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Moving to Spain after Brexit

Many Brits buy property in Spain with the intent to move to Spain, or to retire to Spain, but the Brexit vote has left the possibility of moving to Spain after Brexit up in the air for many.  Of the many issues for Brits to consider as a result of the Brexit vote is their ongoing right to spend time in Spain, whether on holiday, simply without working, in retirement, as a base from which to run a business, or for any other reason.

Spanish immigration rules currently provide for people from countries outside of the EU to apply for permission to reside in Spain for one of a number of reasons.  It follows that whatever terms the UK government manages to negotiate  after Brexit, it will still be possible to for Brits to continue to spend short or extended periods in Spain provided they comply with the rules.

Hence, this article will seek to demonstrate to the reader what may be necessary in order to continue, or to begin, living in Spain in the worst case scenario.   It is not accurate as to the position currently for UK citizens.  Neither does it purport to foresee what the UK government may negotiate with the EU, or with Spain on a bilateral basis.

Moving permanently to Spain after Brexit

At a conservative estimate there are 370,000 UK nationals residing in Spain.  If you are one of them and upon the UK’s exit from the EU you have been living in Spain lawfully for at least five years, you will be able to apply for indefinite permission to reside there, what is termed “permiso de residencia de larga duración”.  You will only be able to apply for indefinite permission to reside in Spain once you are no longer a citizen of an EU Member State, so you will need to wait until the UK has finally left the EU in order to apply.
 
In addition, in order to obtain indefinite permission to remain in Spain, UK citizens will have to show (i) that they do not have a criminal record, (ii) that they have not been ejected either from Spain or from countries with which Spain has a relevant agreement, (iii) that they have private health insurance, and (iv) that they have a net monthly income of not less than €799 for a family of two, and a further €266 per month for each additional family member.
 

What if, after Brexit, you have not been in Spain for five years?

Of course, there will be a number of people who will have been in Spain for less than five years when the UK finally exits the EU. They will be able to rely on the time they have spent there and will need to continue to remain in Spain lawfully until they have resided in Spain for five years, at which time they will be able to apply  for indefinite permission to reside. The basis on which Brits extend their permission to stay in Spain will depend upon what they are intending to do.  Prior to Brexit, UK citizens, as citizens of an EU Member State, are able to undertake any lawful economic activity they wish without applying for a visa to do so. Once we leave the EU that will not be possible without first applying for permission, unless one already has indefinite permission to reside.  

Hence, in the post Brexit world it may be necessary to make an application to reside in Spain for the greater part of the year without permission to work (as a retiree for example), or or with permission to work, unless all you want to do is to holiday in Spain in chunks of no more than three months, in which case there ought to be no problems whatsoever.  

Moving to Spain after Brexit - Working

If you are an employee then the company employing you is likely to take care of your application to remain in Spain, so I shall not deal with that situation in this article.  If, however, you want either to begin living in Spain post Brexit, or you need to extend your period of residence as without permission to work to five years to be able to apply for indefinite permission to reside there, you will need to apply either for  (a) a “permiso de residencia no lucrativa”, or permission to reside without the right to work there, whether by working for oneself, or for someone else, or (b) permission to reside in Spain as a self-employed person, whether in your own name or as an owner and manager of a company, working for yourself.
 

Moving to Spain after Brexit  - Retiring

In addition to the requirements for indefinite permission to reside, those applying for a right to live in Spain without permission to work need to show that they do not suffer from any illness that may be a serious public risk, such as smallpox, or Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), as well as others.  Curiously, it will also be necessary to show a significantly higher disposable income than that required for indefinite permission to reside, in that the head of the family will need to show monthly income of at least €2,130.04 and for each dependent a further €532.51.  They will have to show that they have sufficient funds to live in Spain at that level of income for one year, whether in a lump sum, or by way of regular pension payments, for example.  Bear in mind that this level of income will only be necessary until you have resided in Spain for five years lawfully, at which time the bar is set far lower for an application for indefinite permission to reside.

Moving to Spain after Brexit as a self employed person

If, on the other hand, you intend to work for yourself in Spain, then as well as complying with the same requirements for permission to reside as are applicable to someone without permission to work, you will need to demonstrate that you are able to comply with the Spanish rules currently in force in relation to the commercial activity in question, including evidence of any qualifications that entitle you to carry out that activity, that you have sufficient funds to invest in the activity to make it viable, and an indication of the number of people you may employ, if any.  You will also need to show that in addition to the funds available for investment in your economic activity you have sufficient funds to support yourself, which will be the same as those required for people applying for indefinite permission to reside, as set out above.

