Author: Esther R.
Profession: Lawyer
Completed cases: 75
Esther, an expert in Spanish immigration and property law, offers multilingual legal services. With extensive experience in both civil and commercial law she guides clients through post-Brexit residency and real estate matters in Spain

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).

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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.

The General Commissariat for Foreigners and Borders oversees immigration regulations and residency applications for non-EU citizens, including British nationals post-Brexit.

3. Healthcare for Expats in Spain

The Spanish National Health System provides public healthcare to residents. British citizens moving to Spain should consider private health insurance options like BUPA Global or DKV to meet visa requirements. The Instituto Nacional de la Seguridad Social (INSS), which is the Spanish Social Security System, oversees healthcare coverage for residents.

4. Is moving to Spain after Brexit possible?

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).

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5. 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.

6. 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 Government.

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.

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7. Securing a Place to Live in Spain

Top of the list for anyone moving to Spain will be finding a place to live. Not easy nowadays in any country, but obviously a lot will depend on which part of Spain you are moving to. Below, some general advice on the considerations you will likely need to make:

8. Renting vs. Buying in Spain

Deciding between renting and buying in Spain depends on your long-term plans and financial situation. Renting is ideal for those who prefer flexibility and plan to stay short-term. 

Rental prices vary significantly by location, with higher costs in cities like Madrid and Barcelona. Typically, you’ll need to provide a deposit of two months plus pay a month's rent in advance. You can find many website offering properties for rent.

If you plan to stay long-term, buying might be more cost-effective. Post-2007, Spain's real estate market has been recovering, presenting opportunities to purchase properties at reasonable prices​.

Navigating the Property Market

The property market in Spain can be complex. It’s advisable to use a real estate agent as well as an English-speaking solicitor to avoid pitfalls, such as buying illegal properties. 

While property prices in rural areas are generally lower, the availability of rental properties might be limited, so consider being flexible with your preferences.

The Spanish Land Registry (Registro de la Propiedad)] should be checked before buying property. You should engage a Spanish lawyer, specializing in property law. Be aware of additional costs like transfer tax - Impuesto sobre Transmisiones Patrimoniales (ITP) for second-hand properties or VAT (IVA) for new builds.

9. 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?

Padrón Registration: All residents must register on the Padrón, the local municipal register. This is done at your local Ayuntamiento (Town Hall)]. The Padrón is crucial for accessing local services and proving residency for various administrative procedures.

10. 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.

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11. Investor Visa

The Spanish Golden Visa programme - also known as an investor visa  offers residency to non-EU citizens making significant investments in Spain. This includes property investments of €500,000 or more, making it an attractive option for British citizens post-Brexit.

This figure is 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.

Note that the Spanish government has indicated that it is planning to bring to an end the property investment option for investor visas. This means applicants will need to invest a higher amount into authorised investments to obtain the visa.

12. 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 Government:

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.

13. 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.

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14. Employment Options in Spain

For those who don't have the option of retiring to Spain, it is necessary to find work. Of course, the ease or difficulty of your search will very much depend on your skillset, but below are some general pointers:

Job Market Overview

Spain's job market presents both opportunities and challenges for expats. High unemployment rates, especially among youth, make local contacts and Spanish language skills essential for job seekers.

Key industries for expats include IT, engineering, healthcare, finance, and tourism. Positions in some fields will require fluency in Spanish and relevant qualifications. However, nowadays in cities such as Barcelona and Málaga, there are businesses focused on external - indeed, worldwide markets, so while certification in the specific field may be necessary, fluency in Spanish less so. Digital nomads and remote workers also find opportunities in the growing tech sector.

Spain offers job opportunities for expats in high-demand sectors such as sales, engineering, customer service, marketing, tourism, finance, legal, healthcare, IT, and data processing. For customer service and tourism roles, fluency in Spanish and another European language is often beneficial.

Most roles require relevant qualifications and experience. For instance, finance jobs may need certifications like ACCA or CFA, while engineering roles might demand specific technical skills. IT positions often seek expertise in programming, cybersecurity, and network management.

Job seekers should check recruitment agencies, job boards, and social media platforms like LinkedIn and Facebook to find opportunities.  It's essential to ensure a valid work permit or EU citizenship to apply for most positions. And of course, be prepared for Spain’s work culture - which is quite distinct, with long working hours and extended lunch breaks. 

15. 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.

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16. 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.

17. 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.

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18. 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).

The British Embassy in Madrid and British Consulates across Spain provide vital support and information for British citizens navigating post-Brexit residency requirements. They offer guidance on documentation, legal changes, and can assist in emergencies.

