Brits married to EU citizens are not bound by 90/180 day rule and can live in Spain

Diligent research by a reader establishes that Brits (and other non-EU nationals) with EU spouses are not bound by the 90/180 day rule, and can live in Spain without having to get a visa – something that has not been widely reported in the British press.

“I’ve been trying to find out from varied sources over the last few months whether being an UK citizen married to an Irish citizen I was exempt from the EU 90/180 day rule,” explains reader John by email. “I had been led to believe the only way was through residency.”

Thanks to John’s research we know that if your spouse is an EU citizen you don’t have to worry about the 90/180 day rule travelling in the Schengen area, and you can stay in Spain as long as you like with your spouse, so long as you meet other requirements. Brexit is not a barrier if you are married to an EU citizen.

“I hope the reply below from the Europe Direct Contact Centre will be useful for British or other third-country citizens, married or in a partnership with E.U. citizens, who wish to escape this rule without taking out residency,” explains John. Another reader commented “I reckon an article on the subject would be interesting because there are a lot of people in that situation and do not recall anything in the national press which covers it.”

So here’s what the Europe Direct Contact Centre has to say about the rights Brits married to EU citizens to travel and live in Spain and other EU member states. Thanks to the reader ‘John Boy’ for the information.

Dear John,

Thank you for contacting the Europe Direct Contact Centre.

A citizen of the UK does in principle not require a visa to travel for a short stay of no more than 90 days within any 180-day period in the Schengen area.

The fact that you reside with your Irish wife in the UK is, on its own, not sufficient to waive the limits of the 90/180-days rule if you intend to travel on your own to a Schengen Member State.

However, if your wife is travelling with you to a Schengen country, or joins you in a Schengen country, the 90/180 days limitation does not apply. Accordingly, any stays in the Schengen area together with her will not be taken into account when you travel again on your own. Please be aware, however, that in this case you might need to have documentation to show on when you were travelling with her and when you were not.

For further information, we recommend that you contact the authorities of the country you would like to travel to, more info here and here.

If you wish to remain in Spain with your wife for more than 3 months, you may both need to register. You can find information on the necessary procedures here.

Please note that as Ireland is not part of the Schengen area and because your wife is Irish citizen, this does not apply if you wish to travel together to Ireland. For information on the Common Travel Area between Ireland and the UK, please see here.

We hope you find this information useful. Please contact us again if you have other questions about the European Union, its activities or institutions.

SPI Member Comments

Thoughts on “Brits married to EU citizens are not bound by 90/180 day rule and can live in Spain

  • says:

    “If your spouse is an EU citizen you don’t have to worry about the 90/180 day rule”

    Yes this is good news indeed for some … I note two things and ask one question.
    The 90 rule looks like you can overcome by this Europe Direct contact centre response to john, but remember the Tax residence rules still apply if you stay above 183 days you will have to pay Spanish income Tax unless you have exceptional circumstance. Also the ruling or should I say response from the Europe Direct contact centre is not a legal statement; it’s only their understanding. Please let their understanding be legally accurate if challenged.

    Okay a rhetorical question I suppose, what does it mean if your spouse is an EU citizen, my wife has a Spanish TIE residency, but does that qualify for an EU citizen? If you are a resident of a country … I suspect not… however any view on that question would be very welcome. As I would love to join my wife for more than 3 months a year.

  • Let’s hope the EU sees sense soon enough and allows visa free travel for 180 in 365 days – as we do for EU citizens – am not sure Spain is looking forward to having to stamp 18 million + passports on the way in and then date check them on the way out to see if someone has ‘overstayed’ their welcome.

    The impact and practical application of that, due to Covid travel restrictions, hasn’t been felt yet, but in time it will be seen to be stupid to just have the rule there so Brits are ‘discomfited’ and ‘penalised’ by their decision to leave almost 5 years ago.

