Moving to Spain from the UK in 2021

Spain has long been a favourite destination for Britons seeking a life abroad with around 360,000 registered as permanent residents. Following Britain’s exit from the EU, the rules for admission have changed, and those looking to move to the sun will need to ensure they have the correct permission in place.

Article by Julia Moreno, a Spanish lawyer, and the expatriate services director at Del Canto Chambers, the only London-based set of chambers specialising in Spanish tax and legal residence.

Right to remain in Spain removed

EU membership grants the right to live, work and move freely within the EU without needing a visa and without any time restrictions. When the Brexit transition period ended on 31 December 2020, British citizens lost the right to live and work in Spain that came with being an EU citizen.
The new post-Brexit rules mean that Britons wishing to move to Spain now need to apply for a visa in a similar way to non-Europeans wishing to relocate there.

Can I keep living in Spain after Brexit?

For those already living in an EU country prior to 1 January 2021, there is the right under the European Union Withdrawal Act to continue living there. Britain and Spain have mutually agreed that their citizens can stay living in each other’s countries post-Brexit, however, it is important that the correct application process be undertaken to obtain legal permission.
The Spanish government have produced a document giving more information about residency post-Brexit.

Spanish application for residence

British citizens living in Spain who were resident there prior to 1 January 2021 will need to register as a resident by applying to the local immigration office or Oficina de Extranjeros. Once a residency application has been approved, an application needs to be made to the national police for a Tarjeta de Identidad de Extranjero, a biometric card confirming your right to reside in Spain under the terms of the EU Withdrawal Agreement. Each family member will need to do this, with everyone obtaining their own residence card. An application should be made by 30 June 2021.
More details of the process and documentation that will be required by the Spanish authorities is available on the UK government website.

Rules for British expats wanting to live, retire or work in Spain

Now that Britain is outside of the EU, Britons are generally subject to the same rules as all other non-EU overseas citizens. This means that while short visits are permitted, there are strict limits to the length of time that can be spent in Spain without a visa.

At the border, there could be a requirement to show a return ticket and demonstrate that you have sufficient money for your stay. Your passport will also need to have more than six months remaining before it is due for renewal. Visits lasting more than 90 days will require a visa.

Short-term visits to Spain – 90 days

Spain allows visits of up to 90 days within any 180-day period without the need for a visa. The purpose of this is to allow holiday visits, to see family or friends, to deal with business affairs, to attend training or short-term study courses or to go to cultural events.

No more than 90 days are permitted in Spain within the previous 180 days and the days do not need to be consecutive to count towards the total. Any time spent in Spain prior to 1 January 2021 is not included.

The time limit applies to the whole Schengen zone, which is a total of 26 European countries comprising most EU member states plus Iceland, Norway, Switzerland and Lichtenstein. This means that time spent in any of these other countries will also count towards the permissible 90 days.

An overstay is likely to be automatically recorded and could result in a fine, deportation or a possible temporary ban on entering the Schengen zone, to include Spain.

For information about the tax implications of staying in Spain for more than half the year, see our article on Spanish authorities’ checks on residency status.

For those wishing to spend more than 90 days in Spain, a visa is necessary. There are a variety available, depending on the purpose of the visit, including a golden visa, non-lucrative visa, entrepreneur visa and a student or work visa.

Spanish Golden visa

spanish residency

A golden visa grants temporary residency to those whose financial position meets set criteria. It is intended to allow investors or those of substantial means to settle in the country.

  • There are a number of investments that qualify an individual for a golden visa, as follows:
  • Buy property in Spain worth a minimum of €500,000. This can be spread over more than one property;
  • Invest at least €1 million in shares in a Spanish business
  • Invest at least €2 million in Spanish treasury bonds;
  • Deposit €1 million in a Spanish bank account, which must stay there for a minimum of five years;
  • Invest at least €1 million in investment funds;
  • Invest in a new business that will offer employment opportunities, contribute to scientific and/or technological innovation or have a relevant socio-economic impact in the area where the business will be undertaken.