That said, given the complexities of post-Brexit residency and property matters, seeking professional legal advice is crucial. Advocate Abroad and other legal firms specializing in expat services can provide invaluable assistance in managing Spanish bureaucracy and ensuring compliance with all relevant laws and regulations.

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19. 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.

British expats should therefore understand Spanish Income Tax (IRPF)] implications. The Spanish Tax Agency applies progressive tax rates ranging from 19% to 47% as of 2024. The UK-Spain Double Taxation Agreement helps prevent double taxation on income.

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20. 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.

21. Education for Expat Families

Families moving to Spain have various education options. The Spanish Ministry of Education oversees public schools, which are free for residents. International schools like the American School of Barcelona or British Council School in Madrid offer curricula in English. Some regions also have bilingual concertado schools, which are semi-private and partially subsidized by the Spanish government.

22. Embrace the Culture

Once you have managed to secure the job and find a place to live, you are ready to begin enjoying your new life in Spain! While it can be tempting to retreat behind familiar tribal lines, you will only truly get the most of your life in Spain by embracing the Spanish culture to its full.

Integrating into Spanish culture involves understanding its customs, language, and daily life. Embracing the laid-back lifestyle, with its emphasis on socializing and family, is crucial. Learning Spanish is essential for deeper integration and enhances job prospects. Visiting and taking part in local traditions, festivals, and social activities helps build connections and eases cultural adaptation.

Joining expat groups will provide you with an initial springboard - often these groups engage in local events and have members from the Spanish community who are interested in meeting people like you, from a foreign culture. 

Taking language classes, and joining local sports and activity clubs can facilitate cultural immersion and help build a support network. Understanding these nuances can help you adjust more smoothly to your new environment.

23. Frequently Asked Questions

Can I still move to Spain after Brexit?

Yes, you can still move to Spain after Brexit. British citizens are required to have the proper documentation to legally reside in Spain. This includes obtaining a residence permit or Tarjeta de Identidad de Extranjero (TIE) within 30 days of your arrival. Additionally, you will need to get your NIE number, which is your foreigner tax identification number. These steps ensure that you comply with Spanish residency regulations post-Brexit.


How much money do you need to retire in Spain after Brexit?

To retire in Spain after Brexit as a non-EU/EEA citizen, you need to demonstrate sufficient income to support yourself without relying on employment. As of 2021, the minimum required amount is €2,259 per month or just over €27,000 per year. Additionally, you need €6,778 per year for each additional family member. This ensures you meet the financial criteria for residency in Spain.


How much money do you need in the bank to get residency in Spain?

To get residency in Spain after Brexit, via a non-lucrative residency permit you need to prove you have sufficient funds in your bank account. This requires an annual income of 400% of the IPREM. For 2024, the IPREM is €600 per month, so you need to show a regular guaranteed monthly income of €2,400 or a yearly income of €28,800. It can be sufficient to demonstrate that you have this amount in your bank at the time of your initial visa application, and on each renewal.

What happens to my UK State Pension if I move to Spain?

If you move to Spain, you can continue to receive your UK State Pension. Additionally, you will receive annual pension increases as Spain is part of the European Economic Area (EEA). This ensures that your pension amount is adjusted in line with inflation, just as it would be if you were living in the UK. However, you should take into account potential fluctuations in the Pound Sterling-Euro exchange rate, which may diminish the value of your pension, depending on whether the pound increases or decreases in value against the Euro.

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Rosa, Lawyer in Mallorca ...
Rosa is an experienced and highly sought-after English-speaking lawyer who provides expert legal advice and assistance in the following legal areas: Property conveyances, Inheritance, Family law, Criminal law, Business set-up and Employment law.
I cannot say enough good things about working with Rosa. She helped me get my Spanish visa and was with me every step of the way from start to finish. I had innumerable questions about navigating the complex waters of the Spanish immigration system, and Rosa was able to give me clear, concise answers to everything I asked. I would email her in the evening with a list of questions and first thing in the morning, like clockwork, would be her detailed email response answering all of my questions. I also found that there were many fine details about the visa application process Rosa knew about that were not specified on the Spanish consulate's website. Had I not had her guidance about doing these things, I'm sure my application would not have been approved. Thanks to Rosa I now have my Spanish visa, and I am happily living in Spain. I am looking forward to working with her again next year when it comes time for my one year visa renewal.
Michael Baier
Michael Baier
05 Jul 2024
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