefit from planning ahead. Our locally-based advisers have cross-border expertise and are best placed to help you meet your obligations in the most tax-efficient way and take advantage of suitable opportunities in Spain. 

Arrange to speak to a Blevins Franks Spain-based adviser

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.