In addition, the applicant must be aged at least 18, have no criminal record, have Spanish health insurance in place and never have been refused a Schengen-area visa in the past.

An application can be made to the Spanish Embassy or Consulate and can be made via a solicitor. The application will need to be accompanied by the relevant documentary evidence. The application can be made either from outside or inside Spain, the latter, if you are legally in Spain, e.g. as a tourist.

A golden visa is valid for one year, during which time it can be exchanged for a Spanish residence permit, with an application made from within Spain. This will last two years but can be renewed provided the investment is maintained.

The golden visa also entitles the holder to travel visa-free throughout other Schengen member states for 90 days within any 180-day period.

It will also cover residency for any spouse, child aged up to 18 or dependent parents and allows everyone included to access publicly provided services.

Spanish non-lucrative visa

For those wishing to live in Spain and who can provide evidence that they are able to support themselves, a non-lucrative visa is available. This is the visa that is often used by people who wish to retire to Spain as well as those wishing to study there.

It has financial minimums which must be met and does not permit working in Spain or carrying out any type of economic activity, although some visa holders do sometimes work remotely in Spain for a business located in another country. While the authorities often accept this, it may be grounds for refusal of a non-lucrative visa.

The initial application must be made from outside Spain. The visa allows the holder to live in Spain for one year. To renew it, the individual must have spent a minimum of 183 days in the country. This means that they will be resident in Spain for tax purposes and will be required to pay Spanish tax on all income, subject to allowances in respect of double tax treaties.

The visa grants temporary residence for a period of one year with the option to renew it twice for up to two years. If the visa is renewed a third time, then the holder is granted long-term or permanent residency.

In order to make a successful application, an individual must have a passport with at least one year remaining, no criminal record, valid private health care coverage, evidence of their ability to support themselves and evidence of their legal UK citizen status.

Spouses, parents and children can be included and the visa also grants Schengen area travel rights to the holder.

The financial limits, based on Spain’s public index figures, are a minimum of €27,115.20 in a bank account or a minimum monthly income of €2,259.60. Each additional family member will require evidence of a further €6,778.80 in the bank or €564.90 per month by way of income.

The application will require an interview with the consulate. If your non-lucrative visa application is approved, you should hear back from the consulate within a month. Once you have received the visa, you should enter Spain within three months of the date on which it was granted.

Applying for a Tarjeta de Identidad de Extranjero or TIE

tie tarjeta de identidad extranjero spanish foreigner ID card

The TIE is a biometric identity card or residency document issued to foreign nationals who have the right to live in Spain. If you have the right to live in Spain following Brexit under the terms of the Withdrawal Agreement or if you have been granted a visa, you should apply for a TIE.

If you have been resident in Spain for less than five years you will receive a temporary TIE, valid for five years. If you have been resident in Spain for more than five years you will be issued with a permanent TIE which will be valid for ten years. Application to renew a TIE should be made the month before it expires or within the three months following the expiry date.

Contact Us

Del Canto Chambers, the only London-based set of chambers specialising in Spanish tax and legal residence. We have an in-depth understanding of international tax, legal affairs, property law and residence issues.

We can advise you on your Spanish residency application and discuss the implications of moving to Spain with you. We can also process your application on your behalf and put together the correct supporting documentation to ensure that your visa request stands the best chance of success.

We offer a Tax and Legal Residence Opinion service that will clearly set out your options with regard to living and paying tax overseas. This will enable you to make an informed decision as to how to structure your affairs and which country of residence will be most advantageous for you.

To make a no-obligation enquiry, please either call us on:
+44 2070 430648, or make an online enquiry.

We will come back to you within 24 hours, and we will be delighted to help you.

* This article has been written by a third party not owned or controlled by Spanish Property Insight (SPI).
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