    We never had the 90 days rule before freedom of movement and the Euro, if we were staying to work, we used to have to have a work permit back in the 80’s and 90’s and yep if you were there longer than 6 months, as in any country, you had to become a tax resident. It will all revert to that at some point I think.

    • I don’t see why the EU should change anything, you knew what you were voting for and were fully aware that you would have to live with a completely different set of rules in the event of Brexit, no? Your government could have negotiated this ruling in the Brexit negotiations but they obviously didn’t think it was important.

      Why don’t your government simply change the rule in the UK to 90/180? That way, it’s a level playing field, sorted.

      • The EU don’t have to change anything that doesn’t suit them, I just think that Spain invested heavily in infrastructure and services for ‘residential’ tourism and I rather think that not allowing that access to be for 180 days is actually shooting themselves in the foot.

        • It’s arrogant and entitled to expect other countries to change their rules because the UK decided to leave the EU. UK nationals will be treated exactly the same as other third country nationals meaning you will have to leave after 90 days. I think that is fair and reasonable.

          Don’t kid yourselves that the Spanish authorities are not up to the task either, they will catch you and penalise you if you overstay and quite right too.

          Perhaps Spain and Portugal could set up a scheme whereby UK nationals could stay for six months for a fee.

          • Just quickly, I hope I am not being arrogant or entitled, or expecting other countries to change their rules because the UK decided to leave the EU, if Spain and Portugal think the 90 day rule is fair and reasonable, then I have no problem with it. I just think that in reality it is not in their ‘own’ best interests to apply that rule, their interests for ongoing residential tourism, would be far better served by having a 180 day rule in 365 days. It has nothing to do with the UK leaving the EU, the rights or wrongs of that, or any notion of punishment or unfair benefit to UK citizens, it is simply in the best interests of Spain and Portugal, and correct me if I am wrong, but I think individual countries can set their own visa rules.

    • This is the type of ridiculous comment that makes me wonder if the person writing has any clue what actually happens. (Sorry to be blunt, Chris.)

      Spain and the rest of the Schengen area already track dozens of millions of non-EU visitors to the Schengen area annually. Adding a few million or even 10 to 20 million visitors from the UK is just not going to be a huge problem.

      They’re not being “penalized” by their decision to leave- at least not by the Schengen nations. This was a voluntary choice by the UK; they could stay in the EU and be treated as EU nationals, or they could leave and be treated like the rest of the non-EU nationals are treated.

      “We never had the 90 days rule before freedom of movement and the Euro…”

      Yeah, well, things have changed from what it was decades ago.

      • You can be as ‘blunt’ as you like Paul, but I think you miss my point, I personally voted remain, but am happy enough with the decision to have left, it’s done, we will all live with it. But, as in an earlier reply to another post, it does Spain and Portugal particularly no favours to insist that Brits can only be in the country for 90 days out of 180. It will have a potentially massive and negative effect on their need for residential tourism, and why…? Why… would they want Brits to not have that 180 day access? What benefit is there to that rule? Isn’t it more cutting off one’s nose to spite the face? And I don’t think its ridiculous to not be spending time, effort and energy tracking or tackling folk who have gone beyond the 90 days. And yes, things have changed from decades ago, and what Spain might find is that Brits find a different place to go and stay over the short, mid and long term.

  • I too am a UK citizen with a lovely Irish wife, although the good news here seems to be completely contradicted by the sentence, “If you wish to remain in Spain with your wife for more than 3 months, you may both need to register.” Is anyone able to clarify?

  • Thanks, that is excellent news. The question is, will the partner with the UK passport have their passport stamped on entry to Spain?

    Obviously the EU partner will not have their passport stamped.


    This rule only applies when you are in EU States other than your partners EU State. So it’s correct for John when he goes to Spain with his Irish wife as she is exercising their right to free movement in ANOTHER EU STATE. It WOULD NOT apply if his wife was Spanish when travelling to Spain as Spanish law would apply as the partner is not covered by EU free movement laws in his home country.

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