Spanish residency permit: Time is running out!

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By Raymundo Larraín Nesbitt
Director of Larraín Nesbitt Abogados
8th of October 2020

The United Kingdom officially left the Union on the 31st January 2020, after both Westminster and the European Parliament ratified the Withdrawal Agreement. Within the WA it was agreed a Brexit transition period that would last until the 31st of December 2020. By this year’s end the United Kingdom, after 47 years, will no longer be a Member State of the Union.

This will have a major impact in several fields. In this article, I will only focus on immigration. As from the 01/01/2021 the requirements that UK applicants must meet will become far more stringent, as they will now be officially regarded as nationals of a third country, non-EUs.

In plain English, the requirements a UK national must meet going forward, as from 2021, will be far more challenging, to the point many will no longer qualify. Unsurprisingly at this point, the exact requirements are still unknown as they must still be penned by the Authorities, but it is within reason to think they will be very similar, if not identical, to those being asked from non-EU nationals at present.

The gist of this short article is to drive home the point that all UK nationals, who are of the mind of attaining a Spanish residency permit at some point in the future, should do so now taking advantage of the lenient Brexit transition period.

5 reasons to be pro-active and act now!

  1. All those who register before year’s end, will safeguard their rights as EU nationals for as long as they remain resident in Spain. It is important that any UK national who is currently living in Spain, but still remains unregistered, applies for residency to safeguard his EU rights.
  2. For the time being, and until this year’s end, you are (still) being treated as a fellow EU national, meaning all procedures are (greatly) streamlined for your own convenience. Without esoterics, they roll out the red carpet for you removing the red tape.
  3. During the Brexit transition period, the requirements for residency are very reasonable and within grasp of most, if not all, applicants. However, as of 2021 these requirements will change (drastically) as you will no longer be regarded as a EU national, and may prove draconian to some applicants who will be shut out.
  4. If you are a UK-based landlord, actively leasing holiday rental accommodations in Spain as a buy-to-let business, you may wish to consider the option of applying for residency in Spain. The reason is that it would allow you to still benefit from the lenient tax advantages open to all EU residents: a lower tax rate (19%) and the ability to offset any and ALL property-related expenses, which on average reduces a landlord’s tax bill by 70%, or more. Post-Brexit, the tax rate will be a flat 24% on gross rental earnings without being able to apply for ANY landlord tax relief. This fiscal change will translate into some businesses no longer being financially viable post-Brexit. More on this in our tax article: Post-Brexit Taxation in Spain. Please seek professional advice from us on this point, as it implies becoming tax resident in Spain; meaning you would pay tax in Spain on your worldwide income.
  5. Our fees to process residency permit applications are very competitive whilst you are still a EU national, but as from next year, when you are no longer regarded as a EU national, they will be in line with our other Immigation & Residency services for non-EU clients (higher). The reason is because our workload is significantly increased for all non-EU applications.

Green cards

For all those UK nationals who had already secured a green card in the past (green A4 certificate or credit card-sized piece of paper), this certificate will remain valid proof of residence and rights under the Withdrawal Agreement after 31 December 2020 for those registered in Spain before the 6th of July 2020. In other words, you are under no legal obligation to exchange it for the new TIE card, or so goes the theory.

However, in practice, we strongly advise you exchange your old green card over to the new TIE card, which supersedes it. Besides being more durable, the main reason is that citizens in Spain now deal with Public Administrations telematically, that is online. Spanish IDs and the new TIE cards are very similar, as they both have in-built chipsets that allow you to deal online with the different public administrations (i.e. booking an appointment online) which saves you considerable time and aggravation. Unless you rather fancy spending several mornings queuing up for nothing, or making umpteen calls that will all go unanswered. Please read this local newspaper article to understand where I’m getting at: Dealing with the authorities in the new normal has become a red tape nightmare.

Moreover, even public servants are redirecting citizens to take their business online as it (greatly) simplifies admin procedures. Although this may seem trivial, when you find yourself in the need to urgently book a medical appointment for health care reasons, you will remember this piece of advice. Embrace the digital age and let go of the old ways. So less ‘mañana, mañana’ and be pro-active about it for your own good. Ignore my advice at your own chagrin.

If you want to avoid yourself much aggravation in the future, please follow my advice, and exchange your old green card for the new TIE card. This is accomplished only within a few weeks and for a very low fee.

