Plan on Living in Spain after Brexit? Find out your best legal options

Despite Brexit, British citizens still want to move to Spain - to live, work and retire. Find out what your best options are to live legally in Spain after Brexit
Article Published: 17 May, 2023, Updated: 09 Dec, 2023 under Golden Visa

1. Background: brexit negotiations, transitional period, and more

  • On 29 March 2017 the UK formally triggered Article 50 - the formal process that a Member State uses to declare its intention to leave the EU.
  • On 28 February 2018 a draft Withdrawal Agreement was published by the European Union to deal with, among other things, citizens rights and transitional arrangement.
  • On 24 January 2019 the EU and the UK signed the Withdrawal Agreement, with only a vote by the European Parliament the remaining requirement to complete the fundamental agreement to leave the Union.

With the Withdrawal Agreement entering into force on the 1 February 2020, there then followed a Transition Period, which would allow the two sides to continue negotiating other aspects of the split, to end on 31 December 2020 at midnight (Brussels time).

2. New rules for residency in spain

Accordingly, as and from 1 January 2021, UK citizens not already holding a Spanish residence permit can remain in Spain for a period not exceeding 90-days in any 180-day period.

However, UK nationals may apply for a visa in order to extend their residency period.

3. Can you still live in spain after brexit?

Now that the two year "transition" period has ended, British expats who live in Spain may find themselves having less freedom of movement across the rest of the European Union after March 2019.

While no doubt the process is more complex than for citizens of EU countries, it is still viable for those who, despite the obstacles put in place by Brexit, still want to take the plunge and start a new life in Spain.

If you qualify, you could still apply for a residence permit even though you are not living in Spain. However, you would need to show proof that you lived in Spain prior to 31st Dec 2020 and that you meet the European Union’s residence requirements on income and health care.

If you obtain a long term residence permit and your TIE card, then you will be able to stay in Spain afterwards, regardless of Brexit. You will have similar rights to all other EU citizens and can apply for permanent residency in Spain.

Full details on how Brexit will impact British nationals in Spain can be found on the following Spanish government website (in Spanish).

4. How long can i stay in spain without becoming a resident after brexit?

The current rules state that non-eu nationals may remain in Spain for up to 90-days in any 180-day period.

This period may only be extended by either a) obtaining a suitable Spanish visa, or b) applying for an extension on the basis of exceptional circumstances, for example, you are incapacitated in hospital and unable to travel.

5. How long can you stay in spain if you own a property?

You don't automatically get Spanish residency just because you own real estate there. You may be able to stay for up to three months without having to get an official document from the Spanish authorities.

If you're visiting Spain for fewer than ninety days, a Schengen visa is fine; if you stay longer, you may require a long-term visa.

6. Requirements for living in spain after brexit

If you are a British citizen and are interested in moving to Spain from the UK following Brexit for longer than the permitted 90-days in any 180-day period, then you will most likely require a visa. The specific type of visa will depend on your objectives and your circumstances.:

  1. Do you wish to work in Spain?
  2. Are you planning to simply live in Spain without the need to work?
  3. Do you have family members living in Spain?

7. Visas that permit british citizens to work in spain

The visas that permit non-EU citizens to work in Spain are among the most difficult to obtain, since the Spanish government have an obligation to increase employment opportunities for Spanish citizens and those who are already a Spanish resident.

8. Investor visa

The golden visa in Spain - also known as an investor visa - permits the holder to live and work in Spain. It is and requires a minimum investment of €500,000 in Spanish property, per visa. So, if a couple both wish to live and work in Spain, they must apply for 2 visas, and invest at least €1m.

The visa application process for this particular Spanish visa can be started in Spain, but only once the investment has been completed.

9. Digital nomad visa

For those who wish to work in Spain but do not have access to €500,000, another, recent, option has been made available by the Spanish authorities:

The Spanish Government has recently introduced a digital nomad visa, which is still in its early stages of development.

Immigration lawyers can confirm that the process is not yet uniformly implemented throughout the stake-holders.

It requires the participation of Spanish Consulates and demonstration of documents which shows the applicant's suitability.

It can be applied for by both employees and self-employed persons.

When applied for in Spain, the visa is valid for 3 years

As a person working in Spain, you must pay taxes in Spain, although you can qualify for a special rate, similar to the Beckham scheme such that, up to €600,000 of income, you pay a fixed rate of income tax of 24%.

The visa entitles the holder of the visa to live and work in Spain and also for their family members to join them

The applicant must demonstrate that they have access to funds of at least €25,000 in their bank account (if the money is held in one of the UK banks, a translation will be required for that documentation, so even better if you have the money deposited in one of the Spanish banks.