Proof that your business proposition is viable

If you are applying for permission to work for yourself in Spain, then in addition to supplying evidence of your ability to fund yourself and your business, as well as showing that you have adequate qualifications to carry out the work, you will need to present what is essentially a business plan showing how you will develop your economic activity from a practical and financial perspective, in addition to the employment that you expect your activity to create.  In essence, your business needs to make sense to you and to the Spanish authorities in order for you to be granted permission to work for yourself in Spain.

The procedure to be followed

When you make your application for a visa to work for yourself in Spain, you will need to show that you have:
  1. sufficient health insurance,
  2. that you do not have a criminal record, and
  3. that you are not suffering from a serious illness.  
If all is in order then you will be issued with a visa within a month and will be able to enter Spain within three months, as would be the case for those collecting visas for permission to reside without permission to work.  All non-EU foreign nationals residing in Spain will need to apply for a residence card from the immigration office closest to wherever you are living in Spain.  If you have permission to work and do not register with the social security office within three months of your arrival, your right to remain will lapse.
 
It is certainly true that Spain is not as encouraging of new business as is the UK.  It may seem strange to you that you need to make monthly social security payments of at least €260 (or more if you wish) before you have issued your first invoice, unless you can benefit from an exception that allows smaller social security payments to be made during the first 18 months of your new business activity.  It is worthy of note that even Spanish nationals and nationals of other EU member states have to make these social security payments.
 

Moving to Spain after Brexit - where to apply

As to how and where to apply for permission to reside, whether as without permission to work, or as a self-employed person, this will be at the Spanish Consular office located closest to the place in which you have permission to live outside of Spain, which may not necessarily have to be your country of nationality.  The process is terribly bureaucratic, as you can well imagine, but I shall attempt to demystify it slightly. Your application will first be considered by the consular staff, who will send the documentation to the Spanish government office, or the government office of the relevant autonomous community, located in the part of Spain in which you intend to live and, if relevant, carry out any economic activity.  So, you can think of the consular staff as the gateway to your application.  They decide whether all of the documentation you have provided is appropriate and in good order, and ensure that all of the necessary documents have been presented.  The consular staff do not take decisions about the substance of your application, but merely its form, although given their approach on occasion you may be forgiven for coming to a contrary conclusion.

Moving to Spain after Brexit - collecting your visa, or applying for it….

Once either the Spanish government office, or the government office of the relevant autonomous community that receives your documentation from the Spanish Consulate decides to allow you permission to reside, the consular staff will either ask you to attend at the Consulate to collect your visa (within a month if you are applying for a right to reside without permission to work), or will ask you to submit within a month your application for a visa if you are applying for a right to work for yourself in Spain (again, within a month).  

How long the permission lasts for; renewing it

Those applying for permission to reside, whether without permission to work, or to work for themselves, will obtain permission to reside for one year, extendable twice for a further two years on each occasion, by which time they will be able to apply for indefinite permission to reside, unless they can apply beforehand because of time spent in Spain while the UK remains in the EU.   Whenever your visa is extended, until you are granted permission to reside indefinitely,  you will need to show that you continue to comply with the rules with which you complied when your initial visa was granted.   
 

Moving to Spain after Brexit - far from an impossible task

So, as I hope I have demonstrated, while a demanding process, the route to residing in Spain either without permission to work, or to work for oneself, is far from impossible.  What you may have identified is that while you may be able to comply with the financial requirements for living in Spain once you have been there for five years, your income does not stretch to you making an application to live there without a right to work until you have reached the five year mark.  It is important to note that the funds must be available to you, although there is no obligation to spend them all at once.  The funds that will last you for ten years, for example, may be more than sufficient to show that you can live at the required level for five years or less.  The rate at which you spend your money is up to you, of course.  
 

Don’t worry, be happy, once you have been issued with a visa

Once you are in the system, via whichever lawful route you choose, life will be just as it would be were you to live in Spain as a citizen of an EU member state.  The taxes will be the same, your rights will be the same, and your children’s rights will be the same as those who were born with the right to be Spanish and are living in Spain.  Once you have been living in Spain lawfully for at least 10 years and provided you can show you have integrated into Spanish society, including speaking the language and understanding the culture, you will be able to make a successful application for Spanish citizenship. There are huge numbers of Brits who already qualify for Spanish citizenship, but until now have not needed to contemplate making the application.  
 

Warning

This article is designed to provide the reader with a high water mark of what may be necessary in order to continue, or to begin, living in Spain.  At the time this article is written the UK has not yet invoked Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union, so we really do not have any idea of which way things will go.  Please do sign up to our mailing list below as we will be posting further articles and videos on this topic as developments in the field come to light.
 

Next steps

If you are affected by any of the issues in this article, please do be in contact with us. You can contact us by email at info@solicitorsinspain.com, by telephone on 020 3478 1420, or by completing our contact us form.

Last updated: 10 August 2020

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