Registering for Spanish residency after the 06-07-2020

Spanish Immigration Authorities unexpectedly overhauled the residency procedure, without giving notice, in early July this year, causing a bit of a commotion as we reported at the time. All UK nationals applying for residency after the 6th of July 2020 must attain a biometric residency card known as Foreign Identification Card (or TIE, in Spanish). It will state it has been issued to the holder under the terms of the Withdrawal Agreement.

Deadline to apply for Spanish residency

The deadline to register with the Spanish Immigration Authorities as resident, and benefit from the array of rights under the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement, ends on the 31st December 2020. Residency applications are electronically tagged, so what matters is to apply before year’s end, even if the decision on your matter is taken by Spanish Immigration Authorities on the following year.

For argument’s sake, if you file your application on the last day of the deadline, on New Year’s Eve, even if the Immigration Authorities decide upon your file on the 21st February of 2021, you would still be granted a residency permit under the terms of the Withdrawal Agreement, that is safeguarding your EU rights.  Obviously, this is just an example; plan ahead, and don’t wait until the eleventh hour to file your residency application.

EU Rights after the 31st December 2020

The Withdrawal Agreement sets out the terms of the UK’s withdrawal from the Union and provides for a deal on citizens’ rights. It sets out a transition period which lasts until 31 December 2020. During this time you can continue to live, work and study in the EU broadly as you did before 31 January 2020.

If you are resident in Spain at the end of the transition period, you will be covered by the Withdrawal Agreement, and your rights will be protected for as long as you remain resident in Spain.

Does attaining a Spanish residency permit make you a tax resident in Spain?

This is a tricky one, and I have to reply, ‘no and yes’.

No, because registering for admin residency is independent of tax residency which is altogether a different legal concept.

And yes, because as its own name implies, residency by its very own nature entails you will remain in Spain for a long period of time, normally exceeding the 183-day rule our Tax Office cherishes so much. If you spend 184 days, or more, in Spanish territory you automatically become tax resident.

I know, clear as mud, but life is full of grey areas. More details in our blog post:  Dual residency and hogwash.

In conclusion

Any EU national living in Spain for more than 90 consecutive days must apply for a Spanish residency permit, by law.

Please note that you may remain lawfully, within Spanish territory, a maximum of up to 90 days within every rolling six-month period within a calendar year.

As the Brexit transition period draws to an end, it is important UK nationals attain a Spanish residency permit taking advantage of the lenient conditions currently in existence while they last.

You should be advised that attaining a Spanish residency permit is taking (in Malaga) several weeks, so please plan ahead accordingly. What matters is that you file for it before the 31-12-2020 deadline.

Please, for your own sake, don’t sleep on this as the clock is ticking.

For updated information on all residency matters, please browse UK Gov Living in Spain Guidance.

Life isn’t black and white. It’s a million gray areas, don’t you agree?” – Ridley Scott

Sir Ridley Scott (1937). Eminent English filmmaker and producer who doesn’t really need an introduction. He is best known for directing such ground-breaking science fiction classics as Alien (1979), the indelible Blade Runner (1982) which, even by today’s standards, remains way ahead of its time and boasts one of the most beautiful and bewitching orchestral scores in history (Vangelis), Legend (1985), Thelma & Louise (1991), 1492: Conquest of Paradise (1992), Gladiator (2000), Black Hawk Down (2001), Kingdom of Heaven (2005) and the Martian (2015). And although Ridley doesn’t believe in God, God believes in him.

LNA has a 100% track record attaining Spanish residency

At LNA we assist UK nationals to apply for Spanish residency for the first time, or renewals, for a very competitive fee. You will be assigned an in-house specialist to deal with your matter. Call or e-mail us free of compromise.

Please note we only deal with residency permits on the Costa del Sol (Malaga province).

Larraín Nesbitt Abogados, small on fees, big on service.

Larraín Nesbitt Abogados is a law firm specialized in residency, taxation, conveyancing, inheritance, and litigation. We will be very pleased to discuss your matter with you. You can contact us by e-mail at info@larrainnesbitt.com, by telephone on (+34) 952 19 22 88 or by completing our contact form.

Immigration & Residency services available from LNA

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Article also published at Larraín Nesbitt Abogados: Spanish residency permit: Time is running out!

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