Note that the applicant may not work for a Spanish employer, but rather for an employer located outside of Spain. If applying as a self-employed person, no more than 20% of their earnings may come from a Spanish client.

This represents a lower cost option as compared to Golden Visa.

Professional advice is recommended for obtaining this visa, due to preparation in advance before getting approved by the Spanish Consulate.

10. Entrepreneur's visa

Rather more complex is the entrepreneur's visa.

The Entrepreneur's Visa, under Law 14/2013 allows non-EU citizens to work in Spain by starting a business.

To be accepted, the proposed business must create employment for the country and be a positive stimulus for the Spanish economy.

In addition, it must involve a high level of technology and enhance the socio-economic development of Spain.

As can be seen, this requires the applicant to demonstrate that by opening a Spanish company, they will be beneficial to the Spanish economy. Accordingly, applications to open a corner shop or a bar are unlikely to succeed.

11. Visas that permit british citizens to live in spain

If you have no need to work any longer, or simply wish to spend time in Spain while living off earnings already made, then a non-lucrative visa in Spain is probably the best option (assuming you don't have a family member already living in Spain).

British citizens can apply for a non-lucrative visa in Spain if they have sufficient economic means which, in 2023, means an income of more than €2,400/month per person, with additional amounts depending on the number of people in the application.

Alternatively, deposits/bank accounts over €30,000 per person (with additional amounts for each additional family member) can be used to apply for residency.

This visa does not allow one to work in Spain, but it is possible to work abroad and remain resident in Spain.

Applications must be submitted at a Spanish embassy or, if appropriate, Consulate office in the UK; applicants must attend personally or provide a duly accredited representative if applying on behalf of children under legal age.

Approval and denial are typically provided within a month, with a 3-month validity period after approval.

Upon arrival in Spain, British nationals must visit an immigration office/police station within 1 month in order to obtain their and register at their local town hall.

12. Family members in spain

If you have a family member living in Spain after Brexit, you may be able to join them. The visa is open to spouses (including common law spouses) and any dependants of the Spanish resident.

• UK nationals can apply for a family reunification visa to join family members in Spain.

• The person with Spanish residency must demonstrate that they can financially support those UK citizens who wish to join them, meaning a minimum of 150% of IPREM or €900 p/m and an additional 50% of IPREM or €300 for each additional family member.

• This is facilitated by legal representatives of the family member who is resident in Spain, making it easier to present the authorisation at their nearest Spanish Consulate.

13. Can british citizens retire to spain after brexit?

UK citizens may spend their retirement in Spain, though a visa will be required if they plan to move to Spain permanently, or indeed spend more than 90 days in any 180 days in the country.

The most popular residence permit used for this purpose is the non-lucrative visa, since it may be supposed that in many cases, the objective is not to work from Spain.

It is important not only to demonstrate sufficient funds to support the retirees while they are living in Spain, but also to obtain medical cover via, either via private health insurance or through the UK National Health Service. The latter option is possible only with an S1 medical certificate, which can be obtained from the NHS when the applicant is in receipt of a UK state pension.

14. General rules for visa applications in spain

Regardless of the visa being applied for, as part of the application process, it is generally necessary to provide a certificate showing that the applicant has no criminal record - either in Spain or in their country of origin, as well as either private health insurance or access to the Spanish health service via an S1 medical certificate (available to those in receipt of a UK pension).

15. Tax residency in spain

Those British citizens who are living in Spain with a residence permit obtained via one of the visas described above, will often find themselves becoming tax resident in Spain.

This happens once they have lived for more than 183 days per year - and this is typically a requirement for the continued validity of the residence permit under the various visas described above (except for the investor visa).

As a result British citizens living in Spain after brexit will find that they must pay tax on their worldwide income. This is something to consider before making the application.

16. Uk driving licence in spain

The use of a UK driving licence in Spain has generated rather a lot of controversy following Brexit.

The typical rules when moving to live in Spain from another country is that any driving license - whether a UK one or an international driving permit, are valid for a period of time, but once this time-period has elapsed, either the licence must have been exchanged for a Spanish driving licence or the person must take the relevant driving test to be issued with a Spanish driving licence.

This allows the local police to enforce any penalties/fines for driving offences - difficult to do when the licence was issued in another country.

Unfortunately some UK driving licence holders failed to exchange their licences for Spanish equivalents ahead of the deadline and found themselves unable to legally drive in Spain - unless they were prepared to go through the entire Spanish driving test process.

Finally, negotiations took place between the UK and Spanish governments and a resolution was reached.

The current situation as of March 2023, following negotiations between the Spanish and UK governments, is that UK driving licence holders have a period of 6 months to exchange their UK licences for a Spanish one. This will require taking basic health tests and applying to the Traffic Department of the Spanish government.

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